Admittedly I’m a rather cynical critic of music, specifically the messages being conveyed, so for an artist to really make me think “wow, this is some good stuff” isn’t the easiest task; especially when it comes to the current folk music revival.
In my experience the current batch of Canadian folk artists fall in to one of three categories: Torontonians singing about prairies and other things they’ve never experienced, men who put more effort into looking homeless than making good music, and a handful of artists who have a legitimate and relevant message. Billy the Kid falls into this last category, giving listeners a very real listening experience that can make anyone think “wow, I’ve felt like that before…”
Billy’s latest album, Ours, is a fan supported project with donations helping with the recording, production and distribution of the album, and thankfully this terrific artist has enough of a fan base that this endeavor became a reality. Ours picks up where The Lost EP left off, facing real life issues and what makes us all tick. Breakups, life choices, employment struggles and even motivations for joining the armed forces are all topics that Billy boldly confronts in her lyrics. I wouldn’t be able to say with honesty that Ours is music that can be used as an escape as this is an album that dares to be real and say “this is the world we’re living in, this is what happens in this world, what are we doing about it?”
A noticeable difference to Billy’s sound in this outing is the fullness that the sound has. A full band accompanies Billy now, giving Billy’s sound a much richer experience while creating heavier emotional impact on the sobering reality of Billy’s lyrics. Her new band, The Southside Boys, are a perfect addition to Billy’s songwriting, giving the listener an exception from the current assumption that folk music can only be a vocal and a guitar or piano. It is possible to get lost in the beauty on this song’s melodies; from haunting and chilling melancholy to inspirational progressions that accompany messages of overcoming hardship, this is an album that sounds great from first chord to last.
If I had to sum this album up in one word it would be “real”. It’s hard to pick out which songs are more powerful than others as every single track delivers a message that’s relevant and acknowledges the rough times without sounding pretentious or self-pitying, and the good times without unrealistic naivity. If I had to choose my favourite tracks on this album I would give the nod to Long Time Coming, Alison, The Way I Miss You and Us Broken Hearts; I feel guilty choosing only four tracks because in all honesty this is one of the few albums to come out lately that I repeatedly listen through first to last without having that “skip it” track.
Where other folk artists are more concerned with their beards, Billy’s material deals with everyday life, making friends, falling in and out of love, and just finding a way to pay the bills while providing an incredibly pleasing musical experience. This album honestly feels like it has potential to become a classic with enough support, and has no reason years from now to not be considered among the iconic Canadian folk albums. This is an artist that dares to be real and makes herself accessible to all who listen to her music, there’s nothing hidden or exaggerated, this is just a very talented artist saying “this is me, this is us”.
Ours – Billy the Kid & The Southside Boys is available on iTunes right now. Purchase it and support this artist, knowing that you’ve contributed to something great.