Music Review: J.P. Cormier - Somewhere In The Back of My Heart

J.P. Cormier had a life-altering event back in 2009 that sent him spinning, questioning, and changing. He fell asleep at the wheel with passengers in the truck. Luckily they walked away from the wreck, but he did not, suffering a fractured vertebrae and a very close call. You may have heard he quit touring earlier this year, to concentrate on composing, learning, and recording, and according to his liner notes and website, he's revitalized and committed to getting better and better.

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After struggling to find himself, he finally entered the studio and got back to basics. For him, that was to return to being a singer-songwriter. We normally think of Cormier as a master player, the brilliant one at acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo, anything with strings it seems. But it was the songs, and the singing that he wants to present this time, his first such album in years. There are eleven originals among the fifteen here, and precious little soloing, at least for a J.P. album. Of course, when it's there, it's excellent, it's just that it's not the priority.

And of course, everything he touches he conquers. His roots and folk songs range from fun to furious, sad and sincere. Above all, there's a string of honesty connecting them all, songs Cormier had to make, and you can almost feel the need he had to get them them out. He can't contain his anger in Oh Radio, where he lambastes stations in this country (umm, hopefully not CBC) for refusing to play his music, or those like him. He's so mad he drops an f-bomb, and obviously wanted to leave it right there where it fell. It's a different kind of anger that made him write (with Susan Crowe) I Saw Jesus On The Lawn Last Night, the story of the inter-racial Nova Scotia couple who were victims of a hate crime a couple of years ago, a cross burned on their lawn. Told with sadness from the man's point-of-view, it's meant to remind people that racism is still found in surprising places, even home.

Cormier's rugged, lived-in voice is always a surprise as well, strong and tuneful, but again that surprise is simply because his playing has always taken so much attention. He's actually at his best on the most tender material, able to reach the heartstrings. It's something about hearing a big man sing about lullabies and kids and roses, I guess. Cormier says the accident was only the trigger for his personal changes, and whatever the chain reaction it caused, the end result is a major piece of work.

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About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob 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).

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