Evangeline Gentle’s self-titled debut is infused with a tenacity of spirit and a determination to find the good in the world.
I have impossibly high expectations of anyone with the surname Gentle. Some of the best, dearest people to me are named Gentle, and while I don’t know if my friends are related to singer-songwriter Evangeline Gentle, I do know that they all come from the same Northern Ontario sensibilities. Though they were born on the northeast coast of Scotland, Evangeline Gentle is based in Peterborough, whose burgeoning arts community is birthing some of the country’s sweetest, richest, most heartfelt music lately. That sensitivity is writ large all over Gentle’s self-titled debut, an album infused with a tenacity of spirit and a determination to find the good in the world. Though they recognize theirs may be an idealistic view of the world, Gentle is first and foremost a realist and their songs are grounded in both personal and universal experiences of human-to-human connections.
“Drop My Name” is stellar songwriting and acts as Gentle’s unofficial bio. Gentle says it’s a song “about knowing what you’re worth, when you’re being taken advantage of, and when to walk away,” and it practically trembles with vulnerability and strength: “I’m nobody’s toy / I’m nobody’s second-best,” they sing, digging in and sticking to their convictions in the face of indifference. Gentle’s natural country sensibilities comes pouring out of “The Strongest People Have Tender Hearts”, the album’s warm, sympathetic centre. It’s a showcase for Gentle’s innate storytelling abilities and their soaring, sombre voice. Like most of the album, “Ordinary People” and “Sundays” stick close to folk/roots-rock’s playbook, but Gentle and producer Jim Bryson know just when and how to bend the rules, injecting moments of modern flourishes in Gentle’s otherwise traditional arrangements.
There’s much in a name, as any artist who has released an eponymous record can attest. It takes a person of resolute constitution and an artist at peace with their creation to feel comfortable and confident enough to put their name both in front of and behind their work. I may have lofty expectations of anyone named Gentle, but they’re nowhere near as high as the self-imposed expectations Evangeline Gentle has — and exceeds — of themself.