Chamber folk musician and self-professed “prairie person” Raine Hamilton has written many songs about flat grasslands and big Manitoba skies, but lately, the mountains have been calling.

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This article was published 5/1/2021 (265 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Chamber folk musician and self-professed "prairie person" Raine Hamilton has written many songs about flat grasslands and big Manitoba skies, but lately, the mountains have been calling.

"I was noticing this feeling of animation about the mountains and this other landscape," Hamilton, 36, says over the phone. 

The cover of Raine Hamilton’s third album Brave Land features artwork by Sarah Thiessen and graphic design by Roberta Landreth.</p>

The cover of Raine Hamilton’s third album Brave Land features artwork by Sarah Thiessen and graphic design by Roberta Landreth.

With that in mind, Hamilton moved into rockier terrain with her new album, Brave Land.

Part of the record — her third full-length release and her first concept album — was written during a residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, the campus of which is surrounded on all sides by rising peaks and evergreen trees.

"That felt so profound to me," she says. "It felt like this natural gathering place where water would run down when the snow melts and… where creativity is collecting also."

Hamilton found inspiration in the physical landforms and the ideas they came to represent: namely wisdom, courage and connection.

"I was moved often by the symbolism of the land reaching into the sky, which I think... is so brave," she says. "Like, here we are on Earth, which is familiar to us, and then here’s the earth also teaching us about this other world and this other way to grow."

She returned to Winnipeg and started workshopping the songs with her longtime friends and bandmates Quintin Bart and Natanielle Felicitas. The arrangements for Brave Land came together in a very natural way, which Hamilton chalks up to the special "creative language" the trio has developed over years of working together.

"The longer we’ve been doing it, the more nuanced we get," she says. "So much of the path is worn already… that we can kind of like run down the cleared path and explore further."

The band — which includes Bart on double bass, Felicitas on cello and Hamilton on vocals and violin — had recorded half of the album when the pandemic hit; the trio managed to finish the project last summer when coronavirus cases were low.

While the last nine months have been stressful, dark and disorienting, Hamilton says it’s been nice to sleep in the same bed for an extended period.

"In 2019 I was away from home for 26 weeks of the year, which for me is a lot," she says. "My body was mad at me for just sleeping on very random, changing surfaces all the time."

With concerts and touring out the window, Hamilton has decided to release her album in a slow, incremental flow of singles. One new song from Brave Land will be released monthly throughout 2021 beginning in late January.

"It’s bittersweet because I will certainly miss the touring that was gonna happen," she says. "But the sweet part is that I get to reimagine this and there gets to be a different kind of connecting."

At the same time, she realizes it’s a lot to ask fans to wait an entire year for an album to come out. To remedy that, Hamilton will play Brave Land front-to-back during a virtual concert with the West End Cultural Centre and Home Routes-Chemin Chez Nous on Feb. 5.

The show will include American Sign Language interpretation, which Hamilton has featured in her performances for several years. 

"I think that art is profoundly powerful and I want for anyone who feels drawn to that to have access to it," she says.

Joanna Hawkins is a local deaf actor and interpreter and will be a behind-the-scenes collaborator for the WECC concert. When she is onstage interpreting music, Hawkins chooses signs that represent the meaning of the song, rather than signing the exact lyrics. Her goal is to bring the music to life for deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members — something that can be a challenge virtually.

"It is difficult to maintain continuity or connection," Hawkins says via email. "You also won’t be able to feel or hear (if using hearing aids or cochlear implants) the beat. Deaf people love feeling loud vibrations that you can’t receive virtually."

Pandemic restrictions willing, Hamilton will be joined onstage at the WECC by her band and the ASL interpreter. Tickets are $20 and available at wecc.ca.

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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