Erika Kulnys is back in action with not one, but two new albums that remind us what we loved about her. In WINGS and Revolution, this Halifax native is running on all cylinders and drawing from a broad range of musical genres to create a pastiche of songs that speak with passion, with humor and above all, with love.
Kulnys brings the big-spirited melancholy of Margo Timmins (of The Cowboy Junkies) in heady numbers like “Water to Wine” but keeps her sense of humor and irony in more political musings like “Revolution.” It’s songs like “Had to Come Home” though that really offer up a keyhole into Kulnys’ heart. Songs extolling the virtues of home abound in the folk cannon and songs about the hardships of the road are nearly as plentiful, but Kulnys manages to do something new here. We always know when a singer croons about their hometown it’s not a plug by the local tourism board, that home is special because it’s home. Kulnys takes this easy to forget fact and makes it the centerpiece of the songs: “I had to come home to get better” is where she lets the meditation finally rest.
Of course, much about these albums is almost pure fun. “Oh My Baby” (off WINGS) is a romantic romp through Blue Grass with just a splash of raunch that echoes across Revolution. Just as coy, “Good Time Gangster” takes on a cool, 1940s swing and you can almost smell the smoky nightclub as a lover is called out for their caddish ways.
A lesser musician wouldn’t be able to pull off half the tricks Kulnys can. Brief flirtations with new genres don’t tend to work out well for novice songwriters. But Kulnys is, among other things, a consummate songsmith. Her musical ideas are done justice by veteran producer Mark Thayer and Kirk Comstock, a well-respected musician in his own right. Not all skillful folk singers are best served by the polished studio sound of WINGS or Revolution, but Kulnys’ imagination and musical appetite are right at home in this habitat.
There’s sorrow, resentment and anger in WINGS and Revolution. But none of these feelings sink her songs and none of them, we can’t help but believe, sink Kulnys herself. While Kulnys has clearly grown as an artist, there is something that has remained constant throughout her recording career. “Keep Your Feet Moving” is a callback to her earlier work in the album Hurricane, a reminder of an authentic, cheerful resilience that characterizes her entire oeuvre.
Erika Kulnys has opened for such artists as Josh Ritter and Richard Thompson and performed at venues including Lunenberg Folk Harbour Festival, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and the Oberlin Folk Festival. She is scheduled to tour WINGS across Canada, the United States as well as Ireland and Scandinavia.