Friday, Sept 8, 2017
Songwriter of the Year nominee at Bozzinis Oct 8
By Jon Brooks
How about dinner and a Jon Brooks with and Neild Cruickshank.
t was in 1997, at 28 years old, and at the end of a year of travelling throughout Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and particularly, in war ruined Bosnia-Herzegovina – it was during this time Jon discovered what kind of song he wanted to write. In 2006 he began singing that song. In 2014 Borealis Records released his 5th album, The Smiling and Beautiful Countryside. Jon is Kerrville New Folk Winner and a four-times nominated “Songwriter of the Year” at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.
No Mean City, released in 2006, was the first in a trilogy of albums of sparse instrumentation and densely layered meaning – a singular writing style characterized by paradox, understatement, overstatement, and by allusion to Western religious, literary and folk traditions. It was followed by Ours and the Shepherds in 2007 and the solo acoustic set Moth Nor Rust in 2009. Each album is imprinted with a theme: architecture and homelessness of the modern urban soul; war; and all the things that neither moth nor rust may touch: love, hope, faith, memory, gratitude, trust, inspiration, and forgiveness.
Delicate Cages was released by Borealis Records in May 2012. The album earned Jon his third ‘Songwriter of the Year’ nomination in 5 years from The Canadian Folk Music Awards. Like its predecessors, Delicate Cages’ songs were inter-woven by themes of love and fear; and freedom and imprisonment. The idea was inspired by the Robert Bly poem, Taking The Hands: ‘Taking the hands of someone you love,/you see they are delicate cages.’ Also consistent with Jon’s albums, the song subjects were as wide ranging as they were topical and controversial: the Alberta tar sands (Fort McMurray); Bill 101 and Quebec’s language laws (Hudson Girl); Palestinian suicide bombers (Son of Hamas); Bosnian child soldier turned Canadian mixed martial arts fighter (Cage Fighter); and so-called ‘honour killing’ (The Lonesome Death of Aqsa Parvez). Morally and politically ambiguous, Delicate Cages, offered what Jon has since called, “necessary and alternative understandings of ‘hope’ and ‘grief’ that are neither sanitized, dumbed-down, nor degraded by the modern lie of ‘closure.’”
The Smiling and Beautiful Countryside crashed the folk/roots party on November 1, 2014 with a death count of 75. It’s an album of rural Canadian murder ballads and was recorded in Toronto by well-awarded and oft-acclaimed producer/engineer, David Travers-Smith. Jon’s 5th full length release is an intrepid solo set that defies categorization and resists any ‘folk,’ ‘singer-songwriter,’ or ‘solo acoustic’ description.
Jon has been nominated five times for ‘English Songwriter of the Year’ by The Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2007, 2009, 2012, and 2015.
Equal parts local Canadiana and universal horror, this is a collection that has buried all the trademark Jon Brooks social commentary in a shallow, roadside grave. Philosophical paradox, gallows humour, impossible love, titillating gore, adulterous sex, serial killers, gun dealers, rampage killing, missing women, First Nations catastrophe, necrophilia, Shakespeare, and John Milton: The Smiling and Beautiful Countryside is neither an album for casual fans nor is it music that will ever be heard in your dentist’s waiting room.
Why record such a violent set of songs? In Jon’s words, “I’ve already done four albums that inspire: it’s now time to offend.” Evidently, it failed to offend as the album was nominated for two 2015 Canadian Folk Music Awards: ‘Songwriter of the Year’ and ‘Contemporary Album of the Year;’ the former making Jon the only songwriter to be nominated four times for ‘Songwriter of the Year.’
“(Brooks) speaks and sings words that need to be spoken and sung and he does it beautifully, perfectly, and with absolute finesse.” – Rod Kennedy, Founder and Producer of The Kerrville Folk Festival, Kerrville, TX.
“Brooks stands among an exalted few in the enduring Canadian song tradition – Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Fred Eaglesmith, Bruce Cockburn – as a lyricist, composer and performer with a fierce commitment to his craft and his vision.” Greg Quill, The Toronto Star
“Brooks follows the tradition of poking holes in accepted truths, a path blazed by the likes of Woody Guthrie and John Lennon.” Penguin Eggs
“He is by turns metaphorical and metaphysical; at times he examines the small details of life, at others, he soars above human struggles seeking something higher; his gritty voice is infinitely kind and gentle. Mature, wise, and intrepid – somehow Jon Brooks sings a path to the mysterious and complex essence of the human condition.” Julie Miller, CFLX 95,5 Sherbrooke, PQ
“Political songwriting’ is all too often assumed to be shouty simplistic protest, and all too often it is and therefore tends to be ignored…Brooks knows this and his songs are songs first and messages second…a powerful and at times brutally clear-sighted vision armed only with an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, and a gritty ragged voice…Brooks is a star in the making.” Maverick Magazine, UK
“DELICATE CAGES is the most profound album of 2012.” Robert McCourty, Vancouver Islands Folk Festival Artistic Director.