But that isn't to say that Tony Dekker and his fellow Canadians haven't made a sonically ambitious album in "New Wild Everywhere." Scored with strings, roughed up with country banjos and twangy guitars, given some extra zest by fiddles, accordions and pianos, and ultimately propelled by a fleet, hungry rhythm section, the band's fifth sounds like a record made as much for a long drive down any coast that's nearest or an even longer late-night bourbon-and-headphones session.
The title track, especially, captures the tricky balance of forward movement and lingering grace, while "Changes With the Wind" cuts loose some excellent country fiddling over a melody that could have provided a hit for the Band. That fusion of country rock and string-driven chamber pop finds its apotheosis on "Easy Come Easy Go," as rollicking and catchy a song as Great Lake Swimmers has ever recorded.
Lyrically, the album tells tales of desire and memory, searching the past for meaning and finding the powers of nature ever restorative, even when fresh landscapes and new horizons look more than a little threatening. The beautifully-plucked ballad "The Knife" insinuates a story of being cut deep by life and love, though the wound is ultimately sweet. And while Dekker's songs are always personal, they're never insular. Case in point is "Ballad of a Fisherman's Wife," a song that evokes the tragedy of the oil-ravaged Gulf of Mexico from the point of view of one woman who refuses to give up. Like all of the songs on "New Wild Everywhere," it's composed, sung and played with true craft and an even truer wildness in its heart.
"New Wild Everywhere" will be released on the Nettwerk label on April 3, 2012.