The Good Lovelies spreading the musical cheer
By Mary Houlihan September 12, 2013 8:17PM
The Toronto-based trio, The Good Lovelies, are on the bill Saturday at Dominican University
The Good Lovelies, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14, Dominican University, Lund Auditorium, 7900 W. Division, River Forest. $23. (708) 488-5000; http://events.dom.edu/performing-arts/calendar-events
Caroline Brooks, Kerri Ough and Sue Passmore met in 2006 when they were asked to perform at a Christmas show in Toronto. At the time all three were working at their music careers in different capacities. Brooks performed in a duo with her sister, Ough was working on her first album and Passmore was a member of an electro-lounge band.
The holiday performance where they sang a few songs together was the start of something new for the three women who would go on to form the Canadian roots trio The Good Lovelies. At that holiday party, they recognized immediately that they had something special.
“We were each pursuing to some degree our musical passions,” Ough recalls. Musically, they connected through their lovely Andrews Sisters-style three-part harmonies. “I remember thinking later how easy that was,” Ough adds. “It doesn’t always work like that so we feel very fortunate.”
The Good Lovelies’ music has a wide appeal; it’s light-hearted, funny, upbeat and filled with textbook harmonies. It’s has a folk/bluegrass pedigree but it also swings. Right out of the gate in 2010, the trio’s first full-length self-titled album won a 2010 Juno Award for Roots Album of the Year. They have since recorded a popular 2009 Christmas album “Under the Mistletoe,” 2011’s “Let the Rain Fall” and a live album in 2012.
Ough now lives in St. John’s Newfoundland but the group remains based in Toronto. They are joined on the current tour by bassist Steve Zsirai and Brooks’ one-year-old daughter who Ough says “is a smiley baby and loves to be in the mix of things.”
The trio, all multi-instrumentalists, is in the process of gathering songs for a new album due out later next year. In the past, they’ve written separately and then come together to help each other out on harmonies, arrangements or lyrics. Ough admits she finds it hard to include someone else in the process “because it’s so personal.” But they are trying to write more songs together as songwriting habits distinct to one member rub off on each other’s songs.
“I’m looking forward to maybe changing the way the new album comes together but without loosing the charm of what we do,” Ough notes. “We want to make an album that feels from top to bottom like it’s a cohesive thing.”
And it look like fans used to the lightness, humor and sass of the trio’s songs may find a change of tone on some of the new work. “We all think the new album will be a bit darker than what we usually write,” Ough explains. “But I’m sure some sunshine will poke its head in there somewhere, too.”
While the Good Lovelies’ mission is to perform original material there are a few covers thrown into the mix. The first to catch some attention was their version of a hip-hop song — “Crabbuckit,” a 2004 single by Canadian artist k-os.
“I’m happy to say I brought that one to the table,” Ough says with a laugh. “It’s fun to pick a song that is unlike anything we do, something a bit more unusual especially if a male sings it and we can put a female twist on it.”
More recently, they’ve been working on the traditional folk song “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” which Johnny Cash recorded for the 2006 disc “American V: A Hundred Highways.”
“Mastering something new like this helps avoid some of the pressure found in the long process of always writing your own songs and always waiting for new material,” Ough says. “Here we grab a song that already exists, we spend a day arranging it and we sing it that night. It’s a process that’s always a fun challenge and musically very rewarding.”
Mary Houlihan is a Sun-Times free-lance writer.