Published Jan 23, 2018This combo has created quite a splash on the folk scene in Canada and beyond in recent years, making the folk charts, touring with Buffy Sainte-Marie, and playing such major fests as Glastonbury. The Fugitives are led by songwriters Brendan McLeod and Adrian Glynn — the former is an acclaimed novelist and slam poet champ, the latter an actor on stage and screen.
Those roles are apparent here in that the material is lyrically strong and the execution often quite theatrical and dramatic. Occasionally, a little too much so, as some production touches and the frequently employed mass vocals sound a mite over-the-top.
A common template here is for a song to begin quietly and sparsely, then gradually build in scope and fervour, an approach often used by the likes of the Lumineers and Mumford and Sons. One example is album highlight "No Words," dedicated to Leonard Cohen; "I have no words, he took them all," it declares, though the song does include such eloquent lyrics as "I never knew a stranger who hurt my heart better." The song begins slowly, just voice and guitar, with other group members gradually joining in on banjo and fiddle. A choir (dubbed the Awesome Strangers Gospel Choir) is then added, imparting a neo-gospel fervour.
The album (the group's fifth) has an adventurous concept, in which every song is dedicated to a person or group, ranging from Steel Audrey, to friends, to victims of a mass shooting ("Orlando"). Written for a friend coping with cancer, "See This Winter Out (for Amy)" has a poignant power, and shows that less can be more. More playful is "London in the Sixties," an homage to a fashionable time and place ("I had a waistcoat and Italian shoes").
The album confirms the Fugitives as a force to be reckoned with, but a more restrained approach for their next recording would be welcome. (Borealis)