Release Date: Sep 30, 2014
Record label: Tin Angel
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Folk, Country-Pop, Jazz-Pop
An ambitious double album consisting of a "Canadian" side and an "American" side, mercurial English-Canadian singer/songwriter John Southworth's Niagara is a triumph of both style and substance, a glowing pastiche of sunset-driven '70s soft rock and heady, jazz-tinged chamber pop that invokes names like Scott Walker, Cass McCombs, Jacques Brel, Louis Philippe, Harry Nilsson, Paolo Conte, David Ackles, and Gilbert O'Sullivan. Disarmingly subtle yet flush with enough confectionary touches and left-field presence (not to mention pure craftsmanship) to warrant cult status among smart-pop aficionados, Niagara goes down so easy that most listeners will need more than a few spins to realize how rich of a tonic it is, as Southworth's seemingly reticent (at first) whisper of a voice and his backing band the South Seas' economical playing don't exactly beg for attention, but such love and care are taken that the effect is something akin to being led through a tour of a historical home by the original owner. While there is no overarching narrative, Niagara's two volumes dutifully evoke images of their respective mainlands; the Canadian side employs a softer, more wintry and nostalgic quality than its more headstrong (though no less melancholic) stateside counterpart, with most of the standout cuts like "Fiddler Crossed the Border," "The Horse That Swam Across the Sea," and "Ode to the Morning Sky" arriving via the side with the better view of the falls.
UK-born Toronto-based songwriter John Southworth's sprawling 11th album is called Niagara, after the region near the border in which he's spent most of his life. But it could just as easily have the words "dreams" or "love" in the title, as the record is as much (or more) preoccupied with them as it is with the falls themselves. In Niagara Falls, Southworth has found a metaphor malleable enough to play with various ideas: Canadiana, aboriginal versus western attitudes towards the land, bridging gaps, sharing dreams, mysticism and love.The album is split in two the way the Canada/U.S.