Ponderous and lyrical the music of Calgary-based singer/songwriter Clinton St. John is often like thumbing through a picture book textured and laced with narrative — a comparison made real back in 2012 with the ambitious CD and illustrated book set Storied Hearts and the Three Assimilations.

However where Storied Hearts found St. John involved in just about every aspect of music and presentation his newest album The Minor Arkhana finds him pulling back from the controls a bit leaving the production duties largely to Calgary wondermind Chad VanGaalen and with lush arrangements from three-time Juno award-winner Jesse Zubot (who you may have heard on records from Dan Mangan and Hawksley Workman). The result is St. John’s most assured statement to date eking out a balance between his stripped-down songwriting and strikingly rich arrangements.

“It took two and a half years between the artwork and music to finish [Storied Hearts] and it took a lot out of me” says St. John. “That was a very rewarding but exhausting experience. But I also had these songs that were accumulating and when Chad said he wanted to record the [new] record I thought perfect! I can just take this batch of songs — there were 30 songs basically ready to see the light of day — and I thought let’s just get some of this stuff recorded and documented. Let these guys do what they want. I was happy to back off; I didn’t feel the need to interfere too much. It was really nice to see [the songs] come to life without having to do anything other than playing my parts.”

VanGaalen’s production is apparent from the get-go with fuzz creeping up the sides of album opener “Moth on a Drift” and his voice floating in the background of “Tired Eyes They Argue.”

“I’ve worked with some pretty good engineers but I’ve never worked with a full-on producer before” says St. John. “Right from the first song Chad just took the reins and had a very clear vision of what he wanted. Jesse Zubot coming in was another new experience for me — bringing in a total ringer. I’ve known Jesse for years but I saw him do a workshop at the Calgary folk festival with this guy from Italy Marco Calliari and this bass player Melvin Gibbs. Jesse was there as the ‘host’ and he just effortlessly went from one style to another. I was so impressed I thought if I could get him in town for a week….”

Despite St. John’s reflections on giving up control The Minor Arkhana maintains a very personal edge due largely to his wife and partner Lorna St. John — a multi-instrumentalist. For the upcoming record release show at Festival Hall on September 12 the St. Johns will be performing together with a “yet to be named” percussionist/multi-instrumentalist.

“There are a handful of songs that were inspired by meeting [Lorna]” says St. John. “I was playing in Iceland and she was there as well; we met and basically fell in love. Quickly the songs started to come out of nowhere. I was already writing lyrics on the plane ride back to Calgary — ‘Vanishing Song’ was on that plane ride. The trip was inspiring and meeting her was I didn’t know at the time that we’d be getting married and having a kid and all that happened very quickly but it was great. I met her and got this huge spark so a bunch of songs came from that. There’s a handful of those on the record. The fact that she could be here to sing and be on the record was a surprising twist a nice touch.”

CLINTON ST. JOHN performs on Friday September 12 at Festival Hall.