Plains Spo­ken

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Colter Wall

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

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