Cult of per­son­al­i­ties

Fa­ther John Misty, Corb Lund and Ian Tyson at Lans­downe Park

Ottawa Sun - - NEWS - AEDAN HELMER ahelmer@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/helmera

It was a night of mul­ti­ple per­son­al­i­ties on the Ci­tyFolk stage on Saturday, with the cou­pling of hurtin’ Al­ber­tan Corb Lund and coun­try le­gend Ian Tyson, be­fore Fa­ther John Misty brought a few split per­son­al­i­ties of his own.

The for­mer Josh Till­man has been mak­ing mighty waves since leav­ing dreamy in­die-folkies Fleet Foxes, ditch­ing his birth name and adopt­ing the per­sona of the wild-eyed Lau­rel Canyon rocker.

Till­man, whose third al­bum, Pure Com­edy, has won crit­i­cal ac­claim for its wordy ru­mi­na­tions on life and death, re­li­gion, pol­i­tics and the en­vi­ron­ment, is clearly a man with plenty to say.

Open­ing with the ti­tle track from Pure Com­edy, Till­man dove right into his thoughts on his evan­gel­i­cal up­bring­ing, which he even­tu­ally re­jected to be­come the self­de­scribed “bearded weirdo” that ap­peared on­stage Saturday.

“Oh, their re­li­gions are the best / They wor­ship them­selves yet they’re to­tally ob­sessed And they get ter­ri­bly up­set when you ques­tion their sa­cred texts /

Writ­ten by woman-hat­ing epilep­tics.”

Yes, the stream of con­scious­ness songcraft, like a lat­ter-day Ker­ouac on a Ben­zedrine binge, can take a lit­tle get­ting used to.

As Till­man re­vealed in a re­cent late night talk show, he had con­sid­ered mak­ing his al­bum into a “full­blown mu­si­cal,” but freaked out in the mid­dle of a flight when his prospec­tive chore­og­ra­pher started in­quir­ing about how to de­pict the scene “where the Girl Scouts as­sault Mother Na­ture.”

But Fa­ther John Misty had no need for the added the­atrics in his Ottawa de­but Saturday. Strut­ting around with a stage swag­ger that fell some­where be­tween Mick Jag­ger and Jim Mor­ri­son, with an oc­ca­sional James Brown-es­que leap to his knees, he came across like a modern age protest singer steeped in irony with hip­ster jeans.

On To­tal En­ter­tain­ment For­ever he fan­ta­sized of “bed­ding Tay­lor Swift” — a lyric that earned him a fair amount of trou­ble, but also drew some wel­come at­ten­tion — when it was re­leased as a sin­gle this sum­mer.

His lyri­cal cal­is­then­ics were at their free-flow­ing peak on Things It Would Have Been Help­ful to Know Be­fore the Revo­lu­tion and Bal­lad of the Dy­ing Man, but turned pos­i­tively play­ful on the cheeky Nancy From Now On, from his de­but Fear Fun.

His Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Vir­gins) de­manded every ounce of at­ten­tion from the crowd and he even­tu­ally had to “check in” with the crowd to en­sure they were still fol­low­ing along.

The rock­ing Hol­ly­wood Ceme­tery For­ever, an­other ex­cel­lent cut from his de­but, came as a bit of a re­ward for the fans who just wanted to rock along.

With so much to say in song, Misty didn’t have much in the way of ban­ter, but ap­peared to have his mind blown mid-set when he re­al­ized “the guy on stage” be­fore him play­ing Four Strong Winds was the same guy, Ian Tyson, who wrote the song. “Whoa,” he mar­velled. Fans who may have just been in­tro­duced to Fa­ther John Misty may have had a sim­i­lar re­ac­tion.

While it was Fa­ther John Misty who ad­ver­tised “Pure Com­edy,” it was the all-star Al­berta duo of Ian Tyson and Corb Lund that brought it, with a charm­ing hour-long set of back-and-forth ban­ter and some truly hi­lar­i­ous tall tales.

“Corb’s dad was a vet and a good one. He rode bron­cos. He didn’t ride them very well, but he was a good vet,” joked Tyson in­tro­duc­ing M.C. Horses.

Tyson’s weath­ered voice struck a stark con­trast to Lund’s fresh-faced twang, but it was his hu­mour that shone through as he had the crowd in stitches, in­tro­duc­ing Some­day Soon as “a song that’s been real good to me It’s paid a lot of al­imony and bought me a few horses.”

And the pair may have in­vented their own coun­try genre along the way.

“I’ve been play­ing on the fringes of coun­try and western for many years,” said Lund. “Some­times it’s called out­sider coun­try, they used to call it out­law coun­try. Now they call it Amer­i­cana. But we have our own sub­genre called agri­cul­tural tragic or agri-trag.”

What­ever it was called, it was fan­tas­tic, with the two hang­ing around for ex­tra time to sing out on Four Strong Winds, and mak­ing a new fan of Fa­ther John Misty while they were at it.

Ci­tyFolk con­cludes Sun­day with Ro­driguez head­lin­ing.

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