I first came to know of Orit Shimoni a few years back when she was in a Montreal-based duo called Little Birdie. The first song of the then-new album (Cinematic Way) was called Every Day I Fasten My Shackles. I was hooked. It was blues-inspired folk (perhaps folk-inspired blues), with soul to spare. Orit’s voice in particular connected so beautifully with that song, I became an instant fan. I couldn’t stop listening to the record for weeks. Though it got lots of CBC love at the time, the album now feels like a lost masterpiece.
Now a solo performer, and performing as Orit Shimoni, she is one of those artists that I want to see live, but have yet to have the pleasure. The live segments online show a cool confidence, and a low-key demeanor. She lives on the road (literally, she lives on the road), travelling across the world performing in cafes and night clubs. That kind of dedication to performance is rare, and her efforts have paid off.
Orit’s new album, Bitter is the New Sweet, takes Orit in new olde-tyme directions. Inspired by a lot of cabaret-styled jazz, the songs bounce along playfully. Don’t Hang Your Hopes on Me, for example, incorporates some lovely trumpet and the piano just dances around the song.
The album takes a bit of a turn when we get to Let’s Get Persecuted.
Alarming as the title is, it stemmed from a very stimulating conversation at a bar with a fellow musician, about our similar experiences with racism, he, half Native, me, Jewish. After comparing unfortunate anecdotes, and somewhat comforted by the commiseration, we both agreed on what seemed obvious: That we’d rather be the oppressed than the oppressor, and on that note, I raised my glass and sardonically said, “Let’s Get Persecuted.” He grinned, pointed at me and said, “You’ve GOT to write a song called that.” I did that night when I got home. I wrote it as a mock love song, a sarcastic invitation to bond over the shared horror.
This album has elements of both love and hate, pain and joy; it’s a touch maudlin and a touch celebratory. Overall, it’s a great success.
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