Juno award winning singer-songwriter-guitarist extraordinaire Cara Luft is that rare artist steeped in folk and traditional roots music almost from birth, yet willing to alter the fabric, stretch the boundaries and fearlessly bend genres and styles. Her much-anticipated third solo album, Darlingford, is a stunning new collection of songs drawn from her recent life experiences and informed throughout with her indomitably optimistic spirit and impeccable musical instincts. Recorded primarily in old wooden churches and home studios across the Canadian prairies, the album shines a bright light on Cara’s skill at turning personal heartbreak into universal themes that resonate deeply with listeners. Darlingford is a musically profound, undeniably rich example of life informing art.
Folk heroine Luft deserves her solid reputation as one of Canada’s finest live performers whose engaging, down-home style comes wrapped in a warm and delicious sense of humour. A co-founder of folk trio The Wailin’ Jennys, Cara was the spark behind the group. Her spirit and innate musicianship were instrumental in their rise to the forefront of the North American roots music scene. Since leaving the trio, Luft has wowed audiences and critics across North America and Europe with her performances.
Her critically acclaimed album The Light Fantastic, recorded following her departure from The Jennys, drew praise from across North America, Europe and the UK. Wildy’s World proclaimed, “you don’t want to be without this disc.” Americana UK declared her “a consummate performer.” Popmatters.com noted, “Cara’s warm alto vocals are sinfully sweet,” and added, “Luft is the perfect blend of lightness and gutsy rock chick.” The response to Darlingford is even stronger. The Globe & Mail stated “it can’t be done, so don’t even try to turn away from the affecting insistence of Luft,” while Beatroute Magazine called the disc “the strongest and most interesting release that Luft has put out yet, either as a member of the Wailin’ Jenny’s or as a solo performer.” No Depression raved about the album, saying “Cara knocks my socks off with her best recorded work to date,” calling her “a formidable songwriter and performer, setting the bar for the talented few who’ll follow in her footsteps.” Cover Lay Down declared the disc “a tour de force of contemporary folk.” The American blog Adobe and Teardrops wrote, “Darlingford really is that excellent,” with only one complaint: that Cara was Canadian and not American, stating “we can’t claim her as a national treasure.”
Luft is clearly at home on the stage, and invites audiences into her world with a rare and endlessly appealing confidence and humility. Reviewers of Cara’s live shows talk about her superb musicianship, her humourous anecdotes, her ability to switch between styles, her accomplished songwriting, and the charm of her stage presence. Cara’s the real deal, there’s nothing pretentious about her. And that sense of honesty, integrity, personality and spontaneity permeates both her music and her live shows. “Long may she reign!” (Lonesome Highway)
Cara has recently partnered up with fellow Winnipegger JD Edwards, creating The Small Glories, a new roots duo in the vein of The Civil Wars. May 2014 saw them head into the studio with producer and Canadian rock icon Neil Osborne, recording an album’s worth of original and traditional material, with a focus on their dynamic and powerful vocal blend and harmonies. What started as a casual friendship has turned into something quite unexpected and extremely magical. Their abilities as both strong lead and harmony singers, along with a shared history of growing up singing in musical families, combined with their songwriting prowess and musical chops, all contribute to the uniqueness of this partnership. Both Cara and JD are no strangers to the music community; Luft is a Juno award winner, co-founder of folk trio The Wailin' Jennys, and a touring road warrior; Edwards is an enchanting musical powerhouse who continually leaves audiences begging for more. Together they are a tour de force, ready to take the music world by storm.
“Cara Luft knocks my socks off with her latest album Darlingford, her best recorded work to date. [The disc] finds the lovely Ms. Luft continuing to hit her stride and setting the bar for the talented few who’ll follow in her footsteps… upon listening it becomes quite clear that she is indeed a formidable songwriter and performer. Her amiable vocals and simplistic, lush instrumentation follow that of the long honored folk tradition with a modern twist. Lyrically Ms. Luft is like fresh linen on a Brooklyn clothesline. Her writing strikes me as redemptive, earthy and rooted in realism…. Darlingford conjures visions of blooming flowers in an apocalyptic wasteland, gold flaked tumbleweeds on the Trans-Canadian highway at dawn and a glimpse into the fractured and glowing soul of a talented writer and performer.”
