Backed by his regular rhythm section of Josh and Sam Langille, alongside guitarist Grant Siemens and Burke Carroll on pedal steel, the Charlottetown singer’s third album dives deep into old school country waters, kicking off with ‘Stupid Cupid’, not a cover of the Connie Francis hit but a self-penned (as are all the songs) number about the girl of his dreams falling for his best friend that could easily have come from the same era.
He cites the likes of Roger Miller, Shel Silverstein, Bobby Bare and Hank Williams, all of whom can be heard in the twangsome, bouncy ‘11 Yellow Roses’ in which a woman wonders why her husband’s sent them to her, fearing they mean he’s leaving her, only for an amusing special offer punch line. It underscores the sense of humour that runs through the album, even on the strumalong Cash-like chugger ‘Brand New Heart’, an ironic tale of a man getting a heart transplant, only to find himself experiencing personality changes and craving, beating faster at the name Sheila, finally discovering the donor was killed by his wife.
A bluesier note’s struck on the walking beat ‘Opposites Attract’ (“She likes the real butter I’m a margarine man”), while ‘Romance Novel’ is a honky tonk waltzer sung in the voice of a woman with conservative husband (“He doesn’t like to explore/Ain’t into tryin’ things he ain’t tried before/I can’t get wild n’ freaky with my man/So I’ve taken matters into my own hands”) satisfying her fantasies reading stories, a vicarious cheating theme to which he returns on the pedal steel, hula-coloured ‘When She’s Sleeping, She’s Cheatin’’ (“She even started puttin’ lipstick on in bed/So she’d be good and ready for the men inside her head”), working out that, if we sleep a third of our lives and live to be 75, she’ll sleep cheat on him 6033.33 times.
Sex or the lack of it frequently looms large, the narrator in the simply strummed Willie Nelson-like ‘They’re Makin’ Love Below Us’ poignantly listening to the couple below indulging in pleasures her husband no longer gives her (“I know I shouldn’t listen/But I can’t help myself/I forgot what it sounds like/To be that close to someone else”).
Of course, there’s always ways to spice things up, as in the slopealong bluesy ‘Breakup & Makeup’ (“Ah kissin’ and huggin’ and luvin’ each other/Talkin’ real dirty to one another/The fire that’s burned out would reignite/Oh let’s gettin’ a fight, then breakup & makeup tonight”) by “Tryin’ out every position in the Karma Sutra/From the Passion Pretzel to the Couch Canoodle”.
And if that doesn’t work out, well, then there’s always divorce, the twangy Elvis rock ‘n’ roll country sounding ‘Half of Everything’ addressing the practicalities of a 50/50split (“Oh I got 30 inches of our 60 inch TV…and she got the right side of our double bed/And don’t forget the dog, oh we each got half of him”).
It ends in a very different style with the spoken philosophical ‘God Walks Into A Bar’ recounting God returning o Earth to find no one has time for him anymore now they hav a pill to make then live forever. The bartender offers him one…but you’ll have to listen find out what happens.
The subject matter probably would have had several tracks banned from the radio stations of the era he recreates, but there’s a real joy and affection for the genre here.
Artist’s website: www.scottmckay.ca
‘Romance Novel’ – live: