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Large Bird Leaving explores musical flight
by Lynn Martel (Reprinted with permission from the Rocky Mountain Outlook)

If smell is the sense that most closely connects people to their memory, then the senses involved in listening to music are those that most closely connect people to their emotions – laughter, joy, heartache and sorrow.

And with Large Bird Leaving, her fourth CD, Canmore based singer/songwriter Cori Brewster explores all those emotions in a medley of life experiences expressed in a lively and thoughtful collection of 12 original songs.

Having grown up in the Rockies, Brewster, whose family has provided hospitality to visitors and tourists for over 120 years, isn’t one who simply lives in the mountains; she is a part of them, as much as they comprise essential fabric of her soul. Through her songs, it’s obvious that for Brewster to write lyrics and to sing is an essential element of life, like breathing.

From the opening chords of the CD’s first song, Look for the Sun, Brewster’s music bursts to life like the first pasque flowers of spring thrusting through the last remnants of winter snow.

Like many of the songs on the CD, Look for the Sun expresses metaphors for the simple realities of daily life – including clouds and thunderheads and rain. Her lyrics flow as if everything Brewster ever needed to know about life could be learned from her family’s ranch sitting in the magical transition zone between the foothills and burly Rocky Mountain peaks.

While her songs express a deep connection to down home values, they also take flight with an artist’s thirst for exploring – both life in the philosophical sense, and traveling in the geographical sense as she sings in What Casanova told me, “Take you passion, take your heart, and take your time, Leave your maps; leave your plans far behind… The more you travel, the more you’ll want to see.”

Speaking of universal themes of community and connectedness, and those who don’t quite fit the mould, in Philosopher King, Brewster pays sincere tribute to eccentric and talented artist Cal Leavitt who died a homeless man on the streets of Calgary.

With a poet’s economy of language, Brewster’s stories pack a lot of life into each song, some of which venture into the darker regions of humanity, as in the haunting Good Catholic Girl; “Played a good Catholic part, Until the priest reached inside, Robbed her tiny little heart.”

But with balance and good sense, her songs explore life without anger or regret, but rather with wonder and gratitude and hope, accompanied by rich guitar strumming and picking and the soothing company of soft percussion and animated drumming reminiscent of First Nations ceremonies.

Born of Indian paintbrushes, ravens soaring over craggy summits, and clouds rolling over the foothills like whitewater over a stone clogged riverbed, Brewster’s music tells a story of life - learning, growing and hurting included.

And with catchiness of a top 40 hit, she hits her stride with the clever and whimsical Gandhi/Buddha, singing, “I must been Ghandi, or Buddha or someone like that, I must have saved lives by the hundreds everywhere I went, I must have brought rest to the restless, fed the hungry too, I must have done something great to get to have you.”

In a truly amenable style, Large Bird Leaving is a celebration of family and community best expressed in the two final songs, She’s Still Beautiful, in honour of her own mother with whom Brewster sang her earliest melodies on trail rides, and in Let’s Fly, capturing moments of parental joy and frustration and humour, and the perfect wisdom of children, when her son says, “Mom, even Superman falls…Let’s fly.”

With a cheery guitar, a smile and tear at the same time, Brewster reminds us how we can be fragile yet resilient, curious yet content.

Like a child’s laugh, or a songbird’s serenade, Large Bird Leaving is a joy to listen to.

Don’t miss your chance to hear Cori Brewster perform during artsPeak at the Three Sisters Session with Karla Anderson, Jane Hawley and Sarah Harper, taking place at The Drake, Saturday, June 9, starting at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. For more information, contact www.artspeakcanmore.com or visit www.coribrewster.com