JJ Shiplett “A Way Through Time”

Red Buffalo Records, 2024

Deeply personal and worldly-wise new record from Canadian artist.

JJ Shiplett 'A Way Through Time' cover art‘A Way Through Time’ is the latest release by Canadian artist JJ Shiplett, a mini-album containing seven songs in a classic Americana mould – a touch of Jason Isbell here, a smidgen of Kathleen Edwards there. It is a real grower of a record, successive listens paying rich dividends as it becomes clear that each song has its own distinctive feel and personality, and there is a warm attention to detail throughout, with some beautiful yet unostentatious instrumentation. 

The songwriting is right out of the top drawer. Shiplett’s previous records have contained some gems, but this feels like his most perfectly realised collection yet; intensely personal lyrical studies, with music that supports them so comfortably, it’s like a memory foam soundscape. 

Opener ‘Already There’ kicks in with its rhythmic pulse soon unfolding into warm guitars, easing you into the record with an effortless groove.  ‘Oleander’ is an early highlight, a moody, moving piece, brim full of emotional hooks and pulls throughout.  ‘Reckless Heart’ comes hot on its heels, a tentatively melodic piano intro paving the way for a stunning song of longing, tinged with personal details:

“Got an old guitar from my Uncle Richie
From when he played in a band with his pretty old lady
Said, ‘when you’re out running wild there’s one thing I know for certain
You gotta give it all away to make it count for something’ “

As the album pushes towards its close, if anything, the feel of the songs get even deeper.  ‘Modern Drugs’ has more than a touch of John Moreland, and a similarly abandoned lyric, with Shiplett intoning “I don’t think I can love you any more” as the song builds and builds in its intensity. 

Final track ‘You and I Will Never End’, is a fitting closer, an emotionally charged song, that feels somewhat epic, despite its three-minute time scale. Weeping pedal steel guitar augments words reaching for a bigger picture, made all the more moving by the fact that when recording the final vocal, his close friend Jeremy Friesen was with him in the studio. Friesen was palliatively ill, and it proved to be the last time Shiplett spent with him.

“The way that time stands still
The years keep flipping over
The song is carried on
Weaving like a thread
You and I will never end”

This is a beautiful record, that is equal parts personal and worldly. Give it a little time to infiltrate your musical memory, and it will undoubtedly repay you. 


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Alan Peatfield

A good review. His previous album “Fingers Crossed” had numerous highlights but this latest one is, indeed, excellent.