Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine have come a long way in a short time.
Since meeting as high school students in 2002, the two best friends — who perform together as folk-pop duo Dala — have crisscrossed their native Canada, emerging as sharp songwriters and soulful performers in the tradition of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Tom Cochrane.
More recently, the pair has reached wider North American audiences thanks to their PBS special Girls From the North Country and a live album of the same title — Dala’s fifth, but first on a U.S. label.
Next month, Dala will present an intimate evening of folk classics and original songs as part of the Edison Ovations Series at Washington University in St.Louis.
The special one-night-only performance begins at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18. Tickets are $35, or $30 seniors, $25 for Washington University faculty and staff and $20 for students and children.
Tickets are available at the Edison Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
Walther and Carabine first met in high school jazz band, performing covers by the likes of Frank Sinatra. But one evening, sitting at home as a party began winding down, the pair was inspired to attempt an original work.
“We wrote our first song with the only four chords we knew,” Walther recently told NPR’s Folk Alley. “It was magic. We just had so much fun, it snowballed from there.”
“Over the years we found our voices together,” Carabine said. “I think that because we’re such close friends, the writing process is an extension of the communication that happens anyway.”
In 2003, Dala — a name formed by combining the last two letters of each artist’s first name — signed a development deal with Big Bold Sun Music and two years later released its debut album, This Moment Is a Flash.
Within months, their contract was picked up by Universal Music Group (a subsidiary of French media company Vivendi), which released their next three albums — Angels & Thieves (2005), Who Do You Think You Are (2007) and Everyone is Someone (2009) — in Canada.
In support of these recordings — which together collected five Canadian Folk Music Award nominations — Dala has toured extensively throughout Canada, with occasional forays to the United States and United Kingdom. In 2009, they were the only Canadian act invited to The Newport Folk Festival, and also have been featured on Mountain Stage, World Café Live and Pete Seeger’s Clearwater Festival.
For Girls From the North Country, Dala was joined by other contemporary female singers from Canada, notably The Good Lovelies and Oh Susanna. Interweaving original songs with works by Dylan, Mitchell, Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot, the concert — released as both a CD and DVD — earned Dala a 2010 Canadian Folk Music Award for Vocal Group of the Year and a 2011 Juno Award nomination for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year.
“Dala seem bound for a loftier place where substance stands equal to style,” notes The Irish Times, which named “Everyone Is Someone” its 2009 album of the year. The Bluegrass Special adds that, “Dala writes terrific original songs and approaches its intelligent covers with respect for the originals and an understanding of how to bring a fresh perspective to the time-honored texts of great songwriters.”
“There’s nothing pretentious about Dala’s music; it’s stripped down and laid bare,” says Andrew Craig, host of the CBC’s Canada Live, adding that, “it would be just as at home in a 1960’s coffeehouse as it is now on the contemporary concert stage.”
Founded in 1973, the Edison Ovations Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis.
Edison programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors. The Ovations season is supported by The Mid-America Arts Alliance with generous underwriting by the National Endowment for the Arts and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18
WHERE: Edison Theatre, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
TICKETS: $35; $30 for seniors; $25 for WUSTL faculty and staff; $20 for students and children. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.
SPONSOR: Edison Ovations Series
INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543 or edisontheatre.wustl.edu