History repeats itself. If you were to flip back in time to the September 2017 issue of Discorder, you’d find a curiously similar review. Here I was again, alone at the Fox Cabaret, watching Sarah Jane Scouten perform her sweet selection of folk and country tunes. As if the past year hadn’t even happened, the four-piece band in support were even wearing the same black shirts, embroidered with the album artwork from Scouten’s latest release, 2017’s When The Bloom Falls From The Rose.
Like any good case of déjà vu, the whole scene seemed to be unreal, as if I had stumbled onto a movie set during the second take. I found myself leaning up against the same patch of wall as I had been the year before, watching Scouten belt out the situationally apt lyrics from her two-stepping “Man In Love,” with lyrics, “‘Cause you’re not acting like a man in love at all / And if I could I’d undo the years.”
After a few uneasy moments, I forcibly removed myself from reliving the past by moving up to the balcony. As if I had broken out of the timeline, the band began to play some unfamiliar songs and brought a welcome sense of freshness.
As I described last year, Scouten’s set was “a highlight reel of everything country, roots and folk, from Dolly Parton-esque dancing numbers, to somber ballads evoking Emmylou Harris,” though this time around, her band was lacking the “Anders Sisters-style harmonies courtesy of the Scouten sisters,” as her sister, Anna Scouten, was not there. Regardless, the ease with which the band evoked that distinctive ‘60s and ‘70s style Country & Western was incredible to watch. With Sam Gleason’s guitar solos emulating a pedal steel, Elise Boeur’s tasteful fiddling and James McEleney’s walking bass lines, the band perfectly filled out Scouten’s sound. Playing both of my favourite SJS songs, When The Bloom Falls From The Rose opener “Acre of Shells” and the soon-to-be-released “Show Pony,” Sarah Jane Scouten’s set hit all the marks.
All temporal confusion aside, the show wasn’t all the same. Last year’s Bill Jr. Jr. were replaced by Twin Bandit, the Vancouver folk duo. Singing almost exclusively in crisp and tight harmony, Jamie Elliot and Hannah Walker set the mood perfectly. Each strumming a guitar, and with the support of Scott Smith on pedal steel and Michael Rush on standup bass, Twin Bandit sang their anachronistic songs of love, heartbreak and growth from their record, Full Circle. The highlight of their set came when Walker downed a shot of tequila before diving into their tongue-in-cheek “I Denied You,” a song dedicated to Elliot’s new husband.
With any good folk or country song, the pleasure doesn’t come from surprising musical turns or unexpected twists — the song structures, the chord progressions, the themes are usually the same, or at least familiar, from song to song. The pleasure instead comes from knowing what will happen and the feeling of satisfaction when it does. Like predicting the future on a small scale, the musical resolve in a traditional tune makes the gratification worth revisiting. And so, waiting for the songs that I knew were coming, the satisfaction was all the more sweet. Sarah Jane Scouten played her timeless folk songs as I sat predicting the future in my small way — next summer’s show is bound to be even better.