Music releases like this, after over two years of pandemic and global events of the past sixty days, are the sonic equivalent of throwing open a window in a long-shuttered home. Breathing fresh air alone is dazzling but then sunlight streams through. Vancouver, Canada’s ACT Americana Trio, and their album True North aren’t purporting they will remake the musical wheel and break new ground. What they do, however, is build bridges to their listeners in a time when the world seems intent on burning them and put themselves into the hearts and lives of anyone who cares to hear.
It’s deceptively simple music, however. No one will mistake the sentiments of ACT’s lead single and the EP’s title song “True North” for high-flown poetry. It doesn’t make any sweeping pronouncements about the fate of man. It does, however, dive deeper into the inner life of its “speaker” and expresses itself with unabashed universality. If you don’t live the song’s point of view, you know somehow who has or does.
The utter lack of pretension is welcome. “True North” isn’t weighed down with affectations but hearing small touches of the finesse ACT Americana weave into the song will convince anyone about their skill. However, it’s the intangible qualities of the EP’s four songs, where its authenticity breathes. The song’s speaker says they’re ready to sweep away their old way of handling things, pay their motel bill, and takes off. We believe him. He craves redemption and there’s no reason to doubt him.
It comes through in how the delivery softens on certain lines and revisits refrains with slight variations. Phrasing is everything and ACT Americana Trio’s True North illustrates that. They have crafted a promotional video released alongside the single and it’s a class work. The color composition they pursue gives the visuals a twilit quality that dovetails in with the songwriting.
“Whole Lotta Livin’” is the other centerpiece track on the release. It has much more of a full band quality than the earlier “True North” and the contributions of guest musicians dubbed “the Henhouse Express” are essential. While listeners will enjoy every part of the song, most will hear the chorus as the cut’s marquee moment and vocalist Taryn Laronge does a particularly good job bringing the song’s indomitable spirit to life.
“Nothin’ You Can Do About That” closes True North in a darkly comic way. Bluesy overtones are prevalent throughout the track, but it doesn’t fit squarely into any specific niche. For a final time on the EP, The ACT Americana Trio treats listeners to their talent for synthesizing several musical influences into a whole uniquely their own. The high point for many will come with the song’s chorus, particularly the cascading harmonies that they achieve. True North is the sound of a creative unit that knows exactly what they want to accomplish and how to make it happen. ACT Americana Trio’s new EP may have been five years in the making, but it is well worth it.
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