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John K. Samson: Provincial

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John K. Samson has spent his artistic life exploring both the physicality of human emotion and the psychic energy of our physical surroundings. Samson's writing - at times meandering, at others suffocatingly terse - can rarely be described as less than poetic. In a decade and a half as a band, Samson's Weakerthans have shifted from exuberant pop-punkers to judicious indie folk chieftains and back again. Likewise, Samson's solo debut Provincial is a journey through musical styles anchored by his ever-erudite lyricism. Provincial is billed as an ode to Samson's home of Manitoba, and it's a rocky road trip of a record, from the gorgeous finger-picking of the tubercular "Letter in Icelandic from the Ninette San" to the anthemic literalism of "Highway 1 West." Provincial is a beautifully unassuming album; though it's unlikely to turn any uninitiated heads, longtime Samson fans will recognize it as his strongest and most concerted effort in years. (4 out of 5 stars)

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