Music

Canadian folk artist Stephen Fearing both timely and timeless with his old new album Every Soul’s a Sailor

Simple question. Not so simple answer.

“Which holiday are you referring to?” Stephen Fearing asks with a laugh. “You mean the holiday from not renovating my bathroom — I’m doing great with that.

“I’m looking forward to getting back on the road and having my life as a musician resume.”

Ah, yes, reno hell. Apparently that’s how the Canadian artist spent his “down-time” this past December. Having relocated to Victoria a few years ago, he and his family found themselves a bargain fixer-upper, which he’s attempting to, um, fix up.

“We can’t believe that we got this place,” he says good-naturedly. “I mean, the difference between a singer-songwriter and a medium-sized pizza is a medium-sized will feed a family of four.

“So we managed to get in here, but the price is there’s a lot of work to be done. So I’ve got my phone out and I’m watching YouTube videos and I’m like, ‘OK, I’ve never built a wall before, alright, how do we do this? OK, I can do that.’ ”

Luckily he’ll get some respite as he is hitting the road for a lengthy stretch of time with his trio, including a gig Friday, Feb. 2 at the River Park Church Auditorium.

Fearing is finally doing an extensive Canadian tour to support his latest Every Soul’s A Sailor, which was released just over a year ago, but had to go on the back burner a bit because of his duties with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, one of his other projects with Tom Wilson and Colin Linden.

That’s OK, really, because the old new album is still a timeless collection of gentle, delicate yet smart and intricate folk that fans of the veteran artist have come to know and love him for — from his solo work over the past three decades or even in his third incarnation, as one-half of the duo Fearing and White with Andy White.

Well, most of the album is gentle. There is one song that’s pretty wonderfully biting, caustic, confrontational and now more timely than when the album was released, and that would be the tune Blowhard Nation.

A sampling of the lyrics: “I got up this morning/And I grabbed me a paper/To read up on the low lowdown/The front-page feature/Was a weird looking creature/With a rug and a jowly frown/Some of my sinister neighbours/Are rattling the sabers/And the circus is coming to town/It’s like a bad tattoo/And there’s nothing you can do/I could sure use a stiff drink now.”

Three guesses. The first two don’t count.

“That was written in March of 2016,” Fearing says of the album highlight. “He was trying to become the nominee.”

He says he was inspired when he stopped to pick up groceries before the writing sessions for the album in a woodsy cabin in B.C. and, along with the butter, steak and wine, he also picked up a copy of Newsweek with the dumpy, orange dumpster fire who’s now running the shitshow down south staring dumbly back at him from the cover.

“I was thinking as I wrote the song, ‘This is a waste of time because there’s no way. This is going to be like putting wi-fi in a song — it’s going to be out of date so fast.’

“But I wrote it and then six, eight months later watched him become the president of the United States. I couldn’t believe it.”

Join the most inclusive club there is.

In fact, Fearing says they rushed the single out before Every Soul’s a Sailor’s official release in mid-January, hoping to “exploit it,” get some buzz going from those who hate the man, those who love the man, anyone.

Sadly, it’s failed to get any traction thus far, save maybe with the audiences he gets in front of.

“It’s especially fun to play at festivals because it pisses some people right off — you can actually tell right away who’s actually a Republican in the crowd,” he says gleefully, before relating one such incident.

“Last summer I played the Salmon Arm Blues and Roots Festival and my wife was in the audience … and I was playing that song with the trio and apparently there was a woman in the crowd who stood up and yelled, ‘Fuck you, Stephen Fearing!’ ”

He laughs. “Right in that sentence there’s a couple of words that haven’t necessarily been connected before, except maybe by my ex-wife.

“She ended up being escorted off by security — she was completely losing her nut.

“As Elvis Costello said, ‘If you’re not pissing somebody off you’re not doing it right.’

“It’s taken me a long time to figure that out. So bless her heart.”

That said, don’t expect his next release to be a concept album on the long, slow train wreck that is the current political clime.

In fact, the next thing that we’ll hear from Fearing is an entirely different concept record — one aimed at the “the crazy hi-fi nuts” out there.

He recorded it during a quick session while he was on tour in the UK last year and at the behest of Roy Gandy, the man behind high-end turntable and stereo equipment company Rega.

Gandy wanted to figure out how things change — or, as Fearing says, “gets wrecked” — from “what came out of the artist’s mouth and off their fingers” to the final product, be that album, CD or digital.

“So we made an album direct to tape and he mixed the two tracks — just voice and guitar, no overdubs, no EQ, no compression, no mixing console. He devised his own preamps that he built and we put it on to quarter-inch tape and its been cut directly to vinyl by Ray Staff,” he says, noting the famed British cutter, mixer, masterer and remasterer, who worked on classics by everyone including Cab Calloway, David Bowie, The Clash, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and Genesis, was brought out of retirement for the job.

The 11-song offering is made up of old and newer Fearing material, as well as a cover of Tom Waits’ Time, and should see the light of day some time in the next four or five months.

“It’s the first time I’ve made a record since Out to Sea that was started completely from the ground up as vinyl,” he says of his beloved 1988 debut. “It’s kind of a cool thing.”

And one that will need no renovation.

(Photo courtesy Mark Maryanovich.)

Stephen Fearing performs Friday, Feb. 2 at the River Park Church Auditorium with Oh Susanna.

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