Posts Tagged ‘Saskatchewan’

This group of siblings and childhood friends originally formed more than a decade ago. Growing up in scattered small towns across the Canadian prairies, Andy Shauf, Dallas Bryson, and brothers Darryl Kissick and Avery Kissick eventually found themselves under one roof in Regina, Saskatchewan, where they completed work on what became this album: Foxwarren. 

In the release of Andy Shauf’s side-band debut album, nearly a decade in the making, there is much of The Party’s deserved success. The style of the record is very much in the vein of Andy’s solo release, again a blend of Elliott Smith’s attitude and vocal style and a taste for 70s songwriting and arrangements (Randy Newman being a personal hero for the Canadian).

Foxwarren is a nice compendium to The Party, in the sense that all those who were left enchanted by that record will likely appreciate this new one. There are some more “self-standing” instrument themes, like the sparkling guitar riff in ‘Fall Into A Dream’ or the motoric arrangement of ‘Everything Apart’, where Andy peeks into a slightly more modern, “experimental” songwriting style.

The Party had a revivalist style and it was a record that clearly was produced and created by a single mind. Despite not being cutting-edge avant-garde or the best song Andy’s written, ‘Everything Apart’ promises, instead, possible fruitful interactions with other creative minds.

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In general, all the songs probably lack the conceptual allure of The Party’s almost cinematic setting, or even the melodic clarity of Andy’s previous songs. So Foxwarren represents a sort of B-side collection to his solo record, and maybe also a way to close a very relevant artistic period.

Released November 30th, 2018
Foxwarren is:
Dallas Bryson,
Avery Kissick,
Darryl Kissick,
Andy Shauf,

all songs written and arranged by Foxwarren 

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Colter Wall is a 22-year-old from the pitiless plains of Saskatchewan, where the cruel winters and endless horizon can drive the even warmest souls to the bottle and age a man five years for every one. Maybe that’s why his deep, dark voice and tales of lonesome cowboys, jealous lovers and violent vagabonds cut so deep. On his self-titled debut full-length, Wall clambers through his country blues with an acoustic guitar and little more, every spare string echoing with the old soul of a human glacier in perpetual search of another train to hop—a jug of wine in one hand, a buck knife in the other. On slow-freeze songs like “Thirteen Silver Dollars,” “Codeine Dream” and “Transcendent Ramblin’ Railroad Blues,” his burnt rawhide voice reveals a frontier poet of the first order, and one the most exciting young talents in country music.

Country music is full of songs about small-town fuck-ups, but the title characters in Colter Wall’s “Me and Big Dave” are running so wild they’re no longer sure if they’re chasing something good or running from something bad. Singing in that ocean-deep voice, Wall ends the song with an existential epiphany: “This whole world’s full of ghosts that I believe that most folks can’t see, the particular demons that reason with Big Dave and me.”

Taken from his “Colter Wall” debut 2017. Young Mary’s Record Co. Colter Wall is one of country music’s most exciting young voices. His debut album is strange and stirring, rarely ever rising above a gentle rumble.

Rarely ever rising above a gentle rumble, Wall’s songs zoom in on haunting scenes and resolve in unexpected ways. They gain their intensity from his vivid, fragmented storytelling. The album begins with “Thirteen Silver Dollars,” a spirited ramble that finds our narrator lying in the snowy streets of Saskatchewan before a cop comes to take him away. Wall never explains how he wound up there (“For now we’ll say I had no place to go,” he offers) or what happens next—there’s not even a second verse. Instead, he closes with a rousing repetition of the chorus, proudly naming the few possessions he owns. It’s a fitting introduction to an album built from small details, conjuring larger pictures with what’s left out. Wall’s aversion to narrative spans the record and makes these songs a lot more hallucinogenic than their earthy arrangements suggest. “Kate McCannon” is told through one of folk music’s oldest tropes: the dual love song/murder ballad. But Wall offers little time for reflection, fading out shortly after the cathartic and inevitable round of gunfire in the song’s final couplet. “I ain’t in the business of making excuses,” Wall sings earlier in the album, and he doesn’t. As often as he references guns and drugs and death, Wall is too plainspoken for his stories to ever feel glamorized or romantic. Like Springsteen on Nebraska, Colter Wall surveys mankind in its most fragile states—betrayed, lonely, desperate, dangerous—as a means of addressing how much we have to lose, how easily it can all fall apart. “You Look to Yours” offers the album’s most useful (and timely) bit of advice: “Go about your earthly mission,” Wall sings, “Don’t trust no politicians.” Tellingly, the wisdom doesn’t arrive from Wall himself but from a series of women eloquently turning him down in various seedy bars, their kiss-offs echoing in his head as he stumbles home alone. Hummable and warm, it’s one of the album’s most upbeat songs, effortlessly summoning the honky-tonks Wall sings about with a lazy swing. “Motorcycle” is another moment of levity with a cheerful melody that masks the death wish driving its lyrics. The friction in Wall’s delivery highlights the genre’s ability to blend pain and joy past the point of differentiation: a power he seems to harness intuitively. The album was produced by David Cobb—the go-to guy for breakthrough acts like Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and Chris Stapleton. But Cobb takes a decidedly unmodern approach, letting Wall’s songs speak for themselves. The two songs on the albums that Wall didn’t write (Townes Van Zandt’s “Snake Mountain Blues” and the traditional “Fraulein”) slip seamlessly into the tracklist: an indication of just how gloriously out of touch his writing is. In the slow, ominous “Me and Big Dave,” Wall revels in his outsider mentality while conceding to the dangers of a life spent alone. “This whole world’s full of ghosts,” he concludes, “I believe that most people can’t see.” It’s one of the album’s most powerful lyrics, sold with a fierce and frightening conviction. For 40 minutes, Colter Wall brings you face to face with his ghosts until they’re so familiar you can hardly remember life without them.

