Kate Suhr brims with theatrical energy. Equally at home in front of concert spotlights or stage musical footlights, she exudes a dramatic quality not often heard in contemporary music – particularly in the rootsy territory that she chooses to work.

Her debut full length album, Selkie Bride, marries the two sides of Suhr’s musical personality – the classically-trained leading lady who has made a splash on Toronto stage scene and the country torch belter that can bring a festival to its feet – offering up a collection of songs that come across as fully formed pocket musicals. Dramatic folk/rock/roots gems.

Stylistically, Selkie Bride defies easy categorization, borrowing from genres at will to create a richly satisfying sonic palate. The Lady in White opens with chamber folk strings and a haunting vocal melody before being interrupted by the amplifier hum of a starkly strummed chord and a veer into dark country twang. You Lie is a tightrope balance between smart rural pop and taught roots rock. Better on my Own is pure big sky country with guest Melissa Payne adding a bit of vocal grit to contrast Suhr’s sparkling optimism and a soaring hayloft fiddle to kick off the dance. Stella Maria and Fairytale, meanwhile, lean more towards the stage musical side of Suhr’s creative upbringing, shining like off-Broadway solos and acting as showcases for the soaring purity of her voice.

The title track pulls in elements of all of these diverse styles and introduces a few of its own along the way. Selkie Bride begins as airy folk balladry, takes traction as a propulsive rhythm section jumps in, and then takes us on a tour of British-style folk rock, with hints of sitar in the droning guitar and a furious battle as solos are traded on both guitar and fiddle. It’s an astonishing rave-up that is as innovative as it is frenetic.

The musicianship on these songs is superb, with producer James McKenty bringing his considerable chops to the sessions and prodigy Jimmy Bowskill adding passionate expertise on all things stringed. It’s a band project and the energy is palpable.

All of this is the underpinning for a series of exceptionally crafted songs. Suhr’s lyrics wander through country roads, campfire ghost tales, Scottish myth, and personal memories, mapping her own heartaches and heartbeats with lyrical precision, and creating atmospheric settings for her miniature musical dramas. And, then with the nuance and power of a talented stage actress, Kate Suhr makes us believe.

What people are saying about Kate

“You can’t take the “theatre” out of Kate Suhr. When she sings live you get a sense you’d hear her without the mics. She just cuts straight through.”

~ James McKenty ~ singer/songwriter/producer

“As Artistic Director of New Stages, I have had opportunity to witness the work of Kate Suhr and can truthfully say that hers is a unique and inspired talent, remarkable in its ability to express all nuances of humanity in her abilities as singer and actor. Kate is also loved by her fellow artists for her great generosity of spirit and her ability to connect with both audience and fellow performers heightens any theatrical experience graced by her presence.”

~ Randy Read, Artistic Director, New Stages Theatre Company, Peterborough