John K Samson – ‘Provincial’

By Clara Cullen

Everyone loves The Weakerthans, don’t they? How could you not? Those irresistible pop melodies, wistful lyrics, songs written from the perspective of a cat – what’s not to love?! The band to melt the heart of even the most hardened punk. Well John K Samson’s solo album is even more lovely, folk songs with lilting guitar, brushed percussion, plodding upright-bass, delicate piano, aching violin and doleful cello; a big consoling hug of a record.

Samson’s wondrous way with words, demonstrated countless times on record with The Weakerthans, is masterfully exercised here. This time out, he’s writing’s even more Canadian, of merciless winters and cult ice hockey heroes, of “cruel snow, cracked lips, sun lost by four”. It’s not exactly a party, more a satisfying cry-wank over a poetry anthology. “The slumping bike strangled with a lock that we forgot the combination to…”; “…as I stand before an unresponsive automatic door, just another door that won’t open for me anymore…” It’s all here for the heartbroken and maudlin, campfire ditties (‘Heart Of The Continent’), inoffensive lounge swingers (‘Cruise Night’, ‘The Last And’), haunting lullabies (‘Grace General’, ‘Stop Error’) and twee-pop foot-tappers (‘When I Write My Master’s Thesis’, ‘Longitudinal Centre’).

Some of it is more esoteric than you’d have ever thought possible from a former Propagandhi bass-player, like the utterly baffling but utterly beautiful ‘Letter In Icelandic From The Ninette San’, a perfect little weepy marvel (“You’ll recall from the sagas, I hope, Grettir’s last stand at Drangey, how his grip on the sword made his enemies cut off his hand…”), Samson’s fingers scratching up and down the guitar strings, the glorious moment the bass arrives, then the violin. Closing track ‘Taps Reversed’ is special also, our hero accompanied by his wife Christine Fellows on piano and vocals to wonderful effect. It’s all just so darned lovely. Buy it for your girlfriend for Christmas and she’ll think you’re all sweet and cuddly and that.


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