FAI Showcase: Bywater Call Offers a “Sign of Peace”
Folk Alliance International hosted a Virtual Official Showcase for Bywater Call on Thursday, May 19th, as part of their 34th annual conference. The Canadian seven-piece (sometimes nine-piece) band formed in 2017 with a focus on Southern soul, roots rock, and blues, released a self-titled album in 2019, and participated virtually this year because they were on a tour of Europe at the time of the conference.
Their performance was recorded live at the Heartwood Concert Hall in Ontario, a venue they’ve played live before which made for an excellent, energized atmosphere that conveyed a lot of the feeling of attending one of their shows. Careful video editing and song title captions also made the performance even more accessible for the audience at home.
Bywater Call was formed by singer Meghan Parnell and guitar player Dave Barnes and other members include Bruce McCarthy on drums, Mike Meusel on bass, Alan Zemaitis on keys, Stephen Dyte on trumpet and Julian Nalli on tenor sax. Their FAI set included four songs which were each very different in terms of style and influence, but suggested the band’s range of interests and how each might contribute to a well-rounded full show experience.
Common features among the songs, however, included Parnell’s powerful and emotive vocals, often quite projected, and the impression of impeccable timing between the band members whether during multi-layered accompaniment or in quieter moments.
Their first song, “Silver Lining,” featured horns and keys prominently, driven by Parnell’s vocals. It hails from their debut album and made for a strong start to introduce the band to those who might not have encountered their music before. Quite possibly the theme of the song, encapsulated by the plea, “Give me one more silver lining,” was particularly engaging during an era where the world is holding onto small gains and trying to envisage a significantly better future ahead.
Their second piece, “Remain”, was also very shaped by Parnell’s vocals, but was a more intimate song about relationships. The speaker feels empathy for the past “scars” another has suffered, but also comes to a realization of their own truth, that they’ll “stay,” whether the other person chooses to or not. The song suggested some difficult terrain but also hard-won self-knowledge. The song was dubbed a “brand new tune,” by the band in 2020, so may well feature in their upcoming September 2022 album.
“Left Behind,” their third song, formed quite a contrast to “Remain” thematically, but musically brought the performance to a middle ground in terms of tempo, increasing the pace and making room for guitar solos. Lyrically, the song featured plenty of suggested story and setting, from stating, “This ain’t no kind of life on the edge of the night,” to determining to “choose a better way.” The song affirmed that the course to follow is etched “deep down in our soul,” during a powerful crescendo. “Left Behind” was revealed to be one of their new studio songs for 2022 in early 2022.
They concluded their set with “Sign of Peace,” a song they’ve performed live as early as 2019, which opened with a keys intro, quickly took on a Gospel-influenced beat, and concluded with a horn solo. This song also seemed particularly relatable in difficult times, from its call, “If you see me, baby, way down low,” to the request, “Give me a sign that you love me, even when I’ve lost my way.” It was a particularly impassioned way to finish the showcase, also conveying plenty of Bywater Call’s personality through the theme of building relationships and community.