Review: Tanya Davis - Clocks and Hearts Keep Going

Disarmingly affecting. Stunningly tender. Real.
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tanya davisTanya Davis' third record, Clocks and Hearts Keep Going, opens with a beautiful piece of work entitled "Please Bless." Gauzy guitar, handclaps and tenderness over "prayers of righteousness" glide through, touching things like a spirit slipping around in the dark looking for the lightswitch. She operates in what seems like a contradiction, but there's quiet confidence to her fumbling that charms from the outset.

Davis debuted in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with 2006's Make a List. Also a poet, she won the CBC National Poetry Face-off twice. Along the way, Davis found time to collaborate with indie filmmaker Andrea Dorfman to create a "videopoem" called How to Be Alone (watch it, trust me, etc.). It has well over two million views on YouTube and has been featured at a number of film festivals.

These sorts of forays into various artistic corners suit Davis very well. With Clocks and Hearts Keep Going, the experiences pile up and she concerns herself with life and death matters.

Produced by Jim Bryson, this is an album of melodic purpose. It is a simple, tuneful piece of work that invokes the soft folk spirits of the masters while fast-forwarding us through Davis' wishes, dreams and histories. Her easy enunciation and wonderful lyrical sense makes her an effortlessly accessible artist, but it's her vulnerability that really hits.

"Tra-la-la" is one of those musical moments that sinks Davis in where she needs to be. The lively tune takes flight with her easy, conversational delivery. She takes us through what is perhaps a journey of vocabulary, charming us with what she appears to discover through the course of the song and adding on a delightful pop sing-along value on top of it all.

The next song, "Eulogy for You and Me" sweeps in another direction. Its scattered opening gives way to a startlingly poetic piece of work that is almost spoken word. Davis never eyeballs the pretentious, however, and her motions are heartfelt to the touch.

"Sweep the Dust" may be my favourite song. Davis stretches out over a bass-heavy backdrop and her voice climbs the tender register to some high places. She takes the lyrics where they must and bends the piece to her will, allowing her delicate edges to serve as strong points and fading off at times with a delightfully nervous tinge. "You'll get there," she offers.

Clocks and Hearts Keep Going was recorded "over 10 hot days in May" at Little BullHorn studios in Ottawa. Davis' continuation flows from song to song like a conversation. She fashions her music like a diary of sorts, but these are no inconsequential ramblings. This is honest, intelligent stuff, built from the desire to communicate something in candid language and beautiful melodies.