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Norma MacDonald Norma MacDonald
Album: Old Future
Label: NoYes
Tracks: 10

Born in Cape Breton and now based in Halifax, this is MacDonald's fifth album, one that draws on both classic Dolly and Loretta influences and 70s West Coast folk-rock. She opens, guitars jangling and the drums keeping a steady beat, with the catchy and particularly timely titled 'Temperamental Year' although the song's actually about the vicissitudes of shifting fortunes ("Every step you take they raise the stakes"), followed by the chiming 'Trick of the Light', again a song about trying to make sense of things, in this case a tentative romance ("It's too early to say I won't get carried away"). New love is also the basis of the slowly strummed 'Golden Age' and resisting the impulse to throw it away, while, featuring Phil Sedore on pulsing cello, the muted fingerpicked and fiddle shaded 'One Man Band' is about reassurance ("I'm here to tell you everything's gonna be alright") and even though the relationships may be sailing on different seas "maybe the wind will shift and you'll come back to me".

Seeing your ex get married is a songwriting staple and MacDonald rises to the occasion with 'Wedding Day' ("though it's true I didn't want you anyway, I'll still sit here and shed a tear") the melody slightly reminiscent of 'You Ain't Going Nowhere', the album's second half getting underway with the honky tonk piano accompanied, uptempo country of the love letter 'Wonder In The Summer' ( "You're the ocean, a commotion/You're the cure to my disease"), reining the pace in and the cello returning for the swaying 'Slow Down Marie', a song about how, as you get older, perhaps wanting to be on our own is no longer the choice to make.

With its offbeat drums, chiming guitar and backing vocal oohs, 'I Already Have A Shadow' is again a song about letting go and not being forever sucked back in only to wait for it to once more slowly break apart, while, one more featuring muted fingerpicked guitar with shuffling brushed drums, 'Lover Of Unreason' has decided Emmylou or perhaps Mary Chapin Carpenter textures on a song that addresses the emotional complexity of making the wrong choices, longing for "the changes of the season/While I curse and crave and mourn the one before".

Most readily calling Lynne to mind, it draws to a close on a dreamy retro campfire cowboy trot with the nostalgia-themed, pedal steel washed 'Some Days' a reminder that, as John Denver put it, some days are diamond, some days are dust, that "some days the world will do your bidding/Some days you think my god you must be kidding" and "some days nothing happens at all". Apparently the album's working title was Death By Nostalgia. Past perfect then.

Mike Davies