Very Close to Home

Wow! Talk about your Northern content … The cover of Barbara Chamberlin’s latest CD, Of Ice and Men, is the work of renowned Yukon artist, Chris Caldwell, and the songs are about fishing, moose camp, Northern men, ice, ice fog …

I believe that this CD is Chamberlin’s tongue-in-cheek look at living up here in the North. It is a collection of songs about characters in the Yukon, some personal experiences and the rugged natural beauty that surrounds us.

I know most Yukoners don’t live in cabins; nor does the North of 60 majority experience ice in their coffee or snow in their tea, but our fellow Canadians down south like to think we do, and Chamberlin takes full advantage of this perception.

Without a doubt, however, all Yukoners share the big Northern spaces of “Larger Than Life“.

The lyrics are a big part of this CD, and most are held together with traditional blues forms. After several listens, I can’t say that the songs have the lowdown blues feel that I prefer and, with so many words, the songs sometimes sound like “blues rap”. This is not a bad thing though, and Of Ice and Men is loaded with special features.

The Whitehorse Community Choir provides a delightful gospel flavouring to several of the songs. The choral background vocals in Land of Gold gives this song a hymn-like, anthem quality.

In French, l’hymne means anthem (i.e. l’hymne national – the national anthem). This crossover word provides an apt description for Land of Gold; after all, this song is a classic and a Yukon anthem for many of us.

It was also fun to hear reference to Lola Rinkbinder – a blast from the past that brought to mind caribou antlers and the No Pop Sandwich Shop. I was also drawn to House of Love. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m a sucker for a waltz.

This CD is fun, and I would send it to someone Outside, for a taste of the territory. Come to think of it, more than one of the tracks on this album could serve as contenders for CBC Radio Two’s Great Canadian Song Quest.

In short, Of Ice and Men serves up bluesy takes on themes that are very close to home. Listeners Outside will likely find Chamberlin’s stories and characters intriguing, and locals will love it.

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