After a two-year break following a 13-year binge on touring, Rachelle van Zanten is refreshed and back on stage with her slide guitar in support of her new CD Oh Mother.
van Zanten took the stage at Glenwood Hall Thursday evening in front of a packed house and had everyone smiling and swaying to the music.
“There’s really a true joy in delivering a really good live show,” van Zanten said.
“I’m starting to feel that excitement again.
“I’ve got my mojo back.”
The renewed excitement about performing live, van Zanten said, is in part thanks to playing with a fresh set of musicians who add to the creativity of the songwriting process.
“They’re an incredible band from all over the globe,” she said.
Oh Mother and the songs on the CD are, van Zanten said, a tribute to her mother who passed away not long ago, the joy of experiencing motherhood for the first time and an homage to Mother Earth.
Van Zanten took up the slide guitar when she was 17 after she saw Lester Quitzau perform at the Midsummer Music Festival.
“It just enthralled me, it moved me, it reached the core of my being,” van Zanten said of Quitzau’s skill on slide guitar.
She squirrelled up enough courage and asked Quitzau how to play slide guitar.
Quitzau graciously gave her a steel slide and showed her the basics.
“I’ve been unstoppable ever since,” van Zanten said.
When she’s in writing mode, van Zanten said the music typically comes first as she plays on her guitar.
“Usually a motif or a line will stick and I just keep going for it,” she explained.
“The whole mood of the music will evoke the lyrical content of the song.”
The mood underlying many of van Zanten’s songs, including some on Oh Mother, shine light on the plight of the environment and people crying for help and the stories people from around the world share with her.
The messages in her songs have led some media to refer to van Zanten as a social activist, a label she admits to wearing proudly.
“It makes me feel good standing up for people and their belief system,” she said.
“A lot of people are overwhelmed with all this development coming in.”
Her most famous song, My Country, is precisely one of those songs.
“That’s one of those songs I needed to work out because I felt it was a very important message,” she said referring to the plight of Tahltan women protecting their land and the Sacred Headwaters against coal bed methane extraction by Shell Canada.
For fans wondering if she will play My Country, van Zanten was emphatic.
“Oh yes, that’s my Stompin’ Tom Connors’ Good ol Hockey Game,” she said.
“I’ve got to do that one.”