Old Cabin is the project of Whitehorse, YT based songwriter Jona Barr. Personal, but with a national vision developed through extensive touring and collaborations, Jona’s songs are expansive enough to accommodate large arrangements and intimate enough to be performed solo, always with sincerity, honesty, and an in-the-moment spontaneity. Old Cabin has performed at Dawson City Music Festival, Pop Montreal, Up Here, and Summers End Folk Fest, and shared stages with The Wooden Sky, Basia Bulat, Joel Plaskett, Michael Feuerstack and many others. His latest album Saturn Return was released in August 2016 by Label Fantastic.
The first two songs on Old Cabin’s Saturn Return form a suite. Where Did You Go begins with a loping guitar figure, reverbed ambience, Jona Barr’s voice at a distance, confessing “I don’t know where we all go”, hi-hats keeping a drifting time. We have a sense of something lost or slipping away, and we’re waiting, unsettled by the swelling French Horn. When the beat steadies and a violin plays a beautiful repeating melody we’re roused but uncertain: “let me die” Jona sings. We reach a crisis of stasis and crash into ?!? in need of release. Exuberant energy alternates with dragging half-time, detailing the wild swings of someone dealing with addiction. It ends in a chaos of noise, the orchestra blowing out of time and tune: is this a break down or crescendo? Is this an escape? It’s an ambitious opening, beautifully orchestrated and wonderfully played, in content and form displaying an exciting new phase for Old Cabin.
We can see the horizons have expanded from the personal concerns of previous releases Old Cabin (2013),Growing Up Young (2012), and a split EP with Old Time Machine (2012). If this is not surprising given the extensive and persistent touring Old Cabin has undertaking over the last five years, driving across Canada and back from his home in Whitehorse, YT, meeting people, collaborating with so many musicians, we must still credit the imagination: Jona’s songs are looking outward, sympathetic to those struggling with addiction, to victims of residential schools (Don’t Leave Me Behind), challenging the homophobia of a peer (Joe), grappling with the absurdities of modern North American life (I Got You). These are songs intended to join conversations.