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Stephen Fearing has been a high-profile figure on the Canadian music scene for a long while, most notably as a member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. He gets involved in all sorts of projects and this is his first solo album in seven years, a period that has seen substantial change in his life. His marriage broke up and he subsequently relocated from Ontario to Nova Scotia, remarried and became a father. Other disruptions came along, too, and this album is primarily a series of reflections on all that, the whys and wherefores and where-nexts of hitting the mid-life crossroads.
Working with co-producer/keyboardsman John Whynot, Fearing has made an album that is warm, intimate and considered in mood. There’s little sign here of the man who knows well how to rock out; the focus is very much on the words as the instrumentation – quite a lot of piano, bass and acoustic guitar, but also some beautiful synthesiser backwashes – build the mood around songs that reach for the honest emotional truth of some difficult times in life. It’s that sense that here is an artist stretching to produce the most honest work he possibly can that has me absolutely loving Between Hurricanes. He’s not always the most fluid of writers and some lines really clunk when he’s not quite nailed the phrase to fit the moment – you try singing along to a chorus that runs “so light a fire and shed your misconceptions and throw them onto the blaze” (These Golden Days, a gently upbeat number) – but the emotional directness cuts through any such difficulties for me. You just can’t help but warm to a man who uses a lifetime’s experience as a professional musician to bring us something that rings so true.
The Canadian music scene is fascinating, full of quirky paths that just don’t seem to crop up south of the 49th parallel; these guys are also proudly supportive of each other, and it’s pretty typical that it’s a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain cropping up as the bonus track. Of all the aspects of this album that I’m taken with, though, the biggest surprise is to be won over by hearing Stephen Fearing discovering his inner crooner: there’s no other word to describe the quiet warmth he brings to the tenderest songs here, and it’s a lovely sound indeed.
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