This spring, Ben Sures released what may be his most fully-realized recording. The Edmonton-based songwriter has made Red Deer appearances and in 2005 won the John Lennon Song contest.
I’ve heard Sures live on several occasions and he never fails to impress. When listening to albums, I’ve been less enamored with the singer and I’m not sure why that has been the case. I’m guessing he just hasn’t held my attention for whatever reason, and I’m certain that is attributed more to me and my listening habits than to Sures.
I received Gone to Bolivia for review the same day as his most recent Red Deer performance and was naturally unable to review it in the Red Deer Advocate in advance of the show earlier this month.
Gone to Bolivia collects 14 brilliant and near-brilliant offerings. The set opens with a couple absolutely devastating songs including “American Shantytown” before sliding into “High School Steps,” a song that revisits the familiar ‘looking back at pre-adult life and love’ theme in clever, creative ways; anyone who can work Ray Davies into a song gains several points in my ledger.
“The Boy Who Walked Backwards Through the Snow” has the potential to become a Canadian folk standard, revealing the tale of a Ontario child escaping residential school. The peppy title track can’t be constrained by the traditional conventions of folk music.
Sures remains a fresh, invigorating voice within the crowded Canadian folk market and is very deserving of the accolades that are sent his way. What is most notable about Sures is that he isn’t just a whiny folk singer with a guitar (not that there is anything wrong with that!). The production values of Gone to Bolivia are high and the instrumental accompaniment provided is substantial.
With wonderful, fully realized songs of depth and with lyrical gems hidden throughout, Gone to Bolivia is an early favourite for Canadian folk album of the year. It will receive serious consideration for a place on my Polaris Music Prize ballot next month.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald