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Natural beauty

Slow Leaves launch debut album

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"A lucky line here and there should not make us think any higher of ourselves, for such lines are the gift of Chance or the Spirit; only the errors are our own. I hope the reader may find in my pages something that merits being remembered; in this world, beauty is so common."

Penned by Argentine poet/essayist Jorge Louis Borges, the above passage served as a deep inspiration for Beauty Is So Common, the debut album from Slow Leaves, the recording project of local singer-songwriter Grant Davidson.

"I found that idea very humbling," he says. "When you create something, you're always trying to make it beautiful. But we're surrounded by beauty. It's about making a contribution to that, no matter how small."

Beauty Is So Common, which will be fêted with a CD release party at the West End Cultural Centre on Sept. 6, is most certainly a contribution. It's a gorgeously rendered, hyper-melodic folk album that shimmers with pure-pop production, Davidson's rich vocal timbre anchoring those affecting cinematic sweeps and swells. (Executing those soundscapes live at Saturday's show will be drummer Joanna Miller, bassist Rej Ricard, violinist Julie Penner, keyboardist Rick de Moissac, and vocalists Vanessa Kuzina, Ariane Jean and Jess Rae Ayre.)

Beauty Is So Common also officially announces the arrival of Slow Leaves. Davidson had released pair of rough-hewn roots records under his own name -- 2009's Tired Limbs for Ashes and 2011's Dust and Violets -- but he was looking for a fresh start. "And, not entirely, but I wanted to go in a different direction," he says. "My older stuff was influenced by '70s country-folk with that kind of dusty, lo-fi production. I wanted to throw that away and do something with a bit more shine to it." (Plus, he says, "there are benefits to having a name to work under that isn't your own name. It helps create some separation.")

Davidson knew just the guy who could bring some sparkle to his sound, reaching out to Rusty Matyas. Davidson was impressed with his work on Imaginary Cities' debut album, 2011's Temporary Resident, and decided to shoot him an email. It wasn't long before these strangers became friends, recording demos at Matyas' Furby Street jam space and eventually recording at Argyle Studio with Cam Loeppky.

"It was a really positive recording experience," Davidson says. "I didn't feel the pressure of the red 'recording in progress' light. A lot of what's on the finished record was recorded (on Furby) with Rusty. What was captured was so natural because I wasn't thinking that it's the final product."

Slow Leaves released the Second Chances EP last October, an amuse bouche for Beauty Is So Common, which has been completed for a year. "It's been along time coming," says Davidson, who already has enough material for a followup.

Still, he deserves to bask in the afterglow of Beauty Is So Common for a while longer. This is the record he's been waiting to make.

"On my last records, I always felt like there had to be some sort of compromise -- usually related to cost," he says. "I invested a little more money in this and I'm proud of it, which is satisfying. I really feel like the songs achieved their potential."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 3, 2014 C7


Updated on Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 10:03 AM CDT: corrects typo

5:09 PM: corrects typo

5:14 PM: Adds video.

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