New release from the Canadian Yukon contributes to the Americana canon.
The Lucky Ones’ sophomore album, ‘Slow Dance, Square Dance, Barn Dance’, is a treat that could only be cooked up and served by a people that work hard at playing well together. Musically The Lucky Ones are tight. Their arrangements are balanced, no one musician or instrument is emphasised. This provides a well layered sound that gives the album an orchestral, roots sound that you can imagine finding in a small town ‘opera house’ playing for weekend dance parties or a pick-band up that have been getting together for years to play for barn dances. They give each other time to shine without taking the focus off the songs. They also take turns singing lead which provides for variety as does the variation between song styles provided by different people writing.
Some bands are so rooted in the place where they live that it is reflected in almost all their songs. That is the case with The Lucky Ones and their home, the Canadian Yukon. The songs are like a collection of modern Robert Service poems set to music, or Jack London stories as ballads. One can almost see the Northern Lights, feel the cold and hear the call of the wild along with the whine of tires on a truck heading to Dawson with the radio tuned to a country station.
‘Good Bye Train’ is a lament sung by someone left behind. The mandolin and fiddle work well together with Ian Smith’s voice to emphasis the loneliness of one who knows they ain’t goin’ nowhere. It is a great addition to the train songbook. ‘My Gal is Good to Me’ is sung by Ryan James West, who has the voice for this honky-tonk celebration of the mystery of love. Ian Smith again voices the pain of loss in ‘Jake’ a ballad that reminds us that dustbowl evictions of the 30’s and the farm foreclosures of the 70’s continue.
Not every song works. ‘Kate and Dan’ has the right sound for a ballad about two losers who wind up on the wrong side of the law and the arrangement nails it, but the lyrics don’t have the ring of authenticity. The song of two grifters being hung for shoplifting and cheating at cards set in the modern Yukon doesn’t quite ring true. No woman was ever hung in the Yukon and the last hanging there was in 1932. One comment said that it took JD McCallen nearly a decade to write the song. That time may have been better spent. He does redeem himself though with ‘Fifth of You’ a short drunken musing on lost love.
While not every lyric is poetry and not every song is gonna make it into to the top ten, but overall this one’s a winner and it makes ya feel like dancin. Just the thing for a Yukon night, whether under the midnight sun of summer or the bright moon of mid-winter.