An indie-folk-pop duo from St. John’s Newfoundland, Catherine Allan and Andrew O’Brien, entertained their Fredericton Playhouse audience the night of Nov. 2. The two are finishing up their national tour after the release of their sophomore album Hold Fast.
The pair’s first album The Bliss was nominated for a JUNO award and two of their singles hit #1 on CBC Radio 2’s Top 20, along with winning an ECMA in 2016, a Canadian Folk Music Award in 2015, and four Music Newfoundland and Labrador awards.
With their growing fame, Fortunate Ones have been garnering more attention; their 2018 album was highly-anticipated by fans after a three-year gap. Among those fans is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who claims that their Christmas EP is frequently played in his house around the holidays.
Hold Fast is a more refined piece than their first album. It indicates a shift away from the band’s folk roots, and involves collaborations with celebrated artists such as Meg Warren, Tim Baker, and the quintessential Newfoundland artist Alan Doyle.
Fortunate Ones ended their tour in the Maritimes accompanied by Joey Landreth of Winnipeg before hitting Newfoundland, where special guest Mo Kenney will be opening for Fortunate Ones’ home province shows.
Landreth opened the show at the Playhouse on Friday night with songs from his solo debut album Whiskey. Mostly comprising of heartfelt and buzzing love ballads (both love found and love lost), he set up the night’s theme of emotional vulnerability and honesty in an artist’s personal life. Landreth’s sentimental music reflects his own life, as Landreth and his then-girlfriend Anna Salgado held an impromptu marriage at a PEI ice cream parlour before coming to New Brunswick.
When Allan and O’Brien took the stage, their chemistry together and beautiful harmonies were immediately noticeable. Opening the show with the title track from their new album, they remarked how they always feel at home in the Maritimes and the East coast.
The band noted their own shift towards pop during the show, especially indicated by their new drummer Nick Coultas-Clarke. Drums are much less commonly used in traditional folk music, however having another musician onstage allows for Allan and O’Brien to exercise a more dynamic range in their music.
There was plenty of banter during the show in between songs from The Bliss and Hold Fast, which delighted the audience and energized the performers. O’Brien seemed rather fond of talking on stage, even doing a four-minute bit before the song “Before You” and commenting on his ability to talk endlessly.
Fortunate Ones changed their arrangement multiple times: beginning with themselves and their drummer, they then switched to their original setup of just Allan and O’Brien onstage using a bluegrass mic. Capping off the show with an encore, they brought out Landreth and Coultas-Clarke for an ensemble performance and played Great Big Sea’s “Ordinary Day” to fill the Playhouse with Newfoundland pride.
No matter how polished Fortunate Ones might become with their growing acclaim, they always seem to remain the same friendly and kind people off and onstage. A welcoming and empathetic tone echoes through their music, life and performances. Hopefully fans will sense that same feeling from Hold Fast and enjoy the new album as much as Fredericton enjoyed their performance.