Published Sep 11, 2015To follow up their brilliant (if undervalued) 2013 full-length Ghosts Of Your Charms, Toronto roots-rock combo New Country Rehab have delivered a new three-song EP, Wide Awake In The Sleeping Cabin. It is timed to coincide with touring, and that's fitting, given that its songs were clearly inspired by earlier touring Stateside.
Fuelled by the spirited fiddle playing of main man John Showman (an acknowledged award-winning virtuoso on the instrument), "Wheels Up" is a high-energy romp detailing life on the road: "Memphis to Raleigh," he sings, "not time to dilly dally." "Blair Mountain Ballad" showcases Showman's talent as a storyteller, from the point of view of an unemployed miner, while "Pretty Boy Floyd" reprises the story of the notorious Depression-era bank robber. Woody Guthrie's classic lyrics, "Some rob with a six-gun, others rob with a fountain pen," are reprised at one point, but this is a strong original song that shows the social conscience that often surfaces in NCR's work, with vocal harmonies help give it extra resonance.
Recording the EP to two-inch tape at Blue Rodeo's Woodshed Studio with engineer Stew Crookes captured these tunes with appropriate immediacy and clarity. Wide Awake reaffirms that, despite a few personnel changes (ace guitarist James Robertson left after Ghost), NCR remain a force to be reckoned with. Let's hope for more new material soon. (Independent)