When Nathan stepped onstage last Saturday night to kick off a night of Canadian crooning, the wait for the new Sings Like Hell series was well worth it. The two lead singers, Kerri Latimer and Shelley Marshall, tiny gamines with mind-blowing vocal chops, alternated lead vocals with smart and surprising lyrics set to polkas, waltzs, and alt-country tunes while Damon Mitchell played drums, guitar, and even harmonica.
The band’s name comes from a real-life polygamist with poor planning who was dating both women when they first met at a party. So they ditched the guy and made a band, hooking up with Mitchell and bassist Devin Latimer. Yes, Kerri gave up Nathan and found a bassist instead. And with Canada’s large Slavic community, they’ve since found an unlikely following. According to Latimer, the band’s “big in Russia.”
One of the highlights of the evening took place when Latimer broke out a theremin, one of the oldest electronic instruments. What could have been a gimmick instead provided a haunting melody, reminiscent of an opera singer’s aria, adding an extra textual layer when accompanied by Marshall’s accordion.
Nathan proclaimed themselves unabashed fans of Corb Lund, and the moment he and the Hurtin’ Albertans took the stage, it was no wonder that the group’s been touring constantly. With an upright bass to tote around, the ensemble has its challenges. “It’s great at shows, but difficult at airports,” Lund said of bassist Kurt Ciesla’s monstrous instrument. Lund, white cowboy hat cocked low over his eyes, was also accompanied by drummer Brady Valgardson and Grant Siemens on guitar.
With his ensemble by his side, Lund’s rumbling voice turned out tunes of history, grief, cattle ranching, and the wildlife of Alberta’s expanse. When I woke up the next morning still singing one haunting lyric-“The antelope mourns the buffalo in the night”-I knew it had been a good show.