Spree Music with J. DiDomizio: John K. Samson
Lyric writing is an interesting art, with some artists preferring to abstract the lyrics in nonsensical words, and others crafting pieces that work more like short stories. John K. Samson, best known in the U.S. as the lead singer for The Weakerthans, is a songwriter from the latter camp, for sure. He admits to being as much in a recent interview with The A.V. Club, and even calls himself a “thwarted short-story writer,” who has merely figured out how to cram a story into a “three-minute pop song.”
Samson has had a lot of experience in crafting his songs, from solo EPs in the late 90s, to a role as bassist with Propagandhi, and in work with his wife singer-songwriter Christine Fellows. Samson is currently touring in support of his first full-length solo record Provincial, released earlier this year. The album, originally conceived as a series of 7” releases, explores his hometown of Winnipeg, and the surrounding communities. There’s a lot to like about this disc, as it evokes a particular way life in a tough climate, with a crumbling city, low economic opportunities, and long-disappeared fortunes. Sound familiar? It should, as Sampson’s talent for packing insight in his lyrics and emotion via his light and smooth croon will give fans of The Weakerthans a lot to enjoy. Newcomers to his music can find easy parallels in Samson’s subject matter to 1980’s era Springsteen, with small town life front and center, highlighting the issues of economy and distance that both bring people together and keep them apart.
Also released earlier this year is a collection of Samson’s writing Lyrics and Poems, 1997-2012 from Arbiter Ring Press, a progressive publishing company he helped found in 1995. The book showcases how strong of a wordsmith Samson is, and how his lyrics even without accompanying music can be more moving and powerful than some novels. Bringing his evocative and at times emotionally crushing (I can’t listen to “(Hospital Vespers)” without tearing up, regardless of circumstances) songs, and not to mention his hooks and unique voice, to Buffalo this weekend, John K. Samson will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at Mohawk Place. Enjoy a pint, and make your way through our great city to catch his show, and I dare you to not sing along to “One Great City!”
Joseph DiDomizio is a writer, filmmaker, and sometimes a musician. He has been writing about music, movies, books and pop-culture for several years. You can follow him on Twitter if you’d like.