The Wild North
Welcome to… (Independent)
As the toastmaster to a certain quarter of Vancouver’s roots-rock scene for over a decade now, Elliot C. Way has seen his own music with the Wild North maybe be a little overlooked. The band itself has been busy for almost as long, as a denim-wrapped Wrecking Crew for Vancouver and points beyond. Keyboardist Matt Kelly and drummer Leon Power were both recruited into City and Colour. Guitarist John Sponarski tours with country artist Aaron Pritchett, among others. Bassist Erik Nielsen sits in with everyone, everywhere.
Add to that an admirable commitment to a vintage form of downtime lifestyle debauchery—the kind you might have encountered in Texas circa ’73 or Vancouver before it went all artisanal ice cream and tech-sector micro-dosing—and it comes as no surprise that it took over six years for the Wild North to finally put the finishing touches on its debut album. Still: at long last, here it is, as good as you’d expect from an outfit that’s grown from already hot to way hotter over those years of fitfully hitting the studio. Starting with “Even the Greats”, the record’s sonic orientation suggests junk-sick John Cougar Mellencamp stealing from Neil Young, but with a heaviness that finally overcomes everything seven tracks later in the fabulously ominous “Fools Gold”.
The biggest surprise might be the beefiness of Way’s vocals, presumably seasoned over periodic bouts of living in his van. It’s a rock record for sure, Nebraska-ish “Margaret” aside, and there’s at least one wink to the lighter moves of the Band in the clavinet murmur heard in the chorus of “Worlds on Fire”. Or maybe it’s a jaw harp, or maybe it was telepathically embedded into the track directly from Way’s fever-boiled brain. Fitting for a record that seems to have emerged largely through sheer force of will.