Recorded at St. John’s Anglican Church in Kelwood, Man., stories of social injustice lie at the heart of Alana Levandoski’s insightful new album.
HOW DO YOU convince someone like Ken Nelson – a much respected and in-demand music producer – to leave his Liverpool recording studio and head for small town Manitoba? When do you tell him that you want him to work his craft in an old Anglican church, outfitted with a sound isolation booth constructed from straw bales? And once he’s decided to consider such a challenge, do you even mention how cold it is on the prairies in February?
You might be able to get away with this if you’re a rock band like Coldplay, three of whose CDs Nelson has produced. For singer/songwriter Alana Levandoski, however, the invitation to Ken Nelson had nothing to do with a big budget or the guarantee of sales and prestige. Levandoski has a solid debut album (Unsettled Down, Rounder Records, 2005), and a loyal following in Canada and Europe, yet hers is hardly a household name. The fact that Nelson was willing to record in Kelwood, Man. had everything to do with creativity and artistic integrity, both Levandoski’s and his own.
[pullquote]The original plan was to record in Winnipeg in rented studio space. Then Nelson was diagnosed with a detached retina and the studio booking had to be forfeited. When the idea of moving it all to a church was raised, Nelson – known both for his expertise and creativity – embraced it.
Bishop James Njegovan of the Diocese of Brandon was supportive, and parishioners at Kelwood’s St. John’s Anglican Church were proud that their hometown girl wanted to use their building. The pews were cleared out, the straw sound booth constructed, and in the middle of February 2008, recording began.
The work was caught live “off the floor” and Nelson and his engineer placed musicians in corridors and small rooms to balance the overall sound. The vocals were all redone at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studio, but the three weeks in Kelwood produced the heart of Lions and Werewolves.
“Believing that God has something to do with me and who I am is a comfort but also something I wrestle with,” said Levandoski. “Sometimes I wish I could turn it off but there are a lot of redeeming qualities in a lived faith.”
Her faith has attuned her to other people’s stories, particularly stories of injustice. This lies at the heart of Lions and Werewolves. “The presuppositions that inform my attention to story are all rooted in God,” she said. “I’m a messenger.”
True to her word, Levandoski shares her insights and leaves listeners to sort out what they’re going to do about it.
Jamie Howison is the founding pastor of saint benedict’s table, an alternative liturgical community in the diocese of Rupert’s Land.