City & Colour – If I Should Go Before You: A Transformative Work

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Dallas Green may have started City and Colour as a means to introduce his ‘rootsy’ brand of song craft, but those days are now more of an ‘origin story’ than the reality of where he is. Much like Wilco, who turned from alt-country to sonic experimenters, Green took his acoustic-based leanings and is now creating expansive tunes that, at times, owe more to blues, soul and even psychedelia than the modern ‘folk rock’ he was labeled with on earlier City and Colour records.

Signs of this transformation began on the last album The Hurry And The Harm, with a more conventional, harder edge brought in with the addition of electric guitars and organs. If I Should Go Before You not only expands on this addition, but takes on some new influences.

Opening the record is a nine minute blues epic “Woman” which mixes Muddy Waters with Pink Floyd and throws in a 60’s San Francisco twist. The result is a ‘listen with headphones’ dreamscape that shows his bands’ ability to improvise around their material. “Northern Blues” has subtle R&B underpinnings keeping a sonic improvisation steady as Green’s falsetto soars above.

Musically, this ‘Memphis soul base’ is played out on what would seem to be perfect for the two sides of a vinyl record. “If I Should Go Before You”, “Killing Time”, and the frickin’ amazing single “Wasted Love” finish off the R&B influenced ‘Side A.’ Even the sudden stop of “Wasted Love” on the songs’ conclusion gives definition to a change in direction. In a manner of speaking, it is the point when you flip the record.

‘Side B’ takes on tones that have their foundation in roots-rock, starting with “Runaway”, a song that recalls Blue Rodeo’s “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” with its majestic pedal steel guitar. From there, you move onto “Lover Come Back” with its blend of piano and organ which creates an atmosphere reminiscent of The Band.

The most appealing thing about If I Should Go Before You is that all the influences are merely reference points. Like most great, or even classic records, the listener finds a connection that resonates with a familiar sound, and then the music branches off into new and exciting places.

If I Should Go Before You isn’t just another City and Colour record… it’s a transformative work; the album when all potential and expectations are realized and then exceeded.

 

If I Should Go Before You hits stores on Oct 9.

“MY” Top Five Canadian Songs for Canada Day!

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Generally, I’m not a big fan of lists, but here I go.

By no means is this a list of the “BEST” Canadian songs of all time. I intentionally skipped over the most obvious songs and people and just went with songs that meant something to me back in the day, and still tug at the heart strings. After all, music is far too subjective for little ol’ me to step forward with such a declaration. Instead I’m picking my favourite 5 songs written by Canadians. Feel free to argue or suggest others. Happy Canada Day folks!

5) “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” – The Rheostatics

I could have picked a dozen Rheostatic’s tunes and not even have scratched the surface of their repertoire. Still, how much more Canadian can you get having an awesome band cover Canadian legend Gordon Lightfoot. Let’s not even get started with the fact that Dave Bidini, (guitars & vocals) has written a book (On A Cold Road) on Canadian bands touring this great land of ours. Give it a read – and them a listen!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpiXS62EwyI

 

4) “Painted Ladies” – Ian Thomas

As a child I used to hear this song all the time and it never left me. As other people wanted to learn how to play “Heart Of Gold” as they started to learn guitar, I was trying my hand at “Painted Ladies.” There is something so ‘setting sun’ glorious and desperate about this song that catches me off guard every time I listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgLG9MvIVhs

 

3) “Five Days In May” – Blue Rodeo

Five Days In July is definitely my favourite Blue Rodeo album, and “Five Days In May” my favourite song from them. It captures the mood of “Four Strong Wind” the desolation of “Helpless” and is just plain heartbreaking in its own right. Saw them play it at Fort York which also seems to me to be a cool ‘Canadiana’ thing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuUnApNzIz0

 

2) “Bleed A Little While Tonight” – Lowest of the Low

Not only is it a great Canadian song, but it name checks the streets of my awesome city. So while the ‘Low’ have been on and off again over the last few years, Shakespeare My Butt... still has  regular rotation on my stereo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZSNXyeLdSg

 

1) “Echo Beach” – Martha & the Muffins

Called a new wave band at the time Martha & the Muffins “Echo Beach” was anything but a genre hit. It was played on AM, FM, pop and rock stations throughout the world. This Martha & the Muffins song charted in Canada, Australia, the UK and even the US dance charts. It was a monster that was an instant classic to my 13 year old ears… and still remains so to this day. Hell, it even has a concert venue named after it on Toronto Island.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEQkIEkxm7k