Review : John K. Samson - Provincial
SputnikmusicLike one of the characters in John K. Samson's stories that can't focus on what makes him happy through all the slips and tangles, for a while I didn't understand Provincial in the way I've come to do. First, thrown off by its close ties to Reunion Tour, I stumbled through the relationship between songwriter and band, and prepared to write that this solo LP was merely the softer side of The Weakerthans revisited. And, to certain extents, I was right - it certainly relies on picked guitars more than it does momentum. But the point I want to make about Provincial is that "to certain extents" doesn't cut it; this album is one which requires a measure of commitment, and still doesn't quite resolve itself - but why should it have to?
It was in the lyrics of "The Last And" that I found it. Hidden after a puzzling petition-come-song and understated by its lethargic rhythm, Samson details the bit-part role one teacher plays in another's life, returning to the heart-sinking line, "I'm just your little ampersand." The images he creates on this depressing lament best embody how Provincial's nature is that of the best works of fiction; there's space here - moreso, even, than when Samson sang "I stood there on a chair and watched you pray" to close "(hospital vespers)" - and this is a record which invites you, and in parts needs you, to build in those places.
So Provincial is, perhaps, everything you would expect from the man who wrote the songs to which an audience fell silent on Burton Cummings Theater: beautiful, melancholic, based in the real world but never confined to banalities. Slightly more reserved (nothing on the record quite reaches the energy of "When I Write My Master's Thesis"), it is nevertheless capable of things a Weakerthans record might not always be. Among those: the piano-led closer "Taps Reversed", which closes the record fittingly with a sigh; and the last, droning words of "Grace General" - "What will I do now? What will I do now?" Delve a little deeper, of course....full text
PastemagazineJohn K. Samson, the frontman of Canadian folk-punk band the Weakerthans, has branched out to write his debut solo record Provincial, due out Jan 24. via Epitaph and Anti-Records. The album contains re-recorded tracks from two previous EPs, but a fresh batch that explores landmarks from Samson’s life in Manitoba.
The album’s 12 songs are each marked by symbols to show which Manitoba road they are set on—Highway 1, City Route 85, Highway 23, and Provincial Road 222—while the last track, “Taps Reversed” is simply located at "Home.”...full text
NewsokThe first solo album by The Weakerthans' lead singer and songwriter John K. Samson leads the listener on a guided tour of the artist's old Manitoba haunts, and the many moods and musical styles his memories evoke, and the introspective journey is well worth taking.
“Provincial” begins with “Highway 1 East,” which plays out like a brass-accompanied funeral march as he sings of running low on gas, money and love on a lonely road, before seguing into the folky acoustic dirge “Heart of the Continent,” which continues to follow a developing theme of hopelessness and regret before abruptly turning upbeat and happily nostalgic on the lo-fi electric rocker “Cruise Night” (“I know it's annoying, borrowing your brother's car, but mine won't start, and it's Sunday.”)
And so it goes, ranging from sad and quiet (the mournful, cello-laced “Grace General,” the sobering childhood recollection that is “The Last And,” the rustic ballad longing of “Letter in Icelandic From the Ninette San”) to loud and bright (the garage-rocking, punk-positive “When I Write My Master's Thesis,” the jangle-poppy “Longitudinal Centre,” and the rousingly anthemic “Highway 1 West”).
There are hymns of bleak beauty comparable to those of Bruce Springsteen's “Nebraska” and alt-pop-rockers full of sunny refrains, but there's never a dull moment, musically or lyrically, on Samson's bumpy road trip through his past....full text
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