Fri, Dec 27, 2013.
T. Buckley has become one of the top names in the roots-country scene out in Calgary, but since his debut album, Roll On in 2011, he's spent some good time on the East Coast, touring the area and falling further for its charms. He has family roots here, with his grandparents in the province. On his new album, Northern Country Soul, he's written one of the best non-resident tributes I can think of. It's called simply, The Maritimes, but it will catch your ear right away, opening with the lines, "Well, I'm driving down this country road where the St. John River bends...". Hey, that's my river, T.! He caps it off with a chorus of "I know my baby's waiting for me, and I miss those Prairie skies/but a part of me will always be at peace out in the Maritimes." Well, he's just asking to get invited back soon. Hopefully he'll get a few dates in next year, as he tells me he hopes to make his grandparents 60th anniversary party next fall.
Elsewhere on the disc, Buckley continues to define an alternative Alberta sound, staying away from any cliche that taints modern country. Instead, his Northern Country Soul is a laid-back, Prairie-rich mix, with some Western, actual cowboy mixed with folk and acoustic combo music, fiddle, dobro, mandolin, stand-up bass, that kind of stuff. The references to Alberta, especially the rural routes, run rich. Like so many Canadian areas, weather dictates much of life, and his Bitter Winds don't blow ill favour; instead, they're keeping his girl by his side, under the covers. Higher Than The Moon bemoans the explosion of Calgary's population and suburbia, as country, nature and rural lifestyle gets swallowed for all. This River sees Buckley hoping for clear water to take him away, "Up around the bend, there's something better." His feet may be in Calgary, but his head's elsewhere in the Bow Valley.
Buckley has grown since his Roll On album, his songs more personal and distinctive. His influences were more obvious that time out, but now he's settling into a Northern Country Soul that fits like a favourite pair of boots. You know, cowboy boots, like they have in Alberta.
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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).