She’s barely into her 20s, but Ellen Froese-Kooijenga is already a seasoned veteran of the Canadian music scene.
A founding member of “In With the Old”, Froese-Kooijenga has two albums with that band (Rollin’ down the plains and My Mother’s Couch) under her belt as well as a solo album (Get On With the Blues). She’s played in coffee houses, concert theatres, folk and bluegrass festivals across the country, and even a few in the US. Her songs reflect the influence of folk, blues, country, bluegrass, rockabilly and modern alt-rock; and she delivers them in a captivating voice with a distinctive quaver reminiscent of Joan Baez.
Her roots run deep, and she finds her greatest satisfaction in writing songs at home on her parents’ farm north of Martensville, where she grew up.
Her latest album, entitled simply ‘Ellen Froese,’ is a mix of original material and cover songs.
It was completed in early September on the eve of her western Canadian tour. She’s back in Saskatchewan now, and set to play a concert in Saskatoon on Friday, October 13 at the Underground Cafe, 430 – 20th Street West at 8:30 p.m.
“I wanted to do this album in a real old-fashioned folk style,” said Froese-Kooijenga. “We recorded most of it on tape in the cabin in my back yard.
“There are six originals and six covers of older traditional folk tunes.”
The cover songs by the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Paul Burch, Bert Jansch, Blaze Foley and Dick Blakeslee are all tunes that made a deep impression on her as she was growing up.
“I picked a few that were inspiring to me,” she said. “And they fit with the kind of stripped-down, early 1960s folk albums style that I wanted to recreate on this album.
“There’s something very real and genuine in that sound.”
Her own material includes “New Years,” “I Wish I had a foot-long cigarette”, “Oh Alice,” “Life, Oh Life,” “I’ll Try,” and “In Our Time of Dyin’.”
She said she writes the music and lyrics simultaneously.
“I usually sit down with my guitar, strum a few chords and build a melody and then start writing,” she said. “The best songs come out when I’m feeling some kind of strong emotion, whether its joy or sadness.”
Froese-Kooijenga said while booking tours, recording and marketing CDs and online songs is an essential part of the music business, her real passion is writing and performing.
“I try and balance things out,” she said. “I need to make sure I’m doing all this for the right reasons. The most important thing for me is to make sure I have time to write songs.
“If I’m spending more time marketing and booking than I am practicing my guitar and writing songs, then I need to make a change.”