I am not inherently attracted to earnest piano-based ballads, let me make that clear. Neither am I inherently oriented to videos, as any number of you already know by now, by the sheer tiresomeness of my haughty disclaimers over the years. And yet here we are: an earnest, piano-based ballad that sold itself to me to a large extent on the strength of its video. (See? I do watch them intermittently. And post them; see below.) With the wisdom of (many) years, I have come to embrace these kinds of contradictions. Who the hell wants to be that consistent, anyway?
Now then, the video of “The Weight of it All” is actually a guitar version, the song stripped to its essence and performed, almost as if an afterthought, live and uncut on a residential Halifax street. (Yes it appears to be Halifax week here. Don’t knock it; the music up there is ever vibrant and worthy.) Taken together, the video and the sound recording highlight different aspects of Harris’s soul and spirit: the video places her in three-dimensional space, and gives us an immediate, visceral affinity with her rich, athletic voice; the audio, meanwhile, in slowing the song down, allows us to savor the depth and nuance of her presence and delivery in a more contemplative way. The song itself likewise benefits from this dual presentation. The sound recording scores via its sensitive, dramatic (but not over-dramatic) production, with percussion, pedal steel, and backing vocals used with precision, giving the slower tempo a vividness unmarred by the histrionics we are all too often subjected to when mainstream music aims for emotion. The video, on the other hand, finds its power in the guiding pulse of Harris’s resolute right hand and of course the appeal of her unassisted voice, rendered all the more touching as she stands in the street and we watch and hear cars go by, with unseen birds likewise adding to the soundtrack. When she is joined later and unexpectedly by a chorus of five singers, linked arm and arm just beyond the original frame of the video, the song’s cumulative force feels instant and fresh. (Don’t miss Harris’s not-quite-masked smile—around 2:33 in the video—as she anticipates the entrance of the chorus just before the rest of us either hear or see them, a moment of unpremeditated humanity that underscores the beauty and authenticity of the performance.)
Based in Halifax, Harris is originally from Newfoundland. “The Weight of it All” is a song from Only the Mighty, her debut full-length, released at the end of February. You can listen to the whole album, and purchase it, via Bandcamp. Only the Mighty was produced by Dale Murray, who, among other things, is a member of the band Cuff the Duke (featured here way back in 2005, the year Murray joined the band).