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Good memories slip into Oh My Darling's new CD

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For Vanessa Kuzina, recording Sweet Nostalgia was filled with almost nothing but memories.

Kuzina's father died weeks before her old-time band Oh My Darling started recording its sophomore album, so recollections of their time together were fresh on her mind.

"I feel him all the time, so he was there during the recording process," Kuzina says. "He was a creative man. He was an artist all his life. He was our biggest fan."

Each of the band members -- Kuzina (guitar, vocals), Marie-Josée Dandeneau (bass, vocals), Allison de Groot (banjo, vocals) and Rosalyn Dennett (fiddle, vocals) -- shares a favourite story in the liner notes of Sweet Nostalgia. Kuzina's tale was about her first boat trip with her father Terry Kuzina, whom the album is dedicated to, on Lake of the Woods where he imparted a life lesson about getting back on the boat no matter how many times it tips.

"It is one of my very first memories," she says. "The story to me was about being brave and overcoming when the boat might tip, and it surely does, that you can get back on it and keep sailing."

Kuzina took that advice and has continued on with the help of her family and bandmates in Oh My Darling, a Winnipeg quartet that has been steering its own course across North America and Europe since 2008.

Each member of the group had her own musical career before the formation of Oh My Darling. The band got together when Kuzina recruited Dandeneau and de Groot to play on her 2007 solo album. They formed an instant musical connection and soon invited Dennett on board to complete the all-female group whose mixture of bluegrass, Appalachian folk and roots music has earned them fans everywhere they've played.

To capture the energy of their live show, the band of 20-somethings recorded Sweet Nostalgia in Don Benedictson's studio, located in a straw-bale house in Roseisle.

"We were looking for a place we could be really comfortable and away from everything to focus on the music and recording and focus on that zone and vibe," Kuzina says. "It's an amazing space. It's warm and sounds beautiful. It helped bring a really organic sound to the album which is what we were going for."

The 10 songs on the album are a mixture of original material and traditional songs with new arrangements. Every member handles vocal duties and the album is filled with four-part harmonies.

"I think a big part of what attracts us to the old-time music is the melodies are amazing, catchy and fun," says Kuzina. "It's emotive, and as a songwriter you can tell so much of a story with fewer words. There's honesty about old-time music, and a culture as well."

That culture spreads all over the globe. The band spent May and June in Europe playing 52 shows in 60 days with a stop at the European World of Bluegrass Festival in The Netherlands where they met people from far-flung locales who brought their own take on traditional music to the party.

"We met this great bluegrass band from Russia and they were all under 16. They didn't speak any English, but when they played they would blast into this Southern American sound," Kuzina says with a laugh.

A recent trek took them to New York City where they learned Norah Jones and the Black Keys were hanging out in the bar they were playing.

"Thankfully we did not know she was there when we went on to play," Kuzina says. "I got the courage to go up and say hello and tell her I loved her music. She was great. She was sweet and kind and generous with her time."

The band members have more touring in store, but before they hit the road again they will release their new album during a two-set hometown show Saturday at the West End Cultural Centre.

As part of the release party, local brewery Half Pints Brewing Co. is making a keg of special Sweet Nostalgi-Ale for the occasion.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 5, 2011 G5

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