My first taste of Melissa McClelland came about a year ago when a friend had me listen to her beautiful rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s ballad of the working class "Factory." Her version gave a feminine and country-tinged perspective that worked brilliantly with the song. I was immediately impressed.
I got very excited to learn McClelland had a new album out entitled Victoria Day, after her homeland’s holiday that generally marks the beginning of summer—not unlike Memorial Day for most Americans. The album definitely carries an air of summer it its sound, so the title is quite fitting.
McClelland was born in the Unites States, but raised in Canada. Many music fans simply know her as singer-songwriter Luke Doucet’s wife, but she has proven she will not remain in his shadow—and quite possibly may even take some of the spotlight for herself.
McClelland's music reminds me much of some of Canadia's other songstresses. Her blend of powerful vocals and just enough of a country feel to give it character makes for an easy association with the wonderful Sarah Harmer. Unlike Harmer, whom often leans closer to the melancholy folk side, McClelland brings a poppier barroom feel to many of her tracks. On past efforts, McClelland’s lyrics they told stories and felt more intimate, but Victoria Day seems to play it safe on most tracks and worries more about the melody.
McClelland’s sound brings to mind a picture of square dancers twirling skirts, a well-dressed band playing, hay bales on the sidelines, and her in the spotlight. It is a classic sound, meant to entertain and keep people interested. The ballads on the album would as easily fit within a big band ballroom filled with satin dresses and evening gloves since they lack the fiddle and banjo most pure country is wont to include.
The title track, “Victoria Day (May Flowers)”, is a standout on the album, as is “I Blame You,” but I can confidently say there are no tracks that feel like a waste of time. It is a brilliantly put together album from beginning to end.