DAW Cast

I just published a review of Joanna Drummond’s Workshop back in January, and she’s already following it up with Songs for Mother’s Day – released on April 18, 2015 – showing no signs of the all-too-common sophomore slump.

And perhaps that’s more of a reason rather than a deterrent to get that second release out quickly. You can move onto the third one without having to think too deeply about your past release that either reflected poorly on you or was difficult for you to unleash upon the world; for whatever reason.

Still, the sophomore slump seems mostly irrelevant to this topic of Joanna’s new release. Sure, it is a natural extension of what we were treated to on Workshop, but it seems to me that Joanna took some fairly calculated risks to ensure that it wouldn’t come across exactly the same as last time.

I will get to that in a moment, but first, let’s take a look at the overall production of this release.

The Production

I think if I were to touch on the production of this release at all, it would essentially boil down to the same thing as last time; the mix and the quality of the recordings are polished, and the individual performances are solid.

For me, this album does feel a little more homey and a little less produced compared to Workshop. Perhaps it’s just the instrumentation playing tricks on me, but I feel like there’s a little more rawness and space to the album.

Of course, it’s no surprise that the production remains close to her first album, because much of the personnel involved in this recording are returning for a second round.

The Music

The instrumentation on this album is a little more varied compared to last time, but is nevertheless dynamic.

Where Workshop was primarily a Folk-singer/songwriter album, there are some new flavors to be experienced on Songs for Mother’s Day, including some banjo, which brings more of a country flare to a few tracks on the album, like “Spring Run-Off” and “How Will We Learn”.

I also noticed that Joanna left more room for the instruments to breathe. There are multiple instrumental solos on this album that really open up the tracks and add some nice variety.

Like last time, I still can’t help but draw some comparisons to John Denver, Barenaked Ladies, and some of her other influences like Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Amelia Curran.

In particular, I can’t help but be reminded of Steve Page on “Dandelion Bouquet”.

Another aspect that brings some freshness to this project is the variety of guest singers that were featured on this album, including Amy Bishop, Ruth Purves Smith, Christie Simmons, Natasha Platt, and Clea Roddick.

It may seem over-ambitious to feature that many singers at first, but there’s nothing about it that spells a lack of preparation or last-minute inspiration.

I will say that – on Songs for Mothers’ Day – there are some similar moments to the previous album. This is sometimes inevitable when releases are so close together, and can also be subject to the well you are drawing from.

Case in point, the chord progression to “In the Bud” is fairly similar to that of “Wishing Well” on Workshop, though they certainly aren’t exactly the same songs.

However, a little bit of a trademark or signature is not a bad thing to leave on your work.

This album is also somewhat conceptual in nature, and that’s something I often enjoy. The fact that it’s thematic should be fairly self-evident, but there are also some interesting auditory bridges between songs, like the sound of children playing in the playground, which connects the end of “Dandelion Bouquet” to the beginning of “How Will We Learn”.

The Lyrics

I just got finished saying this, but the overall theme of this album is fairly evident from the title; Songs for Mother’s Day.

As Joanna’s website (and liner notes on the album) articulately states:

The songs on this album are inspired by the intimacies and struggles that women sometimes share with each other, and sometimes face alone. They are drawn from the playground chat, the daily pressures, the quiet desires and the purest of joys. And even though each woman’s story is different, there are ways that motherhood can bring women together.

I think it’s only fair that I begin this section from the prospective of Joanna’s, because I am a man, so to an extent, I am disqualified from even touching on the lyrics. I can’t really speak to being a woman or a mother.

But I will say this: like last time, I see a lot of careful attention and detail in every lyric. They are deeply sentimental and reflective in a way that the average day-to-day conversation simply doesn’t allow.

The lyrics are both deep and poignant, pointing to the richness of life and experience.

The Design

The design of this album is colorful, playful, and well-suited to the subject matter.

The only real “criticism” I had for Joanna’s previous album was the artwork, which was good, but still left something to be desired.

This time, I think the artwork and design (primarily provided by Joanna’s daughter Sylviane), is one of its main selling points.

Final Thoughts

I appreciate the thematic nature of this album, though I don’t think I can say that I’ve taken a holistic look at it without touching on the novel aspect of it, at least briefly.

I’m sure my mom would say that every day is mother’s day, and that sentiment is not lost on me, but of course as a culture we basically see it as a one-off event that comes around once per year.

I guess it might be “dirty” to talk about this aspect of the music in a review, but part of the selling strength of an album like this relies on the event itself, even if the music is richer and deeper than that.

In my opinion, it’s still good marketing. Just look at “Weird Al” Yankovic, who – through an illustrious career – has essentially transcended the concept of novel itself.

In today’s music industry, it is so often said that artists need to find a way to cut through the noise and stand out from the crowd, but we tend to forget how valuable finding a niche could be to that process.

I like Joanna’s second album. It’s not as much of a surprise as her first, but it’s equally as good if not better. I think it will prove to be a significant step in the next stages of her career.

