MORRISBURG – James Keelaghan, artistic director at Summerfolk Music Festival, was once asked to describe Coco Love Alcorn, who is coming to the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage, Saturday, March 25 at 7 p.m.
“Coco,” he wrote, “is the ultimate musical spark plug…an electrical connector through which creative energy flows.”
When one considers the long list of award nominations, the countless festivals, concerts and media appearances, and the 10 major albums behind her, it is hard to discuss this artist in less than superlatives.
She is currently wowing audiences and critics alike with her latest release, Wonderland.
“We get Coco in full gospel and soul mode, with a bit of folk tossed in,” said Sandra Whitworth, chair of the board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage. “We had her a few years back with Ian Sherwood…but this is such a fun and new configuration for her that I thought we had to bring her and her three piece band back.”
Coco herself is down to earth, thoughtful, yet brimming with energy and laughter when she talks about her music and her career, which has now spanned 20 years.
“I love the connection between the audience and the performer,” she explained. “This is a profession which can be draining. You are constantly away from home, constantly travelling, but you gather such inspiration in performance. There is a build up of new musical energy.
When you are on stage, there are moments that are singular, unique musical moments that we, the audience and I, can share.”
When she became a mother, Coco scaled back some of her extensive touring. Now that her daughter is older, she has again embraced the troubadour’s life.
“The truth is, I have an on-going love affair with music,” she laughed. “In a concert, music is the place where people let their guards down in a way that they can’t anywhere else.”
In the course of her career, Coco has explored virtually all musical genres. But her new approach seems rooted more in gospel and soul.
“I’ve written my fair share of love songs, of socially conscious songs, of comic songs, even of bicycle songs,” she explained.
“But I have always loved the sound and the raw passion of gospel music, that tradition of people stomping, clapping and singing together. It has led me to write what I think of as ‘open source spirit music.’
I decided to write songs about hope and perseverance. My music has become, I think, a celebration of the strength of hope and connectedness, because it is often music we turn to in hard times. The truth is, it is much easier to sing about spirituality than to talk about it. These days I am trying to write simple, deep truths.”
One of her songs, The River, has become a North American sensation, a number that has captured the hearts and musical souls of choirs and choruses.
When Coco takes to the stage at her March 25 concert, she will be backed by a three piece band. All three are skilled musicians and singers, artists in their own right.
“We figure out together what we’ll play at a concert,” Coco explained. “I have a background in jazz, but I also love the story telling quality of folk music. And I am in love with the groove and soul that comes with rhythm and blues. So my musical arrangements draw from all of these.
My band loves to improvise, and each is a gifted singer. Every one of our concerts is different, and each has a unique energy.”
During the St. Lawrence Stage concert, at Upper Canada Playhouse, Coco said that she would be doing mostly new work, with perhaps a few older songs tossed in.
“There may even be some chances of singing along,” she added, “but this is never forced. The point is for audiences to come to the concert, to connect with the music, and to enjoy themselves.”
Tickets for Coco Love Alcorn, at the SLAS, 7 p.m. March 25, are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
They can be purchased at the Basket Case, Rurban Brewing or online at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage.