Women take music beyond the bar

In with the old, and in with the new. Tether Hooks and Velcro, the third compilation album released by Yukon Women in Music, moves beyond the…

In with the old, and in with the new.

Tether Hooks and Velcro, the third compilation album released by Yukon Women in Music, moves beyond the group’s two previous compilation albums.

It features live recordings or assemblages of previously recorded music.

Tether hooks and Velcro is the first to be built from “the ground up” with a greater aim at featuring emerging Yukon women musicians.

Of the album’s 12 tracks, five are by first-timers.

“The aim was to give women musicians an opportunity to have a first experience of recording in a studio,”

Twenty-eight Yukon women were given half an hour of free studio time, and the demos were forwarded to an outside jury and pared down to a final 12.

“What was great about the submission process is, even if their song didn’t make it to the album, they still had a chance to go into the studio and record,” said local musician Kim Beggs, whose whimsical J’ai Besoin des Nuages is featured on the album.

A call was then broadcast continent-wide for a producer to venture to the North to weave together the songs of its female inhabitants. Eight applied, and Ottawa-based singer-songwriter Lynn Miles got the job.

For seven weeks, her task was to arrange, record and assemble the album’s 12 chosen tracks. Miles faced a diversity of ages (mid-teens to mid-50s), experiences and performing styles.

The comparatively isolated locale of Whitehorse gave the producer the ability to better “hunker down,” free from the distractions of a cosmopolitan area.

“You’ve got nowhere to go, so you focus a bit more,” said Miles.

“We did a lot of 12-, 13-hour days up there, because what else were we going to do, right?” she said.

In its 10-year history, Yukon Women In Music has been instrumental in propelling women from private to public performers — a supportive nudge in the right direction.

“Since this group was started, several women have produced CDs of their own,” said Erica Heyligers, president of Yukon Women In Music.

Also, with a membership encompassing some of the very best performers of Yukon’s music scene, women artists benefit from dipping into an atmosphere of professional mentorship.

“We have girls that, when they first come in, they’re pretty rough, and then a year later, they’re not quite as rough, and then a year after that they get pretty good at it,” said Chamberlin.

“It’s great to see them come out, learn from it, and become singer-songwriters — not just people playing in their house on their guitars,” she said.

Tether Hooks and Velcro, especially, “is a great incentive for women to start thinking about producing their own CD, now that they’ve got this extra bit of skill and knowledge and what it takes; it opens their eyes to think, ‘oh yeah, maybe I can do this all on my own,’” she said.

Asheya Hennessey, one of the album’s debut performers, has long played music, but rarely in any kind of public sphere — her closest brush with studio recording having been Confessions, a “kitchen” album she recorded with university friends in 1999.

“I never would have had the opportunity to professionally record a song if it hadn’t been for this project,” she said.

Sister Song, by Hennessey, showcases a singing voice similar to Alanis Morissette after several weeks of anger management — and an octave higher.

Songs were picked on the sheer quality of the songwriting — with all other elements to be determined in the studio.

Seasonal Romance by BJ McLean describes the fear of summer romances dissipating once the first shadows of winter arrive.

“I open the door to my soul, saying ‘take, but don’t take it all,’” implores the singer.

True to Yukon Women In Music’s mandate of focusing mainly on singer-songwriting, the album is very heavy on a folk/pop feel. However, it allows itself to touch into the North’s other genres.

Make Me An Offer, by Peggy Hanifan of Whitewater Wednesday Jam Night fame — comes out country.

Seventeen-year-old Kayla Dewdney’s Heart of a Pirate strolls along with a rock beat.

“The danger with this project, because there’s such a diversity of styles, was that it would sound like five different records on one record — and Lynn did a really good job producing so that it didn’t sound like that,” said Chamberlin.

Yukon Women In Music’s previous two compilations have been kept mainly within the Yukon music market, but sales have been better than expected.

However, the latest CD is geared towards a “higher level” of promotion, with plans towards promoting out-of-Yukon sales and greater radio play across the country.

Promotion will kick off on November 14 when women in music members embark on a tour of the Yukon communities, bringing their message of female-inspiration in a trail of concerts and workshops.

Venue-expansion is also high on the women in music mandate.

In the group’s early days, bars were the only available platforms for playing music, a fate that Yukon Women in Music has tried to dispel by organizing concerts at churches, halls and other liquorless locales.

“We do that so families can come out and younger women can see us as well — so it’s not just a beer environment,” said Chamberlin.

Tether Hooks and Velcro’s CD release concert is on Friday, November 21 at 8 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre. Tickets are $20.

Contact Tristin Hopper at tristinh@yukon-news.com