A summer spent out by the ocean, a rock band always in motion.
The Wheat Pool
Westerners The Wheat Pool are a thoroughly Canadian band. Their songs bear the names of Canadian icons and events. A February 2008 concert in Edmonton was captured by CBC Radio 2 and is available on demand from their website. I decided to check it out even though I was only vaguely familiar with the group. What follows is my running diary. This is a shorter concert so I will fit it all in one post.
The set kicks off with Neil Young. They definitely owe some of their sound the music legend. The Wheat Pool are an alt country band, and this song features generous helpings of harmonica and pedal steel. Sometimes I remember all the reasons why we made each other scream.
I feel like this band should be playing in a barn somewhere with hay all over the place. Unlike some other CBC Radio concerts this one has between songs banter. The band points out that they have an album called Township. The way this set is going I’m going to want a copy. FBD is next. The pedal steel in this song is great. I know the band wears ball caps on stage, but they need cowboy hats. I’m not a big new country fan, but I do like alt country. It’s a fine line between what I like and what I don’t. The Wheat Pool is on the right side of the border.
I’m assuming Whyte Ave is a place. Someone yelled out a random comment from the back, but I couldn’t make it out. This song is for “anyone who’s ever had a crush on a CBC Radio personality.” Nice lead in. Ah the song mentions Sook Yin Li, well known as a Much Music VJ back in the 90’s. She’s out in Vancouver now I think. The song goes all over Canada, from Calgary to Toronto. We belong outside the warm glow, stumblin’ down streets we used to know, the cold embrace of Whyte Ave, this city ain’t the same without you.
At the midpoint we get Evergreen. An appropriate name for any song about Canada. The start of this song is more indie pop than anything else I’ve heard so far. This could be a Death Cab for Cutie song so far. I like the variety of this set so far. The harmonies in this song aren’t quite perfect but are still good.Whyte Ave. gets mentioned again in this song. From the Pacific to Lake Ontario.
The next song is introduced as being about “important historical events,” and how Canada has had many despite being a young nation. It deals with Louis Riel and The Red River Rebellion. This is a dark song with an interesting moaning guitar between verses. You were born on the banks of Red River, I’ve seen your home. It’s amazing how Riel went from executed enemy to Father of Confederation. It only took a hundred or so years of consideration, and some softening of hearts. Louis Riel at the right hand of God’s stone. I think he is definitely more of a Western, Native, and possibly francophone hero than an Ontario or eastern one. But to some degree he was a cilvil rights type leader well before most others.
Between You and Me sounds like some kind of break up song. The guitar has taken centre stage in this one. You could almost slow dance to this song if this was a high school dance and not a concert.
Lyrically, The Wheat Pool are definitely story tellers. None of the songs in this show metaphorically avoid the point. It’s clear what each song is about from the opening lines. It definitely suits this style of music.
The song Geographic Centre of Canada has an interesting title. Most people would acknowledge that the economic and political centres of the country have traditionally been in Ontraio and to some degree Quebec, where the vast majority of Canadians live. But with such a wide and tall country (second largest in the world) the physical middle is a little further West and North. The track opens with wide open instrumental part. This is my least favourite song so far. It’s just not that remarkable and nothing stands out.
The last song is named after one of my favourite artists, Emily Carr. Apparently, the CBC has been instrumental in helping this band to grow. It’s good to see the CBC doing what it is intended to, namely promoting Canadian culture. Emily Carr is probably my favourite of the whole set. The balance of pedal steel, guitar, and everything else is just perfect. I crave different way to cut through all this noise, cause the fields are real in my mind, so leave me the choice, to stay here or run away so far, you and me and Emily Carr. The song includes some Gordon Lightfoot lines for good measure as it winds down.
Overall I give The Wheat Pool an arbitrary “A” for this effort. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I like the concert so check it out if you are into alt country, and Canadian music.