John K. Samson : Provincial
On which John K. Samson cements his rep as a major narrative songwriter and underlines his importance to The Weakerthans. Not that there’s anything here that’ll startle a Weakerthan's fan but there’s enough so’s you know this is not another Weakerthans workout. Known for being sharply observational without going judgemental, the boy sure can split a hair. Check the way he deals with his love/hate relationship with hometown Winnipeg in "One Great City."
Elsewhere it’s all about the dichotomy of leaving in and leaving out as laid out by a guy with a longstanding rep as a lyrical powerhouse in the indie/folk community.
"Provincial" is Samson at his relatable best on the topics of wanderlust, isolation, spiritual elation and the chance of getting back to where you’ve never been. At one time or another everyone's felt excluded like the teacher in "The Last And", angry like the student in "Master's Thesis" or jammed up like the character in "Heart of The Continent".
Much is being made in some circles of the fact some of these songs have been released before. If you haven’t heard them before you won’t care because the quality is there. Plus, they're fleshed out and much improved from the earlier versions, especially "Grace" and "Stop Error". The latter, which began as a vocals only song, with Samson accompanied by a choir, is now a heavy, driving rock out. The new tunes are classic Samson, tight narratives sparked by subtle and oft-incongruous wordplay. Album opener “Highway 1 East” sets the tone, with John’s vocals about a character in the middle of nowhere, the melody accented by a very un-Weakerthans horn section.
You’ve likely already heard first single “When I Write My Master’s Thesis” and its catchy rhythm and sparkling guitar lines help establish Samson’s solo vibe.
As does, in a very different way, “Longitudinal Centre”, an excursion into angst-driven dissonance with Samson pissed off about being stuck directly in the center of the continent.
He takes it all down a gorgeous notch for album closer “Taps Reversed”, Done as a duet with wife Christine Fellows, the piano-only track is a statement moment, a definite non-Weakerthans moment, and the message is received. John K. Samson can have two careers anytime he feels like it.