Chasing Lydie sounds like a soundtrack to a movie that was never filmed. To alleviate this problem, all one needs to do is set aside just over an hour of un-interrupted focus as the music, melodies, scratchy vinyl sounds and dialogue on the record work in unison to stimulate the imagination.
Mary-Jo Therio is a Moncton-born singer and actor who traditionally records with a Francophone flair. Chasing Lydie is her first English-language album, and was inspired by her family’s artistic roots, particularly her Aunt Lydie. The album, set in the historic town of Waltham, Massachusetts, opens with the crisp sound of windshield wipers working to wash away the blur of a snow storm. This gives the listener an immediate sense of travelling alongside Therio on her journey to uncover her musical past. The story is engaging, with Therio’s delicate yet powerful vocals providing the narrative through song and spoken word. The poetry is gripping right from the opening dialogue of “Going to the States,” as she sets the narrative with the lines, “Where the world is in the making / Where few hearts of despair are aching / Where there is more singing and less of sighing / Where there is more giving and less of buying / Where man makes friends without half trying / That’s where the west begins.”
There is this overwhelming sense that Therio filters the days of yesteryear through a lens of reverence and fondness, as evidenced by the sprinkling of warm, scratchy vinyl clips celebrating moments from a simpler time. The album features a full complement of experiences, including reflective overtures, jazz inspired piano pieces, cabaret show tunes, wild guitar roars and ragtime ditties.
The historical significance cannot be understated with tunes like “Working at the Waltham Watch” which pays homage to the historical industrial centerpiece of the town; a conveyor belt of piano chords and clicking noises provides a perfect feel to express the hyper, yet happy working conditions of the Waltham Watch factory.
As the album’s dialogue and poetry captures the spirit of early 20th century perfectly, Therio holds the listener in the palm of her musical hands. When she sings about the coldness of the winter, there is a chill in the air, prompting a quick search for a sweater before returning to the listening experience. It is this powerful sense of connection that makes Chasing Lydie such a worthwhile endeavor.