I’ve learned a bit about language in the last five years and one of the first reorientations I had was around the terms angel and demon. While we’ve come to know the terms as cartoonish opposites, their origin is unpretentious and draws them much closer together: they are messengers both, one bringing the news that is welcome, the other bringing the news that is more burdensome.
For a time, singing anything with the word “angel” in it (including my own songs) was troublesome, but in looking for the through-line to be able to sing Calling All Angels on Jon Goldsmith’s arrangement for The Art of Time’s record Ain’t Got Long, I became OK with the idea wanting comfort once in a while, of calling it down from somewhere, pleading for it, of being carried occasionally when we are tired, “because we’re not sure how this goes”.
One of the first Canadian artists I became aware of to make the transition from a record label to their own independent label was Jane Sibbery. I didn’t know Jane (I don’t know Jane) except to know she was capable of making some extremely remarkable and beautiful recordings. And I was aware of her new status at the time as indie entrepreneur, and intrigued by her solo salon shows she was doing all over the planet. Before there was Facebook and Twitter and all the rest, there were message boards and I recall reading messages posted by folk who attended some of these concerts.
The striking thing about these posts was that they were all so well written. These were not the breathless ramblings of overwrought fans, but well crafted, steady, and grounded thanks to Jane for showing up with her songs. One post in particular from somewhere in Europe caught my attention describing 200 people in a church basement singing along to Calling All Angels. The quality of the writing, the image of strangers in a strange land singing together, Jane on her Quixotic quest for independence all galvanized and turned that song into something alchemical for me.
The recording session happened the day before a European tour with NOGM and when I returned home a good while later, I contacted Jon and told him I was dissatisfied with what I remembered of the session, and that I wanted to redo the vocal. I was a bit of an asshole about it.
“Have you heard it yet?” he asked.
“I’ll send you the rough mix. Listen, and then we’ll talk again.”
So I listened. Twice. When it was over I wiped a few tears from my cheek, called Jon back and said, “That’ll do.”
CREDIT: Feature image artwork by Colleen Hodgson.