September 18 — “Sparrow” by Basia Bulat

Basia Bulat

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Sparrow” by Basia Bulat (2010, from the album Heart of My Own).

Basia Bulat (pronounce it like Bosh-uh Boo-lot) is a folk singer and multi-instrumentalist from London, Ontario. She grew up with a lot of exposure to music, as her mother taught guitar and piano. By the age of three, she was already taking lessons. Now she plays guitar, piano, dulcimer, autoharp, banjo, flute, saxophone, and ukulele, among others. As you all know, I’m a sucker for Canadian women who play folk music on four-stringed instruments. The facts that she’s both attractive and charming are bonuses, but they don’t really play into it at all. I have no choice but to be a big fan of her music. Seriously, though. Watch an interview with her, and you’ll immediately identify with her. She’s real. I think we all know someone who she reminds us of.

She always loved playing music, but never really planned for it to be her career. While she was earning a degree in English from the University of Western Ontario, some friends encouraged her to play an opening gig for Julie Doiron. She earned accolades, and before too long, she was making records.

In 2005, she self-released an EP, and was quickly signed to Rough Trade Records. They released her debut album —Oh My Darling in the spring of 2007. That album was later rereleased by Hardwood Records, which is owned by Canada’s best sad bastard/indie folk singer, Hayden.

Oh My Darling was shortlisted for the 2008 Polaris Music Prize. She did a lot of touring for that album, specifically in the United States. The songs that eventually became her second album —Heart of My Own were both inspired by and written on the road.

Heart of My Own was also warmly received. Not just by the folk and country crowd, but by everyone. Most reviews were very favorable, and the album was longlisted for the 2010 Polaris Prize.

While most of her stuff is multi-layered arrangements, this one is really simple. Just a uke and her voice. As much as I like the way the autoharp sounds, and as much as I like guitar and drums and all that jazz, I like this one much more. So Elegant and so beautiful.

“Sparrow” by Basia Bulat

EDIT: The song has been removed due to a copyright claim.

She’s said that she doesn’t really mind when people interpret her songs in a way that isn’t what she intended, even if they get something that’s completely opposite of the perspective from which she wrote. I don’t really know what this song is about, but I like to imagine that it’s about a relationship that’s sort of doomed. One party is patiently waiting for the other to get over a former lover before they invest too much of themselves.
Maybe, alternately, it’s about someone who keeps going back to a doomed relationship despite their friends’ advice. Either way, I’m getting that it’s about a doomed relationship, and a third party having hurt feelings about that. I may be way off, but that’s what I get.

I’m not citing this as an example or as justification of my interpretation, but I really like these lines:

You have not stolen dear,
but I can clearly see
The horns and shells you’re holding here
One day the one you battle might be me

Blackbird, go lost
I will bring her back to you in spring
She won’t change at all
Let your sparrow fall to what might be

She won’t change at all
Let your sparrow fall

The vinyl edition of Heart of My Own is out of print, but you can buy a CD copy here.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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