Last night we were treated to an incredible concert here on Bowen Island by Susie Ungerleider and Sarah Jane Scouten, two of Canada’s finest singer-songwriters, lyricists who simply and directly reach for the soul, remind you of things you have loved and lost, of times that have rolled on and of places that hold the heart no matter how they change. Sarah Jane is Bowen Island born and raised, brought up in a family and a community that soaked her in folk music, theatre and language. She lives in Scotland now and this is the first time she has been back to play in her own small town in about seven years. I warned her on Facebook that she would be facing a love bomb of appreciation when she took to the stage at the Tir na nOg Theatre, and she was.
Susie Ungerlieder is a long-time mainstay on the Canadian music scene, and she has come out from under the cover of “Oh Susanna” as if, after 35 years, her alter ego in the song “My Boyfriend” steps into bringing the soul.
These two are accomplished crafters of exquisite song. Simply chords, folk/country/Americana idiom, but distinctly west coast Last night in concert they traded songs back and forth, in a barely amplified setting, both offering only the sparsest of guitar accompaniment to their lyrics. The songs are simple but powerful and evocative. From Sarah Jane’s lament of a World War 1 mother’s labours to Susie’s conjuring of the landmarks and zeitgeist of 1980s Vancouver, back when it used to rain and Teenage Head played in dingy clubs in East Van and the Town Pump turned you away for not having ID. What delivers them are their voices, and for both, the intensity of being back on home soil, singing songs that resonate just that little bit deeper with an audience who knows their place and knows a little of what has formed these songs.
It was a really special evening, and I’m thankful that one of this Island’s prodigal daughters returned to us for a night with stories from her travels, and a curious and incisive eye for what makes us all tick.