Canadian roots outfit has got plenty to smile about

Po' Gir
Po' Gir
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does a smile have a sound?

does a smile have a sound?

It does when it comes wrapped in the music of Canadian roots outfit Po’ Girl.

You can hear the happiness coming out of the speakers.

That is an observation which delighted founder member Allison Russell.

“It’s great you noticed that. We have such a great time with everything we do.

“Which is a good job because if we ever sat down to work out how much we earn per hour, having spent between 250 and 300 days of each year on the road, we’d be mightily depressed.”

After leaving home at the precociously early age of 15 Allison found herself living just down the road from Leonard Cohen in a part of Montreal which seemed to turn out great musicians at every corner.

“My first apartment was home to amazing musicians.”

Pretty soon she was playing at jam sessions in the park which led to her first appearances at open mic nights.

Then came a move to British Columbia where she lived with a singer-songwriter aunt who introduced her to a wealth of different musical traditions.

Experience by then had taught Allison that she wanted to turn her hobby and interest of music into a lifelong passion.

And that is how she came to team up with Trish Klein, who will be known to readers as a member of Canadian trio The Be Good Tanyas.

Together they created Po’ Girl, which became a melting pot for various styles and sounds and instruments that give the band their creative originality.

A debut album came along with a punishing touring schedule and the band ‘snowballed’, according to Allison.

Trish moved on to pastures new and Allison cast around for new cohorts.

Step forward tea-chest bass virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist Awna Teixeira.

The two ladies are the songwriting powerhouse of Po’ Girl as well as sharing lead vocal duties.

Added Allison: “We are drawn from a deep and rich well of folk traditions of North America and Europe. We mostly write our own stuff but there is a lot of collaboration within the band.

“One of us will turn up with an idea and we can all add something to the mix and before long we have a song.”

For the last few years the band has been completed with the addition of Benny Sidelinger and Mikey August.

Each member brings a special ingredient which flows effortlessly into their classic sound - or sounds.

One moment you are listening to a rich and rounded vocal worthy of any alt-country star, the next there is the rawness of the early McGarrigles to delight and challenge. But throughout there are those smiles.

For Po’ Girl are a group of musicians who not only to make sure the audience enjoys the show but who also are determined to have the time of their life at the same time.

Said Allison: “It’s a compelling thing for us. Some people go to church or to a mountain top to meditate.

“We play music and that’s how we come together as one - and have fun. We’re really lucky to do something that really inspires us. It’s a great life.”

And it makes them smile a lot! Po’ Girl will be in South Yorkshire on Sunday for a special charity concert starting at 12.30pm at Old Moor Nature Reserve, raising money for wildlife conservation in the area.

The Voices for Nature mini-festival will have local folk hero Ray Hearne as MC and features The Demon Barbers, Phil Beer, The Wilson Family, Mike Wilson and Damien Barber, Winter Wilson, Gerry McNeice and Allan and Liam Wilkinson.

Call 01226 751593 or email old.moor@rspb.org.uk