The Weather Station - The Weather Station

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2017-10-06
The Weather Station - The Weather Station
The Weather Station - The Weather Station

The great Americana singer Kelly Willis has a song on her Translated from Love album called “Nobody Wants to Go to the Moon Anymore.” I remember when we Americans really wanted to go into space and land on the “magnificent desolation” of the lunar surface. We were eager, and we burned like rocket fuel to do such a great thing. Kelly Willis made me think about Dylan’s song “The Times Are A-Changin’.”

You know. I felt sad because things have changed, and I think we are now, once again, “criticizing things we can’t understand.”We are doing that a lot.

But this album brought me back to a better time.

The Weather Station is the musical guise of Tamara Lindeman. This new self-titled album, her fourth, is a filled with wonderful Canadian folk rock that will appeal to fans of Joni Mitchell, Thea Gilmore, and the lesser known (but equally talented) Carrie Newcomer.

I suppose it’s easy to write this off as a record that “sounds like” others, but that would be really unfair. Where Joni Mitchell during her Hejira phase, was ephemeral and jazzy (with Jaco Pastorius on bass!), this record weighs heavily on melody. It even rocks from time to time. As Tamara Lindeman said, “I write songs about things that exist.” This music never leaves the urgent and interesting side street sound of planet Earth.

But it also, in its own way, searches for the moon just like all the great music from way back then.

So enough of the Joni comparison: Every female folky singer who graced record grooves with several octaves that floated above Dylan impersonators has to grapple with that baggage. That’s not fair. You know, young Peter Gabriel does sound like the great Roger Chapman from the equally great band Family. He also sounds a bit like Dave Cousins from The Strawbs. I’ll just quote Ian Hunter and his solo live album title: Welcome to the Club. And, of course, Hunter only got the Mott gig because he sounded like Dylan.

All right, so welcome to the club of my Sunday night list of favorite singer songwriters.

The first song, “Free,” is absolutely gorgeous. This one is warm and wide. And it is deep melody stuff.  So it caught my attention. Vocals are suspended in thinnest of air, yet they are ballasted with heavy sandbag observations of daily life back here on Earth.

And then there are the strings (arranged by Tamara!) that permeate this record. Yeah, strings can reduce music to syrupy slop, like some of those CTI jazz recordings; but these strings are the stuff of Paul Buckmaster as he created the drama for Elton John’s classic Madman Across the Water. And, yeah, the next song “Thirty” has drama, just like rocket fuel, to burn. This doesn’t sound like anybody else. This is free spirit Tamara Lindeman on the loose riding through the wide open Canadian landscape. Now, this sounds nothing like Gordon Lightfoot, but it shares the excellent songwriting propulsion and skill of his epic “Canadian Railway Trilogy.” There’s even a bit of flute in the deeper depths of the mix. The same is true for “You and I on the Other Side of the World.” All of the above are simply true, once again, with emphasis on those dramatic strings.

The song “Kept It All to Myself” is melodic and urgent; and sure, it gives “Free Man in Paris” a run for its money.  “Impossible” rekindles the Lightfoot connection simply because the songwriting is so propulsive, melodic, and so very good. The song “Power” rides a bluesy vibe that, with the big cinematic strings (and really nice tiny flute bit), is akin to slowly lifting great weights and breathing in the big oxygen rush of air and then trying to explain the euphoria which doesn’t really need to be explained.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, once said, “ A good rock record is nothing more than a sudden burst of oxygen that creates a euphoria that is as impossible to explain as a morning rain as it bounces on rocks in a weird harmony with just about everything else in the universe.”

The best of the music of the late 60’s and early 70’s had that spirit. And this record bounces like the heavy wet drops of that early morning rain. It’s the memory of watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin hopping (and even bouncing) over the moon’s surface in late 1969 in a climactic moment in history. Music, like everything else of the time, had adventure jumping in its grooves.

Speaking of Neil Armstrong, he was responsible for one of the greatest acts of human ingenuity when he, with seconds of fuel left in the gas tank, switched off the computer and took manual control of the Moon Lander because the computer was trying to land the darn thing in a pile of rather large moon rocks. That was a pretty cool thing to do. It was a rock ‘n’ roll thing to do. You know, taking manual control, flying by the seat of his pants with seconds of fuel left in the gas tank over the surface of the lunar landscape, and, of course, all the while looking for a parking space.

Computers can’t do that. They don’t bounce like the rain, and they don’t worry about rocks.

But this album does.

And it bounces and worries with four more songs. “Complicit” sounds a bit like other songs on the record. But the electric guitar roams in the background and rolls things up a bit. It may well sum up the entire urgent ethos of the album. And again, I will reference Thea Gilmore and her often rapids over the waterfall vocal delivery. That’s meant as high praise. “Black Flies” (the plague of the north!) reintroduces the flute and a reminder to pay attention to the nuances of this music. “I Don’t Know What to Say” is pure piano/guitar singer songwriter stuff. It’s also pure introspective human stuff. And those majestic strings elevate the grandeur of the tune. And finally, “In an Hour” is quietly patient in its melody, and then there is pause, a pause that is interrupted by the piano/vocal coda of “The Most Dangerous Thing About You.” This is deep slow stuff. Then the strings swell to a finish.   

If you have made it this far, the picture is pretty axiomatic: This is a very human record. It’s a gazing at the stars in the night record; it’s a bouncing on the moon record; it’s a watching the rain record; it’s an oxygen euphoric record; and ultimately, it’s a record made by a woman with an absolutely lovely voice who is able to write an equally lovely song and share that magic, thankfully, with the rest of us in our ever changin’ world.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Nice review. I'm looking forward listening. The ladies have really been dominating in the singer/songwriter category this year, so much good stuff has come out. I used to live in TX and saw Kelly Willis innumerable times back in the day. She had great album with her husband a few years back also