Which Way To The Flip Side? Double Single Shows Two Faces Of Janet Panic

One of the hardest decisions a recording artist has to make is which single to pull to accurately represent their new album. For Indigenous, Sechelt, BC-based folk-popper Janet Panic, the ultimate answer was “Why choose?” That’s why she’s heralding her latest record, A Mighty Rip Through the Page of My Life, with a double-A-sided release that showcases two distinct aspects of her highly compelling musical personality.

On one side, we have “Goodbyes”—which, given the title of the album, might seem to portend a seriously bitter kiss-off. But this is actually an exquisite breakup song that’s exactly the sort of loving benediction you’d hope to receive from a partner when things finally reached their end.

“May all the troubles that you spoke of/ Be blessings in disguise,” Panic coos, with the utmost sincerity. “And the obstacles you face/ They shrink as you rise/ And I wish you goodbyes/ Goodbyes.”

Panic’s husky yet tender voice is the perfect conduit for her message of good will, and so is the musical arrangement—the kind of gospel-tinged, dirty-fingered country rock Sheryl Crow learned from the Rolling Stones after they had borrowed it from Gram Parsons.

On the other side, “I Forgot” strikes a distinctly more downbeat tone, telling the first-person tale of a child who was ripped from her family and raised among strangers. The almost playful singsong of the vocal melody is in direct contrast to the mournful lyric and the accusatory drums that slam like jailhouse doors shutting off access to the past.

And I don’t remember freedom
Don’t remember how to talk
I don’t remember my family
I forgot

Panic says the song is based on the real experiences of some of her own friends and relations. “They were each placed with well-meaning families, but of a completely different culture and skin colour,” she says. “One thing I noticed that they have in common is deep remorse for forgetting any memory of who they were and of their times before. They long for the missing pieces of their identity that can never be known.”

That’s a tragedy of particular relevance to Panic, whose heritage is Métis from the Red River and Fort Carleton area and whose maiden name is Pruden – Panic is the surname of her Serbian first husband.

The double single is a tantalizing appetizer for A Mighty Rip Through the Page of My Life, a 10-cut collection of folk-roots numbers Panic calls “raw as road rash, bare as your birthday suit, and melancholy as first love.” They’re “songs about relationships,” she says—whether the relationship in question is with a hoped-for soulmate (“Live to Grow Old”), a lover whose habits are starting to grate (“Critical Slow”) or just a certain illicit substance (“Mary Jane”).

In keeping with the theme, the relationships between the players were particularly tight-knit. Janet’s husband, Will, plays bass on the record, and the drums are by one of his old friends and bandmates, Craig Wright (who now plays with Nashville singer-songwriter Eric Church). Some of Wright’s colleagues were brought in to augment the album’s acoustic sounds with electric guitar and pedal steel. At the writing level, the kinship was even more baked-in: Panic co-wrote songs with her husband, her father, and her brother-in-law.

“This album is about connections both in terms of the lyrics and in terms of how it was made,” Panic says. “Everyone chipped in to make a family.” Even the ones who weren’t already related.

A self-described “Bohemian-Métis” artist, Panic already has more than four solo records under her belt, multiple appearances on major Canadian TV networks to her credit, and a slew of awards honors on her CV. In 2011 alone, she was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award and an Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Award. Her subsequent release, Samples, was named Best Folk Album at the 2012 APCMAs and netted her a nomination in the 2013 JUNO awards.

The new record is bound for even greater glory. It’s economical of sound yet expansive of mood; clever of thought yet never taken with itself. And with “Goodbyes/I Forgot” as its striking introduction, it’s certain to turn heads. For the legion of new fans she’s about to earn, the relationship starts here.