Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans played to a full house at the Starlight last Thursday night.
The evening began with a set from singer-songwriter Daniel Ledwell and his disarming charm and song writing chops. The Sunparlour Players followed with the reckless abandon of folk-rock at its finest. The trio left ears ringing and sold homemade preserves after the show.
Jim Bryson hit the stage around 11 o’clock after what most would consider a tough act to follow. Backed by The Weakerthans, a Canadian treasure, he played with the grace and confidence of a seasoned veteran.
Before the show, Bryson offered The Cord some of his time for an interview about his new record Falcon Lake Incident. Bryson recorded the album with The Weakerthans at a cottage in Falcon Lake, Manitoba.
“I had worked with them on their songs, I had been working on a record and I thought it would be nice if they wanted to work on some of mine,” said Jim regarding the collaboration. “The idea blossomed into this big monster and we ended up making a whole record out in the middle of nowhere in Manitoba.”
Bryson has worked extensively with Kathleen Edwards as well as The Weakerthans, Sarah Harmer and Lynn Miles.
On this particular record, he was joined not only by the Weakerthans, but by the smoky voice of Jill Barber and Gord Sinclair of The Tragically Hip. The musician largely credits his inspiration and lyrical intuition to his high school English teacher.
“I didn’t really have any cultural influences around me, it was just road hockey and Saturday morning cartoons,” he reflected. “It all happened at around the same time as I had this really influential English teacher, it just seemed like I was ready. I was a really restless, behavioural problem kid that had lots of troubles, I guess I was a late bloomer. It was all the right set of circumstances both musically and having the right teacher who got me into books and words.”
Jim counts punk bands, Joe Jackson, Husker Du and Russian novelists among the biggest influences of his youth. The result seems to be a singer-songwriter with an ability to capture the sincerity of lyrical music while also creating the lively atmosphere most often associated with simple pop songs.
“I definitely think my music has a lot of elements. I do get classified in the singer-songwriter vein, I’m not uncomfortable with it. But we definitely liven it up a bit for an eleven ’o’clock show.”
Falcon Lake Incident is a dynamic, lyrical record. “Freeways in the Frontyard” beautifully contemplates the rediscovery of an old friend or lover while exhibiting some of Bryson’s best lyrical work.
The whole album benefits greatly from his subtly poignant voice, which suits the lyrics and the feel of his band. “Decidedly” combines unimpeachable lyrics with the driving rhythm of an electric guitar. It was the closest track on the record to capturing the overall mood of his live set.
Bryson’s show at the Starlight fell on the first week of his Falcon Lake Incident tour. It will end fittingly at the Falcon Trails Resort in Manitoba on Mar. 6.