Globe & Mail - ESSENTIAL TRACKS
Dallaire by Cara Luft, from Darlingford (Blue Case Tunes)
"It can’t be done, so don’t even try to turn away from the affecting insistence of Canada’s Luft, who sings like an angel named Joni or Alanis and sees through the eyes of a peacekeeper who stood in blood and shook hands with the devil."
FATEA RECORDS (UK)
“The intimate yet understated feel of [Darlingford] accentuates Cara's own intense degree of accomplishment... this is an album you need to hear and treasure while seeking out the next opportunity to catch Cara's incomparable presence in a live setting.”
“Darlingford is a splendiferous mix of folk, Celtic, country and even shades of pop music that is ever so much more than anything Luft has done before... she weaves magic through every nook and cranny of the album. In the process Luft turns a bit of personal tragedy into songwriting gold, exploring themes of love, loss, faith, recovery and choosing a new direction with lyrical aplomb and a near-perfect understanding of musical setting, mood and composition. Luft’s ability to tell a story through song has never been more in focus than it is on Darlingford... it is easily one of the finest collections to cross this desk... [it] can be nothing less than a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc. 5 stars"
“...the strongest and most interesting release that Luft has put out yet, either as a member of the Wailin’ Jenny’s or as a solo performer... [Darlingford] showcase the myriad aspects of Luft’s musical personality, be it spiritual singer-songwriter, the folk rock guitarist or the traditional (and neo-trad) folkie... a powerful, uplifting album...”
COVER LAY DOWN
“Cara Luft‘s Darlingford [is] a tour de force of contemporary folk; alternately urgent and delicate, with potent laments and triumphs, and strong with the hearty strains of multiple roots traditions.”
WORLD BEAT CANADA
“One third of the founding members of the Wailin’ Jennys, [Cara's] delivery is too gutsy, her material too close to the bone for the Jennys’ fluffy repertoire... Most impressive are the consistently excellent sonics of Darlingford. The recordings are warm and filled with the resonant isolation and emptiness of old wooden sacred spaces, betrayed only as each last note rings out, decaying into the natural ambiance. Cara’s Darlingford story should generate interest... she sure doesn’t wait to deliver the goods.”
ADOBE AND TEARDROPS (USA)
“Darlingford really is that excellent... one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. Luft’s voice absolutely soars. It doesn’t matter if she’s joyously moving on after a bad breakup, calling for populist action, or picking up the pieces when things go bad — this is an album that makes you Feel Things. My only complaint is that Cara Luft is Canadian. It means we can’t claim her as a national treasure.”
IRISH MUSIC MAGAZINE (Dublin)
“A deep, gutsy guitar exemplifies Cara Luft’s Darlingford... With squeaky strings throughout, this roots album blends wonderful sounds and vocals with good old honest lyrics, highlighting why [Luft] is marked out for her abilities in portraying the tragedy of life in understandable, artistic tones. [The disc] sparkles in its down home country twanged, folksy charm, with more traditional songs dressed in checked shirt and country beats in between her own finely honed lyrics on one finely honed roots album.”
FLYIN’ SHOES ROOTS MUSIC (UK)
“Darlingford is a cracking album, folk music for all seasons that taps heavily into the folk revival of the sixties and seventies... The heart-on-her-sleeve nature of [Luft's] writing is very winning; in laying out her pain and insecurities, she makes it easier for us to face our own... Musically, Darlingford covers a huge range of the folk idiom... Cara's version of 'He Moved Through the Fair' is possibly the most evocative version of this song that I’ve ever heard.”
"She's got it all: Cara Luft [has written] the best album of her career. Her last [recording], The Light Fantastic, was praised by critics and fans alike; Darlingford, though, is even better... the album is a journey from heartbreak to recovery, treading the line between the personal and the universal. The rawness of Luft's emotional state is plain, but it is framed in terms anyone can understand. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Luft's talent stretches beyond writing and singing. She is by any measure a fantastic guitar player, and Darlingford is a how-to manual for aspiring folk players.... [it's] a showcase for Luft's considerable talent, and one of the best folk records of the year."
