Karla Adolphe is a firecracker. To witness her ancient, booming voice rising from a young and unassuming woman feels like a miracle. One bellow and Karla Adolphe commands a room–especially an intimate room like Red Deer’s The Space. Karla thrives when connections can be made with her listeners. Her heart beats for creative people and when she performs that heart nearly bursts. With all of this electricity, it’s hard to believe Karla Adolphe has never released a live recording. Until now.
Karla Adolphe’s new EP, simply titled LIVE AT THE SPACE, offers us five songs. Five entry points into her musical journey. It starts simple enough with Trouble Won’t Go, a tune from Karla’s Enter the Worship Circle collaborations. Group percussion reverberates from the walls. Karla hums electricity. Things are warming up. Then the stomps and the claps. It’s all a bit of Serena Ryder until the lyrics ring out like an old spiritual. ‘Trouble won’t go and peace won’t stay …’ Then the group chimes in and we’re in gospel territory.
Right from the first track you get the impression that Karla is not performing for people, but creating with them. This is what Karla Adolphe does best–offer an experience we can enter into. Spiritual energy is hard to capture on tape, but this EP comes close.
Magnolia introduces Karla Adolphe set to bluesy electric guitar. The first new track on the album, Magnolia emerges from a smokey back room to give us a taste of Karla’s future–gospel-blues with a swagger you can feel in your bones. Like most Karla Adolphe songs, the lyrics are simple enough to sing along by mid-song. When you want people to jump on in, simple lyrics offer a wide open door.
Ice Road comes next–a tune from my personal favourite Karla Adolphe project thus far, 2012’s heartbreaking album on grief, Honeycomb Tombs. ‘If I, if I trust you, will you get me through…’ sing Karla and her band of harmonizers. It’s a beautiful question to sit with half way through this project.
Grounds for Love is another new track, and to my ears the most beautiful on the album. ’Oh my beloved, I’ve seen you run / to the edge of the yard / to the edge of your heart’. If there is a message woven through every song Karla Adolphe has ever written, it may be this; you need to let God love you. You are loveable, and the Maker of all has more love for you than you could hope for. If you can just get past the shame and grief and doubt–or enter through it–you’ll discover the match to light your waiting heart. This is the message of this song, and it comes through without preaching. Without force. Softly, gently as the ‘ooh oohs’ that carry us out.
Child of the King is an old favourite for Karla Adolphe fans, but the arrangement is new. The chords have deepened. There is a slight dissonance and openness. More wrestling and tension than when we last heard this track. It all resolves into a gang chorus and the fullest band on the entire project. A celebratory send-off. A benediction from the artist with a the bleeding pastoral heart for her hearers.
In the end, LIVE AT THE SPACE feels more like a visit with an old friend than a roaring concert performance. Like any good live recording, this one makes me want to be there. I want to be in that little room, hearing the slap back as I stomp and clap and snap along. I want to hum along as I feel Karla’s deep hum in my throat. I want to feel that palpable energy.
The new tunes make me hopeful for what is coming next from Karla Adolpe–a new album that’s been cooking for a long while. Until that collection of songs arrives, this one makes a nice stocking stuffer.