John K. Samson - City Route 85 [7 inch] (Cover Artwork)

John K. Samson

City Route 85 [7 inch] (2009)


The last time John K. Samson released a solo record, the Weakerthans were only a glint in his eye -- the former Propagandhi bassist was still very much finding his feet as a songwriter when Little Pictures was released in 1995. But as the best songs on Little Pictures -- such as "Saint Cecelia" -- now serve to illustrate, Samson was, during this period, beginning to discover and develop a talent that would eventually merit him the title of ‘award-winning songwriter.'

City Route 85, the first in what is set to be a series of new Samson solo releases chronicling the roads and highways of Manitoba, is a three-song effort that proves exactly why Samson has won awards, as the creases in his songwriting have long since been ironed out in the 14 long years since Little Pictures saw the light of day.

As has become a given with Samson, the lyrics are at all times eloquent, beautiful and, at times, moving: "As I stand before an unresponsive automatic door, / just another door that won't open for me anymore" he sings on "Heart of the Continent."

The songs themselves, like all good songs, are relatively simple. The instrumentation is sparse, and except for the presence of a drum machine on "Cruise Night," each track is entirely acoustic, complemented only by Samson's vocals.

What is perhaps most notable about City Route 85, though, is the degree to which it showcases how far Samson has come since the days of Little Pictures. After the first listen, you are left in no doubt; here is a man who is now a champion of his craft -- and he is never looking back.