Husband/wife duo Keri and Devin Latimer, who go under the band name Leaf Rapids, have just dropped a debut album titled Lucky Stars. Its title is a nod to the feeling that comes from living in the vast expanse of Canada’s western provinces. As their press release states, it is indeed a long way from Manitoba to Memphis, but the windy prairies of the Great White North aren’t so different than the expanse of fields and grasslands that buffer the American Rockies. Hence, the Latimers likely find similar inspiration to their American counterparts when looking up at star-crossed skies and letting their dreams take flight into those empty patches of endless possibilities.
Lucky Stars isn’t a collection of cowboy songs, mind you. But, with the embossed steel guitar and guidance of veteran player and producer Steve Dawson – a notable presence in Canada’s expansive roots music scene who’s worked with everyone from Tim O’Brien to Bruce Cockburn and The Deep Dark Woods – the pair have created a lovely, shimmering example of Americana that soothes, seduces, and shines. “[Dawson] was sitting in with Jill Barber and I said ‘Feel free to play with me,’” Keri told the Canadian newspaper The Leader-Post. “After that, they offered us a record deal. We jumped at the opportunity and went to Nashville to make a record.”
Before taking their own route as Leaf Rapids, the Latimers played in a band called Nathan, traipsing similar sonic terrain. Yet where Nathan (now re-dubbed Nathan Music Co., possibly to aid in Google searches) relied on the pull of a full band and a legitimate rock regimen, Leaf Rapids takes a softer, subtler approach. Keri’s vocals are supple and almost childlike at times, and the harmonies from Devin manage to convey a haunting embrace that sweeps ever so gently over this vast soundscape, smoothing any rough or abrasive edges in the process. “Virtual Machine” and “Galaxie 500” – the latter eerily reminiscent of the sounds fostered by the band of the same name – glide as gently as a lullaby. When the duo does pick up the pace – as on “Healing Feeling,” “Welcome Stranger,” and “Gravity and a Ladder of Gold” – the combination of twang and treble finds them far more than a one-tone wonder.
The most telling example of their desire to diversify comes with an unlikely cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World,” in which Keri’s seductive stance mitigates the ominous overtones of the original.
Though Leaf Rapids have namechecked artists like Vic Chesnutt and Richard Buckner as their influences, Keri told the Leader-Post that being from the prairies gives her music a darker tone. “We all hole up for the winter and make things. You get a bit crazy and obsessed and then come out in the spring and show everybody what you did … Everything gets intensified.”