Sophomore slump? I can’t find it anywhere here!

Calgary, Alberta native Joanna Drummond began her life and career immersed in classical music, studying piano and voice and achieving a BA in Music at the University of Calgary. However, she soon found herself drawn to folk music and its beautiful, authentic simplicity, so she left opera, where she had been honing her craft, and made her debut album ‘Workshop’. Inspired by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Ani DiFranco, and Amelia Curran, her first record was well-received, and the concept she had for that (the idea that we are all unfinished projects) sees her take on another concept for her second record, ‘Songs For Mother’s Day’.

Joanna has been forging a fine niche for herself within the Canadian roots and folk spheres, and the new album (released in April) shows her tackling a new subject entirely with the role of motherhood, both from mother and child perspectives. She describes it as her own feminist work, sporting a collection of singer/songwriters from her home area who are all mothers. One of the songs on this album is our featured track ‘Only Just Begun’, a pretty little ditty complemented by Joanna’s classically-trained soprano and accompanied by acoustic guitar and lush folksy strings, alongside pure harmonies. Lyrically, meanwhile, we are treated to a poetic offering about the brand new world available to a newborn baby, unaware of what his life will hold.

Music Existence

Artist: Joanna Drummond

Album: Songs For Mother’s Day


Genre: Folk, Americana, Singer-Songwriter, Earthy Celtic Pop

Sounds Like: Joni Mitchell, Sara McLaughlin, Norah Jones, Dido, Indigo Girls


Joanna Drummond is a folk singer-songwriter from Calgary with a clear, compelling soprano voice, and beautifully written, thoughtful lyrics. Her songs can feel like old folk songs written in a different world, and yet also speak vividly about the times that we are living in. Though Joanna began in classical music, with a B.A. In Music from the University of Calgary and a background in operatic training, she has chosen to leave opera entirely behind and turn her instrument towards folk music. She is drawn towards folk music because of its intimacy and simplicity, the way that often just one instrument and one voice can be enough, the power of words working together with melody. She counts Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Ani DiFranco and Amelia Curran among her main influences.  And now she is releasing her second album, on April 18 at the National Music Centre. Songs for Mother’s Day is written to be a gift for mothers. The songs on this album are inspired by the intimacies and struggles that women sometimes share with each other, and sometimes face alone. They are drawn from the playground chat, the daily pressures, the quiet desires and the purest of joys. And even though each woman’s story is different, there are ways that motherhood can bring women together. So with that in mind Songs for Mother’s Day brings together a group of featured artists who are all mothers themselves to sing about the lived experience of what it’s really like to be a mom.

The CD gently takes flight with title track a smooth as silk intro piece “Lullaby For A New Mother” that serves up an inviting vocal groove against impressive fretwork, eloquent silk rhythm section and mesmerizing vocal delivery from Drummond. Track 2 “Spring Run Off” presents a slow moving piece that serves up a methodical musical build with a passionate melodic delivery with heartfelt vocals from Drummond that flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. Track 3 “4 AM Waking“ delivers an upbeat melody with impressive strings, thought provoking lyrical content and hypnotic vocals. The production quality is impressive and the musicianship of everyone involved is clearly above the bar. I would classify this music as high end Folk, Americana, Singer-Songwriter earthy Acoustic Celtic Pop. Along the way you will notice an array of instrumentation with things like String Movements, Cello, Banjo, Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Accordion, Upright Bass, impressive vocal harmonies and well placed rhythm section. Also present are a few impressive solo segments and sporadic percussive accents layered along the way. Song for song the combination of Drummond’s fluttering voice and earthy fretwork are eloquent and masterful. Now turning our attention over to Drummond. As for her vocal abilities she is quite impressive. Her vocal style is cut from the cloth of Sara McLaughlin, Norah Jones, Joni Mitchell, Indigo Girls and Dido. Other comparable artists include Jann Arden, Amanda MacLean and Amanda Marshall. It definitely works well within the confines of this Americana catalogue. Drummond delivers a jaw dropping vocal skill set with impressive vibrato, falsetto and overall vocal passion clearly showcases a strong and confident vocal ability. Drummond also showcases impressive Power, Control and Finesse. I especially like how her voice just sort of flows and ebbs melodically with the music. Her falsetto is to die for and it’s obvious to me she is classically trained.No doubt she has solid musical instincts behind the microphone. All engineering aspects check out perfectly. All the Engineering aspects are in check (Recording, Mixing, and Mastering) as the CD possesses solid low end punch and crystal clear high end clarity. This impressive tribute CD from Drummond delivers 11 compelling tracks all providing an interesting snapshot of an amazing artist with thought provoking lyrical wisdom with messages that are positive, passionate and extremely captivating. I enjoyed the effective crossfade between Tracks 4 and 5. There isn’t a weak song on this entire catalog. From methodical “Dandelion Bouquet” to invigorating “In the Bud” to heartfelt “Good Mother” and These Flickered Scenes this CD has something for just about everyone. The song that touched me the most was Track 9 “Let’s Pretend” The CD ends with track 11 “Farther Afield” the perfect wrap for a catalogue like this.

