Amanda LeBlanc; The Solution: To Fly.

amanda leblanc
Santa Claus left Toronto-based actor/singer/songwriter Amanda LeBlanc’s debut album Yours Truly in my mother’s stocking this past Christmas and it has yet to leave the stereo in her car three months later. Surely I inherited some of my optimism and the faith that recognition, success and prosperity surely must come to the most talented who work hard and earn it from my mother because she keeps asking me whether Amanda has “made her millions” or become wildly famous yet. When I tell her that Amanda’s star, although rising rapidly not only in Toronto but across the country, hasn’t skyrocketed quite yet she says, “It’s going to happen. She’s really something. She is going to be a big star.” I think my mom is right.

Amanda LeBlanc’s album is comprised of eleven of her own tunes and one cover song, Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart’s “Tennessee Waltz,” all of which I heard and wrote about when she performed at the Press Club back in April 2010. As I’ve previously said, there is an endearing spirit and warm, vivaciousness that shines in LeBlanc’s eyes when she is performing. She is utterly free of ego and instead radiates this joy and rapture of sharing the music she makes together, as though this were not her performance, but rather a communal experience that draws the audience together. This is undoubtedly inherited from her proud East Coast roots and the Ceilidh tradition, and indeed, whenever I see LeBlanc perform I always have this wistful sense that we should all be in someone’s big old fashioned kitchen, overlooking the ocean, armed with wooden spoons and dancing to her playing guitar and singing barefoot with the sea breeze wafting thickly through the open windows. Much of this ambiance also comes from the musicians she has brought together: James McKie (Fiddle/Guitar), Jamie Drake (Percussion), Terry Wilkins (Upright bass), Don Kerr (Cello), Danny Oore (Saxophone and Alto Flute), Chris Eakins (Piano) and Tim Hamel (Trumpet). As Reza Jacobs, Torontonian musical director and composer, said of her Toronto CD launch, “[the] show was nourishing [and] divine, transcendent but earthy, rollicking then moving.”

Whenever I see her perform I am always sucked in immediately by her eyes, how they shimmer, and her smile, what radiance, and by how expressive she is in her performance, as she is also an accomplished actor (and one not seen enough on stages in Toronto). I was a little concerned that perhaps all this would not translate quite as well in a pure vocal performance on the album, but she and co-producer Don Kerr have truly done wonders with Yours Truly; it is a perfect encapsulation of all that makes Amanda LeBlanc so vibrant and winsome.

There is a vulnerability inherent in most of the stories that LeBlanc is telling in her seemingly simple, yet quietly poignant and undeniably poetic lyrics. It is not just the words that she has chosen to express herself, but how they are saturated with emotion, that make her songs so moving. From the richly lyrical “Keilani’s Song,” which speaks of immediate heartbreak, to “Cover to Cover,” a more reflective longing for a past love and “Movin’ On” which speaks to homesickness and the coming of age as we begin to forge a path for ourselves separate from our childhoods, LeBlanc has a way of capturing a deep sense of sadness and loss without losing her inherent hope and optimism. She also manages to do this in a way that never seems false or contrived. “Change,” a song inspired by LeBlanc’s deeply empathetic reaction to the poverty that she witnessed in Edmonton, Alberta while performing at the Citadel Theatre, is a song of powerfully relevant social justice, akin to the early work of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. “Drip” is perhaps the most joyful and catchy tune about Global Warming ever written, but the medium does not undermine the legitimacy of her message, as in Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.”

My two favourite of her tunes are still “Let the Water,” a jubilant ode to the ocean which I think will speak innately to anyone with a strong emotional attachment to the sea and “Danger,” the unrequited love song that never fails to make me cry. Her rendition of “Tennessee Waltz” vividly captures another, distinctively classier, time and inspires the imagination to spin with all the other songs of this genre that would certainly suit her voice magnificently.

While I keep telling my mother that Amanda has not yet reached the level of stardom that she feels befits her, she has been keeping in quite continual demand across the country since Yours Truly was officially released in December. Women of Substance Radio on has been playing “Danger,” “Little Walls,” “Cover to Cover” and “Keilani’s Song,” while LeBlanc has recently returned from touring to both Montreal and Ottawa. Most recently she can be seen March 25, 2011 at the Free Times Cafe in Toronto (320 College Street, Toronto) with Dan Mock and James McKie (8:00pm, PWYC), she is the musical guest for Sunday Night Live at the Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West) on April 10th (9:30pm) and will return to the Press Club at 10:30pm on April 23rd. She is also heading to the East Coast Music Awards in April, and will do an across country tour, ending up in Halifax, at The Carleton (1685 Argyle Street) on June 26th for her East Coast CD Launch. To keep up with all of Amanda’s exciting endeavours, check out her website, “like” her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Amanda LeBlanc is undeniably a rising star in the Canadian music scene; hop on the bandwagon now, you’ll want to be able to say you “knew her when” once she’s hit the big-time. Go ahead, buy it today! (Or download it on Itunes or pick it up from Soundscapes (572 College Street).

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