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McClelland finds retro-roots voice

Melissa McClelland has always been open to new styles of music.

Melissa McClelland has always been open to new styles of music. What she needed was a focus. She found it through a few months in Nashville and a new home in Hamilton.

Over the years, the Burlington, Ont., raised singer-songwriter has backed up pop mega-star Sarah McLachlan, sang for flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook, crooned with Vancouver rocker Matthew Good, collaborated with alt-country veterans Blue Rodeo and worked daytime TV with 10-year-old star Daniel Cook.

Her debut solo album, Stranded in Suburbia (2004), was aimed at the pop charts and got plenty of air time on stations like Mix and CHUM FM. Her second album, Thumbellina’s One Night Stand, (2006) was more of a collage, featuring pop, country, folk and cabaret.

“I was so happy with the way the last album turned out, but it was a transition record,” McClelland says. “I was trying to find out where I was going with my songwriting. I was trying out the whole roots thing and it was feeling really good but it hadn’t really taken shape yet.”

On her new CD, Victoria Day, that focus takes shape in a retro-roots way. Although the 12 tracks on the album are all originals, they have a distinctive sound that resides in the late ’50s torch songs of Patsy Cline and Peggy Lee.

McClelland says she absorbed the country roots sound while living in Nashville with her husband/producer Luke Doucet for a few months in 2006.

The key tracks on the CD, however, focus on McClelland’s return home from her brief flirtation with Music City. The couple started off living in an apartment in Toronto and then purchased a house in Hamilton. The two-part title track, Victoria Day, follows the move lyrically, starting off where “the devil lives in Christie Pits” and moving to “Steeltown” and “a big old house with too many floors and ghosts for every story we’ve never told.”

The move started out bumpy in the early spring of last year, but was pretty much finished by Victoria Day. Hence the title.

“We moved into a beautiful old house that came with its own set of issues,” McClelland says. “There were bats and squirrels living there. The walls were crumbling and everything was falling apart. We put a tremendous amount of work into it. But it’s all good now.”

McClelland live

• Toronto: McClelland plays music from her new CD, which was released this week, with two shows tonight (7:30 and 10 p.m.) at the Dakota Tavern.

 
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