Like their namesakes, Alberta folk duo The Raven & The Fox offer a sound with a sly, mystical edge and the two will be performing for the first time at Tractorgrease on Oct. 20 as part of their Western Canadian album-release tour.
Their “love-inspired mountain music,” as they describe it, is a style that singer-songwriters Julie Chang and Sean Isaac have been honing since they first collaborated in 2014, and has now reached fruition on their full-length debut album, simply entitled The Raven & The Fox.
Produced by Geoff Hilhorst and mixed by longtime associate Jesse Sanderson at OCL Studios outside of Calgary, the record is a haunting 10-track collection that displays Chang and Isaac’s irresistible rootsy sensibilities, as heard on the first focus track “Follow Me.” Meanwhile, other songs such as “Fly Away” and “When Stars Align” recall the sparse beauty of Cowboy Junkies and Mazzy Star.
Having released an EP in 2015 that presented four songs in bare bones glory, the pair became eager to expand their approach in the studio. Along with their frequent accompanying musicians, bassist Kyle Pullan and cellist Kitty Thompson, they added drummer Matt Mueller during rehearsals, while Hilhorst provided a range of instrumentation himself in the studio.
“Our songs are inspired by two things it seems, love and landscapes,” Chang says. “Our hometown, Canmore, is situated in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. We live in a very engaged and inspired community of artists, musicians, extreme sport athletes and mountain enthusiasts. It is very easy to pull from the psychical energy of the mountains that surround us as well from the motivated, life-loving community.”
In fact, Isaac was formerly a professional climber and still is a certified climbing guide whose passion for the great outdoors is now conveyed through his music.
“Some of my lyrics, in particular ‘Mountain Moments,’ were inspired directly from the mountain-adventure courtship dates Julie and I had around the Rockies,” he says. “Other songs like ‘Where Mountains Meet The Sea’ were inspired by Vancouver Island and ‘Desert Alchemy’ by the landscape in Utah. I have been road-tripping to the American Southwest since I was 18 for rock climbing. The magic of the desert has played a big part in shaping my life.”
Chang and Isaac first connected during an informal jam session in Canmore when Chang was there from Toronto visiting her sister. She sang some songs and Isaac was instantly smitten.
The first song they realized they could perform well together was Ray Lamontagne’s “Jolene,” and the evolution of The Raven & The Fox got underway from there. They maintained a long distance relationship while Chang completed her herbal medicine diploma in Toronto, a period that Isaac used to work on songs, sending lyrics to Chang in lieu of love letters. After being reunited in 2014, they began writing together and playing their first live shows in Alberta.
Now with the release of The Raven & The Fox, the duo is poised to make an indelible first impression on the national music scene. The combination of Chang’s rich, dark-hued voice and songs as awe-inspiring as a Rocky Mountain sunrise makes this album a true gem, and the first of what promises to be many adventures for The Raven & The Fox.
The duo plays Friday, Oct. 20 at Tractorgrease (48710 Chilliwack Lake Rd.). Show is at 6 p.m. For more info, call604-858-3814 or email email@example.com.