Maritime singer-songwriter Julie Doiron has been penning fragile tales of loss, domesticity, disillusionment and hope since her first band, Eric’s Trip, emerged from the fertile East Coast Canadian scene centered on Halifax power poppers Sloan in 1991. For the last 10 years she’s pursued a successful solo career. Most recently she’s worked herself back into a band, Sackville, New Brunswick’s Shotgun and Jaybird.

As I approached the club, I could see the curly hair of Will Kidman bobbing above the crowd through the club-length windows that run along The Rainbow’s bottom level. Kidman’s regular musical occupation is as the keyboardist for leonine Canadian new wave punks the Constantines. Despite the plural name, the Woolly Leaves is a solo act, with Will exorcising his singer-songwriter jones. (Local openers Poorfolk had already been and gone, to my regret). It was a capable if not hugely memorable performance. It did set a pattern for the rest of the show, with Doiron hunching over a microphone to sing a duet, and Shotgun and Jaybird’s Shotgun Jimmie and Dick Morello providing an impromptu rhythm section on another song.

When Shotgun and Jimmie came on stage for their own performance, Kidman sat in throughout, backing up drummer Paul Henderson on a second drum kit and occasionally playing keyboards.

Singer Dick Morello has a strong, slightly gravelly voice that bears an uncanny (and unfeigned) similarity to Lou Reed’s. He peppered the set with absurdist banter, revealing his brilliant plans to patent a belt-buckle-mounted beer bottle holder to make it easier for people to applaud at shows, and his conception for a morning radio show where he would play his favourite 45s at 33 rpm. The strong steady rhythm provided by Doiron and Henderson underpinned slow-burning guitars. The cumulative effect was in the vein of Neil Young’s slower electric numbers.

The last time I saw Doiron, she was opening for the Rheostatics, a very individual band with a discreet fan base largely separate from hers. This time around she was among fans. The greater appreciation and stronger emotional connection to her songs made for a much more enjoyable show. The Rainbow’s homey atmosphere and excellent acoustics also added to the impact of Doiron’s delicate sparse music.

Doiron picked her way through a few tunes before throwing the door open for audience requests like ‘Elevator Show’ and ‘Wintermitts’. This being the Internet age, a request to play a new Myspace tune, ‘Me and My Friend’, was also fielded. She also played a Shotgun and Jaybird track, ‘Lovers of the World be On Time Tonight’ ...".

It was the second to last day of Doiron’s tour (not counting a homecoming gig in Sackville) and Doiron was obviously feeling sentimental, chatting with the crowd about her hometown’s charms, including the ready availability of cheap beer (being a sensitive type, this later led Doiron to apologize from the stage to the bar staff for any possible implication that the local beer might be inferior or overpriced).

The extended tour also meant Doiron’s voice was getting slightly ropey, though that did little harm; if anything it added to the verisimilitude of heartbroken songs.

The set went on into the wee small hours – several local indie music fans could be seen slumping ever lower over the balcony of The Rainbow’s second floor - with Doiron taking requests in chunks of two and three.

As the clock crept past 1 a.m. she invited the remainder of Shotgun and Jaybird on for a few songs. A few more solo songs and it was 1:45 a.m. There she cut things off and wished everyone a good night – “It’s getting very late!” (She may also have been mindful of plans to record a few songs in Ottawa later in the day before heading to Montreal for her tour’s last night.)

A wonderfully intimate show.

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Commenting On: Rainbow, Ottawa, 12/11/2006 - Julie Doiron, Shotgun and Jaybird and the Woolly Leaves

ie London, England

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