Quirky and captivating, songwriter and scientist Sarah Beatty sounds a bit like Dusty Springfield coming off a science bender. With a voice as sharp as a silver-spur and dangerous as a diamond-backed sidewinder (Raw Ramp), she's a curious observer and constant inquirer of life's offerings. Her new album, Bandit Queen, released in February of this year peaked at #1 on Canada's Roots charts, has become a staple in Top 30 charts across the country, has appeared in the Earshot Top 20, and keeps on being recognized by bloggers and industry insiders as one of those albums that people need to hear. Far beyond the mainstream, it has landed on international playlists all the way from Nashville to The Netherlands and as a live performer, she's known for enchanting audiences with warmth, wit, and messages that make people think.
With a voice that skips and soars, Hamilton, ON based Sarah Beatty is one hard artist to pin down. Writing and singing about life along white pine northern shorelines and post-industrial gentrifying geographies, this is no flash in the pan, pomp-and-circumstance-snake-oil-side-show experience. Consumable by firelight, hers is a show and tell for the perpetually curious and equally incredulous. Calling up confrontational connections, a spoonful of honey sweet syrup is all that accompanies the idiosyncratic insights, hard won sentiments, and possible sage advice she’s been working into song ever since her grandpa’s funeral in 2001. Her debut solo record Black Gramophone came 11 years later after a sinuous path through various musical collaborations, as did the Hamilton Music Award nomination and Top 10 roots charting that followed. Now, with Bandit Queen and a healthy dose of self-reflected energy, fact, fable, fiction, folklore and make-you-wanna-move-grooves get soaked in oak and subterranean landscapes. Stones get turned over. Answers get questioned. And more gets revealed...
Bandit Queen, released this February, offers anchor to her most recent history. “The recording began at a transitional time for me and my place was basically empty. I figured it would be a good idea to fill the place up with music rather than with furniture.” The critically acclaimed album is a genre-defying 13 track cinematic adventure that recounts tales of truck drivers, religious figures, prehistoric geology, upside down turned around folk tales, millennial graduates, and other characters Beatty’s met or made up along the way. But the root line is one woman’s stories, vitality, and wisdoms passed on in the most musical ways she could bring to bear, with friends and musical allies.
Snaked wires ran throughout her near-empty abode during a snowy December when Justine Fischer (upright bass), Matty Simpson (electric guitar), Dave Clark (drums), and Joe Lapinski (general wizardry) parked on Beatty’s snow covered lawn. All with notable and fabled music histories of their own (which include The Fred Eaglesmith Band, Rheostatics, The Woodshed Orchestra, Bronx Cheerleeder), the crew hunkered down and let ‘er go with Beatty and her songs at the centre, recording 12 live off the floor songs in two days.
In the months that followed, some of Hamilton’s most active players got involved, including Greg Brisco, Steve Deeps, Troy Dowding, Sal Roselli, Steve Collette, Bob Doidge, Ross Wooldridge, Michel Dequevedo, Chris Skrzek, and Mary Simon for horns, keys, and background vocals. And what began as a pivot in transition reappeared as a mythological supersonic expansion machine calling “for all to dance upon the everyday mythologies that bind us to our perceived identities and to be whoever the hell we want to be” (A Journal of Musical Things). Written and produced by Beatty, it is through her own telling and guiding hand that Bandit Queen, the folk-fabled, “striking mashup of psychroots left-field countryfolk” (Cashbox Canada) shines a light on looking deeply at what has come before, and quite bodaciously, at what can come to pass.
Born in Canada and raised by an American Mom and Canadian Dad, Sarah had home towns on both sides of the border. Feeling at home in both and neither country quite entirely, it’s rumoured that a wayfarer’s notch was written into her DNA. It wasn’t until she decided to study science, however, that she began to really understand the often unscientific and nebulous worlds of writing songs and doing science. Little did she realize the respective rabbit holes of either of those things, so, she’s been set out and messing about in those boats ever since, earning a PhD in Environmental Science from McMaster University, presenting her works at international conferences, publishing in peer reviewed journals, and touring extensively in Canada, Europe, and the US.
Along the way, she’s played world famous clubs (The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, Molotow in Hamburg, Lido in Berlin, and Ani Difranco's very own Babeville in Buffalo, NY), cafes, living rooms, and festival stages (Falcon Ridge, Summerfolk, Mariposa Folk Festival, Eaglewood Folk Festival, Festival of Friends), dropping jaws and invoking smiles in those who go lightly or fearlessly with her. Known for engaging and inspiring live performances, she takes audiences to new places, exploring and examining life’s offerings with warmth and curiosity. She’s opened for and shared stages with big time troubadours including Bruce Cockburn and Ani Difanco, up and comers My Son The Hurricane and Sean Rowe, and small time artists living and singing below the poverty line. All working to help make this especially strange spaceship a more hospitable place for its inhabitants.