Great Lake Swimmers – New Wild Everywhere

January 01, 1970

(Nettwerk)

 

www.nettwerk.com

 

Whenever
I think of the Great Lakes, which isn’t that
often, Gordon Lightfoot’s eerie tale of the Edmund Fitzgerald springs to mind.
That great lake named Gitchee Gumee; that vast inland sea Superior, which has taken down many ships
into its frigid and inky depths, is
indeed a monstrous body of water. It’s all very atmospheric, not to mention
frightening, when you try to grasp the immenseness and treacherousness of
crossing its wide expanse, which is given to sudden squalls. Drained, it would
cover all of North and South America in a foot
of water! Countless songs, poems and books have been written about the oceans
and seas for a reason. They inspire awe and fear in us, reminding us of our
mortality and tininess in the great scheme of things. 

 

The
band name Great Lake Swimmers reflects that reverence and powerlessness against
nature, and their music draws on and is inspired by our natural world trying to
embrace the spiritual realm; of human hopes, dreams, frailties, love, and the
meaning of life and death. Their new album, New Wild Everywhere, hits a
high-water mark for lead singer/songwriter Tony Dekker and fellow Swimmers in
their ever-increasingly creative body of work. One notable thing stands out
about their music, in that it has its own unique sound, like The Byrds, and
doesn’t easily compare to anyone else sound or genre-wise.  There’s a
noticeable touch of Appalachian home-spun, blended with an alt-country, folk
and dream-pop ambiance, with the occasional inclusion of pedal steel guitar,
symphonic strings, rustic fiddle and the regular use of a banjo. Dekker’s songs
are melodic, hook-filled, with rolling rhythms, wistful, without being
downbeat, and offering hope and solace. His clear singing voice has a unique
hollow quality to it that adds a yearning dimension to his songs that is key to
their appeal.

 

This,
their fifth offering in ten years, is the first album that’s actually recorded
in a real recording studio. They’ve gone for some pretty eccentric locations in
the past, some needing a boat to reach, so there’s a markedly ‘clean’ feeling
to the overall sound. One tune, though, “The Great Exhale,” does take them to
an abandoned subway tunnel in Toronto,
and was recorded in the wee hours after the trains upstairs shut down for the
night. The tunnel and tile acoustics add an echoic singing-in-the-shower
ambiance. The album title song, “New Wild Everywhere” gets chummy with the
likes of The National and the Left Banke, in that it has a polished chamber-pop
sound with the addition of strings. It’s also got a very catchy melody going
for it as well.

 

 

The
most outstanding song in the collection is “Changes With the Wind,” a gorgeous
country rocker replete with soaring pedal steel and fiddle, which would fit in
comfortably with the Flying Burrito Brothers or the country side of The
Byrds.  “Cornflower Blue” seduces with a winsome allure. There are
melancholy and sentimental images within the lyrics, but without being overly
saccharine or mawkish. A plaintive banjo carries the tune and couples with some
Band-like accordion and organ here and there, ala Garth Hudson. The band shifts
into a real up-tempo, rolling beat on “Easy Come Easy Go,” about shrugging off
losses that sometimes blind-side us in life. The band takes an interesting
direction when they take their “Fields of Progeny,” a slow, folksy ballad,
breathlessly sung over fiddle and banjo, and with a slight return, transforms
it into “Les Champs de Progeniture,” sung in French as a charming Acadian-style
waltz. “Ballad of A Fisherman’s Wife” is a catchy, brain-sticking ditty that
tells of the ongoing damage done to the Louisiana
coast by the BP oil spill.

 

New
Wild Everywhere
conveys a new maturity for the GLS, showcasing the
assembled talents of the members, and highlights promises of even better things
to come in their future. The album, like their name, conveys the romance,
expansive beauty and presentiment danger of those immense bodies of water, and
like their previous releases, promises to reside for long stretches on your
music player.

 

DOWNLOAD:  “Changes With the Wind,” “Easy come
Easy Go,” and “New Wild Everywhere” BARRY ST. VITUS

 

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