Canadian singer finds self with Church House Blues

Crystal Shawanda

I was a late bloomer and didn’t start listening to Crystal Shawanda until her fifth studio album Fish Out of Water (2016). That was my loss, but perhaps in the stars since it was around then she switched from being a country star, and turned to her true love, the blues.

Crystal was born in Wiikwemkoong First Nation, Manitoulin Island, Ontario. Her surname translates to “Dawn of a New Day.” That translation turned out to be the title of her first album in 2008.

That album entered the Canadian Country Albums chart at number 2, and the Billboard Top Country Albums chart at number 16. It became the highest charted album by a full-blooded Canadian First Nations country artist in the SoundScan era.

By 2009, she toured both Canada and the United States with Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley as a special guest on the Paisley Party 2009 tour. Her first single, “You Can Let Go,”peaked at number 21 on the Hot Country Songs charts.

She had moved to Nashville, but admitted later in an interview, she wasn’t really following her heart.

“The whole time I was singing Patsy Cline on stage, I was singing Etta James at home,” Crystal said.

In 2010, the Canadian artist released a single, “Beautiful Day,” via her own label, New Sun Records. She also performed at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2010, performing “Let's Come Together” and “This Is My Land.” She then released another single, “Love Enough,” on Aug. 15, 2011 in both Canada and the United States. Her second studio album, Just Like You, was released by New Sun on April 24, 2012.

Now Crystal has released Church House Blues, 10 tracks which showcase the stunning lady’s vocal prowess and songwriting abilities.

“This is the most I’ve ever loved an album out of everything I’ve ever done,” Crystal said. “This is really who I am. It’s my most definitive album yet. All these songs reflect different aspects of who I am. It’s putting a finger on that definitely. I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m just being me. I’m done with trying to fit in.”

I can feel her confidence, and that she has really grown as an artist, more relaxed, and I feel her disappearing into the music, as all great singer, songwriters do.

“I veered towards the blues because that’s the music I love to sing,” Crystal said. “It feels so natural, the kind of music I was meant to sing. It’s a beautiful release. It’s like letting a bird out of a cage. This is what I’m supposed to do. This is how I fly.”

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