Wednesday, May 6, 2009


BY A.R. Howerton

Jack Harlan is a Canadian folk-rocker who has made his way from coast to coast, starting in Calgary, dominating the Vancouver scene and slowly moving east until landing in Niagara Falls, where he now steadily works both sides of the falls and has become invested in US culture as much as in his native Canadiana.

On LOVE COME AROUND, Harlan’s fifth album and third indie release, his down-home folk sensibilities are focused primarily on protest songs, a subset of folk that has long been associated primarily with the revolutionary 60’s. The truth is that protest songs have been a part of folk music since the dawn of time and Jack Harlan reminds us of this by creating throwbacks to the songs of the Great Depression, especially the dusty rambles of Haywire Mac, the social laments of Woody Guthrie and the political awareness of Lead Belly.

Jack Harlan wears all of those influences, and more, on his sleeves. He’s been compared to Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Loudon Wainwright and has been labeled some variation of ‘the new Dylan’ time and time again. Thankfully, homage never degrades into imitation. Harlan adheres to the raw acoustic guitar/vocal techniques of his forebears and uses the style to great effect. Soul-searching songs of salvation, workin’ man’s laments, and good, ol’ fashioned love ballads flow together to create a dark velvet sea of emotion that is not only good for what ails ye, but is also endlessly listenable.

There are several tracks dealing with the American situation in the New Century. Economy Of Love, the lead-off track, is a ballsy plea for community and social sensibility to overtake the interests of a corrupt government. Secret Behind The Sun is a hard look at the poverty, hopelessness and ‘ashes of American dreams’ that have steadily risen to choke out the US in the wake of the Bush administration. Those songs of revolution flow in and out of heartfelt urgings to ‘start your revolution’, the original title and the main message of LOVE COME AROUND. The haunting This Time Around takes shades of recent pop culture and spins them into a quietly stated message of personal rebellion. Down From The Mountain and Be Not Your Failures are decidedly more uptempo numbers, but no less inspiring. The message is clear and true and good. Jack Harlan is urging us all to step up, be counted and make our mark for ourselves, our community and our world. Be good and you will be free. It is a powerful message that, while by no means new to folk music, has never been more urgently needed.

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