The naked, snow-peppered trees that comprise Canada's woodlands in the wintertime are a thing of pure beauty; the sought-after setting for painters and photographers decade upon decade. Yet come the springtime, the elegance of bare poplar and oak is replaced with a new beauty — one of rich colours, textures, and added adornment.
If Manitoba-based performer/songwriter Jess Reimer’s 2011 debut LP, Sweet Darling and Sorrow, is her winter landscape — stripped, subtle songs rooted in country and folk, stunning in their simplicity — then it seems her springtime is near. Reimer has been immersed in music since infancy, playing and performing throughout her childhood and going on to join her father and some friends in a nationally-touring gospel/bluegrass band that performed alongside some giants of the genre; however, she soon branched off onto a whole new bough of her musical endeavours.
“I guess it was just a matter of wanting to take my art to a more personal level,” Reimer says about starting to write her own songs. The fruit of her pursuits is a sound sprouted in previous decades but carrying youthful character. Carving her own sonic identity by performing and recording alongside a slew of creative talents, she released Sweet Darling and Sorrow, produced by Grant Siemens (Corb Lund & the Hurtin’ Albertans)and soon after garnered plenty of attention from the local and national folk and country music communities.
Her output to-date has earned acclaim from outlets like Penguin Eggs; official showcase slots at the Folk Alliance International Convention and OCFF; shared bills with the likes of The Good Brothers, Loudon Wainwright III, Peter Rowan, Hayes Carl, and Tony Rice; and appearances in front of audiences at the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, Ottawa Folk Festival, and Winnipeg Folk Festival.
Reimer also caught the eye (and ear) of producer Bob Wiseman, a former member of Blue Rodeo and collaborator with the likes of Ron Sexsmith and Bob Snider. “He’s just so passionate about music that I knew it’d be an adventure making an album with him,” Reimer shares, and that adventure will undoubtedly extend to her following. The two are now a year into a collaboration expected to come to full fruition in Spring 2014 via Winnipeg label Pipe & Hat.
While still a work in progress, the material from Reimer’s upcoming collection is the fully-blossomed incarnation of what was planted with Sweet Darling and Sorrow. Still rooted in traditional genres, these songs branch beyond the boundaries of folk music into far more innovative and experimental territory, with lush, layered arrangements and a flurry of sounds and textures borrowed from various styles and times, producing music that’s simultaneously familiar and fresh.
And like her sound, the breadth of themes she explores in her lyrics has also expanded while keeping true to what’s been established to date. “Half of these songs have been stewing for over a decade — songs that I started writing in my infant adulthood that I’ve now finished 10 years later,” Reimer reveals; songs that stem from defining personal experiences. The other half was written more recently and boasts a more weathered perspective, beautifully capturing the ebb and flow of life in an idyllic little village in the valley and the home she shares with her husband, luthier and fellow musician Jer Hamm, constructing guitars and composing new music.
Whether they’re sung alongside her usual supporting cast of musicians from major festival stages this summer, or by just the girl and her guitar for more intimate engagements, these songs are sure to please those that Jess Reimer calls her fans while earning the attention of some new and earnest ears. They share the shape of her early material, but like the budding and blossoming trees that surround her rural Manitoba home, are even more beautiful and full of life.