John K. Samson – Winter Wheat

  • December 17, 2016

John K. Samson’s Winter Wheat is a title fitting his second solo effort, a compilation of spare, not entirely bleak, lyrics driven tracks to follow up his 2012 solo album “ Provincial.” The album was created over a Canadian winter, with production and musical back up of Samson’s partner Christine Fellows, as well as Weakerthans co-founder Jason Tait and bassist Greg Smith. Winter Wheat’s stories are often of addiction – to drugs, computer screens, fossil fuels. They unfold in a varied cast of characters – a fatigued academic,, a treatment center patient, a cat named Virtue revived from the song archives of Samson’s work with The Weakerthans. Samson’s lyrics are brought to life by tender, unembellished acoustic guitar with sparse and atmospheric accompanying keyboards and percussion. Standout track “Vampire Alberta Blues” draws heavy influence from Neil Young’s political anthems of the early 1970s. A scathing platform against addiction to fossil fuels – the song shares both the guitar riffs and the same final, dark line of young’s 1974 song Vampire Blues: “good times are coming.” In “17th Street Treatment Center” a recovering addict strums hopefully and sings to himself, belying the resigned sigh of the ending lyric – “ most of us probably not getting better, but not getting better together,” “Alpha Adept “ is Samson as a stargazing escapist daydreamer. It flows along on a slow drumbeat and a floating synthesizer, a sweet picture of a simpler future, one that, in spite of the self-effacement and struggle in Samson’s songwriting, never feels out of reach in his delivery. In the age of Dakota Pipeline battles and post Obama dread, Samson’s songwriting is especially timely, relevant and relatable. – Written by SLynch



SIMILAR | The Dismemberment Plan, Cass McCombs,
Conor Oberst, The Weakerthans