Nicholas Krgovich’s calm reserve becomes a celebration of Veda Hille’s poetry rather than a reworking of her music.
When most teenagers get into Canadian singer songwriter music, they start with the big names. They rock out to Neil Young, or hide Buffy Sainte-Marie and Joni Mitchell deep in their headphones. But when Nicholas Krgovich was a teen he had a different songwriter hero: fellow Vancouverite Veda Hille. Though most of his peers haven’t heard of Hille, young Krgovich understood she was a wonderful storyteller who could mist oddly specific details into a cloudy poetic vagueness.
Krgovich found Hille on a college radio station as a teenager. When he was 15 years old his ragtag highschool band recorded a couple Hille covers and, after one of her shows, he nervously handed her the tape. Twenty-three years later, Krgovich has covered Veda Hille again with his new album, This Spring: Songs by Veda Hille. Krgovich covers sixteen Hille songs with the musical sophistication of the professional he is now and the excitement and passion of the teenage fan he was then. This Spring is a tender tribute to one of Canada’s often overlooked songwriters.
Like all great songwriters, Hille’s music is hard to categorize. Her rich lyricism suggests folk music, but her elegant and sprawling piano playing verges on jazz. She uses triumphant horn arrangements, rock ‘n’ roll percussion, eclectic guitars and, when in doubt, she strips it all away for her bare bones vocals and piano. When genres and categories give out, only adjectives remain. Veda Hile’s music is always contemplative, intelligent, and passionate.
Because Hille’s songs are so malleable, Krgovich is able to bake his own unique talents into the music. The simplicity of Hille’s original tracks leaves lots of space for Krgovich to experiment, fusing jazz arrangements and pop production. His gentle jazz style fills in this space and brings some more body to Hilles’ often sparse music. Because of the instrumental richness on this album, Krgovich restrains his vocals, softly singing lyrics that have meant so much to him for so many years.
“Plants”and “Noah’s Ark”have the most jazz influenced arrangement, with syncopating percussion, dreamy bass and bold changes. “Born Lucky”has similar qualities but with a reggae-style organ and backbeat thrown in for some unexpected flavour. “Burst-Neighbourhood Song” and “Luckylucky”are much poppier production-wise. Despite Krogovich’s sonic experimentation on all of the aforementioned stand-out tracks, nothing can distract from Hille’s lyrics. No amount of soft saxophone or synthesizer can obstruct the rhapsodic strength of lines like: “Light and dark chase each other / the silence is full of sound, the green is full of colour / here is a picture and there another,” (“Noah’s Ark”). And this seems like Krgovich’s intention. Though there are new and beautiful arrangements, the calm reserve in Krgovich’s performance becomes a celebration of Hille’s poetry rather than a reworking of her music.
It’s like someone saving a baby bird, softly handling its delicate form while building a strong and supportive nest to cradle and protect it. With This Spring,Krgovich helps Hille’s music fly again.