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CD REVIEW: Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels

By J.D. Stefan

 

 

 

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Artist: Great Lake Swimmers
Album: Lost Channels
Label: Nettwerk Records
Website:
www.greatlakeswimmers.com
Genre:  Alt/Indie Rock, Singer/Songwriter
Technical Grade: 8/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 8/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 8/10
Best Songs: Palmistry, Pulling on a Line, Stealing Tomorrow
Weakness: Vocals mixed a bit too quietly at times, would have liked more information about the recording locations for each track.

CD REVIEW:  

“Lost Channels” is the 4th album from the Toronto area band Great Lake Swimmers led by singer/songwriter Tony Dekker.  The band started out in 2001 and has achieved a good deal of success and acclaim, especially since the release of Lost Channels.  According to the band’s website, Lost Channels has placed at #1 on the iTunes Canada Singer/Songwriter charts as well as showing up on Billboard’s Heatseakers Chart during its first week debuting at #10.  Endorsements and raves from the likes of NBC’s Brian Williams, cyclist Lance Armstrong and show and tour openings for Robert Plant and Feist show clearly that this is an up-and-coming band with a lot to offer. Great Lake Swimmers recorded Lost Channels in a unique manner – they worked within a number of places in and around the Thousand Islands area up the St. Lawrence River including the landmark Singer Castle near Hammond, NY.  In addition to Tony Dekker, Great Lake Swimmers features Dekker’s “right hand man” Erik Arnesen on guitars, Julie Fader (flute, backing vocals), Greg Millson (drums) and Darcy Yates (bass).  Lost Channels also features appearances by Erin Aurich (violin), Mike Olsen (cello), Paul Acouin (vibraphone) and special guests and collaborators Serena Ryder (vocals) and Bob Egan (pedal steel).  Lost Channels was produced by Dekker and Andy Magoffin and engineered by Magoffin with Justin Nace assisting.  Mixing was done at The House of Miracles by Magoffin and the CD was mastered by Joao Carvallo.  The website is chock full of great info on the band and a current listing of live performances. 

Lost Channels opens with “Palmistry”, a mid-tempo track with a hint of R.E.M. in the jangly guitars.  It’s immediately apparent why Great Lake Swimmers has received the accolades they have.  Dekker’s voice is heartfelt and emotive and seems to carry a burden of years and experience with it.  His vocal stylings at times are somewhat reminiscent of another great singer and songwriter – Mark Kozelek (solo artist and leader of the renowned Red House Painters).  “Pulling on a Line” has a great mix of mandolin and acoustic guitars framing Dekker’s vocals.  There’s a wistful vibe to Lost Channels and the mood hints of the river and the sea at times.  It’s clear that the recording locations played a definite part in the feel of the songs and there are lyrical hints of the river throughout.  There are clear folk influences in Dekker’s arrangements as well, most notably in “The Chorus in the Underground” which is a more upbeat track with violin weaving in and around Dekker’s vocals.   A common thread throughout the CD is the sense of space and atmosphere that Dekker constructs in the arrangements.  His vocals are always seated perfectly in the musical textures.  The influence of the locations can be heard as well – the recording captures some very nice detail of the different rooms and effort was clearly made to make the rooms and locations a part of the overall sound.  Another nice touch paying homage to one of the recording locations is “Singer Castle Bells”, a track featuring nothing more than the bells of the Singer Castle.  “River’s Edge” is a stripped down acoustic number where Dekker compares the river to “a horse unbroken” and like all the songs, is a wonderfully recorded and produced track.  The whole CD is clear, vibrant and spacious.  The CD cover is simple and effective.  The graphics are textural and even there one can sense a hint of the water theme matching up perfectly to the music within.  With clearly established Internet presence and all the bases (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube) covered, Lost Channels is well worth the accolades and raves that it has received.

It’s difficult to find fault with Lost Channels. Dekker’s songs have struck a chord with a large audience largely in part I think because of his honest and emotive lyrics and vocal delivery. There are a couple of tracks where I felt the vocals could have come more to the fore as they seemed to get somewhat buried and blended perhaps a bit too much with the instrumentation.  More information on where each song was recorded would have been an interesting addition as well given the variety of locations and unique venues.

Overall, Lost Channels is an album with depth, emotion and imagery.  It conjures visions of a slow boat moving upriver with purpose but no hurry, simply taking the time to enjoy the scenery and experience…

J.D. Stefan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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