Earbuds & Ticket Stubs
"Luft steps into the spotlight [on Darlingford] with her soulful voice, skillful interpretation of folk classics, and unending warmth. [She] draws from a bevy of musical influences, ranging from spirituals to British and North American folk classics. Her lyrical inspiration is similarly varied... What remains consistent is the optimism that glows, carried by the timbre of [her] lovely alto voice. Luft must be given credit for her work in the producer chair as well. The sound is humble but big, warm but distinct. Darlingford will envelop you in rich colours and textures, and I’ll wager that you’ll still be in love with it after the chill of winter has long passed."
THE STAR PHOENIX
“Darlingford has a wonderful seat-of-the-pants, get-it-done-in-a-few-takes feel to it, with Luft charging each tune with her plaintive, often heart-aching vocals. This album’s got energy and passion to burn!"
FOLK RADIO UK
“Cara Luft is back with her best album yet; Darlingford is a powerful, personal statement and a triumph built on tragedy. Luft is unquestionably wearing her heart on her sleeve... Some of the songs deal unflinchingly with the fallout of that, but it also seems to have awoken a wider sense of conflict for Cara and there is a battle for the soul taking place as good and evil wage war. With all of this comes the obvious wish for succor, healing and ultimately redemption. There are flashes of an indomitable spirit and surges of optimism, Cara is bowed but not crushed and broken. In the final act she even seems to have got her sense of humour back. The record has a big, bold sound and that in part is down to an impressive guest list of 20 musicians who have added their talents to Cara’s multi instrumental skills and powerful voice. This is a real life laid bare in all of its richness and complexity. It’s also great, art, a memorable record packed full of great songs, an album to share in and one to treasure.”
AMERICAN ROOTS UK
“… what an excellent piece of work [Darlingford] is... very much [an album] full of darkness but with glimmers of light and a natural sense of drama in every song… [Luft] has a hugely appealing attitude and openness over any situation that may arise, allowing her to put thoughts about events into words no matter what upset she has suffered, and all done with an appealing honesty that few other songwriters can match. Cara’s excellent production always ensures the lyrics have enough space to make their impact. And ‘impact’ is exactly the impression that most of these songs make on the listener... ensuring that whilst the depths may have been plumbed, the way forward is now clear and optimism is starting to arrive.[Darlingford] contains a power and honesty that very few can match… Terrific album!”
“Luft spans a whole range of influences, from traditional banjo tunes to English folk songs, roots based arrangements and covers that have touched this very gifted artist. The production and musicianship is of the highest quality... The redemptive nature of many songs is summed up perfectly in the opening track Only Love Can Save Me.”
“Darlingford is tuneful and relatable. It’s also honest and unpretentious, and moreover, it’s not all originals. Luft is happily versed in actual folk — traditional — music. Each of Darlingford’s 13 cuts is a worthy song laying proud claim its own identity. Besides that, Luft produces herself expertly.”
“... it’s been well worth the wait. Luft's down-home folk tells stories of personal struggle in a universal way that will strike a chord with listeners. [She] does not play the victim, but rather maintains a sense of strength and optimism throughout the album. Darlingford shows off [her] impeccable storytelling abilities...”
Penguin Eggs Magazine
"It’s been worth the wait... Cara’s in fine voice on Darlingford and she uses a deft hand, letting the simple production enhance the songs rather take them over... a lovely piece of work..."
LIVE SHOW REVIEWS:
REVIEW FROM THE PAVILION – Porthcawl, Wales June 2013
“Listening to Cara Luft in concert at the Pavilion in Porthcawl took me back to some of the most cherished moments of my childhood; like dancing round the living room to Simon and Garfunkel, family holidays, warm cosy evenings with home-cooked meals and bedtime stories… It’s the pathos in her voice and the warmth and charm of her stage presence that draws a person in. The chemistry between Luft and Poley is a delight to watch; there’s a soft deference in his voice and a wit and charm between them that’s infectious. I hadn’t heard anything as pure since watching Tift Merritt on Jools Holland and yet even Merritt, or the likes of Caitlin Rose, cannot engender the pathos that Luft does; the honesty of a hardworking musician is palpable.”
