Album Review: Christine Fellows ‘Burning Daylight’

By: Amanda Zarnowski

Christine Fellows’ sixth album Burning Daylight is a concept album about winter which draws inspiration from the stories of Jack London as well as from her travels through the Yukon and Nunavut. The song cycle and accompanying book of poetry equally spotlight her words and her music, which seems fitting for an artist whose songs have always painted bold, clear pictures.

 The book contains her poetry and song lyrics, as well as visual art by Alicia Smith. Fellows’ poetry takes place in modern day, but the poems blend right in with London’s turn of the century stories, which are quoted throughout the book. The line between winters present and past seem to blur together where nature is concerned, the cold itself overriding everything. The difference is not in the frozen landscape, but in working through it: radar systems, ships, rail lines, shelter and warmth. Each poem seems like a little crisis, a storm which both nature and humanity must overcome. Winter provides little hope. 

COMPASS

Dig in

at the centrepoint

drag the circle wide

Everyone inside the circle

will be fine, everyone outside,

well–

there is no circle large enough

Within the song cycle however, tumbling piano, dramatic strings, and Fellows’ unwavering vocals provide a backdrop for a different outcome. With Jack London’s stories of man and beast in the wild providing a starting point, Fellows focuses on telling parts of the stories we haven’t heard, occasionally bringing them back in line to run parallel to London’s. In the song Grit of Women she sings

winter

was hard

on everyone

spring

is a fearful,

raging river

you think

winter

was hard

think again

For Fellows these kinds of winters end. The ice melts. There are glimpses of spring and even summer, which for London, it seemed, was only a dream.