Home Album review Album review: Jason Fowler – Forelsket

Album review: Jason Fowler – Forelsket

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Jason Fowler’s new album of solo guitar compositions, Forelsket, is a rare achievement: an instrumental record that stands as a collection of songs—even without words.

Like its charming cover image, drawn by his daughter, Lily, more than two decades ago, Forelsket combines wizardry, and whimsy, with a light but serious touch.

Jason’s bio is peppered with awards and acknowledgements. But Forelsket may be his most impressive work to date.

A veteran of the Canadian folk-routes scene, Jason is highly respected as a guitarist, producer and composer. He’s made a half a dozen albums showcasing his skills as a singer-songwriter-guitarist, beginning way back in 1995. He’s produced and contributed to a wide array of recordings, spanning pop, folk, roots, rock, blues, and more.

Jason has played with John McDermott’s first-rate stage squad for 23 years, leading the band since 2009. Jason hosted the annual John Prine Shrine for years at Toronto’s legendary Hugh’s Room. And, from 2003-2023 he led the house band for The Way We Feel: A concert celebrating the songs of Gordon Lightfoot.

I was the host of The Way We Feel, and in that role, I heard Jason and the band (which included Anne Lindsay, David Woodhead, David Matheson, Christine Bougie, and Burke Caroll) accompany over 100 artists. A master of understatement with a love for Lightfoot, Jason already had a reputation as an admirable accompanist when the show began—which he burnished, playing with everyone from show founder and organizer Jory Nash to Barney Bentall, Dala, Catherine McKinnon, Russell DeCarle, Coco Love Alcorn, Julian Taylor, Tom Wilson and dozens more. He always understood that his role was to help them—and Lightoot’s songs—sound great.

What Jason shares with all those players is what makes Forelsket such a gorgeous listen: a deep appreciation for the heart of the song. His original instrumentals are not just vehicles for fancy fingerwork. Every tune occupies a defined musical and emotional space—each as lyrical as any song graced with words. And, this record (I have the vinyl version) is fully an album, not just a series of singles. It deserves to be heard just the way it was put together, in sequence, side by side.

The rueful title track is an aching ode to love (forelsket is Norwegian for the feeling of infatuation). Drew Jurecka’s violin sweetly graces the light French swing of “L’Esprit de L’Escalier.” “Lumens of Light” (reworked from a previous album of the same name) seems to find Jason’s fingers quantifying the unquantifiable. The cheery, yet slightly forlorn “Raspberry Days” hearkens to the bathos of Ry Cooder’s Chicken Skin Music. ”The Wheel of Ixion,” with its title reminiscent of Rush, ironically invokes the frenzy of the working world. “Elegy” highlights the handsome tones of Jason’s beloved Graf guitars (the only ones he plays on this recording) with an Iberian inflection. That’s Side A.

Over on Side B, “Cambridge to Coventry” suggests the English countryside, but is sonically more reminiscent of the cheerful play of Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins on Neck and Neck. That playful spirit continues with “The Earl of Merle,” with Drew’s whimsical clarinet and Mark Lalama’s bright accordion soaring around Jason’s nimble figures. “Solaris” leans to the acoustic-ambient, with deft harmonics evoking the snowflakes that partly inspired the song. “Midwestern Lament” combines baroque bass lines with Satie-esque minimalism and just a suggestion of a country melody from somewhere out on the road. “What Would George Do?” channels a hint of Bruce Cockburn’s “Train in the Rain” while pondering the actor Clooney’s next smooth move. On “The Quiet Earth” Jason evokes the unfamiliar silence of the global pandemic pause. And the final track, “Along the French River,” finds Jason Fowler ruminating by a riverside, like a portaging voyageur, steeped in the beauty and the mystery of it all.

Flip back to Side A, and repeat. Forelsket deepens with every listen. Forelsket is an album at once delicate, and robust; organic, and intentional. It is a gold mine of gorgeous guitar playing, but understated and sparing, and always in service of the song. Beautifully designed by Amanda Walther, engineered by Julian Decorte, and ably self-produced by Jason, Forelsket looks and sounds just right. Above all, Forelsket is a cohesive body of outstanding works, by a master craftsman—witness and narrator of a transformative journey in song—and not a note of it sung!

http://www.jasonfowler.ca

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