Venue: Napoleon Home Comfort, 24 Napoleon Rd. Barrie, ON
The Heartbroken are not easy to categorize. You could call the music they write and play country-rock, country-folk, country-pop, alt-country, or Americana. Any and all of those labels are correct. It really depends which song on their superb debut album, Tonight Tonight, you are listening to. It may be their first record together but collectively the band members have years of songwriting, recording, and touring behind them.
The most well known member of the band is lead singer/guitarist Damhnait Doyle, who as a solo artist (and as a member of pop trio Shaye) has had hits across all genres. Guitarist Stuart Cameron (son of the late great singer/songwriter John Allan Cameron) has recorded and toured with many artists including Ashley MacIsaac, Crash Test Dummies, and Mathew Good. Blake Manning (David Wilcox, Jesse Cook) is a multi-instrumentalist/ vocalist and Peter Fusco (Gordie Sampson and Leahy) a veteran bass player.
Tonight Tonight might as well be a bandage for bleeding hearts and souls around the world. It is a visceral reaction to the blows of life and love, a moment to enjoy being on the ground, because you know you are going to be that much stronger when you get back up.
The Heartbroken recorded the album at The Tragically Hip’s famed and maybe haunted studio, which used to be an old coach house in Bath, Ontario. They walked in the door and didn’t leave until they finished nine days later and you can hear it all on the tape, every drop of love and life between them. The members of The Heartbroken had been friends for years and knew that the best times they ever had were sitting around the kitchen table, having a few drinks and playing songs, so they decided to write their own, go out, play and well, drink some more.
The Heartbroken started playing live with an acoustic residency at the Three Speed in Toronto and then on to the legendary Dakota Tavern (owned by Shawn Creamer of the The Beauties), where they stood up, plugged in and played so hard, they almost fell over. Their sound is entirely original, unique, and heartfelt (at times achingly so) featuring Doyle’s beautiful and powerful lead vocals accompanied by Manning’s harmony duet on nearly every track. It becomes apparent with multiple listenings that this is not a Damhnait record with a few guys backing her up, this is a ‘band’ in every sense of the word.
The Heartbroken wrote and produced Tonight Tonight and Stew Crookes (Hawksley Workman, Justin Rutledge) engineered and mixed the album. Whether they’re on guitar, piano, mandolin, drums, banjo, bass or monosynth, it doesn’t matter who’s playing what, they are lungs to heart and heart to blood.
Here’s The Heartbroken performing ‘Seventeen,’ live from The Dakota Tavern, from the CMT TV special The Dakota Sessions.