REVIEW for LONESOME HIGHWAY – Whelan’s, Dublin (Ireland) June 2013
“Blessed with amazing musicianship, this is the first time that Cara Luft has played in Dublin and her enthusiasm is energizing as she plays an impressive set across a diverse range of songs. With a confident onstage presence, Cara regales the audience with stories of her right wing aunt in Idaho, her bust up with American Customs and her song-writing collaborations with co-writer, Lewis Melville, by e mail. There is plenty of fun and laughter when she breaks a string mid song and continues singing, while attempting to change the broken string, all with hilarious consequences and a sound engineer who saves the day (you had to be there)!! A founding member of the much-feted Wailin’ Jennys, Cara has released three wonderful solo recordings that would grace any discerning music collectors armoury. Her skill on guitar and banjo is of the highest quality and with an ability to switch between traditional arrangements, English Folk songs and country tinged tales of love and loss, [she] shows an impressive musicality and deep knowledge of tradition. Luft has a great gift in taking the personal and turning it into a universal feeling and message that reaches out to all who listen. Long may she reign.”
REVIEW for THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH – Kitchen Garden Cafe, Birmingham (UK) June 2013
“There are certain moments attending gigs when all the ingredients are blending so well that you wish the whole experience could be bottled and savoured for future consumption. In what was certainly one of the highlights so far of this busy year, Cara Luft managed to create such a moment with her subliminal mix of high quality musicianship, enchanting stories, well crafted songs and engaging personality. When you throw into the pot the enhancing input from musical sidekick Scott Poley and the magical atmosphere of a near full Kitchen Garden Café, the desire to seek ways to capture the atmosphere intensifies. Those present will always have the memory while others hopefully can visualise and perhaps experience for themselves one of Cara’s UK shows, which are likely to proliferate in the future. With a pedigree background from a family steeped in folk music back home in Canada, Cara has managed to evolve a sound that pays respect to the traditional song from both sides of the Atlantic. However as well as connecting with folk fans, the contemporary twist from her song writing expertise as well as banjo and guitar playing reaches out to the wider Americana fan base and you can’t go wrong with the subtle Dobro playing which Scott adds to equation. For nearly two hours, spread across a pair of sets, this value for money evening met and surpassed expectations…”
REVIEW for FATEA MAGAZINE – The Atkinson, Southport (UK) June 2013
“If you have not seen Cara play live before, you have missed a treat because, as well as being a superb lyricist, singer and musician, she really engages with the audience in a warm and personal way. Her humorous introductions to her songs are legendary and are almost as popular as the songs themselves. Cara and [sideman] Scott Poley blew the audience away with a dazzling rendition of one of Cara’s best-known songs, Come All You Sailors… The audience were suitably moved and demanded more. It was great to have Cara back in Southport!”
REVIEW in LE BLOG DES CRITIQUES DE CONCERTS (translation) – Toogenblik (Haren), Brussels May 2013
“Cara Luft impressed Haren with her sense of humor, amazing guitar and banjo playing (she plays like a man!), vibrant voice and great stage presence. One thing is evident: Cara is not the kind who whispers, she rocks! Hilarious and engaging, a solid storyteller, Luft’s performance was brilliant. One highlight was Dallaire, referring to Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general who was sent in Rwanda in 1993/1994 for the UN peacekeeping force, a mission doomed to failure. Another highlight was her rendition of the traditional Irish song He Moved Through the Fair. Fabulous technique. As an encore Luft sang the traditional song The Blacksmith a cappella and un amplified. Pure and generous.”
