JJ Voss possesses a fabulous voice for telling stories through song. There’s a rawness to Voss’s gritty vocal delivery, accompanied by his warmly picked acoustic guitar, that is just perfect for an intimate song such as this. Producer Russell Bloom also contributes electric guitar, Dobro, banjo and percussion, giving the song a fullness and depth. As the title, ‘A Letter to Dad’, suggests, this is an incredibly personal piece of writing, full of lyrical detail specific to his life and family. Written for his father, who passed away nine years ago, the song explores Voss’s multi-generational farming family history and the commitment he made to maintain the farm and keep it in the family. Knowing that Voss’s emotive words are very much rooted in reality makes them all the more touching and effective: “I can still feel you out in these hills // it brings me peace and it gives me chills // roots a hundred years deep in this dirt // I’ve gotta find a way to make this work // Now the title’s clear and the bills are paid you left us kids a choice to make // we can walk away or see this through…I’ve got your stubborn will and I bear your name. // I shook your hand and I gave my word // I’m gonna find a way to make this work // You used to leave the light on in the yard // hoping I would find my way back to this farm // When it feels like I’ve lost my way and all alone // I always find myself, when I come home.” Above all, though, ‘A Letter to Dad’ is absorbing because of the absorbing melody and quality of the performance.
Voss explains the song’s deeply personal background: “This September 30 marks the 100th year since my Grandad received the deed to the land that has been in our family’s name since. My Mom and Dad raised four kids and lived there right up until my father’s passing nine years ago. My Dad’s dream was to see the farm continue to operate for another generation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though any of my siblings or I will carry on his legacy. The last time I spoke to my father before he passed, I promised that I would do everything I could to keep the land in our name and preserve our family’s home. I wrote ‘A Letter to Dad’ to give him an update and to reaffirm my resolve to find a solution. With my writing, I’m pushing myself to drill down deeper into my own truth, which is both scary and exhilarating. I’m facing the tough topics in my life that I’ve always been afraid to talk about. The imperfections of humanity are, to me, what makes art compelling. I’m working hard to write unvarnished, un-calculated truth.”
After releasing his first EP in 2008, Voss has gone on to receive critical acclaim and lots of country radio airplay in Canada where he has picked up a Western Canadian Music Award and Saskatchewan Country Music Association awards and nominations in recognition of his work. His most recent full-length record was 2020’s ‘Come Along With Me’. However, like many of us, the pandemic led Voss to reassess and rethink his music and ‘A Letter to Dad’ is the first release since he renewed his commitment to his art as a voice for the working class. On the strength of this engaging, emotive song, we look forward to hearing more from the Canadian troubadour soon. Check it out.