Sound: This particular album seems to come under fire often for being (relatively) overproduced, by Great Big Sea's standards at least. While a couple tracks do use barely noticeable electric guitars and horns, this slight indulgence is more than made up for by the most foot stomping traditional covers GBS had done since 1997's Play album. As one might infer, the folk-pop leanings audible on "Turn" are continued, with the sound-scape augmented by tasteful extra instrumentation. The original songs are at least as strong as those on the previous record, and the covers are well chosen- one particular pair of thundering tunes standing out. the overall impression is that of a record that combines sunny, folky pop with authentic and driving traditional songs to create music impossible not to enjoy. // 8
Lyrics: Doyle and McCann continue to display excellent song writing chops, the latter continuing to excel at ballads. However, what makes the original material for me is the contribution of Bob Hallett. A quick run through:
01. Sea Of No Cares - the title track exhibits the same mid-tempo breeziness as "consequence free" did in the same slot on "Turn". The wistful lyric about the having courage to tell someone how you feel is backed by rather prominent drums and, controversially to some, electric guitar. The latter is mixed low and doesn't take away from this soothing number.
02. Penelope - a quick moving tune kicked off with a catchy "everyday-ay-ay-ay yeah" that provides it's hook. The narrative about a young woman wanting simplicity and freedom is common to GBS songs. Horns are used to augment this tune. As with some of their more pop leaning tunes, the group's musicianship ensures that something more than soft rock is derived from the equation.
03. Clearest Indication - the third straight original to kick off the album is a Doyle dirge not unlike "How did we get from saying I love You." on the Play album. This time a light hammond organ weaves around the acoustic guitars. A strong lyric and feeling defines this number.
04. Scolding Wife - the first traditional song on the album blasts away any misgivings one might feel about the band going "soft" given some of the negatives about the previous three tunes. The Celtic drone and massive choruses of this foot pounder assure you nothing has been lost. All four band members trade verses before the explosive choruses. Perhaps the outstanding performance on the album.
05. Stumbling In - another original, at a fairly brisk tempo that, as with the title track, has a drum intro. The bobbing and weaving vocals are here accompanied by accordion, but the upward staircase of a melody, stopping dead before the choruses, make this an enjoyable album track.
06. A Boat Like Gideon Brown - the second folk song on the album, encircled by Hallett's whistle. As with some of the best folk songs, and music in general, a rather sad lyric is made uplifting by a jaunty melody and enthusiastic performance. This Fogo Island, Newfoundland, tune certainly lives up to that standard.
07. Widow In The Window - McCann's first ballad on the album is rather maligned, presumably for its slow, plaintive pace and melody and resulting length (5:24). However, this disregards the haunted imagery of the song that gives it a good measure of traditional sounding authenticity. The theme is thus one common in the Maritime folk tradition GBS came out of (and of the sort of cliches common to the genre satirized by the Beatles in "Baby's In Black"). A stunning vocal performance by McCann further adds to the massive grandeur of this track, only marred by less than sensitive percussion.
08. French Perfume - the positive nature of a majority of the originals is confirmed by a second straight one that sounds for all the world like a true folk song, this time by Bob Hallett. If not for the references to powered boats and the Mounties, one would expect this dramatic smuggling tune to be well over a century old. Up-tempo and with a lyric and melody that demand atttention.
09. Yarmouth Town - another traditional number, this joins (4) as the albums signature thundering folk performances. A fairly well known and slightly bawdy Nova Scotia sailor's tune, delivered with the Newfoundlander equivalent of the Bo Diddley beat. Outstanding.
10. Barque In The Harbour - a slight switch to a slower, minor key traditional song concerning a sailor with a mysterious lover. The addition of a female vocalist distinguishes this mildly haunted tune.
11. Own True Way - a prominent bass underpinning the massed acoustics and mandolin opens this swirling original. The lyrics again plead for brotherhood, freedom, and individuality, and the essential uniqueness of even troubled relationships.
12. Fortune - a fiddle and bohdran dominated, mostly instrumental number at a brisk tempo with grinning references to fishing in Newfoundland's Bonavist'(a) bay. A slightly quixotic choice to close the album, but leaves one in a good mood. // 9
Overall Impression: Given the criticism often aimed at it, it is fair to deem this album rather underrated. Despite the slight indulgence of the album's second and third tracks, the mix of inspired traditional covers and like sounding original tunes likely rates this album slightly higher than the whimsical "Turn" and a bit behind the roaring "Play" as Great Big Sea's most polished effort. Easily essential for even a casual fan of the group, this is another classic from the band and an excellent parting shot by bass player Daryl Power. // 8