Local musicians win jazz album of the year

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Rachael Henderson and Morgan Cruickshank, two of the members of The Blue Lane, whose EP <em>Blind</em> won Jazz Recording of the Year by Music Nova Scotia. Missing: Connor Boothall.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>The Blue Lane band, left to right: Morgan Cruickshank (vocals/guitar), Connor Booth (vocals/drums) and Rachael Henderson (lead vocal/bass).</p>

Jazz recording artists Rachael Henderson, Morgan Cruickshank, and Connor Booth have come a long way since the friends first started jamming together in East Chester as a way to pass the time amid the record snow falls of the winter of 2015.

Earlier this month, Music Nova Scotia named their band, The Blue Lane and their EP Blind 2017 Jazz Recording of the Year.

"We're going there thinking, 'Well, we're relatively new. This is a great opportunity that we got nominated, but not really expecting to win because we're still kind of fresh," said Henderson, the band's lead vocal and bass player from Truro.

"But they were there presenting the award and said our name, and we were just kind of floored by it."

"Yeah, jumped for joy. It was great," added Cruickshank, who hails from East Chester and does vocals and plays guitar.

The award-winning album was recorded in Lunenburg at Otitis Media.

"Massive thanks to David Findlay for helping us hone our sound and for recording us. So proud of this group and the work we have done," Lunenburg's Connor Booth, drummer and vocalist for the band, was quoted saying in a news statement.

Considering the band produces its own lyrics and music as well as undertakes its own marketing, the award could be considered that much more noteworthy.

In an interview with LighthouseNOW, Henderson and Cruickshank gave credit, in part, to the education the three friends received attending the music program at the Nova Scotia Community College's Ivany Campus in Dartmouth.

Noting that the program combines elements of the music industry as well as music theory, Cruickshank said, "It gears you up to be a performer, a teacher and an industry professional."

Henderson has been training in classical vocals since she was eight, but like other members of the group she grew up listening to a variety of genres including jazz and rock.

While college focused a lot on jazz music, as the friends jammed over the winter, they began creating a fusion of jazz, rockabilly, swing, blues, indi-rock and classic pop, they say.

"We realized we had a sound, and we're like, 'Hey, this sounds pretty cool. Let's keep doing it.'"

By the following spring, they had formed The Blue Lane.

For her part, Henderson was no stranger to being in a band. She had been a member of the band Lone Cloud for seven years. Prior to her leaving it, the band and gone on to win an East Coast Music Award (ECMA) in 2013.

There's much to be gained from the new group, she says.

"It's a great way to get those creative juices going and incorporate the business knowledge that we have, that we gained from the program. And we're able to kind of manage ourselves, book our own shows, do our own promotions, and our own social media. All that stuff."

They produced their first album, The Blue Lane, in 2016 and Blind in June of this year.

Both were recorded at Lunenburg's Otitis Media, which specializes in music composition and audio for film, video, TV, corporate and multi-media.

Cruickshank says it was a "great experience" working with owner David Findlay.

"I like the fact that we can just do that on the South Shore. That there's this awesome resource that we can use."

Because of Findlay, he notes, their title track Blind has been chosen to accompany an upcoming film about traumatic brain injury, Every 21 Seconds.

Cruickshank describes the title track as "somewhat of an angsty song;" Henderson as "pretty feisty."

It and the entire album are essentially about transitions, they say. Although they never set out for it to be that.

"We were able to think of a concept afterward of what it kind of meant to us. But the songs just kind of happened organically," says Henderson.

While they were working on it, the band itself went through a transition, reducing from a quartet to a trio after the departure of a guitar player.

Henderson regards it as a positive transition now. "We connect so much better now."

For Cruickshank,"It's an album about change.

"Sometimes people can respond positively or negatively to whatever change. But it's also an introspection in the sense that you ask yourself, was it better then or is it better now."

The notion can be viewed on an individualistic scale or a larger sale, "like dealing with nations and countries from a political sense," he adds.

For Henderson, the song Blind, speaks to how society can be manipulated by government, "and how we can be kind of blind to all of that."

The song features lines from George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which Cruickshank deems a "classical song.

"And that kind of shows the then and now," says Cruickshank.

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