Review by David Barrett
Let it Go from Victoria, BC's Jon and Roy deserves to be in contention for roots/folk Album of the Year. There, I said it. And while I don't usually like making such assertions I think it's important to bring this up since I really want you to listen to it— it is that good. It's the kind of album that, when you put it on, someone will inevitably ask, "What are we listening to?". It has a certain familiarity but also demonstrates an originality in musical and songwriting creativity that keeps the songs fresh and accessible.
For me, a good album should hold several facets, including:
- catch your attention from the get-go. I often think that choosing the order of songs is a bit of an art. Mountain Town is a great choice for an opener, a measured rollicking stripped down (guitar, bass, snare, maracas and vocals) song revolving around introspection, dreams and the self.
- create a mood: think, for instance, of Blood on the Tracks. You know the kind of feeling it has throughout and you know the kinds of moods that complement your listening to it. Let it Go has its own personality and if you're like me you'll warm to it quickly- for me it's a mood that's well suited to eating a spicy plate of huevos rancheros on a Sunday morning with a slight hangover, dissipating with every sip of your perfectly made Caesar, skies clearing, your coffee strong and hot *.
- maintain your interest by changing things up (quick caveat here- there are albums that a fairly uniform throughout, In a Silent Way, for instance, comes to mind and this in no way diminishes it). Let it Go succeeds in several styles from bright driving almost reggae grooves to careful, more poignant thoughtful acoustic songs. One interesting thing about Jon and Roy is that Jon does all the singing (I don't think there's any harmonizing whatsoever and as far as I can tell he doesn't layer his vocals or add any effects to make a "larger" sound) and yet you don't walk away from listening to it thinking that it all sounds the same. I think this is a good indicator of expertly crafted songs and a great delivery.
- a nice bonus is enjoying every track. Let it Go ticks this box for me as well: hit play and walk away.
The guitar playing on this record is primarily done on acoustic guitar, however there are one or two tracks where you hear classical guitar (the instrumental Tavern Song, in particular, comes to mind- Spanish style guitar playing). Smattered throughout the album are horns, played above the melody and conga drums which add colour and sometimes emphasize the reggae flavours of the songwriting. Rhythmically the songs range from a rollicking train-rolling-down-the-tracks pace to very reggae-inspired rhythms, occasionally slowing down to a more purposeful, thoughtful pace (Bygone Road, for instance is more introspective in subject matter and gait). It's these kinds of change ups that help to keep your ear glued to the music and the songwriting and lyrical subject matter (themes of love, dying, time pop up throughout) do the same.
Great to see that they're playing Ottawa at the end of September, on a Friday night, the 28th at Zaphod's– if this record is anything to go by it'll be a great show.