There is something about Basia Bulat that invokes winter. It could be the mournful quality of her rich, resonant voice. It could be the fact that she is from Toronto, a chilly place most of the year. Or maybe it's that she has the type of elfin beauty particularly suited to fuzzy Nordic sweaters and deerstalkers.
Whatever it is, grab yourself a cup of hot cocoa and curl up to the strains of any one of her three critically acclaimed folk records, "Oh, My Darling," "Heart of My Own" and the latest, "Tall Tall Shadow."
Bulat is well-known for her carols of love and loss, lyrics that reveal her as an English major and her use of autoharp. The strings can be a gentle pluck, as on "Little Waltz," or an all-out, rollicking twang, as demonstrated on "In the Night."
Although little more is needed to make her songs beautiful, her records showcase her deft use of multiple instruments that complement without overwhelming her show-stopping alto. However, in this session Bulat plays autoharp and keyboards, backed by drums and bass. The result is a rare combination that appeals to folkies and reformed punks alike, and which has garnered Bulat widespread recognition back home in Ontario. Famous people keep inviting her to tour with them and symphonies want to adapt her material. It seems she is poised to become A Very Big Deal.
However big she gets, Bulat and her melodies remain homespun and accessible, and provide a real connection to her many fans. It feels as though she is singing right to you.
All photos by Louis Kwok