Sound Check

Sound Checkby Amber Goodwyn

I’m a working stiff, a desk jockey, a nine-to-fiver in my early ’30s, and if I think about it for too long, well… I’m pretty satisfied with the bed I’ve made. Despite these severely uncool limitations (according to my 15-year-old self), I manage to keep things interesting with art, music, and now, baby-gestating. But more on that some other time.

Yes, all is well because I still have reliable sources that let me in on all the good shit that happens after my bedtime. They’re kind of like the CIs (criminal informants) on The Wire and I’m like Kima, standing just outside the gates of an elaborate and nuanced drug underworld in Baltimore. More or less.

Snakes Have The Best Rivers

I got one such exciting tip-off last year, about the awesomeness of Snake River, a solo project of Reginan Chris Sleightholm (member of The Lonesome Weekends and Gates of Dawn). A talented multi-instrumentalist, Chris self-released a full-length record in the summer of 2012 called Songs No One Will Hear, which he followed up with a few singles. His second full-length record, McKruski, comes out this month.

So, what’s with the McKruski title? She asked, perplexed after a futile Google search.

Turns out it’s a fictional name made up by Sleightholm.

“Lots of songwriters write through characters,” says Sleightholm. “Sort of like how Kurt Vonnegut used Kilgore Trout. And yeah, writing through this weird guy’s perspective is fun.”

McKruski is a deeply satisfying, idiosyncratic and thoughtful album that’s equal parts rock and folk, shoegaze and psychedelia — all delivered with a gentle western influence. There are many guitar riffs and much reverb, and the first track on the album (Hours I: Shadows Don’t Hide Things Anymore) has a ’90s-era cool-guy vocal and drum beat that I totally love.

Sleightholm wrote the album as he recorded, then mixed and then re-worked again. It took over a year to finish.

“Things got out of hand pretty easily,” Sleightholm says. “For the next one, I’d record with the band because I appreciate what they do. And working alone is tiresome.”

Snake River now includes veterans like Michael Gardiner (founding member of The Besnard Lakes), John De Gennaro (Geronimo, War Doves) and Dustin Gamracy (Spoils), who Chris met while touring as part of the Besnard Lakes side project The Soft Province.

Snake River play a vinyli-only release show at the German Club on Friday, March 21 with Wizards (Saskatoon) and Herb & The Humans. Doors are at 9 p.m. and 10 bucks will get you in.

In my ears: A Fixture Records Sampler by Fixture Records (March 2014)

Twitter: @ambergoodwyn

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2014-03-20