Under Review

Sarah Jane Scouten

Magpie Waltz


Review by Angela Yen

Sarah Jane Scouten - Magpie Waltz
Magpie Waltz
[Sarah Jane Scouten – “Magpie Waltz”]

With a hint of Southern drawl and an old-time country feel, you’d never guess that this country-folk songstress actually hails from Montreal. Her roots in Bowen Island, B.C., indeed inspired some of her folk background. In classic country tradition, Sarah Jean Scouten‘s latest album has thoughtful lyrics that will make you long for sweet romance, but not before cursing the pain that it caused you first.

With influences from greats like Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch, Scouten holds her own. Her vocals can be strong and fiery like on “Poverty Wind,” and then make a complete turnaround and surprise you with a vulnerable and quivering voice like on “Bad Weather.” Even on the lighter “Until the Wheels Come Off” followed by the bass thumping, “Twenty Dollar Bills,” Scouten’s clever and blunt lyrics maintain her distinct personality. But, it is most clearly on “Ballad of the Southern Midwife,” which tells the tale of a rebellious woman who escapes her traditional and sheltered upbringing, that Scouten’s song writing comes alive and reveals an old, wise soul.

Along with Scouten’s rich and provocative vocals/lyrics, the album’s string arrangements drive the album. Her band, which includes mandolin, violin, guitar and bass, provide a stripped down feel making each guitar buzz, shaky vocal or screeching violin note audible. It’s raw and honest and impressively executed by what could only be a group of seasoned musicians.

We’ve heard it from artists like the Secret Sisters and the Omaha Sound Gang, both dabbling in classic, old-timey Americana roots. Like these peers, Scouten isn’t just a nostalgic feeling. Her point of view is personal and relevant, and reminds the listener why the genre so beautifully exposes one’s deepest emotions, out there for our yearning ears to grab on to.