Long-time Edmonton music journalist Fish Griwkowsky once explained the humble ethos of the Edmonton music scene to me like this: Artists don’t self promote. People look down on that. Artists just casually mention they’re going to be playing at the Black Dog on Friday night if you feel like stopping by.
That might explain why Jake Ian remains relatively unknown outside Alberta relative to his level of talent.
He’s just casually putting out music and mentioning it on Facebook, hoping we’ll get the hint and actually pay the fuck attention and notice.
Fortunately, here at Roots Music Canada, we pride ourselves on paying attention. We previously gave a plug to one of the singles from Jake’s 2020 album. Now, I’m happy to offer four hooves up to Lawrence, which comes out today.
It’s beautiful, dark Americana that rings out with the voices of the forgotten – like the labourer who quits his job because “you spend your life working and still end up with nothing” or the man whose lover leaves him because he’s got no money so he tries to win her back by betting his last dollars at the race track.
For the most part, the songs are more impressionistic than narrative, unfolding in the mind like a series of Polaroids with just a handful of lyrics to convey the theme. There’s the hero alone on the sun-drenched prairie contemplating his poor life choices, the aging man alone in his cabin reflecting on his mortality.
The standout – to the extent that there is one – is the title track, which closes the album.
“Lawrence” paints a picture of a man sitting on the dark side of a river as a cold snow falls. Jake establishes what the song is about with nothing but its title and this one lyric: “Should I cross your mind, know that you gave me a good life.”
Jake sings with the gentle, fractured voice of a punk rocker turned folk-singer.
His lush arrangements feature pedal steel and organs, some fiddle, mandolin – and I think I heard cello – even a bit of piano.
If you love artists like Joe Nolan, Eric Anderson and Tom Waits, there’s a good chance you’ll appreciate what Jake has to offer.
So, you know, maybe check it out if you feel like it.