Tuesday 29 January 2019

The Directors Cuts - David Storey and The Side Road Scholars - Made in Canada

Canadian Duty Free is awesome. Why? Because you can buy massive frozen Salmon. That's why. Of all the things to offer tourists exiting your country! Perhaps it's a common scenario -

"Hey Marge, I got a keyring with a Moose on it for Steve, A Moose shaped Peanut Allergy Tester for Cynthia and the Moose Hair Wig for Trevor. But darn it, if I didn't forget to purchase a 50 pound, vacuum sealed, frozen Salmon for Grandma. Where in the dickens will I find one of those here in departures?"

The flight from Vancouver to London is roughly ten and a half hours. I love the idea of sitting in my lovely window seat whilst the chap in the aisle keeps asking what the smell is, as my dirty big fish slowly defrosts in the over head compartment above. All be it a bizarre item to offer tax free to tourists, I get it. At least it is a local product. You can get home from your vacation safe in the knowledge that Grandma will be able to enjoy a taste of genuine Canadian fare, all be it defrosted and a tad smelly.

So what does this all have to do with the brand new album from David Storey and The Side Road Scholars? Absolutely nothing, other than the album is, entitled Made in Canada and is as sweet and smooth as a jar of Maple Syrup. The fact that I found a page full of notes with jokes about Airports that I have nowhere to use and have to try and crow bar in has absolutely nothing to do with it*.

A few months ago I bought to your attention David's first full album Coming Home and the fact that it is an absolute corker, which is well deserved a few megabytes of space on your hard drive. If you are old like me then the CD should very rarely leave your now antiquated stereo system. Can the follow up meet a bar set so high?

Made in Canada follows a similar trend. Nine tracks of effortless story telling, with catchy hooks and rhythms to set your foot tapping. It is well ensconced in the folk genre, however many tracks would probably be better described as Country or Americana. Here the main difference is the inclusion of a larger sound from that heard on Coming Home. The Side Road Scholars really fill out the acoustics that are still firmly rooted by David's deft guitar picking and vocals. Thematically there are a few similarities to the first album. Love for home and country, beer and hockey, aging disgracefully all get a look in.

The album was recorded live, which is an unusual method to use in a studio setting. The band plays together, as if at a gig, rather than each element of a song being played and recorded separately. A track like Small Time benefits from such a technique as it has a concert feel too it. Listening, you could imagine the band playing right in front of you. The possibility of over production is lost and the song, and album is all the better for it, giving the purity of the performance. It also gives you an idea of the kind of talent we are dealing with here. A band who are comfortable in this style of recording are a skilled set to be reckoned with indeed!

Whilst listening it occurred to me, after numerous plays, that I was finding myself concentrating on the lyrics and the story of the song. In this album David's songwriting has developed a step further than that shown in his previous release. The depth of these recordings is quite something. There are many layers to each track, each adding an element of entertainment that can be approached by the listener in many different ways.  

Chin Up kicks things off with a bounce and fantastic harmonies. The tune matches the lyric very nicely, a message of reliability, strength and companionship in hard times. The music also belies the message which is essentially "Cheer up, it ain't all that bad!" There is a element of sadness to David's singing in an over all upbeat song. A clever composition which will leave you with the desired smile on your face.

Small Time is an album high light and features excellent keyboard work from Lawrie Ingles who also featured on Coming Home. Bob Cohen provides an electric guitar sound occasionally taking front of stage, giving the bands sound a broader edge. We are deep in modern country territory here in a tale of a small band making a big noise. Lively and excellently arranged, it will certainly be one of the tracks you keep coming back to. The pace of the track is only matched later in the album with My Girl. A thoroughly upbeat number belays it's folk roots with a distinctly soulful feel which is mostly anchored in the odd "sha la la la" and a fantastic drum line provided by Henry Lees and anchored with a steady bass by Howard Rabkin. The song is a nice change of pace thematically and lyrically, no melancholy here just a happiness that will be sure to get crowds going at a live show.

50 Clicks and Back in Regina are two songs that slow things down., the first is a lament for being too far from home in difficult times, the second is a homage to coming home after long days travelling. 50 Clicks is billed as a murder ballad. Yes they exist! A song of alcohol fueled regret and a longing to be home. A familiar theme (the being away from home - not the murder bit) which would not be out of place on Coming Home. Again, close vocal harmonies abound around a solo acoustic guitar in the main part.

I'm Gone has a dirty country sound and lyrics with attitude. Living life with no apologies is the theme, a sentiment back up with hot guitar solos and keyboards filling the sound behind an unusually heavy number for the band. As is often the case with David's songs a dark humour can be found driving the story along.

