Cornflower Blue can be found in a box of Crayolas, a crop field, a Vermeer painting and, though not known by many, in Ottawa, Ontario.
The azure shade was adopted by Canadian musicians Trevor May and Theresa McInerney for the electric folk adventure they initiated a few years ago.
Cornflower Blue just seemed to be an appropriate color to represent the in-between of melancholy and cheerfulness that pervades their music. If they’re going to color their music blue, it might as well be one of the most attractive blues.
Primarily May on guitar and McInerney on vocals, Cornflower Blue is the result of a nearly 20-year partnership that started when Theresa took the mic at a house party where Trevor’s band, EFARM, was playing. The dynamism between the two was instantaneous, and McInerney joined the group.
Deciding to work solely as a duo, McInerney and May became Cornflower Blue in 2006. Their first album, 2010’s “Infant Songs,” featured sparse instrumentation and focused on their vocal melodies and guitar accompaniment.
On the second go-round, McInerney and May decided to return to the full band approach. They are joined on their latest album by violinist Deanna McDougall, bassist Dasha Korycan and drummer Rob Macleod. The group independently released “Run Down the Rails” in January 2012.
May and McInerney continue to conduct the music on “Run Down the Rails,” but it is much more of an ensemble album than their previous. Their harmonies and Trevor’s guitar remain at their core, but the other players provide the embellishment resulting in Cornflower Blue’s more voluminous presentation.
A notable and valuable addition is that of McDougall, whose violin just seems to be the element making some of the album’s songs complete. Its addition, as well as May on the mandolin, give them a country and Americana edge that adds dimension to their sound. It’s amazing how a few notes from these instruments can alter a song. “Morning in the Burned House,” for instance, is a much more effective song due to the emotionality carried into it by McDougall’s bow.
Familiar to few outside of Ontario, Cornflower Blue is hoping to reach a wider audience with “Run Down the Rails.” May said the band does not aspire to be big stars, but only to have their music heard by more people. Fortunately for them, there are a few songs on the album that, given the appropriate attention, could expand them outside of their base.
“Car in the Parking Lot” is the songwriting highlight of the album. McInerney sings of being “free of freedom for now” after the loss of someone close. The folk and rock combo and the wistful singing conjures Cowboy Junkies, which is required listening in Canada.
Cornflower Blue takes on The Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues” for the final and possibly best song of the album. The cover is more subdued than the original, but is a more than competent attempt at one of country rock’s best songs. McDougall’s violin shines here again alongside May’s spirited mandolin, and McInerney dazzles with her feminine take on the manly song.
Much of the rest of “Run Down the Rails” is not nearly as memorable, but it is pleasant. At eight songs, half of which are outstanding, the album would be a valuable addition to the library of alt-country and Americana followers.
For more information on Cornflower Blue, visit http://www.cornflowerbluemusic.com.