If you’re standing in a forest, tilting your head way back to glimpse the tops of all those majestic, thickly trunked trees, it’s just impossible not to be moved by their centuries-old resilience; the stoic strength that sees them through even the harshest storms that Mother Nature can unleash. Yet locked deep within the core of each of those mighty oaks and towering sequoias is something even stronger than their outwardly impressive surface layers: the heartwood. A tree’s densest, most durable—and often most beautiful—element, the heartwood is the robust, knotty marrow that keeps it standing proud and tall for all to marvel at. And not only is Heartwood also the name of Canadian singer-songwriter Sora’s astonishing third release, it’s as well the perfect metaphor for her music: gorgeous, rich, endlessly enduring.
“[The title track] is a love song, a heart gift for my husband,” says Sora, who’s known by her given name of Andrea Hunt when she’s not performing. “I wanted to capture the feeling of a love beyond time, that permanence you feel when you’re with someone and it seems like you’ve known them forever. The feeling that it’s truly timeless.”
Timeless is the word that best describes the 11 songs on Heartwood, which was produced by the Juno-nominated Douglas Romanow. With its uniquely ancient-to-modern sound, Sora’s music weaves together contemporary rock with the mystical moods of Celtic folk, medieval madrigals, and other modes of early music. The result is a heady, colorfully evocative tapestry that conjures the imagery of long ago but feels just as current as anything from the present musical landscape—all the while sounding like little else on today’s airwaves. Across the album’s moody and atmospheric tracks Sora’s heartrending soprano glides like a graceful dove through swirling mists of violin, piano, harp, synthesizer, cello, guitar, percussion, and other instruments to deliver sweeping such performances as “Children of Lir,” based on the so-named ancient Irish legend, and “The Birch’s Lament,” a poignant epic inspired by Sora’s husband Bryan P. Hunt’s successful children’s book, Liselle and the Birch Prince.
Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Sora was classically trained on violin and piano as a child and toured with a youth orchestra and fiddling group when she was a teenager. Surprisingly, however, it’s only recently that she became a singer, shortly after the birth of her first daughter in 2000 (she and Bryan have four children). “I’d been away from music for years, and I was starting to feel like something was missing in my life,” recalls the vocalist, who majored in psychology at the University of Calgary and graduated with honors. “I started taking voice lessons as something just for me, and things just blossomed from there.”
The initial fruits of Sora’s newfound voice were 2003’s Winds of Change, a collection of traditional folk songs from the British Isles, and 2007’s Light, a four-track EP.
While her love of mythology plays a central role in her songs, Sora maintains that for her it’s not simply about setting tales to music. “It’s always my goal to understand the heart of the myth, rather than to simply retell a story,” she says. “I’m far more interested in discovering why that myth is still meaningful today.” And like those ancient myths themselves, the songs Sora sings have a hauntingly elusive resonance that will surely see them echoing throughout the ages to come.
“My ultimate goal is to create something that people would want to listen to and get lost in,” says Sora.
And to that end, Heartwood is indeed a wonderful place to get lost in.www.soramusic.ca