Eric Volmers--Guelph Mercury (Guelph, Ontario)
front page: Arts & Leisure section, Friday Feb 11th, 2005

Girls with glasses
Four women -three of them wearing glasses because they need to and one just to fit in - head out on tour, swapping songs and stories

It was during an appropriately hazy and musical meeting in Guelph last year that the idea for "Girls Who Wear Glasses" began to take shape.

The tour, which arrives at Guelph's e-bar on Sunday, brings together four female folkies, three of whom wear glasses, in a sort of brainy version of the estrogen-heavy Scrappy bitch tour. It started in Toronto on Wednesday, hits Hamilton today and London tomorrow.

But it was Guelph where the idea was born.

Spoken word artist Evalyn Parry, ex-Julia Propeller chanteuse Brenda McMorrow and acoustic up-and-comers Karyn Ellis and Allison Brown all met at a conference for the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals at the University of Guelph in October.

They bonded at an impromptu jam session in a Guelph hotel room during a late-night run through John Prine's Angel of Montgomery.

"The jam devolved at one point," said Toronto native Karyn Ellis. "There was this banjo kicking around. I don't really play, but I picked it up and we started doing this Pink Floyd banjo thing. By the end of the meeting, we had come up with the whole idea that we might work well together."

Prior to the tour, the four had not officially performed together. Nor had they actually rehearsed as a unit.

But they are planning on showing a unified front.

McMorrow, while blesses with 20/20 vision has even agreed to don glasses for the show to fit in with her bespectacled sisters.

"We are going to get up on stage and see what happens," Ellis said. "We're all adventurous girls here."

Ellis, who describes herselph as 30-something, is enjoying a career renaissance of sorts after a few years of self-imposed exile from performing.

Her six-song EP Bird, released in 2003, captures her penchant for quirky folk-pop balladry.

But she's no stranger to sharing the stage with others. In fact, her debut public performance was at a singing contest at a cheesy holiday resort in Guadeloupe.

She was nine years old and scored first prize, a 12-year-old bottle of single malt scotch. She declined the prize and decided instead on a round of chocolate ice cream bars.

"I was a bit sad later," she said. "by the time I was old enough to drink, it would have been a really mature bottle of scotch. Instead I went for the ethereal sweet treat. It's one of a few regrets in life."

Anecdotes like that are likely to be a part of the festivities on Sunday, where the four promise to swap songs and stories and engage in some acoustic jamming.

Allison Brown, 27, said she hopes the show shows that the world of female acoustic performers has many flavours.

Parry, who was a hit at last year's Hillside Festival, mixes spoken word into her performance, offering humour and politics.

McMorrow, who led London, Ont. rockers Julia Propeller through the 1990s, offers more rock-based material, while Brown owes more to the folkies of old.

Brown is planning on recording her debut album in the spring, which could include Woody Guthrie and Stephen Foster tunes.

The show, she said, should offer a fairly throrough revue of American genres of the past and present.

"It will be kind of like a workshop," she said. "We'll all be up on stage together, playing each other's songs. I think it will show the diversity of styles and people are going to see how well these styles gel together."

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