Runaways and wanderers - Vancouver's Po' Girl sing their own Vagabond Lullabies

Posted by on 30 July 2004

FFWD Weekly July 22, 2004 - Preview Article by James Keller

Having left home when she was just in her teens, Allison Russell is in familiar company with the other two members of Po’ Girl. Russell, Trish Klein, a founding member of the Be Good Tanyas, and Diona Davies all have pasts as teenage runaways. These pasts still linger today, in their lives and in their music.

"It’s one of the things we discovered about each other. We were about 14 or 15, and we spent a lot of time feeling somewhat rootless and homeless," explains Russell, who shares the instrumentation in Po’ Girl and heads up the vocals. "Some songs can be about the loneliness that can transpire from being on the move and on the road, and not having that same sense of place; or it can be about appreciating that movement and taking the back roads and long roads and appreciating where you are in that moment."

With this in mind, their upcoming album, Vagabond Lullabies, is appropriately named. A vagabond is a drifter, and Po’ Girl has long been wandering about musically, if not physically.

Under the reins of Russell and Klein, their self-titled debut brought out the charm of old-weathered jazz mixed with the warm grip of contemporary folk, all foregrounded with sultry vocals and refreshingly complex instrumentation. Their upcoming album, with the addition of Davies on, among other things, the fiddle, drifts again, promising a more textured and equally unpredictable finished product.

This unique and fluid sound is, again, due in no small part to their lives as vagabonds. While the three are no longer runaways, the stretched-out tour schedule that comes with the summer festival circuit still leaves them uprooted from their Vancouver-area homes. Oddly enough, this is where they find a sense of belonging.

"For all three of us, the musical community has become home, wherever that might be – whether it’s at the Calgary folk fest or the Winnipeg folk fest or over in the U.K. in Glasgow," says Russell. "To a certain degree the road itself has become home. In a way it’s a contradiction in terms, and yet it’s not."

The musical community Russell speaks of is nowhere more apparent than at folk-music festivals. Last year, Po’ Girl wet their feet at festivals in British Columbia, but this year they’re diving right in across the country. It’s at the festivals, watching other musicians on the main stages and joining in during the workshops, that their contradiction is most apparent.

"The sense of community and the inspiration of hearing what everyone else is doing, it replenishes the creative well," says Russell. "Workshops are my favourite part of all folk fests. We love to collaborate with other musicians, and it’s great to jump in and add harmonies on other people’s stuff, if they’re up for it."