Weekly Listens from Fish

mark davis

Eliminate the toxins

A study in gorgeousness, this new solo album really shows Mark Davis at the height of his craftsmanship. It’s an extremely pretty post-folk album, full of lavish production by Calgary’s Lorrie Matheson, who layers in all sorts of strange noises, evolved descendents of Old Reliable’s feedback whine at the end of every song live back in that ’90s thing. Together they’ve created a space where pop drumming and cheerful Brooklyn harmonica swing like an old married couple – listen to “Go to Ground,” taking special note of the space synth and sweet harmonizing. Just a very basic song done right. The next one’s nothing short of dreamy, a bit like when Blue Rodeo and the Sadies used to play together, but with more of a breathless Neko’s guitar jangle. All the right familiars being drawn on here.

One of the most interesting things about the once-upon-a-time country singer is his tonal elevation — creeping up through the baritone to an effectively more tender place over the years. I’m not calling him a princess by any means, but it’s dropped an inherent vulnerability that makes his early work sound like a kid trying to convince the 7-Eleven clerk to sell him smokes. This is clearly Mavis’ real voice; he’s at least doubled his vocal floorplan.

“Dragons” is an ambitious if dizzy experiment. Here Davis sings a Middle Earth ballad over the sound of bugs and plants clicking at each other in the microcosmos. It’s a good song for Definitely Not the Opera — I dig the more straightforward, slow-burn rockers like the opening “How Many Angels?” or the hyper-nostalgic “Dream,” where Mark’s voice really flips around in that pleasantly ’60s Canuck folksinging hitchhiker way he has. And are those first few notes of “Let the World Know Where You Are” a wink to Calexico’s “Over Your Shoulder”? Debatable. What I can say is I’ll hear both songs plenty more before the devil comes over with the bill.

4 out of 5 Stars

scott cook
moonlit rambles

A second sating and gushing source of water in the Edmonton landscape comes to us from Scott Cook, whose new album is responsible for some barbed conflict in my path right now. The troublesome song is “Goin Up to the Country,” a love ballad for North Country Fair, which fate would keep me from in ‘11. But Cook’s lyrics about meeting old friends and hanging out with Carolyn Mark are working their dark magic. Other places can wait, you know?

Cook’s easygoing, hardworking-hippy ideology is the sinew in every song here, from an ultra-sentimental tribute to his grandfather Ray to a killer honky-tonk jingle called “The Lord Giveth (and the Landlord Taketh Away).” Cook might get a little too romantic — you almost feel like you’re intruding into a shared sleeping bag, but as one of the most genuine writers making music in town there’s no question he means every word, even if he’s a little mean to fellows with moustaches. Who’s to say they’re always ironic? Sometimes a person might just have a cold upper lip.

Above all, warmth, though. Moonlit Rambles is like a conversational bottle of Jack passed around a dawn fire, everything burning just right. To get to know it is to know a good man and his well-worn guitar.

4 out of 5 Stars


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