Chris Page “Decide To Stay And Swim Again” (Independent, 2020)

Ottawa based songwriter Chris Page is this reviewer’s latest source of fine music perfectly crafted for these sombre times of isolation. Page took an album he released nearly 20 years ago, ‘Decide To Stay And Swim Again’, then stripped it bare to record an acoustic version. Just him and his guitar at home he creates not only a sound but a complete atmosphere that blends the fatigue of lockdown with a dogged determination to see this thing through. The songs may have been around for a while but Page’s new interpretations will captivate a listener keen for escape.

On the strength of ‘Decide To Stay And Swim Again’ Page would find himself classified as singer/songwriter leaning heavily towards folk. Dig deeper into his 25-year career of independently releasing music to discover his punk and indie rock roots.

Opener ‘Mostly Stellar, Gunning Strong’ has a pure 1970s, almost Laurel Canyon, vibe. Despite its brevity Page creates a tension of impending violence to leaving the listener in suspense. “And the wrath of her neighbours son/spilled out the back door and worried everyone”. Similarly slow and sparse ‘The Disaster Drop’ also contains a cryptically eerie message. ‘She Floats Like Dizzy Sunshine’ slows further as Page matches the dazzling light as he sings of a love that will go the way of the changing season.

Two repeats reveal something of Page’s past. The acoustic ‘The Sympathetic Slur’ hums with mystical folk in stark contrast to the self-explanatory ‘The Sympathetic Slur With My Electric Guitar’ where Page shreds with the energy of his bands on the local punk scene. He does the same with ‘The Dead Weight Song’. Compare and contrast the low key acoustic strum with the same ‘The Dead Weight Song With My Electric Guitar’. Is Page yearning for a past life or just a return to live performing?

In ‘Decide To Stay And Swim Again’ Chris Page proves himself a worthy companion to see through dark times. He compares himself to Bonnie Prince Billy but Will Johnson is perhaps a closer comparison. Either way, Page is his own man, making authentic original music as do so many others in his world of Canadiana.

Bleak yet uplifting indie/folk
8/10

Author: Lyndon Bolton

Writing about americana, country, blues, folk and all stops in between

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