Indie music meets Occupy on Annabelle Chvostek's Juno nominated album Rise, a rousing celebration of recent grassroots uprisings in Canada and around the world, complete with casseroles, a 'peoples' chorus' and a cover of Peter Tosh's 'Equal Rights'. The one-time Montreal queer underground artist, who went on to write chart-topping roots songs and play New York's Town Hall as a member of the Wailin' Jennys, shows off a whole other side of her musical personality on Rise as compared to 2008's Resilience the album that introduced her fearless innovation and beguiling indie folk sound to a massive, post-Jennys audience. Where Resilience was a plaintive album that showcased Chvostek's originality in contemplating matters of the heart, Rise is joyful, anthemic, and unabashedly political, revealing Chvostek's passion for social justice work and musical activism. Call it protest music for the indie generation or a soundtrack for the Maple Spring. 'End of the Road' is a veritable block party of an opening track that conveys Chvostek's glee at seeing thousands of people finally rising against injustice. Rise is a soaring, heartfelt call to arms to defend an abandoned meadow in Montreal's Mile End, a privately-owned but publicly-claimed gathering place where locals have taken up 'guerilla gardening' and graffiti artists have made a canvas of nearby concrete. 'Do You Think You're Right?' is a response to the documentary Jesus Camp that may never have made the album if not for Bruce Cockburn. And 'G20 Song' is a seething chronicle of events that welcomed Chvostek home to Toronto when she moved back from Montreal in 2010. The Eastern European 'vibe' which turns up on several tracks on the album is inspired by Chvostek's work on the soundtrack for Transition, Tamara Vukov's documentary about factory workers in post-war Serbia. Of course, not all the numbers on Rise have explicit activist undertones. Some celebrate simpler pleasures than the electrifying spirit of street protest. 'Ona (In Toronto I Get More Hugs, In Montreal I Get More Kisses),' for example, is a quirky, uplifting, and lovable little ditty, feting the differences between Montreal, Toronto and New York. Rise was produced by ex-Rheostatic Don Kerr and mixed by New York-based Grammy and Oscar nominee (and ex-pat Montrealer) Roma Baran, along with her studio partner, Viv Stoll. It features guest vocals by Cockburn and Oh Susanna, guitars by David Celia, and percussion by Debashis Sinha of Autorickshaw and Minor Empire. Chvostek herself plays a lot of mandolin and fiddle on the album, often drawing driving, pulsating backdrops from these frequently-sweet-sounding strings. Bio: Chvostek is a versatile multi-instrumentalist who was born and raised in Toronto, and who made her professional debut with the Canadian Opera Company at just seven years old. She earned a degree in interdisciplinary fine arts at Concordia University and stayed on in Montreal after graduation. There, unencumbered by the expectations of the Anglo roots world and surrounded by Montreal's avant-garde arts scene, she began composing for dance and film, playing in bands and performing solo shows on the Montreal-Ontario-New York circuit. Between 1997 and 2004, she released three independent albums and an EP, toured Europe with a new-media performance piece called the Automatic Prayer Machine, a collaboration with Anna Friz, and performed across North America with artists like Po'Girl, Rae Spoon and Barlywick. In 2004, she was selected to replace Cara Luft in the Juno-winning Wailin' Jennys, a gig that took her from obscurity to international acclaim. Chvostek's songs were repeatedly singled out by critics as highlights of the Jennys' Juno-nominated CD, Firecracker. 'Devil's Paintbrush Road' was the most downloaded song from the album on iTunes for months. It was also the #1 Canadian song at U.S. folk radio in 2006, and it remained at #3 in 2007. During her two and a half years with the Jennys, Chvostek toured Europe, performed on A Prairie Home Companion, sang on the Juno Awards telecast and earned a Juno nomination for Best Roots and Traditional Album ? Group. Then, in 2007, she left the Jennys and reprised her solo career, signing to Borealis Records and releasing what many see as her solo debut: Resilience. It was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award for Contemporary Album of the Year and became the second most-played Canadian album at U.S. folk radio at the start of 2009. Since the album's release, Chvostek has done yearly tours of the U.K., criss-crossed Canada and the U.S. and completed a 2009 tour through Poland and Slovakia. She also released a Live from Folk Alley live album in 2010. And last year, her two co-written duets with Bruce Cockburn were released on his Juno-winning album Small Source of Comfort. 'The Wailin' Jennys' loss is the world's gain', declared the Saskatoon Star Phoenix in response to Chvostek's post-Jenny debut, adding, 'her original compositions are full of aching desire dressed in poetry and rendered with a musical imagination that seems to know no bounds'. That same musical imagination is in evidence on Rise, for Chvostek has managed to take a decades-old art form, the protest song, and completely reimagines it for a new era of activism.
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