Jon Middleton and Sierra Lundy took a trip from their home in Victoria, British Columbia to Rochester New York. Their first time to the US as a married couple, or at least their first as the couple making up the band Ocie Eliot, 2022 Juno Award nominees for Breakthrough Group of the Year. It was also their first show of 2022.
The sparse but beautiful space in the Arbor Loft was the perfect environment to take in Ocie Eliot’s likewise sparse and beautiful music. Middleton led the way with a captivating picked guitar melody, or rhythmic strums. Lundy coaxed gently shifting organ tones or at times short melodic piano lines out of her small Mellotron keyboard. Occasionally dual harmonicas or amplified foot stomps added depth and texture. But throughout, their voices, particularly in harmony, highlighted each song, punctuated with poignant and familiar lyrics.
When you haven’t played much in two years time, even old songs can seem new. Ocie Eliot spent much of the pandemic writing and recording, releasing four EP’s in that time. Songs like “Take Me Home” felt fresh to introduce, but as noted by Lundy, it isn’t really all that new anymore. And songs written in the before-times, like “Alive and All,” though released during the pandemic, felt more like a reaction to it: “And I want to yell from a hill, I’m alive / and I want to cry out until, I am fine.”
Interspersed with their originals, they worked in some more familiar material, to this American audience at least. Covers of some of the best songwriters around in Gillian Welch’s “Miss Ohio” and Simon and Garfunkel‘s “The Boxer”, provided a bit of grounding. A more obscure cover of Youth Lagoon’s “17” provided some late show sparks however, as they took a more ownership with their own spin.
Still, the highlights came in their own songwriting. Their strengths all collided gloriously in “Coming Home,” complete with a dual harmonica interlude, and again midway through the second set on “Run To You,” with its syncopated piano and guitar elevated the vocal harmonies. Long walks on an abandoned rail line inspired “Tracks,” which worked repetitive lyrics into a near round, building to a familiar train-themed harmonica finish. An emotional Lundy explained how she sang “Forest Floor,” her father’s favorite song, to him recently on his death bed. A slow-grooving rocker that again, felt more like it would have been inspired by his passing: “Through the light softly the colours storm / And we both come to falling / Let me down easy, baby /Lay me down on the forest floor.”
A portion of proceeds from all Honest Folk shows benefit the Center for Youth in Rochester, but for this show, 100% was donated. There’s a promoter in it for all the right reasons. And they continue to bring in great folk shows to town, next up being Dead Tongues at Good Luck on on May 15. Get your tickets!