Here’s a clip of modern-day proto-electric rural blues stylist Little Miss Higgins (sometimes known as Jolene Higgins when not on stage), hailing proudly from the heart of the Canadian Praries – Nokomis, Saskatchewan to be exact. It’s a rendition of her affectionate ode to her surroundings, “Middle of Nowhere” originally to be found on her 2007 album Junction City, as well as on the live document, Little Miss Higgins Live Two Nights in March.
A lot of great music has come out of the supposed backwaters of the world. The Canadian Prairies is such a place; geographically isolated perhaps when compared to urban settings. Yet it’s in place like this where tight-knit communities are found to treasure that unique simplicity of living. In the more desolate places, celebrating the joys to be found in simple things is part and parcel toward defining what ‘home’ means. And perhaps the end result leads to a greater attachment, and a deeper sense of belonging.
This is one of the appeals of Little Miss Higgins’ “Middle of Nowhere”. This song is all about defining what ‘home’ means. The place in this song may be a featureless place on the surface, but it is ultimately full of singular character. This makes the song a concentrated shot of the culture and attitude out of the place from which it comes. This can be said for her entire oeuvre, love letters to her home as it is.
Musically speaking, there is of course a heavy debt to the rural blues and country music of the pre-war period. This is a good fit when it comes to LMH’s subject matter, which is about collecting little snapshots of a place that, perhaps in the minds of many who’ve never been there, exists in 1930s sepia-tones. And even to those who are from there, the sense of community bound by common experience isn’t crowded out by slick arrangements.
In short, the music is entirely appropriate to its subject matter, and packed to the brim with unbridled affection and charming self-deprecation.
I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Little Miss Higgins perform with her musical colleague Foy Taylor (also featured in the above clip) perform at the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival this year. The performance was charming, raw, hilarious, and just plain warm. LMH was like an ambassador from the rural Prairies, making ‘the middle of nowhere’ sound like a vital, and welcoming somewhere, even for us city-folk.
For another wonderful clip of Little Miss Higgins, check out this blog post from my friend Emme Rogers, which features a clip of LMH’s performing another tune of hers – “Me and My Gin”
And for more information still, including news about the new Across the Plains album, check out the Little Miss Higgins website.