LIVE SHOW REVIEWS Cont’d
REVIEW for THE WHITSTABLE TIMES – Whitstable Folk Nights (UK) June 2012 “It didn’t seem possible for it to get any hotter the day that Cara Luft performed but as the evening sun started to dip, Cara appeared on the stage at the Royal Native Oyster Stores and quickly raised the temperature. Consummate musician and engaging raconteur, Luft is the ultimate travelling minstrel. Packing an emotional punch as she sang songs delivered straight from the heart, Cara easily connected with her audience with tender tracks such as Bring Em All In and Only Love Can Save Me as well as more upbeat sing-alongs like Charged. All of this was served on a bed of superb musicianship: a backdrop of brilliant guitar playing and many delightful moments of simply wonderful banjo playing that included finishing with a sparkling cover of the Guns N Roses anthem Sweet Child of Mine.”
REVIEW – Bishop Auckland Town Hall (UK) 2012
“Accompanied only by the exchange of guitar and banjo, along with a catalogue of quality songs and an effervescent personality, Cara showed why she is a valued and respected member of the strong touring presence of the flourishing Canadian folk and roots music scene. There are certainly elements of her rock influences in a playing style that sets her apart from other artists in the genre and this adds originality to her interpretations of traditional music. A strong and enlightening feature of a Cara Luft show is the vivid background stories that introduce many of the songs and there was no shortage of fascinating ones on this pleasant June evening.”
REVIEW – Community Concert Presenter (Alberta) 2012
“What an evening! Cara brilliantly entertains! We enjoyed a splendid concert of outstanding guitar and banjo playing complemented by her wonderful songwriting and beautiful singing. Cara brings an emotional mix of music from tragedy to happy and her connection with our audience was the best. Communications before, during and after the concert were top notch. We unreservedly recommend Cara!”
REVIEW for THE STAR PHOENIX – Cara Opening for Loudon Wainwright, Saskatoon 2011
“[Opening for Loudon] was the wonderful Cara Luft, one-time Wailin’ Jenny and now touring solo. Straight in off the road from Winnipeg, Luft played a number of new songs from an upcoming album. Moving between two guitars and a five-string banjo, Luft had a big impact on the Saskatoon crowd, telling a few ripping stories and some great banjo jokes.”
REVIEW – House of Blues, Germany October 2010
“Cara Luft fascinated the audience with her clear voice, perfect guitar playing and wonderfully acoustic folksongs. Her fan Kai travelled especially from Darmstadt with a group of people. Therefore she devoted the entire concert to him. In each and every note sung and every finger pluck of the guitar you could tell that Cara grew up in a family of professional folk musicians [and] proved that traditional folk music doesn’t have to sound stale. Luft pulled the audience under her spell.”
REVIEW – Whitstable Folk Nights (UK) Nov 2010 “Canadian singer-songwriter Cara Luft was one of the highlights of last year’s folk club programme, delighting fans with her unique blend of folk, country, blues and rock. It turns out the admiration was mutual – she couldn’t wait to get back to the town and what she described as one of the best clubs in the country. And what a return it was. Cara’s songs are often personal and always heartfelt, and she’s had some tough times since her last visit. She’s worked some of those experiences into new songs, but what shone through her lyrics was not just the raw heartache but the positive spirit that brings you out the other side, especially in Gonna Be Alright. And if that all sounds a bit heavy, there was lightness too, and humour, particularly in the song she penned after her experiences being hauled over while crossing the border from Canada into the US. Moral to that tale – never let a friend leave something in your car that could get you into trouble. Cara sang about the importance of friends – and judging by the applause at the end of the evening, she certainly made a lot of new ones here.”
REVIEW in THE SCOTSMAN – Leith Folk Club (Scotland) 2009 **** (4 STARS) “The troubadour life clearly suits Cara Luft: appearing in Leith ahead of several similarly intimate gigs in the Highlands, she had already been touring in Europe since early June, yet there was nothing remotely jaded about their performance, just plenty of relaxed warmth and vivacity, including some hilariously extended anecdotes describing the origins of particular songs. In its balance of dulcet sweetness and tangy twang, her singing also contained shades of Nanci Griffith and Mindy Smith, along with the steely, bluesy muscle flexed in a couple of rockier numbers. A compelling cover of Led Zeppelin’s Black Mountainside, working in echoes of the Bert Jansch/Pentangle version, displayed the breadth and expertise of her musical references, while a winsome rendition of The Bonnie Light Horseman offered further graceful acknowledgement of the folk-club setting.”