Songs of the Plains
Operating in the misty zone between present and past, between truth and myth, and between performer and performance, we find Saskatchewan’s Colter Wall. A plains-bred and now Nashville-based folk singer, Wall has spent the better part of the 2010s developing his craft, working on his impossibly rich baritone, and building an arsenal of songs that sound as ancient, in his spare acoustic performances, as they do immediate.
It shouldn’t work. A self-consciously archaic approach to songwriting, wildly uncommercial arrangements, and lyrics that sound lifted from Louis L’Amour novels — it’s all a bit much. And yet, in the hands of this fledgling troubadour — he is barely 24 years old — these borderline absurdities come across as genuinely meaningful.
On his terrific sophomore record, Wall paints a portrait of a mythic Canadiana, a western region of lonesome plains and grizzled frontiersmen, of rodeos and gunfighters, of hardscrabble existences and unlucky bounces. It’s a “print the legend” approach to a much more complicated story, but as a testament to the people and places he imagines he came from, it’s evocative enough. And as refracted through Dave Cobb’s campfire production, there’s light enough here to see the horizons. If he hadn’t proven himself on his much-lauded debut, it’s here for all to see on Songs of the Plains. (Sony)
How did touring influence the writing of this album?
[This album is] just a love letter to the prai- FOLK POP COUNTRY ries in Canada, or really just the West in general. I don’t think the songs could have come out the way they did without me being on the road quite so much, because the more time I spend out there, the more I miss home.
Are you trying to reclaim a mythic Canadiana in your songs?
I don’t think reclaim is the right word. I don’t think there’d be much to reclaim, because I think there’s still some folks that are aware of all of that [history]. It’s definitely come to my attention that a lot of people outside of Canada don’t really seem to know us. The record is filled with mythological takes on certain things, as well as a lot of things that are really based in reality, songs that are pretty much just direct retellings of true stories. The West has got this strange dichotomy, where you have all this historical mythology and then you also have these really harsh realities that we live with out there that we’re all aware of. for years, Marshall hasn’t lost her style. Producing Wanderer on her own, you get the sense that she has ventured into new territory. Artists like Cat Power have all been wanderers at some point, but she is the one in control here. (Domino) ROCK