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BRIA

Bria

Cuntry Covers Vol. 2

    As its name suggested, the intimate and sultry Cuntry Covers Vol. 1 was always going to have a follow-up. Led by the brooding vocals of Bria Salmena, Cuntry Covers Vol. 2 is every bit as potent as its predecessor whose noir-inflected alternative country-rock stood in sharp contrast to the singer's commanding delivery as leader of post-punk revivalists FRIGS. Debuting the project in 2021, the languid, reverb-drenched Cuntry Covers Vol. 1 saw her artfully collaborating with multi-instrumentalist Duncan Hay Jennings and reimagining a carefully picked collection of Americana anthems.

    Vol. 2 pushes the envelope further and harder. Encompassing feverish takes on tracks by Gillian Welch, Paula Cole, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Robert Lester Folsom, Glenn Campbell – by way of Nick Cave – and the late, great Loretta Lynn, Bria’s deliciously dark approach shimmers through these six startling songs.

    Created during a break from Salmena and Jennings’ work in Orville Peck’s world-conquering backing band, Vol. 2 was recorded directly after Peck’s second album and Bria’s US tour supporting Wolf Alice. Embracing contrast, the sunny circumstances in which Vol. 1 was made were flipped on their head. Instead of a bucolic barn in the Canadian countryside, they recorded the new tracks in chilly Toronto, huddled together in their tiny makeshift home studio, with Jennings at the controls. They enlisted the help of local Toronto musicians Lucas Savatti (FRIGS), Simone Baril (US Girls, The Highest Order, Darlene Shrugg, Partner), Andrew Manktelow, and frequent collaborator Jaime Rae McCuaig.

    While Vol. 1 was Bria’s attempt at subverting country music’s conservative roots and primarily white and heterosexual agenda, here the emphasis was on experimentation. While Vol. 2 might be less personal, it’s just as idiosyncratic, with half of the reversions staying true to the originals and others taken to a different universe entirely. Building on the tried-and-true/bold-and-new duality of Cuntry Covers’ first offering, Vol. 2 delivers a deeper dive into the duo’s brilliant alchemy of traditional and contemporary reinterpretations. The added experimental flourishes, from dizzying electronica and pulsing bass to sax-driven soul, take Bria’s new EP into previously uncharted territory, signalling a thrilling new step in Bria’s adventurous evolution.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Bria's first selection of covers provided the perfect synth-fuelled counter to some oft-solemn Americana classics, and this newest volume expands on that idea with some truly stunning selections, perfectly morphed into synthpop stormers from their original form, all coated in Bria's inimitable vocal style.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?
    2. When You Know Why You’re Happy
    3. Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)
    4. By The Time I Get To Phoenix
    5. I Dream A Highway
    6. See You Later, I’m Gone

    Bria

    Cuntry Covers Vol. 1

      Bria is an intimate and incisive labour of love from multi-instrumentalists Bria Salmena and Duncan Hay Jennings. Catapulted by a deep sense of dread and confusion in the depths of 2020, Salmena decided to forgo writing her own music. “I wanted to listen for what might reflect my life back to me,” she says, “six tracks that could be my mirror.” The result is a pointillistic knockout of an EP that weaves a landscape both luscious and a little rogue; showing us exactly what good songs can do.

      Bria’s internal turbulence seemed to mirror last year’s external instability. When Jennings and back-up singer Jaime McCuaig moved to The Outside Inn, a hobby farm in Hockley Hills, Ontario, Bria soon joined. The farm’s living-room-turned-studio proved an ideal setting for the long-time friends to compile a record of handpicked country covers. They went searching for songs that could speak to our everyday loneliness; outside and in. Cuntry Covers Vol. 1 houses it all: well-worn favourites and lesser-known gems. The record opens with “Green Rocky Road,” as performed by Greenwich Village legend Karen Dalton. Jennings’ twangy guitar carries Bria’s original inflection and richly textured vocals, complete with dreamy overlay. “Dreaming My Dreams With You,” a rendition of the Waylon Jennings hit, is followed by John Cale’s “Buffalo Ballet,” a lyrical journey through Abilene, Texas, the endpoint of the Chisholm Trail. Engineered and mixed by Jennings, each song brings desire and sexuality front and centre, with all the swagger you’d expect  – and more.

      Bria hopes the record will be understood as a small contribution to the subversion of a genre with deep patriarchal roots. Mistress Mary’s “I Don’t Wanna Love Ya Now,” from the 1969 album Housewife, served as the original inspiration. “It was the first song Duncan and I worked on,” Bria notes. “It definitely set the tone for the other tracks we picked.” Bria’s voice – described as wavering between “sultry and howitzer” – shines on “Fruits Of My Labour,” written and performed by country great, Lucinda Williams. The Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” is a harmonic (and hypnotic) standout. A musical explorer who moves fluidly between styles, Bria doesn’t consider herself a country artist: “I feel as though I’m a visitor here, paying respect to a style that has informed a part of my musical identity. Country music, as much as any other art form, should be an arena for representation, expression and provocation. I have a ton of reverence for artists who came before me and challenged the primarily white-heterosexual status quo.”

      Salmena and Jennings have toured for years as members of Toronto four-piece FRIGS, whose 2018 debut Basic Behaviour was long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize. Making a mark in diverse genres from country to punk, both play as permanent members of Orville Peck’s band. Cuntry Covers was recorded on the territories of the Anishnaabe, the Haudenosaunee, the Wendat and the Mississaugas of the Credit. The release also features contributions from FRIGS drummer Kris Bowering and vocals by Ali Jennings. Bria's first release is a gorgeous debut, a homage to the songs that brought solace and relief in the stillness of last year. - Zoe Imani Sharpe


      TRACK LISTING

      Green Rocky Road
      Dreaming My Dreams With You
      Buffalo Ballet
      Fruits Of My Labour
      The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore
      I Don't Wanna Love Ya Now


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