Ana Egge
Ana Egge
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The Chronicle Herald, Halifax, NS Canada

Born in Saskatchewan, raised in North Dakota and New Mexico and now based in Brooklyn, Ana Egge has seen her share of the world.

Halifax is part of that equation too. She’s made frequent trips here to perform and work with friends like Rose Cousins and Joel Plaskett, who even brought her along to perform in front of tens of thousands of people when he opened for Paul McCartney on the Halifax Commons.

On Tuesday, the willowy blond singer performs in Halifax, in much more intimate surroundings, at The Carleton Music Bar & Grill with Breagh MacKinnon as part of Argyle Street’s Halifax Urban Folk Festival.

The week-long event kicks off Sunday at the Carleton with the Constantines’ Bry Webb and Attack in Black’s Daniel Romano, and a full schedule, with performers like Willie Nile, Elliott Murphy and Steve Poltz.

Making her festival debut, Egge has an impressive new batch of songs under her belt, as contained in her new Steve Earle-produced album Bad Blood. It was recorded at Levon Helm’s barn studio in Woodstock, N.Y.

More than just a collection of her latest compositions, the album charts a personal journey through both sides of the issue of dealing with mental illness in loved ones, watching while they’re “breaking branches off the family tree,” as she sings in one song, but also offering hope that they’ll come through the other side of this soul-wrenching turmoil.

“There’s an interesting juxtoposition between the lilting, upbeat quality of the melodies and the feel of the songs and the content of the lyrics,” Egge says of Bad Blood’s balance between light and dark.

“It was weird to be playing them as folk songs on my guitar as I was writing them. It just felt so strange.

“But then when you put them with the band, and you’ve got this sort of push behind the music, and the fiddle dragging it, it made total sense.”

Having long favoured songs about outsiders and people on the fringe, Egge feels it was only a matter of time before she explored the situations faced by her own family members and friends while trying to broaden her own understanding of their suffering through her craft.

“I’m very aware that it’s the disease, not the person. That’s a challenge to live with, and help them come to terms with to, so they can live through it, medicate, and stay healthy,” she says.

“If they start to think they’re a bad person, it’s just going to get worse from there. Separating that from the identity is really important, and writing about the subject matter, I basically did the same thing. I took the disease and separated it from my loved ones and realized I could really let myself be angry. ‘How could you take this person over like this?’ That really freed up the writing a lot.”

Egge experienced another kind of freedom in the studio, by handing the reins over to Earle, whom she first met when she sang on Ron Sexsmith’s Blue Boy album.

At the time, they hit it off right away, but she didn’t think about working with the bearded roots music guru until now “because the songs were so intense and personal, and I felt like I was treading this line where I didn’t want to be the one that was directing what was going on,” says Egge, who knew that few musicians understand personal demons better than Earle, who was also perfect to capture the earthy, acoustic feel she was after.

“He didn’t want the sessions to leave the studio in those five days. We did everything live, with a couple of harmony vocals and fiddle parts overdubbed, but basically it was everyone playing at once, on the floor, with Steve in the centre of the circle like a ringmaster, pointing at everybody.

“It was pretty amazing.”

For a few free Bad Blood samples, visit