In March 2020, Canadian folk & country artist Sarah Jane Scouten was living in rural Scotland. With tours cancelled, days stretched endlessly, punctuated only by the steady unfolding of Scottish springtime, leaf by leaf, petal by petal. Growing up on the west coast of Canada, to her the flora of Dumfries and Galloway was a pageant of scent and colour, altogether new but still strangely familiar.
This is where Sarah Jane was initiated into herbal medicine – hawthorn, valerian, yarrow. The plants’ subtle power drew her onto an unexpected path. In May 2020 she applied to a professional programme in herbal medicine in the UK. Training in an entirely different field gave her perspective and space from a career in music which demands everything. It renewed Sarah Jane’s love of live performance, which had been diminished by life on the road. Studying herbs, and just as importantly people, gave her music a deeper dimension and she began to write again. Now for the first time this decade, she is releasing new music.
Sarah Jane Scouten’s upcoming fifth album Turned to Gold (Light Organ Records) is a road trip album, drawing on Tom Petty, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Christine McVie. Opening up the record, “Wanderlust” is a highway dream. “Wilder When I Was With You”, with its irresistible chorus, was co-written with Samantha Parton (BeGood Tanyas). “Rose and Carnations” is a tribute to John Prine and “The Great Unknown” reveals a family experience of medical assistance in dying (MAID). For the title track “Turned to Gold”, Sarah Jane revisits the impact of the sudden loss of her biological mother, exploring the theme of alchemical transmutation. Made in a heatwave in Vancouver, she collaborated with producer Johnny Payne (The Shilohs), Matt Kelly on keys and guitars (City and Colour), Leon Power on drums (Frazey Ford) and James McEleney on bass (Andrew Collins Trio).
Sarah Jane Scouten has been nominated for 4 Canadian Folk Music Awards, a Western Canadian Music Award and an International Folk Music Award. She has performed at Vancouver Folk Music Festival, MerleFest, Calgary Folk Music Festival, Salmon Arm Roots and Blues, Dranouter Festival, Maverick Americana Music Festival and more. She has opened for Corb Lund, William Prince, Ron Sexsmith, The Sadies and shared the stage with Martha Wainwright, The Strumbellas, Allison Russell, Martin Carthy, Mandolin Orange (Watchhouse) and more. According to CBC q’s Tom Power, "Stan Rogers was able to do it, Ron Hynes was able to do it, Kate McGarrigle was able to do it – and Sarah Jane Scouten is able to do it."