Teagan Johnson is the undisputed star of this exceptional single from Canadian three piece Little Coyote, but her fellow band members Byron Patterson and Mike Poisson enhance the song’s overall effect in a way underlying this is a band effort rather than a glorified solo vehicle. The band emerged in 2017 with a debut studio album entitled The Trouble with Teeth. The song runs a little over four minutes and wastes no time bringing listeners into its musical world; the marriage of elegiac, even melancholy, piano with Teagan Johnson’s emotional vocal captures your attention from the beginning and dramatizes the lyrics without ever straining for effect. The three band members show off such confidence you might mistake them as a band who has been together for many years, but what drives this memorable fusion of progressive, alternative, and folk strands into a colorful whole is a natural confluence of chemistry we don’t hear often enough.
“Witness” gains a lot, as well, from the drumming joining the track soon after the song begins. It isn’t oppressive or overwrought percussion, in keeping with the general restraint characterizing the song as a whole, and knows when to back off. The threading of disparate musical threads into the final result will touch all but the most cynical of listeners. The song’s duration is ideal for what Little Coyote aims to accomplish and, in the end, I could have heard another minute of the band stretching out musically without ever feeling like it compromises the song. It’s rare to find or hear a song, from any act, where the various musical ingredients mix together in such a potent and effective way.
Teagan Johnson’s singing puts an exclamation point on it all. This song, even in the hands of a lesser vocal talent, would still exert quite a hold on its intended audience, but Johnson is a transformative vocal and songwriting talent capable of filling the track with a near spiritual side. The song’s title implies an autobiographical tinge to the composition the lyrics back up, but listeners will never find the content dense or difficult to relate to. Instead, Johnson and her collaborators structure the song in such a way you can take what you will from the performance while still appreciating and, most importantly, understanding how Johnson’s personal experiences make it even more meaningful.
The production makes it all come together. Despite the band’s indie status, it is clear “Witness” is far from a slapdash DIY affair. They expend a great deal of effort to present the track in such a way that each element comes alive for listeners without ever upsetting its balance and highlight one facet of the performance at the expense of the other elements. This attention to detail separates what they do from what their peers offer and “Witness” shows they are committed to progressing far beyond even their exceptional debut. Get in on the ground floor with this trio because, barring misfortune, they will be with us for years to come.
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