Creeping up on their ninth year of doing the band thing, of seasonally decorating the trans-Canada with their van tracks, Toronto's soul/funk staples, the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, decided to downshift last year for some time off the road.
The band, who have been together since high school, had recently crossed the country twice in support of their debut CD Superior Cackling Hen, the album had made #1 on national campus radio, and original guitarist Andrew Whiteman had left.
"It was a natural time to pause for regeneration," says founding member, organist/trombonist/songwriter Chris Brown.
The fruit of their down time? Shy Folk, their fifth release. The album came out yesterday on their own Yonder Records - they've also taken over distribution duties from Sony, who handled Cackling.
Brown personally has been playing a slew of sessions in both Toronto and New York, and Warner is releasing an album by his side band, Don't Talk Dance, in March (Brown plus the Barenaked Ladies' Tyler Stewart and Big Sugar's Gordie Johnson). "Now I'm anxious to get back to work full-time."
Singer Dave Wall also put out a solo record, and singer Kate Fenner took part in the CBC's Quiet Please, There's A Lady On Stage ... So you can imagine what their up time is like.
Shy Folk, says Brown, who wrote most of the songs, is drawn as ever from their individual and collective experience. One song, Simple, was written in memory of Brown's father, who died of lung cancer. "Since we (the band) have grown up together, sometimes it gets sticky. But you really appreciate it when you do a song like that and everybody knows exactly what they're singing and playing about.
"We recorded that song live off the floor. I turned off all the lights in the studio and used the trombone light to read an excerpt from Audre Lorde's The Cancer Journals to set the mood."
Although the intro didn't make the album, other spoken words did; a poem of Brown's, In A Salient Way, gets a dual reading by singer Ani Di Franco and Vancouver writer Neil Eustache.
What with all their work, through down time and up, one can't help but wonder why the Bourbons remain essentially indie.
"There are different definitions of success. We have been very fortunate in that we tour extensively and we have a great following across the country. Sometimes a label will find a band, hype them and then hope for the best. It's never worked that way with us."
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