Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels
Release Date: March 31, 2009
Record Label: Nettwerk
I'm willing to admit that I'm only a casual visitor of folk music (no matter how much indie-cred that sacrifices). From time to time, I dip into the ever growing number of artists and sift through until I find a winner to satisfy my fix for a little while. Recently, upon the reccommendation of a friend, I checked out Great Lake Swimmers' latest album, Lost Channels, and it proved to be in the perfect place at the perfect time; I've found the album that's going to fill this genre's niche in my playlists for quite awhile.
This album, recorded near the area known as the "Lost Channels" of the St. Lawrence river, coneys the mood and beauty of the place fairly well. People congratulated Bon Iver for recording in a cabin. Well, you can go ahead and start your praise for Great Lake Swimmers and their ability to capture this natural marvel through the use of simple yet intricate songs.
Even as just a limited connoisseur of folk, I understand that it hinges upon two things primarily: the vocals and the lyrics. Of course, hinging it on either one of those would make the other equally important, and in Great Lake Swimmers, the case is no different. Their sound revolves primarily around Tony Dekker's soft but assured vocals, with various band members lending their hand throughout the course of the album on backup. Though his performance is always stellar, Dekker impresses more in some tracks than others, and my particular favorite (in terms of his vocal displays) has become "Concrete Heart," if simply for the completely gorgeous chorus lines. The lyrics are also well constructed in many places, and there are quite a few passages that stick with me after-the-fact.
One thing that really sets this apart from a lot of the tedious folk that quickly becomes monotonous and somewhat, dare I say it, boring, is that Dekker and friends constantly switch up the tracks. While many of them have that straight folk vibe going for them, there are quite a few tracks that have a very country feel (usually those involving a banjo). Beyond that, the structures and melodies of many of these songs give them another style all their own. Examples including "Pulling On a Line" due to it's catchy chorus, and "Still," the styling of which makes it seem almost like a hymn with it's repeated phrases. The musicians have quite a bit to do with the moods of these songs, and when they've chosen to include violins, flutes, 12-string guitars and banjo's, each of them has a definite influence on the destination of the track, and gives quite a different impression than the tracks that are more simple. Either of these have their advantages, and while "New Light" may be more full and mood-driven with the use of the violin, flute and cello, it's still competing with the more simple and straightforward "River's Edge" which only features Dekker on the piano and guitar.
Through the use of the eclectic instrumenation, simple yet captivating melodies, and the ever-present voice of Dekker, Great Lake Swimmers managed to capture the beauty of a scene that they were thoroughly enamored with. While my folk selections may be few and far between, I'm confident in my assertion that Lost Channels is a magnificently well-constructed and well-executed album.