S. K. Wellington’s debut EP is the lovingly-nurtured baby of Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Kemmers. It follows a long period of stepping back from her musical endeavours to stop, reassess and rekindle her creative fires. As a result there’s a confident, easy and nothing-to-lose vibe coursing through this four song collection which significantly contributes to its appeal.
Kemmers is one half of duo Lighter Than Arrows and was onetime member of indie rock band The Wellington Folk. She is joined here by the rhythm section of Dave Landreth and Ryan Voth, along with the effortless, watery guitar work of Murray Pulver (I know I just used the word watery there but no other term would do) and keyboard player Mike Little who is also responsible for the EP’s crisp and super-clean production.
Kemmer’s full-bodied vocal is reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan and the much-underrated Jennifer Kimball, ranging as it does from a strong, deep alto to a soaring, sweet soprano. Opener ‘Salish Sea’ is the perfect platform for these talents, opening broodily with an evocative set of lines “packed the car up / drove it straight West / all my life’s work / in the rearview mirror” before the band all fall in to the waterfall of the song’s lush chorus and glorious, rushing middle eight. (And no I don’t think we’ve heard the last of the moisture-based metaphors.)
‘Good Things’ is the closest we get to country and has a philosophical, positive message: “take all the good things and bring them along”. It ticks box after box for Americana lovers: chiming acoustic guitar; drums with a solid swagger; swelling Hammond, textbook gurgling guitar solo. ‘Moment’s Bliss’ is, by contrast, a rather rockier affair with Pulver pulling out all the stops in the guitar department. The song’s message is in line with the optimism and positivity of the opening tracks but the sonic toughness provides a welcome juxtaposition - imagine the Indigo Girls have joined a biker gang and you’ll be halfway there.
The EP comes to a close all too soon with ‘Salt Spring Island’ - the place where Kemmers spent her months off - and it’s a gentle tribute to the place that helped her relocate her musical mojo and dive back in. And I, for one, am very thankful that she did and I’m hopeful that we’ll be hearing more from S. K. Wellington in the near future.
Review by Rich Barnard.