Exclaim!'s Top 10 Folk & Country Albums Best of 2016



 
2. John K. Samson
Winter Wheat
(Anti-)

John K. Samson's sophomore solo record, Winter Wheat, almost feels like more than we deserve. It sprawls like his Prairie hometown of Winnipeg, and is not-so-simply a folk record. Over 50 minutes, he rails against environmental destruction in vicious rock'n'roll fashion with "Vampire Alberta" and whispers in spacey spoken word the thoughts of a delusional truth-seeker on "Quiz Night at Looky Loo's," eventually giving him a companion on the starlit sway of "Alpha Adept."
 
Each track on Winter Wheat feels dense and endlessly navigable. Samson details the vastness between two people on the delicate familial forgiveness of "Requests," and uses relationships to send messages that resonate on a heartbreakingly global scale on the sweet, wintry title track, which lifts a line from Miriam Toews for a thesis statement: "We know this world is good enough because it has to be." "Oldest Oak at Brookside" wraps Winnipeg's history into a few minutes.
 
Yet they all remain, at their heart, about connection, its beauty and its consequences. On "Virtute at Rest," when the late Virtute the cat comforts her troubled companion from the bed in the back of his brain, it's at once devastating and inspiring — like all of our most important relationships.
Matt Williams