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“Low and Lowly:” AV and the Inner City’s first single of 2024

The group, formed off a porch in McCauley during the COVID-19 pandemic, kicked-off 2024 with the release of a special song. They plan to release new music and continue performing.

Ignoring painful or tough feelings often feels easier than confronting them. But, we eventually need to face the hard emotions we’ve bottled up. AV and the Inner City invites us to sit with our feelings and sing of the pain and beauty in life in the group’s new single, “Low and Lowly.”

The group’s founder and leader, Ann Vriend (AV), takes control of the tune with her powerhouse vocals, backed by sustained chords that are shy at first. When the group joins in, adding layered harmonies resembling that of an angel choir, any listener will find AV’s notes tug on their heartstrings: “Sing the heartbreak … but sing the beauty, even though, low and lowly, now I know.”

The lyrics build-up to a powerful vocal performance by AV, strengthened by a loudened choir. At it’s peak, the synthesis of the song’s components empower the listener to sing as well.

AV’s plans to record “Low and Lowly” derailed, ends up being “so much more suited” to the group

The lyrics to “Low and Lowly” were co-written by multi-instrumentalist Dave McEathron and AV over ten years ago. McEathron, who’s currently based in Toronto and Hamilton, worked under the same manager as AV at the time.

Seeking co-writing opportunities, AV met with McEathron in Toronto. He showed her the song he was working on, but expressed that he was struggling with some of the chords. AV helped with the harmonies and chords, and “Low and Lowly” was created.

“I really liked it, but I didn’t ever record it,” AV said. She explained that the song didn’t belong in the record she was working on at the time. “I was going to put it on the next record that I was going to make, and then I ran out of money, as one does.”

AV’s plans for the song were further derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it was at this point that AV and the Inner City formed. The group got its unofficial start by performing in McCauley, a neighbourhood in Edmonton. In September 2023, they released their first song, “Nobody Is You.”

The group is comprised of five other talented members: Johwanna Alleyne, Crystal Eyo, Jenn Dahlen, Debbie Houle, and Alenka Lundell. AV realized that “Low and Lowly” would be “so much more suited to this group” than her as a solo artist.

Houle explained how AV presented the song to the group in December 2023. The song was recorded and the final mix was shared with the group. Houle said she was simply aware of how it sounded. But, she had an entirely different listening experience when she listened to the final mix again, shortly before its release.

“It blew my mind. I actually got a little bit emotional,” Houle described. “I’m extremely proud of this song.”

Houle went on to tell the people in her life to listen to the song as it “gets you in all the feels.”

AV and the Inner City anticipates new single, currently recording a CD

In 2020, when the group unofficially formed in McCauley, AV didn’t have a long-term vision. AV and Houle both shared that they had no idea the group would become successful so fast.

“I don’t think we ever envisioned that we would come this far in such a short time,” Houle said. After the group officially formed in 2021, they did a showcase at the Toronto Blues Society for the Toronto Blues Summit in 2022. That performance immediately got them a gig for the 2022 Calgary International Blues Festival.

“From there we got three major festivals for 2023. It’s almost unheard of to get festivals like that with no recordings,” Houle explained. “I think it speaks to the quality of songwriting, the musicality of this group, and the story.”

AV and the Inner City is currently working on recording a CD, and is anticipating the release of a new single on May 24. AV encouraged listeners that want to stay up-to-date with the group’s music and upcoming performances to sign-up for their newsletter.

Lily Polenchuk

Lily Polenchuk is the 2024-25 Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 Managing Editor, 2023-24 and 2022-23 News Editor, and 2022-23 Staff Reporter. She is in her second year, studying English and political science.

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