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Music Picks

Sustainable Music and Soul Food

Melissa Endean's tunes are simple, nourishing and grown locally.

By Thom Wong 4 Dec 2008 | TheTyee.ca

Thom Wong writes regularly about music for The Tyee. He can also be found ruminating about the state of menswear at The Sunday Best.

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Melissa Endean spots another paradigm shift on the horizon.

With their book The 100-Mile Diet, authors Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon introduced us to a concept then considered novel in its simplicity -- eat only foods grown, raised or processed within a 100-mile radius of where you live. Recently they challenged residents of Mission, British Columbia to go 100 days eating locally.

What would happen if we extended this idea to other aspects of our lives? Buying local music may not have the same impact as buying local foods, but it does have many of the same benefits. Local musicians tend to record close to home, and buying their music or attending their concerts feeds the local economy. As the music industry continues to cry foul over illegal downloads, and millionaire artists look for more ways to sue their fans, perhaps it's time to find artists largely removed from the packaged music machine.

Melissa Endean is a B.C. native, hailing from the Okanagan Valley. Her first album, Home Sweet Home, is a solid country effort, as is her contribution to this year's Very Vancouver Christmas 3, a song called "The List." The songs on Home don't stray far from the formula -- cowboys, bars, barn references -- but Endean's stellar voice is enough to set it apart and warrant a listen.

It's that aspect that is showcased on the three "scratch" tracks set to be released in 2009 on her album Authentic, and currently up on her site. The music is simple in the best sense of the word -- spare and taut, acting mostly as a frame for her lilting voice. As scratch tracks, the songs are set for more production, but here's hoping they don't add too much. Like the similar sounding Meg Baird, Endean's voice works so much better when it's not competing with overt instrumentation.

For example, on the true-to-its-name "3 Chords and a Melody," Endean weaves a tale that's part creation of the song itself and part story of a person listening. It's hard to imagine that any additional sounds would add to it. "I'll Remember You" shares a title close to that ubiquitous Sarah McLachlan weepy (seriously, was there a funeral scene on TV that didn't use that song?), but carries so much more power by sticking to concrete sentiments.

Melissa Endean will be playing Vancouver City Limits at the Beaumont Studios (316 West 5th Avenue) on Dec. 8, and the Wired Bean in North Vancouver (102-200 West Esplanade), on Dec. 13 for the BCSPCA. You can find her track "The List" on A Very Vancouver Christmas 3, also in support of the BCSPCA.

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