If you like your country music with a retro vibe, purity of voice and a hark back to more gentle times, then the new album out Friday (Jan 13) from Canadian duo Whitehorse is one for you.
The 12-track LP I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying takes the pair – Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet – deeper into classic country music territory. You might say they’re swimming against the tide of ‘new country’ and for this writer, it’s like finding a beautiful red rose amongst a field of often (but not always) jagged thorns.
Storytelling is at its heart – there’s the usual themes of heartbreak and loyalty, with stunning vocals and guitar picking, great humour and a simplicity of poetry in motion.
There is however, also a darker side. I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying is described as ‘a twist on the ever-present pandemic album’ and in several tracks solitude and loneliness abound.
A case in point is the opening song If The Loneliness Don’t Kill Me, which provides the perfect introduction for folk like me who are unfamiliar with this duo’s work – cue scrambling around for the back catalogue.
One of three tracks already out ahead of the full album release, you can download the song here https://SixShooterRecords.lnk.to/lonelinessPR and I urge you to take a look at the accompanying video, filmed in LA and directed, produced and edited by Lyle Bell and Caitlin Veitch. It combines a cool, contemporary look with the duo’s retro ‘70s country inspiration.
The Road is a personal favourite and the perfect vehicle (excuse the pun) for McClelland’s harmonies – while Division 5 sees Doucet take the lead on a cleverly spun story about a man trying to enlist the help of Canadian Mounties to reclaim his lost love.
“It was just a funny turn at the idea that someone would file a missing person’s report on yourself because you’re such a lost bag of sh*t, and, you know, trying to invoke the strong arm of the law to help get your girl back,” says Doucet.
“I love the idea that you’re getting laughed at, by this squadron of police officers, until one of them pulls you aside, pulls out a guitar, and sings you a country song.” Accompanied by a beautifully Travis-picked guitar and bottleneck slide flourishes, Division 5 showcases both Doucet’s and McClelland’s tasteful guitar prowess as well as their ability to turn such a wild idea for a song into an uplifting tale for all “sad sacks,” far and wide.
I challenge anyone not to get the toes tapping with Manitoba Bound, while Leave Me As You Found Me is a wonderful throwback of a song with McClelland taking lead vocals on a pedal-steel-tinged country number.
“I feel like these classic country songs just write themselves,” she says. “As soon as you get the melodic or lyrical hook, it just comes out.” Sparked by McClelland remembering sex-advice columnist Dan Savage and his “campsite rule” – if you date someone who’s much younger than you, leave them better than you found them.
With that general rule of thumb stuck in her head, McLelland took to writing this waltzing heartbreak number. “Don’t leave your rubbish, your baggage behind / Don’t leave these thoughts in the back of my mind / Dust off my heart, won’t you please just be kind / And let me let you go,” she sings.
I’ll leave you with 6 Feet Away, which hits a particular chord reminiscing of a birthday spent washing hands ‘til they are raw, disinfecting doors and rails…and as McClelland sings ‘I hope I never have to stand six feet away from you again’… I think we’ll all say amen to that.
Whitehorse will be in the UK very soon, performing a prestigious showcase during UK Americana Music Week (January 23-26) in London, where they will also be taking part in a Songwriters Round at the conference, hosted by Bob Harris.
The duo will also be performing in the US and Canada this summer, for full details and more information on their music, visit whitehorsemusic.ca/tour.
I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying is available on Six Shooter Records. Tracklist:
If The Loneliness Don’t Kill Me
I Might Get Over This (But I Won’t Stop Loving You)
Bet The Farm
Leave Me As You Found Me
6 Feet Away
I Miss The City
Lock It Down
Scared of Each Other