It’s hard to find serious weakness with this production. A few song under or around 3 minutes feel like an incomplete statements to me. Like Joni Mitchell, Drummond showcases a rather sharp timbre especially within the higher registries. When she uses her power in conjunction with this it can be a wear on the senses over time. I would recommend Drummond dial down her power and intensity on some of the slower parts and save that reserve power for the finale moments of her music and some of the chorus’, or when the music calls for it. This will give her vocal delivery/music more peak and valley. I also want to hear her explore more vocals within the lower registries to mix up her vocal delivery a bit better. Perhaps lower 40% of the vocals an octave down.

I like everything about Joanna Drummond. She’s truly an infectious artist that possess a “Gold Standard” – look, sound, appeal, talent and impressive vocal presence. From start to finish “Songs For Mother’s Day” by Joanna Drummond is an impressive catalogue of music. The music is warm and earthy, highly passionate, uplifting and very passionate. The pin drop moments are amazing, and her falsetto is to die for. The songwriting is an interesting snapshot of music from a clairvoyant artist that has quite a lot to offer. All songs are consistent musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair and signature groove. Note for note, song for song this catalogue is extremely consistent and fills the space with what I would describe as peaceful Americana exuberance delivered to us from North of the Border.

Score: 8.5/10 Stars

Cyrus Rhodes. Edited and Approved by Mindy McCall

Folk Words


joanna drummond album cover sfmdThere’s always a little corner inside each of us, no matter where, how old or who we are, that’soccupied by mothers. The latest album from silver-voiced folk singer Joanna Drummond, ‘Songs for Mother's Day’ written to be a gift for mothers - explores the myriad of moments mothers dedicate to their children. Viewed with the eyes of both child and mother, Joanna lays down songs ranging from the minuitiae of tiny instants to the broader brushes of wider experience, examining what is it to hold the immensely responsible and utterly unconditional role of motherhood.


In her words: “The songs on this album are inspired by the intimacies and struggles that women sometimes share with each other, and sometimes face alone. They are drawn from the playground chat, the daily pressures, the quiet desires and the purest of joys.” The unique magic of motherhood is something known only to women who have experienced the enchantment. This softly delivered, beautifully constructed acoustic folk album opens the door a small chink to admit to anyone that cares to listen.


‘Songs for Mother's Day’ reveals its magic through the opening wonderment of ‘Lullaby For A New Mother’, the everyday understanding of ‘Spring Run Off’ and the bare truths within ‘4am Waking’. Listening to my own daughter talk to her baby son brings home the meanings implicit in lyrics of songs like ‘How Will We Learn?’ and ‘Only Just Begun’ – Joanna’s simple words reach out and touch. Sharing the encounters and events of what it's like to be a mother could so easily descend into preaching or become sickly-sweet. Not these words, they reflect the power of maternal bonds precisely and perfectly. Speaking as both a father and grandfather, I’m unashamed to say they got to me.

Folk Words

‘Workshop’ from Joanna Drummond - pure-as-crystal voice, softly engaging lyrics, seductive melodies  


The website asks: “Whahappens when an opera singer falls in love with folk music and decides to start over, pick up a guitar and write?” The answer is folk gains - opera loses. Her debut folk album ‘Workshop’will doubtless shape a reputation among folk music and hopefully inspire Joanna Drummond to continue writing intimate and simple folk songs that come with an intensity all their own.


A native of Calgary, in the province of Alberta, Canada, Joanna’s musical world revolved around classical music, piano, choirs and opera until a weekend at the Calgary Folk Festival changed everything. Joanna was profoundly touched by a genre that explores, as it has always done, personal stories through narrative heritage and tales of tradition. The expanse of folk’s eclectic and unrestricted world laid itself before her and Joanna responded with an album discovering the influences of mythical narrative, pastoral experiences and personal observation. Within the image-rich ‘Wishing Well’, the symbolism in ‘Workshop’ or the hopeful narrative of ‘The Swallow’ you find songs that call you into her world. The strength of her writing the freshness of its creation, listening to the inspired melody of ‘Oh, Storyteller’, the lovingly crafted lyrics of ‘Playroom’ and the deep understanding sealed in ‘Ashes and Wood’ it is increasingly hard to accept that Joanna is still exploring her art.


A pure-as-crystal voice delivering softly engaging lyrics over quietly seductive melodies, if ‘Workshop’ is the beginning, then there’s much to follow.


Alongside Joanna Drummond (acoustic guitar, piano, vocals) on ‘Workshop’ are Craig Newnes (acoustic guitar, bass, keyboards) Spencer Cheyne (drums, percussion) Will Lynch (accordion) Kathy Cook (mandolin) Andrea case (cello) and Mike Little (Hammond B3 organ).

 Workshop - Joanna drummond

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