© Chris Graham Photo 2014

When it comes to lyric writing there are, as the saying goes, many ways to skin a cat. Some go political, others poetic, some dress up their lyrics in metaphor, others just seem to babble complete nonsensical rubbish, However, one of the oldest and most oft repeated methods of lyrics is to take the route of the raconteur and tell us a story. Being modern world dwellers, we often now think of stories and literature as interchangeable; but of course we’ve been conveying events far longer that we’ve been writing them down, and ever since some clever clogs went and invented music we’ve been using that as one of our favourite methods of telling tales. Folk music in particular has been used as a way to pass stories on from person to person, long before we began recording music, and that influence remains a strong factor in songwriting within more modern folk musicians.

There’s plenty of fine examples of musical raconteuring, Whatever method people use to tell their story, or the story of others, the tradition of storytelling through song seems to be alive and well.

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Andy Shauf is a solo artist in the truest sense, playing and arranging the entirety of his music.

The heir apparent to Elliot Smith’s crown as the master of emotive and intimate song-writing. Andy largely wrote his debut album on his grandfather’s acoustic guitar, and accompanies it with a subtle pallet of gently metronomic drums, perfectly judged splashes of piano, and a decent amount of surprisingly pleasant Clarinet. We’ve never been huge fans of the instrument, but Andy uses his, a Christmas present from his family, to add a warm, smoky sway to proceedings that transports him from the isolation of snowy Canada to the bars of New Orleans.

Andy Shauf is from Regina, the capital city of the Saskatchewan province in Canada. Regina is home to Canada’s oldest continuously performing orchestra, which conjures up the image of a rather elderly man who’s been playing the tuba for ninety years without a break. Famous Regina residents include Naked Gun and Airplane star Leslie Nielsen, professional wrestler Brock Lesnar and Blues guitarist Colin James.

Four years of writing and one year in his make shift studio in his parents basement has resulted in his debut album. The Bearer Of Bad News finally saw the light of day when it was released by Portland based label Tender Loving Empire last June .

For a debut album, The Bearer Of Bad News is a frighteningly accomplished piece of work. Musically, it would sit neatly alongside the likes of Jonathan Wilson, Hiss Golden Messenger, or Hurray For The Riff Raff as modern day masters of the Americana sound. However, whether it’s Andy’s snowy Canadian routes or just his outlook on life, it’s a noticeably colder affair. His tales have a sense of darkness, whether he’s discussing heartbreak, spinning one of the three murder ballads that appear on the album, or even revelling in small town heroism, Andy’s tales always seem to possess a dark side, Perhaps unsurprisingly from a man who’s grown up in a region of Canada that regularly reaches twenty degrees below zero in winter, isolation is a key theme of the album; particularly evident on the entirely heartbreaking Covered In Dust, where over a downbeat twanging guitar, interspersed with morose cello embellishments, Andy paints us a picture of his own death-bed noting “I will die a poor man, covered in dust, dreaming of you”. Whilst on the beautifully produced Lick Your Wounds he suggests he will, “fall in love with my own loneliness” and on the emotive piano led I’m Not Falling Asleep he pleads for company asking an unidentified other to, “please stay a while, I’m not falling asleep.”

Wendell Walker is a powerfully dark tale of adultery and betrayal with a horrific ending that we’ll leave you discover yourself; it’s highly reminiscent of Mark Kozelek and Jimmy LaValle‘s You Missed My Heart. The album ends with two entwined tales: Jerry Was A Clerk and My Dear Helen, which offer different takes on the same tragic tale of a break in gone wrong, and accidental killing, whilst My Dear Helen is particularly wonderful; a piano ballad with the warmth of Jonathan Wilson, which entirely belies the songs dark lyrical undercurrent.

Perhaps our favourite moment though is the excellent The Man On Stage. Starting with loops of feedback; it resolves into a mellow guitar accompanied by some gentle drums, as Andy labels himself as, “the man on stage slurring your favourite songs, making up a few words as I go along” as if he’s been doing this for years, the source of his mallaise gradually unfurls once the chorus, oddly upbeat, in tempo at least, and recalling the excellent Jacob Golden, see him repeats the lyric, “I am not a poet I’m a broken heart”. There’s a beautiful simplicity to the way he writes, never more so than on this particular track.

Well perhaps you’ve guessed by now, but this album isn’t exactly a joyous affair; it’s moody, downbeat, even at times a bit miserable. Exactly how we like it basically, but it’s probably not for everyone.

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