New CD living proof of Sons' maturity
By Stephen Cooke SOUNDSCAPE
YOU CAN ONLY sing Barrett´s Privateers and Farewell to Nova Scotia so
many times before you either go mad or start wondering why you ever decided to
make a living at making music in the first place.
Sons of Maxwell knew they could only last so long as a Maritime party band,
playing the usual Lower Deck set list, before going batty, and looking to establish
themselves as original artists they´ve proven themselves to have the ability to
match their ambition. Over the past few albums Dave and Don Carroll have
blossomed in their writing and performing, with their latest, Among the Living
(Fusion III) sounding like a long-awaited goal, full of mature songs and polished
performances, without losing the regional flavour that´s earned them their
"So we´ll rise in the wake/Of our big and small mistakes/Till the end of the
race/When we finally find our place/Among the living," sings Dave on the CD´s
title track, a song about fighting life´s battles in search of an existence you can call
your own, although the chorus could also stand for the brothers´ own steady
climb through the music business.
In that sense, it rings true because Sons of Maxwell have learned from their
experiences, mistakes or otherwise, and have taken pains to learn how to create
music that´s entertaining and provocative, pushing emotional buttons on the
heartwrenching ballad Hold On - about a man´s loss of his wife to Alzheimer´s -
without becoming maudlin, or conjuring laughs out of a chaotic family reunion on
When the Circus Comes to Town.
Sonically, Among the Living takes on the difficult task of grafting pop hooks onto
a folk foundation, which the duo does with great success on the first single So
Confusing and the fierce determination of Burning Bridges. It´s not hard to tell
these songs were road-tested before attempting to capture them on tape,
although it doesn´t hurt to have the help of local pros like Kim Dunn, Kevin
MacMichael, Cathy Porter and J.P. Cormier on hand, as well as band regular
Reese Nearing on bass.
The only sour note on the album comes at the very end, the Saturday night party
piece Get It Jumpin´, which sounds jarring and out of place after the sentiment of
Hold On, a more appropriate album closer. The song´s party hearty message
comes off as callous, although it´s hard to say where else it might have worked on
the record since its pumping horns and ´70s-style guitar solo don´t really mesh
with anything else on the record.
In a sense, the song harks back to Sons of Maxwell´s musical jacks-of-all-trades
days. It probably works better as part of their live set, which they perform tonight
at Casino Nova Scotia.