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John K. Samson - Provincial (Cover Artwork)

John K. Samson

John K. Samson: ProvincialProvincial (2012)
Anti- Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
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Contributed by: JeloneJelone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Aside from the fact that none of the other members plays on it, Provincial is essentially a new Weakerthans record, except even mellower. Frontman John K. Samson may have stepped out on his own here, but he's always been the Weakerthans' mouthpiece and leader. He's a gifted lyricist, but as a guitar.
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Aside from the fact that none of the other members plays on it, Provincial is essentially a new Weakerthans record, except even mellower. Frontman John K. Samson may have stepped out on his own here, but he's always been the Weakerthans' mouthpiece and leader. He's a gifted lyricist, but as a guitarist, he only knows so many chords, and flecks of older songs come and go here. Provincial doesn't stray too far from the template established by the last two Weakerthans records.

On the other hand, hey, more Weakerthans.

Provincial should satisfy many a fan. It's been nearly five years since Reunion Tour, so they deserve it, even if half the record consists of previously released material from Samson's City Route 85 and Provincial Road 222 EPs, as well as The Old House, a joint effort from Samson and his wife Christine Fellows that was given to family and friends. Samson is in his element throughout as he delivers one scene description after another while he drives around Canada. Whether he's depicting loneliness on "Grace General" or extolling the reasons why Reggie Leach deserves a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame on "http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle/" (Yes, that's the title), Samson imbues everything he sings with a wit and warmth that carries the load when hooks and choruses don't.

While I enjoyed Reunion Tour quite a bit, my one gripe with it was that it tried too hard to recreate some rock songs on par with "Aside," perhaps due to the track getting a bump from the Wedding Crashers soundtrack. Provincial doesn't have that problem, although it does still include a few more rock-oriented songs like "When I Write My Master's Thesis" and "Longitudinal Centre." Those cuts folk-rock pretty hard.

But Provincial's best tracks strip away the noise and focus on Samson's stories, augmented every so slightly by some acoustic guitar, piano and percussion. "Highway 1 East" opens the record with horns providing great fanfare before "Heart of the Continent" gently brings in scenes of weary travels and dilapidated construction sites. "Heart" has the simplest percussion--it's mostly just a bass drum keeping time--but it adds so much to this intimate number. "Letter in Icelandic from the Ninette San" ruminates on Icelandic myths, Winnipeg retirement homes and shitty coffee. "Tapes Reversed" cites a list of maintenance problems with a house over simple piano, although it feels a little tacked on after "Highway 1 West" plays the listener out.

Essentially, each song here is a short story. Samson paints stark, cold images, but he inflects little bits of humor throughout. And that's what really makes Provincial a Weakerthans record, although the acoustic, folk-tinges certainly help. The last time Samson put out a record, Punknews declared it album of the year. Well, here's your early contender for 2012.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
ejaculine (March 9, 2012)

Went to see him live in Ottawa last night. Amazing show, played a bunch songs off his solo album and a lot of Weakerthans songs. Even played 2 propagandhi songs (played the bass) and a Jawbreaker cover. Just wow.

damnitsderek (January 28, 2012)

What Sloane said.

SloaneDaley (January 27, 2012)

The biggest disappointment for me? A little over of these songs were previously available in some form.

kylewagoner (January 27, 2012)

I actually find it to be significantly different enough to see why it isn't a Weakerthans album. That being said, I still love the hell out of it. Really love the changes done on the songs from the 7"s.

dev (January 27, 2012)

I think it's his best work since Left & Leaving. It's probably the fact that I've lived in Winnipeg for the past 11 years and I understand or have been to all the locations he's referring to in these songs. I'll admit the music leaves a bit to be desired at times, but the lyrics are gold.

leecorsoisapenis (January 27, 2012)

I'm with Danperrone. I love this guy to death, and the Weakerthans are one of my favorite bands ever, but this is a little disappointing to me. I mean, we wait 5 years between every single Weakerthans album. Everything Samson puts out should be gold with that much time between albums. I hope the Weakerthans record soon. Also, I'm not saying this is bad, because it has some good songs, and "The Last And" is on par with any Weakerthans song.

mark-eh (January 27, 2012)

I'm from Canada and I support this message.

danperrone (January 27, 2012)

it's just okay, but it's clear that he needs the weakerthans. this is more bland than anything he's ever worked on before.

vocalyouth (January 27, 2012)

the metacritic score on this album is 76 right now, echosmyron. also, like anything on this site is really at the end of the day much more complex than pop. coated in distortion and presented differently stylistically? sure. but the song structures generally aren't anything groundbreaking. you can get away with "boring pop" when you write lyrics that good. many many bands on this site get by on far less.

EchosMyron (January 27, 2012)

If only this guy's songwriting could live up to his lyrics... Bland, by-the-numbers pop. And almost every site except Punknews agrees with that opinion.

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