Canadian acts have a particular penchant for creating recordings about people in general. Violent Kin did it, an album about how people aren’t connecting the same way with technology. The Burning Hell did it, with each song on that album about a different type of person, from “Barbarians” to “Industrialists.”
Brett Wildeman has taken the latter tack, with his Peoples EP bearing a description that sounds like literary fiction — three songs “written about different characters: an oil executive, a Chocolatier, and a sibling.” As with Wildeman’s previous work, his style of folk can be raw or more luxurious, depending on the circumstances.
Wildeman showed on Mother Earth that he’s not afraid to get political, and his frequent bike touring show he is in love with nature. It’s what makes “Flows Down” so scathing (naturally, this is the “oil executive” character). The simple, laid-back acoustic guitar picking that begins the song brings to mind relaxing on the beach, and the repetition of “It all flows downhill from here, boys it flows down” makes this a vicious earworm. But when the song starts asking “What are they gonna do? What are they gonna say?” the oil executive names a bunch of stuff big oil companies have done; destroying the environment, importing a foreign workforce, the list goes on. So even as another voice chimes in and the song adds stomping and clapping, it remains a wonderfully deceptive little song.
“Sister” (guess which character this one revolves around) is less pointed lyrically, almost more like a chant about how tight the sibling bond between two characters is. The arrangements are bigger here, featuring ukulele and a wonderful swell of trumpet from Thomas Biederman. The song says happiness grows “like rings on a tree” and also features a great little line: “Be your own friend, it’s all you need.”
Finally, “Evelyn” is a song about expanding one’s horizon. Mournful opening guitar sets the tone here, and images of the sea are meant to entice Evelyn, who hasn’t seen the world beyond the factory she works in. It’s clear she needs to get out and see the world.
As Wildeman continues to release these little gems, it becomes clear we need more folk music like his; folk that is (without sounding like too much of a hippie) in tune with the earth. It gently calls for change without the need for sloganeering or a primal scream.
Top Track: “Flows Down”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)