True North 2021
Five decades on since his debut album, elder statesman of Canadian roots rock connects to present issues in order to channel righteousness through an array of arresting tunes.
Murray McLauchlan is a legend – perhaps, local to his native country, where the veteran was honored with the Order of Canada, yet never parochial in his creative approach and scope – so each of his records of the last few years has been perceived as a statement rather than a simple cycle of songs – only these songs are too soft and exquisite to deliver the outburst of freedom, and that’s why the 72-year-old fans are aplenty. More so, the truths Murray’s telling might often be time-stamped but there’s a whiff of eternity about them – an air making “Hourglass” a multilayered paradox in which urgency and transparency meet to refract here and now through McLauchlan-patented lens of honesty.
It’s a brief offering, just over 33 minutes, yet this is a sign of a genuine master in our day and age, an artist who cuts to the chase and doesn’t waste his precious time on chuff. The recent period has given a lot of people a chance to reflect on their existence, but – despite the playful presence of “Pandemic Blues” that’s in fact far removed from the 12-bar idiom – the Canadian can’t focus on the fragility of life or dwell on one’s mortality; instead, he addresses social injustices which came to the surface as of late and were given a proper thought. Otherwise, Murray would not let his anger simmer in “The One Percent” to the serene sounds of guitar strum and organ’s purr, the prevailing sonics on the record, resulting in a stronger emotional impact and allowing the opener land on a updated, albeit still optimistic, Sam Cooke quote.
The singer’s unflinching faith in the future also seeps out of “Wishes” – the album’s finale, lyrically linked to the unity-propagating balladry of “America” – and of “If You’re Out There Jesus” whose friendly conversation with the divine will bring forth such priceless line as “It would be cool if you come back black” which is sheds a different light on “I Live On A White Cloud (For George Floyd)” to slag the privileged folks once again. But “A Thomson Day (For Tom Thomson)” paints a pastoral landscape, full of joie de vivre, McLauchlan’s voice as supple as a brush – and here lies the platter’s sole issue: for the most part, its performance lack variety. Take it in as a particular piece of tête-à-tête, though, and “Hourglass” should become a chat with a confidante you didn’t know you had.