THE SECRET OF CLIMBING
Warm and Intimate Back To Basics Songs From Canadian Legend.
While I had two albums by Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, I wasn’t aware of their status in Canadian or especially North American popular culture until three years ago; and even then the constituent parts were still a mystery to me.
HA!!! Since then I have become something of a convert and evangelist for their cause; perhaps none more so than Stephen Fearing whose EVERY SOUL’S A SAILOR was a huge hit on the website in 2017 and still receives more ‘reads’ than I could ever expect; plus I still keep it in the car for ‘emergencies’ when I need to hear something to soothe my tortured soul.
Which all brings us to Fearing’s 11th solo release; and possibly his most fascinating?
Before I discuss the actual music and songs I have to tell you about the background to the recording, as it’s intricate to the overall story.
As a lifelong advocate of ‘authentic music’ and a man who has been ‘chasing his musical sweet spot’ forever, for THE SECRET OF CLIMBING Stephen has collaborated with Roy Gandy from Hi-Fi specialists Rega Research and legendary Mastering Engineer Ray Staff to create music that was originally destined for a Vinyl Only release which the trio feel is the ‘one true format’ to recreate the sound that the artiste hears inside his head.
Recorded over just two days in a tiny; but pitch perfect English studio with just Fearing, his Manzer acoustic guitar and 7 songs from his past and one outstanding cover version this beautifully intimate collection starts with a pin sharp rendition of Johnny’s Lament in which you can hear every single note and breath he takes as our Canadian troubadour pours his heart out like a dying man begging for forgiveness on his death bed.
A similar sense of melancholy and heartache weave’s through all eight songs here; none more so than Just In Time To Say Goodbye which follows. A song I’m not familiar with; so I can’t ‘compare and contrast’ but why would I want to when this version grabbed my senses and virtually squeezed the life out of them until I was a quivering mess.
Liking music has, and always will be subjective, which is why I’m always left despairing to hear songwriting and the majestic way Stephen delivers his words and melodies on The Things We Did and When My Baby Calls My Name and remember this guy isn’t lauded around the world in even 10% of the manner that Ed Sheeran is!
With that in mind; you have to remember that there are no overdubs, gadgetry or general ‘studio trickery’ involved in this recording, the magic here is just one mans, a guitar and a bunch of well-crafted songs.
The single cover version here is the Tom Waits Time; and Fearing somehow manages to bring out a new ragged beauty from Wait’s poetic words with some Spartan guitar playing and his own velvety world weary voice.
With only 8 songs here selecting a Favourite is nigh on impossible. Obviously the title track from the 217 album Every Soul’s A Sailor was already an RMHQ favourite; but stripped back to the scorched bone it twice had me sitting stock still and desperately trying not to breathe too loudly in case I missed a note or nuance; but then again the microscopic observations in Red Lights In The Rain and the sprightly The Things We Did both could and should scoop the accolade with ease on most albums; but I’m going for the breath-taking Long Walk To Freedom which made me go “Bloody Hell! That’s a Blackie and the Rodeo Kings song” the third time I played it; such is the difference in styles.
The delicious irony here is that while so much work has gone into making this recording specifically for 180 gram Vinyl with artwork designed specifically for a gatefold sleeve; I’ve been listening to a download on my laptop via two £25 speakers; and the results still knock the socks off most other recordings I’ve heard this year.
AHA…. The Dynamic Trio realised this would be the case; and while every step of recording and production was designed for vinyl, so according to Fearing “the album is being released into a mobile-driven world. So to accommodate these seemingly competing realities Audio Engineer David Travers-Smith (co-producer of Every Soul’s a Sailor) developed a digital download for The Secret of Climbing so that the files were lifted directly from the album’s test pressing and would preserve the detail and warmth of analogue as faithfully as possible.”
Even the Vinyl pressing was sent to a much researched and specialist plant in Germany……. so I hope you appreciate everything that has gone into this very special record!
Released September 16th 2018