Loretta's daughter

Singer-songwriter Norma MacDonald walked into my shed and did the same thing I'd done when I walked into my shed earlier that morning: a deep breath in and aaaahhhhhh. My woodsy retreat has been locked up for the winter and in this unseasonable warm spell, knowing she and I were due for some photo play, I moved all the spare chairs and birdcages and winter flotsam out. A quick staging and a morning tending a sleepy fire and by the time she arrived, yellow sun beamed in through brown and mossy woods and the air was thick with old smoke and warm, fresh wood. Aaaaaahhhh.

I had brought out heaps of tulle for us to paw through because she said what I hope everyone says: I have nothing to wear. Can I have a dig in your tickle trunk? 

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A couple of them in particular, I knew, had to be hers. I'd worn them before, and this is one of my favourite thing about grown-up tickle trunks: each piece you pull takes on a character unique to each body that wears it. First, the shadowy black one that feels like a high-class lady at a funeral in 1940. The one that catches the light, if you're capable of seeing more than shadows.

It's one of those quiet ones, a been-places dress that impresses secrets upon you even if you've got none of your own. Except we all do, by now.

We came in for tea and she pulled the daisies, and oh, it was perfect. I had thought it might be. This is so Loretta, she said. This is Loretta's dress.

We decided that she's got to wear it on stage, and she will.

Musicians confound me. How can they do that? Play notes and sing at the same time? They make us all feel so much. More than actors or writers or anyone else, musicians are the experts in adopting and communicating characters that feel so real we think we've met them, loved them, been them. They know how to choose the lowest-hanging fruit from the tree of human existence. They *become* the lowest-hanging fruit.

I'll always relish the chance to shoot musicians. They slip into play so easily. We chat about grants and gigs, empty pubs and full barns, albums and half-written snippets of songs. Grassy or grand, they share half-thoughts and works in-progress from every stage. They let us into their experiments, hits and failures alike, as many songs as love affairs and runaways, and we sit there gawking at them, marvelling at how they hold us in trance. They hold up a mirror, that thing they do, and we say aaaaaahhhh.

Norma MacDonald's Burn the Tapes is at turns scrappy and slick, naive and confident, playful and heavy, and plays like the soundtrack to a long nighttime drive that’s over too soon. MacDonald’s third album Morning you Wake received glowing reviews in Canada, the U.S and Europe and was the #3 most played album on Galaxie’s Folk Roots channel in 2011. It received three Music Nova Scotia nominations in 2011 (Female Solo, Folk and Country/Bluegrass Recording of the Year). Her second album, The Forest for the Trees, won a 2009 ECMA nomination for Female Solo Recording of the Year and was heralded by Exclaim! as “nothing short of delicious”. —CBC Music