Pretty much the first thing Kirby Criddle said to the audience at the Artesian on January 17th is that she was going to play a bunch of songs that would “depress the fuck” out of us. She wasn’t wrong.
In a room full of mostly upstanding middle-aged people (I’m assuming a bit here), Kirby provided an interesting dramatic foil. She was mysterious, draped in layers with her hat pulled low in front of her eyes, her enchanting smile peeking out just enough to draw the audience in. She is somewhat foul-mouthed (though I won’t hold that against her), but there is an obvious honest desire to connect with and get to know people in her self-proclaimed “really weird stage banter.” The same is true of her music. It is deeply personal, and bares all through direct, human lyrics. Her songs tell stories of people and places, fear and doubt, and they do so simply and elegantly, leaving them to be filed alongside the likes of Ben Gibbard, early City and Colour, or Kathleen Edwards.
Maybe I’m just a sucker for a sad story, but for me the stand out of this performance was her song “Twenty Years,” which she dedicated to her father who passed away nearly a year ago. The song’s subject matter is raw and uncomfortable, but I was on the edge of my seat clinging to every last piece of scenic imagery she used to render the story of her parents’ rocky marriage. If you struggle to understand human relationships and find beauty in the mess, this song is for you.
Her songs are simple, with beautiful and dark lyrics floating on top of a clockwork-like underpinning that drives a hypnotic and entrancing musical experience, surrounded by tasteful classical guitar work from Eli Temple and vocal harmonies from Amanda Proznik. The overall package worked well together, with Eli’s guitar work either emulating the low rumble of a brass section or adding shimmering flares between vocal phrases, and Amanda’s vocals following Kirby’s like a shadow. Overall they delivered a consistent set of seven songs and the stories behind them.
It is also worth mentioning that her most recent record, RITUALS, produced by Regina Sad-Folk powerhouse Andy Shauf, reveals a palette of even deeper and more colourful sounds. Careful arrangements add to Kirby’s already lovely songs and weave a package that supports her songs without dominating them.
Perhaps it was a set of pretty depressing songs, covers of Andy Shauf’s “You Remind Me” and The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” notwithstanding. But they are sweetly sung in the way a mother may whisper lullabies to her beloved children. Dark lullabies, to be clear, but I’d have them sing me to sleep anyway.
See Kirby Criddle live:
Jan 29 – PotashCorp WinterShines Festival, Saskatoon
Feb 10 – Castle Theatre, Aden Bowman Collegiate, Saskatoon
Feb 25 – Vangelis w/ Post Script (Edmonton), Saskatoon
February 28th – Artful Dodger w/ Post Script, Regina
By Dana Rempel