Updated: Nov 25
by Scott Roos
photo courtesy of Jay and Jo
Coming up on Thursday, November 30th at the Rock Trout Cafe in downtown Prince Albert, the exciting, award winning (SCMA Roots Artist of the Year) roots sister act Jay and Jo (aka Janaya McCallum and Jolissa Trudel), will perform a special Christmas themed show entitled, “Folksongs For Christmastime”. They will be joined by multi-talented, local to Prince Albert pianist, singer-songwriter Brenner Holash who will provide accompaniment as well as take the lead on a few songs.
“We've been friends (with Holash) for years but we've also played a couple shows or a couple house shows where he was also playing,” describes McCallum of Jay and Jo’s musical relationship to Holash, “We've bumped into him musically a lot. It's been a dream to play with him for a while so we're pretty excited. He's not an opener but he will feature in and amongst our sets. So we're kind of sharing the show a bit.”
“We love him as a person. He's so funny and so talented. He's just one of those people that can do…. a lot more with his instrument than the regular Joe on the piano I think. He'll fill things out so much and his voice is amazing. It enhances the songs so much to have a piano,” says McCallum.
For their part, Jay and Jo plan on performing several songs off their 2021 holiday release entitled Ahatonhia. Produced by McCallum whilst she was living in a small hamlet in the Northwest Territories, the isolation of the community gave McCallum the wherewithal to take assume the producers chair herself as a means to while away the long Arctic nights. Collectively the tracks on the album have a more earthy, organic vibe to them. It leans into its imperfections in order to underscore the raw emotional impact of the melodic elements as opposed to the use of "studio magic". The instrumentation is sparse, but the trademark harmonies of the sisters are there making it a decidedly Jay and Jo album nonetheless.
“We kept the instrumentation (on Ahatonhia) pretty light and acoustic sounding which I love. It sounds a lot more like how we sound live in real life,” recounts McCallum, “Your sound morphs and changes throughout the years. I think we've become a little more simplified in how we do things, more focused on harmonies in our vocals than the backup instrumentation, you know? We love our previous albums obviously but this one is special. It was a true labor of love for us because it was all in our hands what we did with it. It has a more raw sound as well because I'm not a professional producer. It was a welcome challenge.”
The album itself features memorable arrangements of The Band’s classic “Christmas Must Be Tonight”, a rollicking version “I Saw Three Ships”, a reverent take on Joni Mitchell’s “River”, and a solemn, emotive “Oh Tannenbaum” which sticks to the original German language. On top of this are McCallum’s original tune “Long Winter” which features Noah Derksen on vocals and Trudel’s New Year’s themed “Better Luck”. It’s a light, acoustically driven, aethereal record designed to slow burn its way into your cranium whilst you sit with your loved ones by the fire enjoying holiday cheer. In short, it’s laid back and uber chill.
In terms of the performance at the Rock Trout, McCallum is looking to create that same tone for the evening and alongside Trudel and Holash. It’s almost a certainty that they will. This ain't their first proverbial rodeo. It’s going to be a night of quality entertainment. It should be a nice “time out” from the encroaching stress and business that the holiday season can sometimes create.
“We want it to be a night of storytelling. We want it to be intimate and kind of interactive a bit if we can. We want to focus on harmony and lyrics and easing people into the spirit of the holiday. (We’ll have) our usual kind of stage presence where we're cracking jokes and telling stories and giving insight into the songs. We love a venue that allows for that sort of connection with the audience and I think the Rock Trout does ,” muses McCallum, “It's such a busy time of year. People kind of lose themselves. I know I do every year at this time. Just come, be human for a couple of hours and experience something and just sit there and receive it. I think that's reason enough to come. At least for me.”
Tickets are going very quickly for this event and can be purchased HERE. Cost is $18 with doors to the Rock Trout opening at 6:00 pm with a start time of 6:30.