Samways will lull you to slumber — and then haunt your dreams — with their sweetly macabre single and video The Mother, showcasing today on Tinnitist.
The Toronto acoustic folk group set classic Canadian poetry in musical motion once again with The Mother, the latest track from their debut album Untrodden Ways. The lyrics for the song come from Confederation-era poet Wilfred Campbell, “one of the first great Canadian poets,” they explain. “He was also the editor of Canada’s first compilation of poetry, The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (1913). This poem is a response to an old German superstition that a dead mother coming back in the night to suckle the baby she has left on Earth may be known by the hollow pressed down in the bed where she lay.”
This centuries-old story may be darkly macabre, but Samways turn it into a song that is all aural sunshine. With a beautiful lyric melody — plus harmonies from the band’s trio of stellar vocalists carrying Campbell’s verse alongside driving eighth notes of the guitars and rhythm section — The Mother transforms the spook-laden lore into sweetly soothing sound.
For Samways, this distinctive blend is par for the course. The brainchild of guitarist/composer Nathan Hiltz, the inspiration for the group’s sound is equal parts high Anglican choral tradition and Canadiana folk set against a wide range of acoustic guitar styles. Each song across Untrodden Ways draws lyrics from a classic Canadian poem from the likes of Susannah Moodie, EJ Pratt, and Bliss Carmen. “This project is so special to me,” Hiltz said. “It’s a sort of dream band where I combine my loves of poetry, choral music, rhythm guitar playing on flat-top acoustic, folk music and Canadiana.”
Hiltz began composing music for the poems in early 2019. The lyrics are voiced in gorgeous harmony by Samways’ singers Shannon Butcher, Jessica Lalonde and Melissa Lauren. “All three unique voices with busy solo careers,” says Hiltz. “Together they sound much more than the sum of their parts and give this group a gorgeous sound!”