Hillbilly hope

Cheering for the Bad Guy’s latest record partly inspired by prairie optimism

Daniel Crump

Three years after the release of the To the Last Drop LP, Cheering for the Bad Guy returns with Next Year Country, its third full-length record.

Formed in 2007, Winnipeg’s favourite country-rock quintet is comprised of vocalist Sheldon Birnie, banjo player Dan Stewart, bassist Cal Austin Jr., guitarist Kevin Bones and drummer Ben Moir.

“I’d been playing in punk bands for awhile and wanted to do something that sounds a bit different, but comes from the same place and since then it’s evolved into a real band instead of just a solo project,” the 30-year-old Birnie,who is also the editor of Stylus Magazine and author of the novel Down in the Flood, says.

Next Year Country was recorded over three weekends earlier this year in a West End basement studio owned by musician Ben Wytinck. 

“When you go see a band live and it sounds different than the record, that can throw some people off, so I’m glad we finally made a record that sounds more like we actually sound on stage,” Birnie says.

“Our line-up has been consistent for a year now, but before that it was kind of like this evolving beast and we were still trying out a bunch of different things.”

The album’s title is loosely inspired by Voices From Next Year Country: An Oral History of Rural Saskatchewan, a book Birnie came across when he was stocking shelves at a bookstore years ago.

“The phrase [“next year country”] seemed to be used when describing life on the prairies because a crop would fail, something would go on, but there was always this mentality that the next year would be better,” Birnie says. 

“The stories I’m trying to write are stories that would have been told in the ‘30s except now it’s 2013. I might be using the same imagery and tropes, but I’m not actually going to be singing about being out on the farm. I didn’t even grow up on a farm [Birnie was born in Victoria and grew up in Dawson Creek, B.C.]. We all grew up in small towns or cities, but we can still identify with some of that country aesthetic.”

Published in Volume 68, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 2, 2013)

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