In the winter of 2011, Karyn packed her things into the back of a pickup truck and drove from Toronto across five provinces to the foothills of the Cariboo Mountains in British Columbia. She moved for love, and she moved for adventure. She moved eight hours north of Vancouver into a house in the woods where she wrote most of the new album sitting on the porch, her writing sessions punctuated by the constant burbling of the Cottonwood River running a few hundred feet away behind her place.
Not surprisingly, More Than A Hero takes on a rootsier, more earthy tone than her previous records. Many of the songs touch on themes of moving and other great leaps of courage. There is underlying bittersweetness in the songs, too (after two years, she and her BC love split up), and when it came time to record Karyn moved back home to Toronto where she rejoined with a stellar line up of musical friends to make the album.
The band features top players, Brian Kobayakawa (Serena Rider, Creaking Tree String Quartet), Gary Craig (Kath- leen Edwards, Bruce Cockburn) and James Robertson (New Country Rehab, Run With Kittens); the arrangements are rounded out with performances by equally fabulous special guests such as Bryden Baird on horns, Jeff Heisholt on piano, Ali Berkok on accordion and Kerri Ough, Dave Bidini, Evalyn Parry, David Newland, David Oxley and Vincent de Tourdonnet on back up vocals. Two songs also feature a community choir comprised of friends of the artist. Recorded under the astute ear of co-producer Don Kerr at his west end studio, More Than A Hero captures the rustic energy of this excellent ensemble delivering eleven solid contemporary Canadian songs.
The material on the new record is musically diverse, from the heart-breaking ballad “Rust” to the fist-pumping title track. Other songs explore themes of travel and bravery. The faux-blues track “River” is a call to courage, whereas the poignant “How the Tiger Lost her Roar” is a story-song of a woman moving to a new land, where her hopes of a better life quickly fall apart.
One of the tracks, titled “Pretty Little Soldier,” came about from a chance opportunity at the Vancouver International Writers’ Festival. After being invited to the festival by Dave Bidini (of the Rheostatics), Karyn was given the challenge to create and perform a new song based on a novel by Timothy Taylor, one of the festival’s feature writers. Out of the dark pages of his novel “Blue Light Project,” Karyn’s haunting song “Pretty Little Soldier” was born.
To release the album, Karyn first launched More than a Hero in Japan with a near-sold-out tour. She played to full houses, with 14 dates in 22 days, and the chorus of one of her songs was even translated into Japanese. Since then she has been touring across Canada and Europe bringing the album to appreciative audiences everywhere.
The Production Team
All songs copyright Karyn Ellis, SOCAN.
Produced by DON KERR and KARYN ELLIS
Recorded at THE ROOSTER, Toronto Canada
Engineered, edited and mixed by DON KERR
Mastered by JEFF CARROLL at BLUEFIELD MASTERING in Raleigh NC USA
Arrangements by KARYN ELLIS and DON KERR with generous input from the band.
Original Paintings by JUSTINA SMITH
Art Direction and layout by KARYN ELLIS
KARYN ELLIS – Vocals; Acoustic Guitar: 1-9, 11; Electric Guitar: 10; Vocoder: 4
BRIAN KOBAYAKAWA – Bass: 1-5, 8-11; Double Bass: 6, 11
JAMES ROBERTSON- Electric Guitars: 1-5, 7-8; Cello Banjo: 7; Acoustic Guitar: 5
GARY CRAIG – Drums: 1-5, 8; Chair: 4
DON KERR – Percussion: 1, 2, 8, 9; Cello: 6, 11; Drums: 10
BRYDEN BAIRD – Flugel Horn: 3, 5, 6, 11; Trumpet: 5
JEFF HEISHOLT – Piano: 9; Organ: 4
ALI BERKOK – Accordian: 7
The Back Up Singers
SUE NEWBERRY – 1, 9;
DON KERR – 1, 5, 9;
DAVID NEWLAND – 2;
DAVID OXLEY – 2;
VINCENT DE TOURDONNET – 2;
KERRI OUGH – 3, 11;
DAVE BIDINI – 5, 8;
EVALYN PARRY – 8.
JOSH MATTHEWS, DAVID OXLEY, AMY CAMPBELL, LEAH MORISE, MIKE BOURGEAULT, SHANNON THOMPSON, EVALYN PARRY, KEN FRASER, DIANE HAMILTON, MICHAEL HOLT, CHRIS WARREN – 5, 8.
VISIT the WALL OF AWESOME ~ A special page thanking the backers of Karyn’s album, More Than A Hero! Together we crowdfunded $10K towards the album!!