Album Review: John K. Samson - 'Provincial'

9 March 2012 | 11:20 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Folk with a twist that won't put you to sleep.

More John K. Samson More John K. Samson

You can be forgiven for not wanting to give The Weakerthans front man, John k. Samson's, newest solo effort the time of day considering how poor his last release, 2006's re-release of 'Little Pictures EP,' was. Rest assured that the singer/song writer has stepped his game up for his debut full length solo release, 'Provincial,' a record influenced by the four main routes around his home of Manitoba.

Those familiar with Samson's work will be slightly disappointed to learn that half of the album features re-recorded versions of songs from his earlier EP's 'City Route 85' and 'Provincial Road 222,' albeit captured in a much nicer way.

Slipping past the short opening, yet melody heavy Highway 1 East, the first actual song is an instant highlight. Heart of the Continent confirms straight away that this record will be the best you have ever heard Samson from a production point of view, as well as the fact that the singer has given his folk rock songs a subtle twist, like the drum beat that comes in at the half way point of the song.

Cruise Night sounds like s super mellowed out version of The Get Up Kids as it travels a long with a happy bounce, sprinkling in fuzzed out guitar solos to give some much needed grit. The softer, folk heavy moments seem to be where Samson is at his most comfortable, like the gentle flow of and sweet melodies Letter In Icelandic from the Ninette San.

To remind us all of how Canadian Samson is, is a song with lyrics that are read straight from a petition to get Reggie Leach inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame, which surprisingly works well in song form. The record becomes super chilled out for the jazz bass and brush snare driven The Last And, before closing things down with the anthemic Highway 1 West and Taps Reversed, a melancholy piano ballad with guest vocals and keys performed by Christine Fellows.

John K. Samson has been pretty hit and miss with his solo EP's but has offered his finest work to date on his first full length solo release. There are moments that many can relate back to his main project, The Weakerthans, as well as enough other colours and flavours to make his journey around the home town roads an interesting one.

1. Highway 1 East
2. Heart of the Continent
3. Cruise Night
4. Grace General
5. When I Write My Master’s Thesis
6. Letter in Icelandic from the Ninette San
7. Longitudinal Centre
9. The Last And
10. Stop Error
11. Highway 1 West
12. Taps Reversed