Singer-songwriter Erin Ross headed to Nashville to record new album

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There’s a true love story behind Clear Lake Waltz by Calgary singer-songwriter Erin Ross.

It was inspired by the relationship between Ross’s paternal grandparents, a 50-year romance that began when the two met “by the willow tree at dusk” in Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. Ross wanted to write a country waltz in the style of Wilf Carter and wrote the tender love song shortly after visiting his grandmother. It had been six months since his grandfather died and her grandmother was still grieving.

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“I spent some time with her and she was certainly feeling her loss,” Ross says. “I often keep a collection of different lines that come to mind or things I’ve collected as ideas from something I’ve read or seen. He had this line about soft, low music playing in the prairies. It just seemed like a good fit for how they met, something I learned when I visited her after my grandfather died. I interweave it in some verses and tried to tell a little of that very long love story.”

They lived in Calgary for much of their marriage. They had six children together.

While there may not be an official title track on Ross’s debut album, The Wind Will Lead Me Home, Clear Lake Waltz isn’t the only song about finding home and a sense of belonging. The melancholic Whiskey and Woodsmoke, reminiscent of Lucinda Williams’ bluesiest work, is about Ross’s time in southwestern Alberta. There are lighter moments that reveal smaller details of his life in Calgary. Pappa’s Got a Brand New Car launches with a laid-back blues groove as a tribute to some of the homes Ross has restored over the years. The spicy Cajun number Stoke That Fire was an ode to the barbecues that happen at the Ross house.

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Ross has long been associated with the Calgary music scene, whether as a musician or as a host of jam nights. He also hosts two radio shows: The Departure Lounge on CKUA and The Six String Variety House on CJSW, and has been teaching guitar since 1995. He began taking guitar lessons at the age of eight. By. When he was in his early 20s, he frequented the old King Eddy’s to see blues shows and participate in jams.

But he hasn’t officially released an album since 2010, when he released the EP Another Empty Day. So she’s been amassing a huge canon of material over the last 13 years.

“There are some newer pieces, but there are definitely some older ones as well,” he says. “The main thing was to find songs that I felt fit thematically or stylistically but still offered an interesting balance. They’re mostly songs about experiences I’ve had in my life or things that happen around me with people I care about. I didn’t want everything to be serious music. It was important to have some upbeat tunes in the mix or tunes that had an element of fun.”

While The Wind Will Lead Me Home may reflect notions of home, Ross recorded it more than 2,000 miles away in Nashville. Ross and drummer Lorne Peterson spent a week in Music City at Canadian expat Steve Dawson’s Henhouse Studio. Originally from Vancouver, Dawson is known for his guitar playing skills, but has also produced albums for Kelly Joe Phelps and Jim Brynes. He assembled a top-notch team of studio musicians for The Wind Will Lead Me Home, including John Prine bassist Dave Jacques, fiddle/mandolin/banjo player Fats Kaplin, Sheryl Crow keyboardist Jen Gunderman, and percussionist Justin Amaral.

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“It was good to focus, just get away and put in the effort for a week to make a record,” says Ross, who will host an album release party backed by a five-piece band at the Ironwood Stage and Grill in February. 23.

Like many session musicians in Nashville, Dawson’s team proved adept at negotiating all the different nuances, including the aforementioned Cajun styles and country waltz, but also the bluesy growler Telling Lies and the soulful ballad Insincere.

For much of her career in Calgary, Ross has been closely associated with the blues, a genre she fell in love with when she started playing guitar. But The Wind Will Lead Me Home suggests it’s just one color on her palette.

“I consider myself a blues player, but maybe not in the traditional Chicago blues style or anything like that,” she says. “The blues is probably the filter through which I have processed a lot of my thinking and a lot of my choices as a guitarist. I see the blues more as an aesthetic or a mood. “A lot of the musicians I really enjoy and admire in blues also play with other musical traditions, but they always come back to that filter, that mood in terms of how they present their own material.”

Erin Ross will play at Ironwood Stage and Grill on February 23 at 8 p.m.

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