“Provincial” John K. Samson
Superb singer-songwriter John K. Samson steps out from his role as frontman of the popular Canadian group, The Weakerthans, with his first full-length solo CD. iTunes labels it punk, but many of the tracks here are closer to indie folk-rock-pop. Samson’s poetry is extraordinary — colorful, evocative and real. His vocals range from brash on the punky “When I Write My Master’s Thesis” to melancholy on “Heart of the Continent.” The underlying theme is Samson’s personal reflections on his life and travels around the province of Manitoba and his hometown of Winnipeg.
Recommended: 2, 5, 3, 9, 12, or 7. FCC clean.
1. (1:25) Highway 1 East — Languid ode to Samson’s varied travels throughout central Canada. Plaintive voice with brass accompaniment.
2. (4:07) Heart of the Continent — Beautifully picked acoustic guitar with Samson’s clear, soft vocals. Percussion is added partway through. ****
3. (2:32) Cruise Night — Upbeat, punky and melodic look back at nights spent cruising Winnipeg as a youth. ***
4. (3:04) Grace General — Meandering electric guitar, strings, soft horns, and pensive vocals.
5. (3:35) When I Write My Master’s Thesis — Rocking out with growling electric guitars and very clever lyrics about the relief of completing a master’s degree. Should touch home with a lot of Stanford grad students! ****
6. (4:00) Letter in Icelandic from the Ninette San — Another acoustic, indie folk ballad, with strings and even a bit of fiddle added for a country flavor.
7. (2:37) Longitudinal Center — Driving pop-rock number featuring Samson’s strident vocals and electric guitar virtuosity. **
8. (2:10) www.ipetitions.com/petition/riverton — A ballad promoting a real petition to induct local hockey player Reggie “The Riverton Rifle” Leach into the Hall of Fame.
9. (4:15) The Last And — Soft, slow song about love lost. ***
10. (2:25) Stop Error — Acoustic, indie folk-pop with a melody that reminds me of Paul Simon’s “American Tune.”
11. (3:24) Highway 1 West — Big, punk-edged ballad about being caught in a bad situation, unable to get out.
12. (3:35) Taps Reversed — Starts with approx. 5 seconds of background noise. Piano-backed duet with his wife, singer/songwriter Christine Fellows, describing the many challenges of daily life. **