Review: John K Samson – Winter Wheat

Canadian Singer and Songwriter John K Samson is known within the indie-rock world for being the vocalist and guitarist of The Weakerthans. During the ‘90s, he was also noted  for his contributions to the punk rock band Propagandhi; he played the bass guitar and sang in two of their albums. But now, the music industry is to see John Samson at his finest as he releases his next solo album in late October called Winter Wheat.

In 2012, Samson released a solo album, Provincial, which truly conveyed his indie-folk style. Sticking to the same style and genre, his new album consists of 15 tracks that burst with flawless instrumental accompaniment, emotive lyrics and indie vocals. It ventures to put a Samson stamp of indie genius on the music world once again by focusing this time on the world and the problems which many are faced with on a daily basis.

A track which expresses the lyrical power of Samson’s music is the titular track of the album. From the outset, it uses an up-beat instrumental backing with guitar strumming. While the guitar and constant percussive beats convey a positive atmosphere, the lyrics highlight aspects of life which are not always perfectly positive in the eyes of many, such as: ‘Woke up in a parking lot/ Air mattresses gone flat’.

Samson’s lyrics convey the realities of life. Some people don’t wake up in a house, in a bed; some are forced to make do and lead lives that lack luxuries and sometimes even. His evocative lyrics were inspired by a book written by Miriam Toews, which he discussed in an interview with CBC music, where he asserted how a particular moment in the narrative influenced his work: ‘There’s a scene at the beginning of All My Puny Sorrows where the father makes a visor with his   hand and is staring out at their house as the house is moved away.’

Samson then went on to speak of how the image evoked by Toews in her novel planted the idea for the narrative that underlies the track. Although the lyrics could be seen to lament the unjust situations that life can often pose to the individual, its didactic message is that we should embrace our individual situation and make the most of what our world will offer us. This moral is even more potent as the instrumental backing does not overshadow the vocal content or distract the listener from absorbing the message presented. This is the perfect track for reflecting on the rich tapestry of life and forming an appreciation of it.

Another track which displays the musicality of Samson perfectly is ‘Vampire Alberta Blues’. The opening of the track is characteristic of a punk rock song, which is subtly continued to its end. After a few bars, Samson brings the guitar and vocals to the forefront, with the percussion as background accompaniment, except for small instrumental intervals when the drum, bass and guitar take centre stage. This track highlights Samson’s ability to intermingle music genres to create fantastic music filled with the use of effective techniques. John K Samson is definitely an artist to be remembered, and this thought-provoking and musically perfect album will certainly help everyone to see his musical brilliance.   

Emma Humphrey

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