I get to hear my fair share of Americana artists, every so often I need to go off and fill my ears with some jazz or rock just to ‘clear the palette’ so I can return, refreshed with cleared ears to music which can sometimes drift into being something every creative mind dreads; ‘Samey!’
There are the US bands that play the genre so well, years of country heritage flowing through their instruments makes it hard not to like. Then there are the solo artists with their stripped back, cooled down version where intimacy rules the roost. And then there are the foreign interlopers, those from other countries that love the music but need to put on some form of accent to be accepted into the gang, Britain has it’s fair share of men from the Midlands pretending to be from the Deep South. But across the border from America lies Canada which has its own blend of Americana and, arguably, this music can be more interesting, grander in its scope and more about the bigger picture than songs about the Sheriff’s daughter.
This is where we find Canadian mainstay Stephen Fearing (for those in the know that name will forever be connected with the band ‘Blackie and The Rodeo Kings’) who, on his thirteenth solo album must be doing something right because his records garner praise the world over.
And, it’s easy to see why.
The album is a little like watching a duck float across the water, it seems totally at ease, born to do what it’s doing and pretty difficult to move from it’s course. His voice isn’t the strongest, it’s a result of years of singing, gigging, recording and experience but, like all great songwriters, he has the ability to write for his voice and this writing style sits firmly in the storytelling mode.
We have a calm start with ‘Break Our Mothers Heart’ and ‘Gold On The River’ before we go into rock mode with ‘Stay With Me’, a poppish, rocky, country track that moves the feet and will get you singing along before it ends.
At his best Fearing is a powerful deliverer of songs, his bass voice hints and murmurs through ‘Marie’ and ‘Someone Else’s Shoes’ with it’s clever chords (a fan of Eric Clapton?) and interesting breaks. There is much here to enjoy, it’s an album clearly written by someone with such a grasp on the genre that he’s able to drift and blur into other areas, often within the same track.
‘Christine’ is a song Little Richard would have screamed out for back in the fifties but is delivered just on the right side of the street to feel at home on a country album, it would have been easy to bring in a wailing guitar solo with thunderous piano underpinning it all but it still feels like it could have been played on the porch overlooking the front yard.
It’s a tasteful, grown up album by a man who has been knocking albums out of the park for years and shows no real sign of stopping.