Someday is a quiet ode to ambition. Vocals are at the fore here, instruments taking a back seat to lend an simple accompliment to a simple story. Again, many will relate to the song, especially when you have reached a certain age but are still striving to make a difference in the world you have placed yourself in.

Bring It is an anthem to ice hockey, the first of two tracks to celebrate Canada's favorite sport. A challenge to an unknown opponent, playing hard for the love of the of the game. It is an odd track in as much as it is swings along nicely with deep harmonies against a lyric that is comes across as a challenge to the game and life itself. A juxtaposition that works with the songs underlying theme of being tired of game but still giving it everything you got as a pick up goalie tries to make a living. Trout Lake falls into the obviously autobiographical category (that said - I don't know it to be culled from Mr. Storey's life, it could be a complete work of fiction). Pictures painted of a late night hockey game played by friends on a frozen river and a fleeting moment of an unusual play that bring jubilation. If nothing else I hope the names of the players are real. The detail woven into the narrative, as in many of these songs, and a relatability help the listen feel like you are actually there, on the ice, passing the puck around. A lovely positive end to an album that could be heralded as a tribute to life, love and belting a puck into the net just in time for a beer.

Over all this is a clever album, building on what has come previously. The larger band brings a new sound but does not change things enough that things are no longer recognizable. In my limited knowledge of country and folk music I may not be qualified to say this but, in my opinion, David Storey and the Side Road Scholars have a very distinct sound. I think this mostly comes from the song writing and Davids voice which oscillates from breathy to gravelly in the space of a verse. This is an album where it is obvious that the artist has developed and grown and as such has created a diverse recording spotlighting a band made of immeasurable talent. Once again highly recommended for anyone with any taste in music as some albums, such as this one, are good enough to defy anyones regular choice of genre.

Made in Canada can be purchased here, in the UK here and streamed around the world via Amazon Music and Spotify. Go get it!


Before I started editing this post it was waaaaaaaay too long and contained a whole bunch of stuff that was completely unnecessary. Every post I write at Corner Gas Fan Corner is a vastly truncated version of what I originally wrote. Many items are lost forever others I keep for future posts.

To give you an idea of what was chopped from the above I am including it here for those who are interested. This is material culled from my note books that I thought I could make relevant with a "Made in Canada" theme but I couldn't quite get to work. I chopped it up in all different ways but it still worked out too long or, with certain parts cut out, no longer made sense.

So here's a few extra giggles for you - enjoy.

One of my favourite things about travel is the retail therapy that comes with it. When on holiday, many people like to sit on the beach, baste themselves in cooking oil and slowly roast themselves until they look like the last chicken on the rotisserie. Some like to hike up mountains and ski down, and sometimes off, the side of them for vacation thrills. I like to go to the shops, it's much safer and the only peril involved is the stern look you get from the bank manager when he waves your credit card bill at you.

I enjoy scouring the stores for local object d'art, locally sourced goods and produce. Something a little different than something you can already get back home. Where better to start than in the Duty Free area at the airport!

 It staggers me the amount of stuff you can buy that is clearly inappropriate when you consider that you are just about to spend the next few hours on a shiny metal tube with not enough space for your legs let alone a bar of Toblerone the size of a Limousine. There are large, nay, HUGE versions of everything to try and jam in your hand luggage. You just spent the last two weeks agonising over whether to put your travel sized tin of mints in your bag for fear of incurring the wrath of the baggage scales only to end up purchasing a lollypop the same dimensions of a ground to air missile from Duty Free.

I saw one magazine available to purchase so large it could be used as a coffee table let alone be rested on top of one.

In Gatwick airport, London, there is a whole section of Duty Free devoted to Lego. Now, I like a bit of Lego and I am all for finding something to keep the kids quite on a long journey. However, buying a life size model of the Taj Mahal made of a kajillion little plastic bricks seems like a bit of over kill. How you are expected to put the thing together on your fold down, seat back tray I will never know. You would end up forever having to chase an errant mini figure down the aisle as it goes bouncing after the drinks trolley come the first bit of turbulence.

At Vancouver International Airport most items for sale are made from Maple Syrup. Maple syrup drinks, sweets, bed socks you name it. Gallons of the stuff ooze out of every terminal. One glance at a stand holding so many Maple Syrup based cookies, waffles and sweets that you could immediately fall into a sugar coma and miss your flight.

All you can buy in airports around the UK are tins of biscuits with the Queens face on and any number of pencils with the Union Jack on them, all imported to our shores for a very reasonable wholesale price. Possibly from Canada.

Another item Made in Canada is Made in Canada.....

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