Edmonton Journal - June 17, 2010
HUS OBSERVES THE LAND
COUNTRY-FOLK SINGER CASTS HIS LYRICAL NET ACROSS CANADA ON NEW ALBUM
By Tom Murray, Freelance
"This is Canada, so no matter where you are, it's Hockeytown," explains the Calgary singer-songwriter, deftly sidestepping all Flames vs. Oilers questions.
"It's one of the things that ties us together as a nation."
Granted, it's not the most blazingly original of observations, but then Hockeytown (the album) isn't hinging exclusively on our favourite sport. Hus has been thinking a lot about the country lately, unsurprising considering his loaded touring schedule and the fact that much of it has been done in the company of Stompin' Tom Connors, Hus's most obvious musical antecedent.
"I had an awful lot of late-night talks with Tom while on tour with him," Hus admits. "He's a man who's really seriously looked at Canada, and he sees a cultural deficit, an identity crisis of sorts. He attributes it to the fact that we never had a War of Independence the way that America did, a turning point where we stood up and said who we were. We've never made a defining stand about this, and Tom feels it's his job to write songs that give people a sense of who they are. It's important to him, and now it's become important to me, as well."
Hus has always been a keen observer of the land in which he lives, filling five albums' worth of detail on western Canadian lore, both old and recent.
Tall tales, coal-mining songs, saloon ballads and long-haul driving ditties are all sewn together with a regional-sounding country-folk feel and a reportorial eye. On his second Stony Plain Records release, though, he's thrown his lyrical net across the nation, from the Pacific to the Atlantic ( North Atlantic Trawler), with stops in Hamilton ( Hamilton Steel), Saskatchewan, Manitoba and, of course, Alberta.
"Well, that's just it. I was always writing about what was familiar to me, but now I'm trying to get more in. I like Tom's philosophy; it gives me fresh purpose."
Hugging the line between country and folk music has allowed Hus to escape the bland, overproduced prison that comes from embracing Nashville, but it also gives him an opportunity to speak on behalf of people left out by the ever-narrowing shift in music. If the hot country pop tart of the moment represents glitz, success and money to listeners, Hus is more about celebrating the identity of the people who buy his albums. Small things -- the small town where they grew up, their trade, the roads they travel every day of their lives.
"A fan once came up to me and said, 'You know that feeling you get when your name is in the paper?' I know what he means, because for your average person, seeing your name in the paper is kinda cool. Your friends call you up, your parents clip the article out and post it on the fridge. It's a big deal. Well, this guy said that when he hears a song that I wrote about where he lives, or what he does for a living, it legitimatizes it for him. It makes him feel good. Well, I mean, how could I ask for more than that from what I do for a living?"
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