The youthful maturity of Harlan Pepper

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Harlan Pepper is a young band.

These 4 Hamilton lads are fresh out of high school, but playing their own brand of roots rock with great maturity.

They have a solid grasp of melody, songwriting, and the subtleties within the roots/folk/rock genres, not to mention the purely technical act of performing.

Some would argue that their age shouldn’t be an issue (and I’m sure they’re getting sick of it), but such an early development in songwriting excites me.

This is a band to watch.

Now to the album at hand. “Young and Old” finds Harlan Pepper in Wilco territory, especially on songs like “El Jandro”, the lyrics manage to be modern and fresh, while musically embracing a much older esthetic. Their gift for melody is most apparent on the poppy “Little Miss Sunshine”.

I mention Wilco purely as a reference point, though. Harlan Pepper cast their net wider, musically speaking, with hints of Blue Rodeo (“Sweet Lucy”), Tom Waits (“Refer”), and psychedelic rock (“Yeah”). They even playfully flirt with dub halfway through “El Jando”.

Which brings me back to an earlier point. This album does excite me for the future of Harlan Pepper. Like The Band, or The Sadies, they could become more than just a solid touring act, but also a much sought-after backing or studio band. I think they’ll have that luxury.

“Young and Old” isn’t without it’s faults. Lyrically speaking “Great Lakes” straddles the line between clever and cheesy (thankfully more the former than the latter), and mid-track “No” seems a little directionless for my tastes, but these complaints are minor.

Harlan Pepper should prove to be an important part of the Canadian roots-rock scene within no time.

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