Mama’s Broke have spent the past eight years in a near-constant state of transience, pounding the transatlantic tour trail. They’ve brought their dark, fiery folk-without-borders sound to major festivals and DIY punk houses alike, absorbing traditions from their maritime home in Eastern Canada all the way to Ireland and Indonesia. Nowhere is the duo’s art-in-motion approach more apparent than on their long-awaited sophomore record Narrow Line (coming May 13, 2022 on Free Dirt Records); it’s the sound of nowhere in particular, yet woven with a rich synthesis of influences that knows no borders. The eleven songs on Narrow Line burrow deeply, with close harmony duets, commanding vocals, and poignant contemplations on cycles of life, including birth and death. Tinges of Americana stand side-by-side with the ghosts of Eastern European fiddle tunes and ancient a cappella ballad singing, melding into an unusually accessible dark-folk sound. A careful listen of Narrow Line invokes an ephemeral sense of place—whether real or imagined—inviting us to take comfort in the infinite possibilities of life, whether or not we ever choose to settle down.
For a group defined by constant touring, it’s not surprising that the two artists that make up Mama’s Broke, Lisa Maria and Amy Lou Keeler, met on the road. As Lisa remembers it, “Amy was driving her old Mercedes from Montreal to Nova Scotia and I was looking for a ride. We spent the 17 hours in the car talking almost exclusively about music. By the time we reached Halifax we started playing together, and within a week or two became a band.” Both coming out of travelling communities that are focused on music and protest, the two owe the way in which they move through the world to the integrated and self-sustaining nature of DIY culture and activism. It was a busy life that took them on a roundabout annual touring schedule running between Canada, the United States, Ireland, the UK, and Europe. In each country, they built grassroots DIY communities to support their music or moved along the pathways of communal organizing that sustained other touring artists.
The driving force behind this band is – and has always been – the commitment to challenge borders between people, places, and traditions; while encouraging freedom of expression and community through music.
The friendship and musical collaboration of these three musicians came alive in a golden wave of
underground traditional and folk music in Dublin. The three were performers and musicians in their own
right and took part in one anothers’ creative projects over the years. In the summer of 2018, their shared
interest in traditional singing led the three to travel across Eastern Europe learning folk songs. During this
trip they developed an intricate and harmonious dynamic which has led them to working together on a
collaborative project. Having spent the lockdown composing a number of a cappella songs around the
themes of mythology, folklore, landscape, loss and the otherworld, Branwen Kavanagh invited Anna-
Mieke Bishop and Zoé Basha to collaborate on arranging the songs for an upcoming album for three
voices. After two months of development residencies in county Clare, Killyon Manor (Meath) and
Killruddery House (Wicklow), followed by a sold-out Irish tour in 2021, they recorded an album together,
to be released later in 2022.