Janet Bates &
Instruments of Change,
The Colours Will Come Back
(independent, 2005)

Janet Bates is Canadian born, made her home for a while in Oregon and could still be there. Her style is a music that will be appreciated anywhere folk music is in the air.

Bates has a gentle voice that, on some songs, lies somewhere between the soulful trills of Rita MacNeil and Sylvia Tyson. On a few others, she has a smooth, low croon a few decibels above a whisper.

To make it even more difficult to pigeonhole and describe her original songs and music, some of the songs are written and sung in an old-English ballad style. Each type of music suits her voice, which is deceptively delicate in melody but sinewy strong in delivery.

Songs written by Bates include issues of the Middle East conflict, children born to drug-addicted mothers, mistreatment of animals, poverty and child/lover abandonment. She pulls a specific instant out of these issues and creates a song to bring the pain to life. Then she lays it down in front of us, gently on a peaceful little CD, and leaves it for us to choose whether to pick it up and use it, or not.

Compared to the light folk ballads and coffeehouse players of the '60s, she's bravely individual in her presentation in the new millennium. More power to her to be sharing this style in the '00s. And even though there are traces of the idealistic '60s sound, Bates sings with the freshness and practicality of our world as it is now.

I get the feeling she's giving us the news as we should be getting it, far from the influence of corporate mandates and sponsorship. I should appreciate this CD for its social conscience, and I do, but the album isn't my usual type of entertainment choice. That shouldn't let it stop those of you who have a passion for folk guitar, songs of modern social conscience with poetic lyrics and a voice like a nightingale's chorus.

by Virginia MacIsaac
1 April 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.