ANA EGGE at the Dakota (249 Ossington), Friday and Saturday (January 18 and 19), 7 pm. $10. TW. And February 21 to 23 at the Delta Chelsea Hotel (33 Gerrard West) as part of Folk Alliance International. folkalliance.org. See listing.
Ana Egge will spend most of this year on the road touring her seventh album, Bad Blood, out on Ammal Records. She spent most of last year on the road, too. And the year before that, and the one before that, in part as a backup singer/musician on Joel Plaskett's 2009 Three tour.
"I love cooking and napping and reading, and I also love, love, love life on the road," says the folksinger/songwriter from her home base in Brooklyn. "The freedom of exploring new towns and back streets, thrift stores and diners - I find it all very romantic."
Besides, nomadic living is what she knows best. A child of hippie parents, she spent most of her youth moving back and forth between a farm in North Dakota and a hot-springs commune in New Mexico. The experience, which she recalls with fondness, readied her for an indie musician's often inelegant existence - the commune had no indoor toilets - and also set her on her career path.
"We lived on this beautiful piece of land that has natural hot springs, so there was communal nude bathing. I was a very shy kid," she says. "I loved the outdoors, though, so building forts and playing in the creek was heaven. And growing up around so many creative adults instilled in me [the idea] that life as an artist was possible."
On Bad Blood, in a clear, laid-back alto and thoroughly unique cadence, Egge vividly conveys the pain and confusion of struggling to acknowledge and understand the mental illness faced by some of her family members. Lucinda Williams once called her "a folk Nina Simone," which seems about right.
The album's dark mood (offset by orchestral touches), troubled characters and spacious production, which came courtesy of Steve Earle, who recorded it at Levon Helm's studio in Woodstock, New York, evokes the rust-coloured, arid landscapes of the southwestern States, with their lurking rattlesnakes and prickly scrub oaks.
So what did Egge learn from the Americana titan?
"That ideas have energy, and time's a-wasting," Egge says. "When something comes clear, do it right now! Don't wait to put on your coat - the train's leaving. That's his approach, and it's infectious in the studio. It all went so fast, with nothing wasted."