James Culleton introduces his augmented-reality children’s album Unusual Friendships with his new single Little White Paws — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
“Little White Paws describes each of the characters in Unusual Friendships and gives the listeners the basic facts to what they are about to embark on,” the Canadian folk musician says. “This first song is sort of a preface to the full story.”
With a collection of 14 original songs, the 36 minute-spanning record features a mixture of traditional and contemporary roots song while succinctly retelling the symbolic tale of acceptance and equality relayed through a peculiar friendship which blossoms unexpectedly between a black cat and a white rat. Though rats and cats are thought to be enemies, the dynamic duo stick together throughout Unusual Friendships to fight and earn the respect of others.
The mixed-media album is based on the children’s story Unusual Friendships: A Little Black Cat and a Little White Rat, written by the award-winning Métis author Beatrice Mosionier — who is also Culleton’s aunt. The 71-year-old novelist wrote the rhyme-heavy book as symbolism for difficulties Métis persons experience. Touched by the story, Culleton decided to take his own shot at Unusual Friendships — but from a sonic approach. Though he breathed new life into the classic Canadian tale by recording an entire concept album based around it alone, just that didn’t seem to be enough for the contemporary multimedia artist.
As his first children’s album, the Winnipeg artist made it his mission to ensure his listeners — whether kids or adults — could be fully immersed into the musical adaptation. How did he do it, some might ask? Well, he partnered up with augmented reality company Artivive to help turn the exciting listening experience into a wondrous animated experience. For the full multimedia experience, all listeners have to do is download the Artitive app on their smartphones or tablets and scan Culleton’s latest album cover to bring it to life with the vivid and spectacular, music-backed animations illustrated by James and his 13-year-old daughter Mae Culleton.
“The illustrations are the beginnings to a new version of the book Unusual Friendships,” Culleton shares. “I wanted the animals to still be animals, but appear to play instruments, and dance and jig. Making the illustrations for the album took lots of time. I redrew the cats several times in trying to give them the right personality. Little White Paws is based on a cat my Aunt had named Buddy, and the dog in the story is visually based on my dog Clara.”
The album features Al Simmons on banjo and harmonica, as well as feature vocal harmonies and French-version leads from Franco-Manitoban musician Andrina Turenne. On top of that, there’s an adorable chorus of “cats” contributed by some of the children in the St. Boniface neighbourhood in Winnipeg. Unusual Friendships was recorded at Scott Nolan’s Song Shop with Jamie Sitar in Manitoba. Though Culleton has released several other family-friendly records — including Spooky Songs, At Christmas Time and Vanished Days — Unusual Friendships serves as his first-ever kids album. It’s also his ninth release as a songwriter.