CAMERON BROTHERS BAND - RATIOS
2012 – Self Released
This gorgeous debut album is just about as geographically specific as any any of the west coast country rock of the 1970s and is far stronger for that fact. The songs are of a generally slow to mid tempo rootsy country with a considerable edginess that belies the lovely melodies and the whole album contextually evokes the wide open spaces of the lonesome prairies of Canada in much the same way as ‘hillbilly music’ evokes the Appalachians. In fact in many ways, but without actually sounding anything like them, they are reminiscent of The Band with their choice of instrumentation and the music and deeply rooted individuality that draws it’s influences from myriad directions. This along with the excellent song writing and playing creates an atmosphere that draws the listener into the sometimes harsh unforgiving world they are creating. Even on the slightly lesser songs, of which there are very few, there is still a powerfully dramtic atmosphere that keeps the listener slightly on edge, thanks in the main to the sheer lonesome beauty of the music.
This talented Toronto resident five piece band consists of Scott Cameron on lead vocals, his brother Braden Cameron on lead and harmony vocals, electric and acoustic guitars and banjo, Emma Harvey on lead and harmony vocals, Joshua Van Tassel on drums and percussion, Aaron Comeau, bass, piano, electric and acoustic guitars, harmony vocals, and other assorted strings as well as reeds and keyboards. Of the twelve songs on the album eleven
were written by Scott Cameron whilst Big Dreams, Little Faith is by brother, Braden whilst production is courtesy of multi instrumentalist Comeau. The lead vocals are always warm and expressive irrespective of who takes them and although Scott tales most, Emma Harvey’s lovely female tones bring a nice contrast and the excellent band harmonies add hugely to the generally moodily lonesome atmosphere. The songs themselves are all beautifully written story songs, several of which are ‘leaving songs,’ others that relate to the remote wilderness and still more that evoke journeying, figuratively as well as literally. The production is excellent and the choice of instrumentation is superb, with the general sound having a lonely spaciness even though the instrumentation is not always as sparse as it seems thanks to the skilful playing, arrangements and the already mentioned production.
The album kicks off with Frozen in the Prairies, a song of highlights that sets the scene beautifully with some gorgeous accordion playing on a strong country song that has a starkly bleak beauty and an acceptance of, if not a liking for, the time and place the subject finds himself in. The title track Ratios is a male and female duet with Emma Harvey’s lovely vocals providing a nice counterpoint to Scott Cameron’s, with mandolin and bass driving an excellent song that gradually gets lifted further by additional instrumentation. It is a cleverly written ‘leaving song’ with the consequences told from both the male and female perspectives on alternate verses, with the pair harmonizing well on the chorus. Six Feet Underpaid provides yet more contrast on a mid tempo country song with ‘high lonesome Hammond’ and banjo with excellent male vocal and harmonies. This is another really good song, full of the sadness that genius is often only recognized when it is too late. Stylistically the song is not too distantly related to early Kris Kristofferson, or at least a blend of him and The Band! This is followed by Whiskey Winter, a powerfully evocative song interspersed with some lovely steel guitar and chiming piano, good vocals and powerful harmonies with the late arrival of strings adding to the atmosphere on a tale of longing for a reclusive life in Canada’s remote and icy wilderness. Who hasn’t ever wanted to get away from the human/rat race, perhaps leaving out the iciness though?! Big Dreams, Little Faith, is the only song from the pen of Braden Cameron, but what an excellent song it is with a nice organ sound and chiming twangy guitar on a strong tale of shattered dreams that has a soulful bluesy feel in much the same way as Delaney and Bonnie back in the 1970s. It fits well in the middle of this album that has a lovely flow from start to finish. Rain On A Steel Roof is an unusual duet ballad with piano, fiddle and drums dominating the slow moody atmosphere and an exchange of male and female verses coming together
on the chorus with accordion gradually adding to the depth on a beautiful ‘leaving’ song that again is told from the perspective of the person leaving as well as the one left behind. Final mention goes to Where The River Meets The Sea, a tremendously atmospheric duet with steel guitar, gorgeous harmonies and a powerful feel that makes the listener wonder what has been left behind that makes the journey of the subject so necessary, despite apparently finding contentment at last, but at what cost?
The beauty of this debut album is that there seems to be nothing experimental in their search to ‘find their feet.’ It is fully formed and has a style and individuality that should serve them well and make ‘The Cameron Brothers’ sound and style recognisable to most in the not too distant future. Beautiful album.