Home Read Area Resident’s EP Review: Catriona Sturton | Night Bell

Area Resident’s EP Review: Catriona Sturton | Night Bell

The talented Ottawa singer-songwriter treats us to all her gifts on her latest EP.


Full disclosure — Catriona Sturton is a friend of mine, and one of my favourite people. But I wanted to be among the first to tell you about her incredibly beautiful, genuinely-her record.

Sturton is an Ottawa singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. She treats us to all her gifts on her latest EP — and first-ever vinyl release — Night Bell. She plays electric and acoustic guitar, harmonica and violin. I’ve even been lucky enough to have her do all those things on some of my own albums.

I’m not here just to pump the tires on the new album of someone I know. I’m here to tell you that this release gave me some new insight into this delightful, genuine artist. She’s an example of the fact that, as an ADHD person, I’m usually drawn to other people who are like myself. Truthfully, I have no idea if she has ADHD, but she sure seems like it. It can be a superpower, you know.

Whatever is going on in Catriona’s life and world, it makes her fearless. It makes her motivated and impulsive. It gives her energy and drive. It compels her. Lucky for us, it is compelling an already-ebullient human with a gift for melody, words, musicality and a sort of visceral sense of childlike wonder. When Catriona chooses her words, she doesn’t seem to reach for them; she just writes down the ones which do their job best. Combine this perfectly unpretentious narrative with her provocative and endearing melodies, and what you get is a very intimate and immersive musical experience.

Listening to Night Bell is like being weightless and unseen behind her closed eyes. Making music is no time for looking, it is a time for recalling. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it feels like to be someone else, to feel what they feel — go get this record.

There are five tracks on the full-analog, 45-rpm, heavyweight vinyl EP. What I’ve described about her music is done justice by releasing them in this format. It sounds incredible. The EP’s centrepiece is a song called We Bloom At Night. It is a seven-minute epic, and may be among the most startlingly beautiful songs I have ever heard. It is a complex suite of entangled, but delicate movements. Sturton, who is known for blues harmonica, folk songs and having been a member of Halifax indie power pop band Plumtree in the ’90s, has never really done anything like We Bloom At Night. It’s a love song, but not just for people.

Side 1 ends with the proper version of it — which features practically every kind of instrument except drums. Horns, strings, Wurlitzer electric piano, guitar and Catriona’s vulnerable, pretty and spellbinding vocal. Side 2 features two additional versions of this song — an instrumental mix and one with just vocals and strings. It is a bold move. She obviously loves this song. There is nothing better in music than when the artist is performing something they’re really excited about. She wants us to be sure we really get this song’s vibe. Catriona will tell you elements of it “float a balloon” in her heart. This is her taking steps to ensure we all have that same experience.

Why do artists create? All the right answers are just a little bit closer at hand if you bring this record into your life.

The EP opens with country waltz Walk With Me, which is a pleasant, open-invitation kind of song. It sets the stage and is a charming album-opener. Those who love her ability to honk and wail on the harmonica will enjoy Mongoose Moan. I can see this potent two-minute, bluesy number being a wild, extended stomper at her live shows.

It’s not just the album’s content and format which give it a peerless sound. Sturton made this record in very good company, with folks who understand her and in an environment which encourages her creativity and confidence. It is co-produced by Steven Mandel — who is the producer and engineer used by Questlove of The Roots. Grammy-nominated James Yost mixed and engineered it at Reservoir Studios in N.Y.C.

Who else has recorded there? Sufjan Stevens, The National, Glen Hansard, David Byrne, Norah Jones, Florence & the Machine, Paul Simon… like, come on.

Former child prodigy Yoojin Park adds her violin to Sturton’s. The Roots’ keyboardist Raymond Angry plays keys. Top Bahamian trumpeter Giveton Gelin is on the record, as is Amelia Sie on viola.



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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.