John K. Samson’s debut full-length album, Provincial, is a winter treat. The release takes the listener down four paths that run through the province of Manitoba, where Samson resides. It features re-recorded songs as well as new material. Provincial leans on the softer side with some hard-hitting jams thrown in to shake things up a bit. The brassy tones in “Highway 1 East” lead the last one into “Heart Of The Continent,” which acts like a tour of the area, but specifically to a fallen place. Bubbly guitars and light drums bring Samson to reminisce about what appears to be a weekly tradition where he grew up in “Cruise Night.”
Provincial‘s more energetic songs are much like those of The Weakerthans, which is a change of pace for the down and nostalgic vibe of the release. “When I Write My Master’s Thesis” takes the journey from the town to Samson’s college experience; his lyrics are so visual that you can play out what’s going on in your mind.
Samson’s lyrical style is what makes him stand out among others in the genre. Despite the emotive vocals in “The Last And,” it’s the double bass and piano that truly makes the piece pop. In contrast to its Eastern-sounding cousin, “Highway 1 West” is a warm finish to an overall cold album. “Taps Reversed” finally brings the tour of the town to a close with twinkling keys and peaceful harmonies that are provided with the help of Christine Fellows.
Provincial’s nostalgicfeel is enough to make one look at their own hometown in a different light, and the little things that are easy to miss. John K. Samson hits the nail on the head when it comes to an overall ear-pleasing listen.