Conventus The Eye Of The Heart is Norine Braun’s ninth studio album. This award-winning artist hails from Vancouver and has assembled musicians from her home city to make this roots blues/rock release. Norine’s lyrics on this latest album (released 8th November 2013) reflect what life has thrown at her during the previous two years, including a life-threatening disease (followed by a cure), marriage to her partner and family bereavement.
She describes her recent life events as “unions and struggles”, with making music a healing activity. So we know from the off that this album is a personal one born out of both pain and celebration.
Musically, other influences come into play to supplement rocking the blues. I imagine her record collection is vast and eclectic. Beginning with Lightning Strikes Twice, it’s the perfect opener, with dirty blues harp and pulsing bass line. I don’t really know why, but all that talk of the Devil made me think of voodoo. How Would We Know has great percussive work and a reggae beat that surprised me, delivering a feel-good declaration of love. Dizzy is a pop/funk track with a spoken part communicating very bawdy sentiments! No More Reprise has a funky groove; this time, a lover is getting his marching orders. Boy has heart-breaking lyrics about giving a baby boy away, building into choruses that reminded me of the anthemic 1980s. The best part of Today is that blues harp – gets me every time.
For me, 99% is the standout track, with powerful words and arrangement meshing perfectly. The 99% are the struggling masses trying to survive and pay the bills. Norine and the band are at their most soulful and there’s that blues harp again. Take the Sleek Train shows off Norine’s extensive vocal range, from husky low register to sweet high notes, as she vocalizes the poetry in wanting to escape on that train, a mournful presence felt in more soulful blues harp. Fire Flames has an interesting fusion of Latin rhythms and rock guitar. Jazzy keyboards and jazz-infused guitar give The Perfect Love Affair a sophisticated, sitting in a cocktail lounge kind of feel. There’s another declaration of love on I Found You, a country style ballad with sweetly melancholic guitar. Conventus ends the album, with a sparse arrangement on the intro’s catchy, simple melody until the band kicks in with a slick pop production. I looked up the meaning of the word, “conventus”; apparently, it’s from the Latin, meaning to convene or assemble.
Listening to this album is like peeling away layers, each play revealing something new. This was my introduction to Norine Braun. It surprised me; I didn’t expect it to be so versatile. It’s good to be surprised.