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Review: Mimi O'Bonsawin - 'Willow' Album Launch - The Small World Music Centre, Toronto


By Stevie Connor.



I have known Mimi O'Bonsawin since she was 19 years old, back then, almost a decade ago, I first saw her perform at a showcase in Toronto, I was immediately a fan, she had an amazing aura, fantastic stage presence and wonderful songwriting capabilities for someone so young, her music spoke to me .... she had that je ne sais quoi.


I've followed her progress over the years and witnessed the release of albums in French, English and also an instrumental album. 'Willow', her latest creation, in my opinion, is her coming of age. All the stars seem to have aligned for this one, written, composed, recorded and produced by Mimi in her log cabin home, with her drummer/percussionist husband, Ryan Schurman, who co-produced and worked through the mixing process.


The songs have an earthy quality to them, digging deep into O'Bonsawin's own soul and being, exploring her rich heritage, of which it is evident she is very proud of - coming from a Franco-Ontarian/Abenaki background - there was a real sense of roots, history, caring for the land, for communities and an homage to her culture.


Having listened to the album many times over, I was excited to be attending this live performance album launch at the Small World Music Centre, in Toronto. It was not lost on me that the performance was on Earth Day, and what better artist to share this day with than Mimi, who epitomizes everything the day is about, both in her professional and private life.


The stage setting is especially worth mentioning, it was set out in such a way as if we'd been invited into Mimi's world, her garden, her living room, her space, I felt privileged to be there sharing with the audience.


The lights dimmed and Ryan Schurman took to the stage, what impressed me the most was the tone of his drum kit, added to that, he sounded like a one man drum corp with the different layers he produced, rock steady, there was a lot going on here that created a full wall of sound, we were witnessing a very accomplished musician. Ryan was the heartbeat of the show from the very start, complimenting the ethereal sounds Mimi O'Bonsawin produced from the outset.


Mimi joined Ryan on stage for the first song and immediately they launched into what can only be described as a beautiful journey. The segues were perfectly timed and I got a real connection with the songs, it's okay listening to an album at home, but, to hear the stories behind the songs live, and the intention the artist has in putting those songs out into the world cannot be beaten, and, when a beautiful soul like Mimi is telling the story, then it becomes all the more mesmerizing. Songs sung in English, French and what Mimi describes as "Franglais" were beautifully presented.


What struck me also on the night was how much of an accomplished multi-instrumentalist she has become, demonstrated on songs accompanied with ukulele, guitar, harp and dance drum, these were all spectacularly backed up by Schurman's percussion and drumming.


The evening made my heart sing, to witness the transformation of the young 19 year old I first knew, blossoming into an extremely competent performer with strong worldly messages to share with her audience was a beautiful experience. I know I was not the only one in the theatre to feel that way. There was a lot of love for Mimi O'Bonsawin in the air last night, and she gave us a whole lot of love and magic back ... she still has that je ne sais quoi in spades!


Mimi and Ryan have festival performances and gigs lined up for this summer, if you get the chance, go see them, they will uplift you with their music, stories and conversation.


Photo Credit: Anne Connor.


Mimi O’Bonsawin is a contemporary roots singer-songwriter from Northeastern Ontario. Through her rhythm and story-driven songs, Mimi embraces the beauty of the land, all the while yielding to her Franco-Ontarian and Abenaki roots. The ethereal quality of her music whisks you away with uplifting melodies and introspective lyrics that weave pop sensibilities with acoustic instruments. The layers of percussion and surprising harmonies make you feel the music rather than just hear it.




Website: www.mimi.ca




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