Michael Bernard Fitzgerald “Love Valley” (Treasure Island Recs, 2020)

With the release of his fifth album, ‘Love Valley’, Canadian singer-songwriter, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald has created a wistful dream of an imagined life that is both personal and universal. The songs could be described as a journey through this dream that use thoughts and impressions to generate a literal and emotional landscape. The dream resides in a valley, where there is a farm, dogs, children, a cosy kitchen with an FM radio which sometimes is heard playing Joni Mitchell, a truck, a Harley Davidson and a river to go swimming in.

Summer nights are spent sitting on the porch, there are stars to wonder at and intimacy with a partner to keep out the cold. Family events as momentous as marriage and childbirth occur but also the simple pleasures of having friends and family round for dinner. In-Laws are regarded benignly and very much part of the story as candles are lit and the good plates laid out for a family get-together. All of which may be perceived as leaning towards the saccharine but somehow, Fitzgerald manages to avoid this by having a vision that is indeed idealised whilst remaining earthy. ‘I love you’ epitomises this earthy feel as Fitzgerald sings of the pleasure of seeing his partner in beat-up jeans, bare feet and a comfy sweater or working with gloves in the garden.

Fitzgerald’s vocals are calm with a tinge of gravel throughout the album, giving a warm earthy feel. Most of the tracks commence with an unobtrusive droning riff on acoustic guitar that is built upon cumulatively by strings, pedal steel and restrained drumming. There is a pared-back feel to the production; on some tracks, Fitgerald’s vocals are momentarily all that is left in the mix before the instrumentation returns, reminding us that this is his voice, telling his story. Although any of the tracks stand alone, there is a different experience to be had by listening to the album in its entirety where the imagery becomes interwoven to create a rich and warm fabric.

Fitzgerald intends to bring his music to the UK in 2021 via a travelling open-air venue named, ‘The Greenbriar’ which will have canvas curtains, wooden flooring and vintage chairs. This would seem like the ideal place to enjoy, Fitzgerald’s story and passing for a while into his dreamscape.

Warm earthy sounds of a life imagined
7/10

Author: Richard Phillips

From the leaden skies of Manchester to the sunny uplands of Cheshire, my quest is for authentic Americana. Love live music, my acoustic guitar and miss my baby (grand piano).

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