Calgary Herald - June 19, 2010
TIM HUS'S BIG BLAST OF COOL CANADIANA
By Eric Volmers
You might think Tim Hus was being ironic on his rollicking new country song, Saskatchewan Son-of-a-Gun.
In a burst of regional pride, the singer talks up the prairie province and then proclaims: "There ain't no doubt just where I'm from."
Actually, there is more than a little doubt.
The 12 songs on his fifth album, Hockeytown, for instance, cover all regions of the country. The B.C.-born, Calgary-based, nation-trotting singer introduces a variety of far-flung narrators to sing the praises of the North Atlantic trawlers, Saskatoon berries, Ontario steel and Picture Butte cowboys, wrapping it all in catchy melodies, sturdy musical backing and a stately Johnny Cash-like gravity to his phrasing.
But irony doesn't really seem to be a part of Hus's literary arsenal. Whether they be proudly proclaiming where they're from, how they make a living or what they do in their spare time, the heroes of Hockeytown are nothing if not earnest.
"Not that it's a concept album, but the concept being it's a big blast of Canadiana from everywhere and I wrapped it all up in the common thread of the hockey town," he says. "That's the big thing in Canada -- you deal with such a vast nation and so many different geography and different people. What do they share in common? It's a long way from the Prairies of Alberta to Newfoundland. But there are common threads everywhere. And we get to experience that because we do a couple hundred concerts a year, all throughout the provinces."
This made him the perfect choice to take his band down to Martinique earlier this year, a French island in the Caribbean that had reportedly never sampled Canuck music before.
The island's tourism officials were on the prowl for a band that best represented Canada. Hus, armed with tales about sasquatches, Manitoban floods and Hank Snow, seemed to fit the bill.
"Apparently, we were the first Canadian band to ever play in Martinique," Hus says. "So we got to share stories and songs from our part of the world. It was nice to have that role. And then in April, I was touring universities in Korea under the same guise of sharing our culture.
"The singer first explored the vast wilds of Canada by hitchhiking and riding the rails as a boy alongside his German immigrant father, instilling a love of the land and an early knowledge of the geography. He followed that up by travelling around the country doing various jobs, whether it be a beer truck driver, saw hand, salmon farmer or B.C. tree planter.
This accounts for the working-class sympathies his songs have showcased over the years. But it's his stubborn refusal to replace his national imagery for more universal references that sets him apart.
While this may not raise his stock in Nashville or among those who think Canadian country singers should sound like they're from Nashville, Hus seems to be aware that he occupies a rare sphere in the national songbook.
"I don't know how to write a hit song or anything like that," he says. "I don't know if anybody does, but I really don't. I started out just writing songs that interested me personally. So the first song I wrote was in the logging camp. All I ever really did was write songs about things that I was familiar with. Strangely enough, that kind of became a real niche. It actually feels really funny in way, because I can have these conversations with the press and we can talk about, 'how did I become the Canadian guy?' And I find that a really funny conversation to have with a Canadian artist. Because I would say, how come everybody else isn't?"
If this all sounds like Hus is angling to become the heir apparent to longtime patriot Stompin' Tom Connors, that's because he probably is. Connors himself has frequently named Hus as one of the few young singers coming up the ranks who shares the old master's talents for celebrating signposts of Canadiana with unabashed enthusiasm. You won't find the ambiguity or poetic license of, say, the Tragically Hip's Gord Downie in Hus's unflagging shout-outs.
Hus, who has crossed the country with Connors before, plans to tour with the songwriter this year.
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