John K. Samson.
When local singer-songwriter Dawson Blaine Kroeker began working on his debut album, the title was one of the first things he had. He thought of Hope on the Shores of Bedlam before he even started recording.
“It kind of sums up a lot of aspects of my life,” says the 29-year-old, who grew up on a farm 45 minutes north of Gimli, Man. “When I was younger, I went through some periods of mental illness … and that’s kind of the thing that (the title) came out of.”
Kroeker recorded the 12-song disc with Winnipeg music veteran Dan Donahue. Donahue’s sparse production focuses on Kroeker’s acoustic guitar and his raw bass vocals.
He cites Tom Waits as one of his influences, particularly when it comes to singing. Kroeker even changed his vocal approach after hearing Waits as a teenager.
“I was just really hit by (his) thick, rough voice and connected to that sound,” Kroeker says. “I actually had a pretty smooth-sounding voice before that point, interestingly enough, and I taught myself to sing more in that (rougher) voice.”
The storytelling styles of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen are also clear influences on Kroeker’s material. He deals with some dark subject matter, but says that there are positive elements to the songs as well.
“Obviously life is hard sometimes, but I always feel like there’s a thread of hope that runs through life, and I wanted that to be present in the record,” Kroeker says, further explaining the CD’s title. “It’s a heavy record and it’s kind of dark, but at the same time, there’s definitely a thread of hope that runs through it.”
Dawson Blaine releases Hope on the Shores of Bedlam with a show this Saturday, March 24 at Exchange Community Church (75 Albert St.) with guests Last Ditch on the Left and Marcel Desilets. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show is at 8 p.m. Admission is $10, or $20 gets you into the show plus a copy of the CD.
- Aaron Epp
Kelowna, B.C. four-piece Yukon Blonde almost never made its brand new second disc, the blistering Tiger Talk. Front man Jeff Innes nearly used the tunes for a side project.
“I wanted to call this thing Fucking Tigers,” he told Spinner during a SXSW interview in mid-March. “It never came to fruition, but it was on the pile of demos the guys listened to when we started planning out this record. When they asked what it was, I said it was just some electro-punk shit I was messing around with. But after they listened to it, they said that this was the stuff we should be working on. All of the song titles had the word ‘tigers’ on the end of them, and we were saying it so much that we finally decided just to call the album Tiger Talk.”
It’s a big shift for the band once known as Alphababy. Gone are the mellow My Morning Jacket-type wanderers that populated the group’s self-titled debut, replaced with a focus on electro-pop rockers such as Radio and Six Dead Tigers.
Fans of Yukon Blonde’s earlier work shouldn’t worry though, as there is one exception in closer Sweet Dee, a lush, sprawling number that ties the two worlds together. Working with Canrock hero/producer Colin Stewart (Ladyhawk) helped the band flesh out this new sound.
“It got us all really focused on making a super-pop record with that kind of late-‘70s feel,” Innes said. “People often ask us whether we want to emphasize our singing over everything else we do, but I don’t think that’s anything we ever really think about.”
Catch Yukon Blonde with Library Voices and Haunter at the West End Cultural Centre Saturday, March 24 for just $12 through Ticketmaster. Visit www.yukonblonde.com.
- Nicholas Friesen
JOHN K. SAMSON
John K. Samson has been busy. No, there hasn’t been a proper Weakerthans record since 2007’s Reunion Tour, but in the last two years the local hero has released a book of lyrics and poems, a pair of 7”s and a full-length LP (his first solo work since 1995’s Little Pictures split shared with Painted Thin).
Though only two of the three proposed 7”s were released, it’s OK because there was never supposed to be a record.
“I had this idea for a specific project where I would do three 7”s about three locations in (Manitoba),” Samson told the A.V. Club in January. “It started out as something to do while The Weakerthans were touring and not writing. I feel like the project itself dictated the instrumentation. Also, it was just fun to work with a wide variety of musicians.”
The singles and the LP all follow the theme of Manitoba roads - that structure being something that helped shape the project.
“I really enjoyed the research side of it; the writing of the material was really enjoyable to me,” Samson said. “I spent some time in libraries and going on car trips to areas I hadn’t really explored before. The whole process was kind of fun, and slow.”
Then there’s the book, Lyrics and Poems 1997-2012, which features songs from each Weakerthans record as well as tunes from the new solo disc and a few poems.
“It’s kind of a nice companion, I thought, to the solo record,” he told Exclaim! earlier this year.
John K. Samson’s gig at the West End Cultural Centre on Tuesday, March 27 is sold out. Visit www.johnksamson.com.
- Nicholas Friesen