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Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson makes stong effort in solo album

One would hardly call Canadian rocker John K. Samson a prolific musician.

Since leaving punk-rock band Propagandhi in the mid-1990s, Samson’s current outfit, The Weakerthans, has released just four full-length albums since 1997. What the musician lacks in quantity, he has always made up for in quality, and this is again the case with “Provincial,” Samson’s first full-length solo effort.

“Provincial” is a journey of sorts. Listeners travel with Samson during his narrative of a long, cold walk into a hospital on “Grace General,” and shift to the high seas on the song, “Longitudinal Centre.”  

Don’t mistake the track entitled “www.Ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle/” for merely a URL, though it will lead you to an actual website if you copy the song title into your browser. The song itself is a call to action from Samson, who encourages listeners to support the Hockey Hall of Fame induction of former NHL star and Riverton, Manitoba, native, Reggie “The Riverton Rifle” Leach.

The chorus goes: “We, the undersigned, put forth his name to the Hockey Hall of Fame.”

For Weakerthans fans seeking a taste of the band, which has been dormant since the 2007 release of “Reunion Tour,” the folksy twang of Samson’s acoustic guitar recalls songs from albums past. “Heart of the Continent” could easily be mistaken for “One Great City!” from the full ensemble’s 2003 release, “Reconstruction site.”

Samson is always good for a catchy single, with or without the backing of his usual full band, and proves as much with “When I Write My Master’s Thesis,” a ballad that any wayward and frustrated post-grad could relate to:

“Later, the darkness hits reboot and the loneliness increases / She said she’d come back home when I write my master’s thesis … greet me with banners and balloons / And my hard drive smashed to pieces / Nothin’ left for me to say when I write my master’s thesis.”

Samson and his wife, Christine Fellows, team up for a duet on “Taps Reversed,” a piano-backed track, which seems like a conversation between a young couple settling into their house. Fellows’ soft voice compliments Samson’s as only an actual wife’s could, and rounds out a pleasant listening experience on the album from start to finish.

“Provincial” is a winner. Now if only Samson could produce works of this quality with greater frequency.

Grade: B+

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