This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 6/06
When I reviewed Toronto-based Peter's last album in
2001, I commented on the timbre of his voice and its disturbing
similarity to the voice of Neil Young. Why I found it
“disturbing” is another matter, and a bit of a long-drawn-out one.
Rather than me spell it out again, better that I give you a link to
that earlier review:
Well, now I have finally got around to playing Peter's new(ish) album three times all the way through. And I am pleased to say that clearly Neil Young has been told by Peter to pack his bags.
However, strangely another star has taken his place. John Prine. I think Peter has been drinking deeply at the well of John Prine these past 4 years. I detect his influence in the lyric, the melody and - above all in the phrasing. Some tracks more than others, but his presence is there from the getgo, and reaches its zenith in the penultimate track, the standout “All I'll Ever Be”. There is no higher praise than to say that I could well imagine JP wanting to record this song himself.
It is three and a half minutes of near perfection. A kind of 21st century updating and merging of Robert W. Service's marvellous poems “The Lone Trail” and “The Men That Don't Fit In”. Lyrics that deliver pure meaning and never obfuscate, and with the glorious musicianship of Stephen Miller almost making me want to jump from my chair and applaud jazz club style when he takes his “solo break”.
Miller's slide guitar and dobro work is of the highest quality. But that said, it is almost invidious of me to pick him out, since Verity has surrounded himself with as good a bunch of musicians as you'll find under one roof outside of Tanglewood.
I think this album shows that he has made considerable strides since “High Flyer”, his 2001 CD. Whereas that album was generally pleasing and stood out from the crowd, it did not have quite the sophisticated song construction and high end production values one finds here.
The songs all achieve a certain quality: there are no duds that I can hear.
Most of the songs are written in the first person, but one should not assume from this that those songs are about Peter Verity. They may or may not be. What matters is that they WORK.
And they do. The lyrics rhyme, the songs are wondrously old-fashioned in that they have a beginning, a middle, and an end to their story, and the subject matter is nicely varied. One very touching song (NOT written in the first person) is “The Ballad of Rachel Davis”. This is his tribute to a public-spirited 23 year-old who was senselessly slain in Vancouver after she had just tried to save a man from assault by three others. And of all things, it was the VICTIM who shot her dead as a reward.
Peter tells the story with a short staccato lyric lines, mainly to mirror the sense of shock all decent people would feel, but also as if to say that anything more flowery would be disrespectful to Rachel's memory. The simple facts are eloquent testament enough.
Were I one of Rachel's family, I would very touched that an artiste had delivered such an honest and affecting tribute.
But I am not one of her family.I am just a humble critic. And one who although battered into submission by some CDs, still is sufficiently unjaded to note a quality album from an indie label: a CD that will never be the first (or twenty-first) that I save from the fire, but one that was sufficiently good as to light a little fire in me.
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