Wed, Oct 3, 2012.
The Nova Scotia singer-guitar player gets funky and soulful, with the help of his like-minded producer, Newfoundland's Chris Kirby. Most strikingly, this means a lot of impassioned vocals from A'Court, who slides into his role as smooth soul man with ease, obviously enjoying the rich sounds behind him. Singing high and mighty, rising into falsetto, getting into the groove, or slaying us with tenderness, it's a singing tour-de-force.
The clue to the album's inspiration comes in the middle, with A'Court's powerhouse cover of Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come. A show-stopper live, A'Court goes for it here too, barely reigning in the high notes in this gospel-styled classic. Different than the original, the song builds to a major rock end, complete with a ripping guitar solo, organ, and several backing singers. That's the intensity he's aspiring to with his own songs, and he's done a grand job of matching it on the rest of the album.
Horns and female signers sizzle behind on big numbers such as High Heeled Heartbreaker, Kirby's Wonder-esque clavinet keeping it funky. There are soft moments too, with Up There I Can Fly just acoustic guitar and piano, A'Court quavering and seducing with a love ballad Seal could re-start his career with. The World Around Me struts along, a mid-tempo, infectious number with a great horn section and a big bass line driving it forward. Chains Of Gold is a heartbreaker, a couple at the cusp, one wrong move from splitting, and A'Court gives his most emotional vocal ("you can't give me jail, and call it a home").
The album has crisp sound throughout, with the vocals up front, and an excellent clarity and separation to all the instruments. Guitars ring out, the organ pulses, cymbals splash, and somebody borrowed the microphones from Stax Studio for the horns. It's the kind of disc I never thought I'd hear out of the East Coast, Southern soul instead of Northern blues, and I'm sure glad it came out so well.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).