Two albums in, Erin Costelo seems destined to establish herself alongside the top tier of today’s most expressive soulful singers. It’s a quick ascent to be sure, especially since her debut album Down Below, The Status Quo was released only two years ago. Nevertheless, given its flood of rave reviews and the anticipation for what would follow, this Canadian chanteuse clearly has craft and charisma needed to sustain her momentum.
Despite occasional comparisons to Nina Simone, Bettye LaVette, Mavis Staples and Peggy Lee, Costelo’s sultry and suggestive sound takes on a tone and timbre all its own. Her melodies rarely rise above a whisper, but her smooth delivery creates an alluring appeal that encourages an audience to lean in and listen.
For the most part, Sweet Marie maintains a more nocturnal ambiance, a sound that’s well in keeping with a jazzier inclination. Smooth and supple, her voice manages to create an emphatic impression simply by manipulating the mood, veering from sensual and suggestive one minute to playful the next. The upbeat appeal of “All In Your Head,” with its bouncy rhythm, Stax-style organ and soaring brass, adds a decidedly dazzling appeal, while the bluesy inflection of “Hands on Fire” asserts Costelo’s confidence as a torch singer of creedence and conviction. Likewise, the pulsating piano framing “Epilogue” adds an emphatic energy to the proceedings. then there’s “My Love,” a song which emerges from a slow build to a triumphant refrain to become one of the standouts of the set overall.
Recorded in a seaside house in her native Nova Scotia, Costelo supposedly intended to convey a concept that has to do with the impact of the maritime industry on her native environs. However it’s easy enough to be seduced by the allure of these melodies alone, which makes most attempts at conveying a deeper meaning a moot point. Truth be told, Sweet Marie soars all on her own.