"Famous and influential people adore the music of Ariana Gillis. Rock critic and author Dave Marsh first brought the young Canadian singer-songwriter some deserved attention in 2011 through satellite radio. Elton John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin became an instant fan, as did Americana mover-and-shaker Buddy Miller, producer and record label exec Don Was and Canadian music legend Bob Ezrin.
If you want in on those legends and others’ secret stash of fresh new folk tunes, check out Gillis’ album The Maze, co-produced by Miller in his Nashville studio and scheduled for a June 14 release.
Gillis sells the emotion in every melodic, passionate lyric in the twangy title track, the atmospheric “Rock It Like Fantastic,” the romantic “Lost with You,” the character study “Jeremy Woodstock,” the introspective “Less of a Woman” and the raw, rocking “Slo Motion Killer.” These and five other new songs serve as a solid exhibit A for anyone questioning all this hubbub started by Marsh, Taupin, Miller and others. For less famous folks in the know, the album’s a positive sign that the creative well enriching 2009’s To Make It Make Sense and 2011’s Forget Me Not runs far from dry.
As for categorizing Gillis beyond listing off her best-known fans, she’s not just another (North) Americana artist on the fringes of the mainstream. Nor is she a throwback to anyone from the galaxy of mainstream folk stars—from Joan Baez to Joan Osborne. Instead, Gillis, age 28, has found her own voice throughout a career spanning her adult life, leading up to an album that might just sway some new celebrity admirers."
"With her waif-like vocals and softly assured melodies, Ariana Gillis possesses all the qualities needed to garner instant appeal. Already hailed at home in her native Canada, Gillis has acquired a number of prestigious awards thus far, among them, kudos as Songwriter of the Year at the 2009 Niagara Music Awards, wins for both vocalist and album of the year from that same highly accredited organization. and, a year later, recognition with a 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award as Young Performer of the Year. Those are heady accomplishments for one with only two albums to her name up until now, but likewise, it’s the praises she’s culled from some notable names -- Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin and Americana notable Buddy Miller in particular -- that suggests that credence was quick in coming.
With her third effort, The Maze, Gillis again proves that all the good reviews she’s accrued were well deserved. A superior songwriter as well as a superb singer, she provides a series of strong narratives that veer from whispered refrains to a relentless rumble. While the predominance of mellow musings suggest that Gillis is prone towards introspection and vulnerability (“We are delicate and bendable, no armor on/And that maze inside will pull you in and terrify,” she purrs on the sublime title track), there’s a decided uptick in energy on such songs as “White Blush” and “Slo Motion Killer” later in the set. And while certain song titles -- “The Feeling of Empty,” “Lost With You, “Dream Street” et. al. -- offer the impression that Gillis can be a solitary shoegazer, she dispels that notion early on with the turgid trappings underscoring the emphatic opener “Dirt Gets Dirty.”
So too, credit co-producers Buddy Miller and David Gillis for keeping the proceedings on track, and allowing The Maze to manifest as a conclusive narrative. As for Gillis herself, the fact that it’s been eight years since her last release might suggest she’s taken plenty of time to contemplate her next move. If that’s the
case, we can only hope that whatever maze she’s circulated in allows an easy exit for a quicker follow up the