Chart June 1994
Edmonton performer Kathleen Yearwood can simultaneously charm and threaten
an audience. With an operatic voice and a predisposition toward the bizarre,
she'll smash beer bottles into an amplified pail one minute and croon a slow
ballad with bassoon accompaniment the next. While stomping, wailing and growling
on stage, Yearwood awkwardly communicates her grim and chilling vision. All
this is captured on her debut CD, Book of Hate (Amatish Music).
At a recent Toronto performance, Yearwood's split character was apparent.
Her nervousness on stage between songs is painfully tangible; she loses her
Amazon-woman aura and becomes tragically lost and quiet, stumbling through
thanks and requests for more monitor volume. In conversation, however, she
is neither retiring nor awkward, but articulate and humorous.
I asked her about her troubled upbringing and her romantic disasters which
are the focus not only of the Music, but of much of the press written about
her. "That just gives me stuff to write about." she explains. "it's
fortunate. really! If I'd had a more sheltered life, I think it would have
been really boring. I want to write about that stuff. We don't hear much from
the underclass, which is where I kind of come from." Next on the agenda
was her rather unusual songwriting style: "The way that I think about
harmony is not like other people's: it's not influenced by what's been going
on in popular music. When I write, I try and make it all sound natural, according
to my brain and not to anyone else's.
Yearwood's highly poetic material ranges from tormented love ("Your hair
is so black, as black as horses/to bear the pail of pale moonlight/why not
allow me to put my fingers among your locks/and lay down there'--Tam Lin)through
racism ("They wanted to know how I could be his sister/And where did I
live and what was my last name/How could we be related because of the colours
of our skin?"-'Who Killed Phillip") to just general dissatisfaction
with society as we know it. Anger runs under poignancy like rocks under a smooth
sea; her sublime voice breaks in wails and moans over the words: the guitar
This dichotomy between the angelic and the demonic is everywhere. On the CD
sleeve Is a passage from the Bible twisted into a perverted prayer that reads
in part "...Evil Is stronger than good. The evil you do will outlive you
by generations. The good you do will be forgotten as yesterday's grass..." Yearwood
laughs when asked about this: "That's an amalgam of psychic garbage, you
push the backwards transmogrifier and it all comes out backwards. The Bible
is good fertile ground for poetry. Tons of my lyrics are stolen from the Bible.
The lyrics are free, really: they're in the public domain!"
She claims to be completely obsessed by the idea of the end of the world,
although in different terms than the comic-book character with the sign-board
around his neck. "it's something to do with knowing that it has already
ended.." she explains. "For [many indigenous people]. the world is
over. Yearwood spent eight years criss- crossing the country working on Native-rights
issues full-time. This has given her a wider perspective on her native Alberta
and its fair share of rednecks: "You're surrounded, you're In a war zone
at all times, and you have to remember that they're racists, and they hate
While waiting for everybody else to realize the world has ended. Yearwood
is writing a book based on the memoirs of an "ornery old coot" from
Alberta that will also be a surreal history. She plans to start her own indie
publishing company to match her indie record label, as well as to continue
Stavanger Aftenblad, Stavanger 20. Nov - 97
Canadian Yearwood sings songs that makes your blood flow a little faster -
and makes all the oppressed ghosts crawl towards the surface. Scary stuff
in other words. Yearwood sounds like a mixture of an innocent girl and the
voice of a very miserable undead.
The lyrics and the melodies are apparently nice and innocent. But underneath
the civilized surface, the demons dance.
But Kathleen Yearwood's got nothing to do with black metal or death metal.
No, she simply writes nerve-racking ingenious songs about suffering, pain,
imprisonment and injustice, and of the dream that is seldom fulfilled. "Book
of Hate" and "Little Misery Birds" are filled with these kind
Kathleen Yearwood might be compared to our own Mari Boine in terms of tradition
and the way she uses her voice. They both find their inspiration in the traditional
folk music, and they are both gifted with extraordinary voices.
Yearwood arrives at Checkpoint without a band. She will perform songs from
her albums "Book of Hate" and "Little Mary Birds. Maybe both "Who
Killed Phillip", "Night Falls" and "Pastorale"
A very quickly done (and hopefully accurate) translation by Kathleen Yearwood
of an article from Stavanger Aftenblad, Stavanger 20. Nov - 97.
Check Out More
At Kathleen's Site