Ferron has had one of the more difficult to follow careers even among singer/songwriters who emerged in the late '70s and early '80s, a time when singer/songwriters were no longer in fashion. She released her first two albums, Ferron (1977) and Ferron Backed Up (1978) independently in her native Canada. They went out of print quickly, and she declined to reissue them, instead mining their contents for her later records. Testimony (1980) and Shadows on a Dime (1984), originally released on Lucy Records, established her as a North American presence; she toured in the U.S. and built up a following especially among her fellow lesbians, though none of her introspective lyrics really justified the "women's music" tag. Then she gave up music for a while, retreating to Canada. She re-emerged with Phantom Center (1990) on the short-lived Chameleon label, and then issued a live album, Not a Still Life (1992) and Resting with the Question (1992), an album of instrumentals, on her own Cherrywood Station label. Surprisingly, she was signed by Warner Bros. Records, which released Driver (1994), a remixed version of Phantom Center (1995), and Still Riot (1996). Inside Out: The IMA Sessions (1999), an album of cover songs, followed on Cherrywood Station. Now, finally, there is Impressionistic, a double-disc compilation covering the years 1980 to 1996.
Ferron and her compilers have taken tracks from Testimony, Shadows on a Dime, Phantom Center, Not a Still Life, Driver, and Still Riot and sequenced them not in chronological order, but rather in an order that responds to various themes and, roughly, to the singer's autobiography. For example, after the discursive "The Chosen Ones" (from Still Riot) serves as an introduction, "Girl on a Road" (from Driver) follows, taking the listener back to the singer's departure from home. "Misty Mountain" (from Testimony) explores early spiritual questioning, and "Shady Gate" (a 1983 copyright from Not a Still Life) recalls the breakup of the singer's parents. On "Shadows on a Dime" and "Our Purpose Here" (from Testimony), she reflects on her early adult changing from a factory worker into an itinerant musical performer. All these songs are among the first 11 tracks on the first disc, while long, philosophical tunes such as "Cactus" and "Maya" (both from Driver) come late on the second disc, which concludes with the gospel-styled "Still Riot," an expression of cautious optimism that ends the album repeating the phrase, "There is a way through constant sorrow."