Montreal can lay a touch of claim to Aussie singer-songwriter The Singer (Mike O’Dowd): he’s been based here this past year. Last Fall, he released a debut EP, New Blue Moon, that showcases three of his smooth, folksy, rootsy tunes.
The EP was recorded live over a few nights in Brooklyn and he had some experienced support in the production and musician department. New Blue Moon was produced, engineered and mixed by Jeff Hill (Norah Jones, Rufus Wainwright and Shooter Jennings) with Grammy nominated guitarist Jack Petruzzelli (Patti Smith) and drummer Dave Burnett rounding out the team.
Across the tracks New Blue Moon, Morning Train and Annie Don’t You Cry, there is a fluctuating rhythm reminiscent of a train. It’s more subtle than, say, the distinct Johnny Cash “chugga chugga”, and airier than Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy, but it’s there and it’s soothing. These songs tell stories varying on a love theme with a gentle, traveling troubadour Americana sound. I love that it doesn’t sound over produced, or like the voices and instrumentation came from a computer. Love.me.some.real.music.like.that. The EP sounds and feels like you’re watching a live performance in a cozy venue. The Singer’s voice is smooth and he delivers the lyrics with a Dylan-esque lilt. What I feel could really elevate these pieces is a touch of background vocal, maybe some light harmonies at the chorus to round out the sound and add more emotional tension, his lyrics and melodies deserve it.
New Blue Moon’s lyrics speak to the painful and brave choice to leave a difficult relationship. Not to be confused with the Traveling Willbury’s song of the same name – though he does count several of their members as inspirations in his music (see our interview with him here). “I tried to leave a thousand times or more, / your sad eyes kept me, / but they won’t keep me no more.” Play this song on repeat when you need to make the decision to leave or as a soundtrack for the pensive bus or train ride home after you’ve ended it.
“Morning Train” mixes an “On the Road Again” feel with lyrics about leaving town and starting over with someone. “Can we go back to the start? / I will mend your broken heart, / if you meet me in the morning on an early train.” I can’t help but wonder if this is the same woman he left in New Blue Moon. Listening to this tune, I felt myself thinking of the theme from The Littlest Hobo (Maybe Tomorrow by Terry Bush), so it has a nice Canadian folksy, traveling down the road feel, too.
“Annie Don’t You Cry” stands out as a more country-inspired song with lyrics like: “Well, I lost my job and left my home, / now the endless plains I roam. / When I fill that money bag back up, / I’ll leave this life behind”. It’s melancholy because he’s saying his family is better off without him, but has a more upbeat tempo, making it easy to play over and over again if you’re feeling down but don’t want to go all the way into a hole.
I can see all three of these songs in movie soundtracks, the great indie kind that introduce you to artists you didn’t know before. Listen to and purchase New Blue Moon here and see for yourself.