Like many musicians who have achieved critical success only to find themselves just as broke and no farther ahead than they were when they started, Karyn Ellis was getting ready to throw in the towel on the music business and get a real job. Just then, an envelope showed up from the Canada Council–a cheque for a hard-to-get composition grant she had forgotten she’d even applied for.
So began a series of events that not only kept Ellis making music, but resulted in her going all out—recording a breakthrough album that pairs her quirky songwriting and sensual, naïve vocals with a cornucopia of alluring production elements: strings, horns, choirs and glockenspiels, just to name a few. Suddenly, instead of feeling isolated in the business, the 2007 winner of Humber College’s Most Original New Voice award found herself surrounded by exceptional musical friends: Evalyn Parry, John Millard, Amy Lang (Hidden Cameras) and Brian Kobayakawa (Creaking Tree) just to name a few. And instead of scrambling to pay for recording costs, Ellis had money from both the Council and FACTOR, allowing her to fund the 16-member musical extravaganza. She even had her coffers topped up with donations from fans. The resulting album, Even Though the Sky Was Falling, is a celebration of the beauty and redemption to be found in chaotic times like the one Ellis had been going through.
One song was written while a friend was dying of cancer. Another was inspired by watching a series of creepy CSI episodes. Three tracks were penned while Ellis sat in the parking lot of a major festival, bummed not to be on stage performing … but none of this is obvious from listening. “Beauty,” which is dedicated to the memory of Ellis’ university friend, is a simple, sprightly number filled with uplifting lyrics like “I am filled with joy”—complete with bouncy trombone lines, “doo doo doo” choruses and singing toddlers. “Be My Girl”—the CSI song—is a plaintive reflection on breaking free from the “beautiful victim” role that women are so often cast in. “Bitter Grasses,” one of the spurned-by-a-festival numbers, sounds to all the world like a spurned-by-a-lover song with a bit of a vintage country surf feel to it. The diverse sounds are all woven together into a cohesive package with help from co-producer Don Kerr, best-known for his work with Ron Sexsmith.
“a magical way with song… Leonard Cohen has no copyright on the word hallelujah.” — Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail
“I can’t get your record off repeat, but that’s on purpose. It’s astounding!” — Stephen Pitkin, Elliot Brood
“4 1/2 out of 5… pure enjoyment from the first to the last!” — Benny Metten, CtrlAltCountry.be, Belgium
“as if writing a brilliant song were child’s play.” — Martin Overheul, AltCountryForum.nl, Netherlands
Karyn Ellis: Acoustic & electric Guitars, vocals, miscellaneous percussion, trumpet & doot doots
Don Kerr: Drums, percussion, back up vocals, chest thumps, clapping & snapping, cello, glockenspeil, zzzzooms
Brian Kobayakawa: Electric & double bass
Chris Banks:Electric & acoustic bass
Gary Craig: Drums, percussion
Michael Holt: Piano, wurlitzer, hammond organ, back up vocals
Brad Hart: Glockenspeil, back up vocals
Evalyn Parry: Concertina
Cathy Stone: Trombone
Shaun Brodie: Trumpet, Flugel Horn
Doug Friesen: Trombone
Micajah Sturgess: French Horn
John Millard: Banjo, back up vocals
James Robertson: Electric guitar, cello banjo
Drew Jurecka: Violin
Rebekah Wolkstein: Viola
Amy Laing: Cello
Diane Hamilton, Tiiu Millistver, Evalyn Parry, Helen Millar, Michael Holt, Ken Fraser, David Oxley, Chris Banks, Caroline Brooks, Brad Hart, Georgina Blanchard
The Kids Choir:
Kai, Olivia, Rebecca, Dove, Jasper, Nikko, Beto and featuring Oscar Szablowski.
Produced by Karyn Ellis and Don Kerr
Mixed by Ken Friesen
Mastered by David Travers-Smith
Horn Arrangements on Low, Beauty and Ten Stories Up by Brian Kobayakawa
String Arrangement on Not Looking For Love by Karyn Ellis and Don Kerr
String Arrangement on Motorcycle by Karyn Ellis