Singer Amanda Rheaume pays homage to her family history in Manitoba with her recording Keep a Fire.
She will launching the album Sept. 16 at Paddy’s Pub, Wolfville.
The award-winning roots/pop/Americana artist Rheaume has created a varied and evocative collection of mostly story-songs about her Métis ancestors that lives up to the tradition of epic family-of-origin albums.
Rheaume pays tribute to her Métis heritage with “Keep a Fire in the Rain,” a pulsing piece about her grandfather and Ojibway great-grandmother, who lived exactly halfway between the reserve and the mine site in God’s Lake, MB. The mixed-race couple wasn’t welcome in either community.
On “A.G.B. Bannatyne,” she offers a sprightly ode to her great-great-grandfather, a founding father of Manitoba and friend to Louis Riel, who hosted the province’s early legislative sessions in his home – and after whom Bannatyne Avenue in Winnipeg is named.
In the driving “Not this Time,” Rheaume describes the harrowing voyage across Great Slave Lake taken by her paternal great-grandparents, who were on route from Nelson House, MB to a Hudson Bay posting in Fort Norman, NWT. Her great-grandmother and her six children travelled on a barge attached to a paddle wheeler, while her great-grandfather helped shovel coal on the boat. When a storm hit, the barge, and the family, were set adrift in the elements for two days until, miraculously, they were reunited with the boat and Rheaume’s great grandfather. Rheaume’s great-grandmother had a history of marine tragedies in her family – her own father died on a lake in a storm – so the song title is a toast to the fact that she escaped that fate.
The seeds of Keep a Fire were planted back in 2011, when Rheaume travelled over the Northwest Passage in a Hercules aircraft while en route to play for troops in Alert. Seeing the passage from above made her reflect on her maternal grandfather, Thomas Arthur Irvine, who had been a navigator on board the HMCS Labrador when it became the first vessel to circumnavigate North America in a single voyage.
Rheaume teamed up with writing partner John MacDonald and producer Ross Murray, and Keep a Fire was, well, born. It is her second full-length album.
Rheaume was shortlisted last year for the Council for the Arts in Ottawa’s RBC Emerging Artist Award. This spring, she sang the national anthems at an Ottawa Senators game.