On one end of the spectrum there are varieties of the Begonia which can be a dark, grievous, rough around the edges. And on the other end, a petite, elegant flower. In between, the plant attempts to harmonize its two poles, forming an array of varieties that each borrow from the delicate and the unseemly. It is in this same vein that Begonia (Alexa Dirks) finds herself, trying to find a balance.
Known for her voice in the Juno Award winning harmony driven group Chic Gamine, Dirks has a timbre that recalls the golden age of soul, proud and courageous. And yet it still returns to the ground, finding a quietness, a hesitant intimacy. Joined in studio by producers Matt Schellenberg (Royal Canoe) and Matt Peters (Royal Canoe, Close Talker), the collection of songs that forms Begonia’s Lady In Mind lets the extremes of Dirks’ past and present coalesce into a sound that is both battle hymn and breakbeat body mover, incorporating themes which are confident in and of themselves, and yet sometimes caught in the middle.
Guided along by 90s synth waves over top of a warm rhythm section, title track “Lady In Mind” questions what it means to be woman. Raised on a healthy dose of religion, the rhapsodic church organs and gospel clap alongs of Dirks’ formative years are blended with staccatic, static beats on “Juniper”. Both songs of love and loss the Motown tinged “I Don’t Wanna (Love U)” brings her soaring register to the forefront while the indecisive ballad “Hot Dog Stand” questions whether or not it’s fine to be alone. Closing track “Out Of My Head” returns to a celestial swell to support a blue-collar rebel yell.
Having spent much of the last ten years on tour, the tracks on Lady In Mind were penned on the road or during brief stops at home in Winnipeg. The layering of acoustic instruments with modern synths, and the duality found in both her songwriting and the name Begonia are very much informed by the way in which Dirks finds herself in everyday life - a young, virile woman who, sometimes to her own chagrin, prefers a grandmother’s aesthetic of fake flower and doilies. Compounded by Dirks’ musical upbringing of 90s R&B, 70s folk, and Fiona Apple each taking up equal space in her discman, this leaves her trying to bridge the gap between old and new, between fire and lace. Entangled in the middle of it all, we find Begonia, the place and sound where Dirks is most comfortable, and yet still questioning how it is she ended up there.