“Jake Ian’s The Trestle, his first full-length since 2014’s It Don’t Really Matter Anymore, finds the Edmonton singer-songwriter taking his first spin as producer and engineer, having recorded the album with a modest home studio setup. The results are encouraging. The sound Ian captures on The Trestle finds a pleasing folk tone, not unlike a Guy Clark or John Prine collection. Homey and warm, with a relaxed atmosphere, Ian makes impressive strides from a technical aspect.
The backwoods feel is prominent throughout, the kind of tones that might bring the horses closer to the house. The Trestle is a plaid and denim record, fitting as easy as a worn-in John Deere cap. The more uptempo cuts sway like the late-night two-step at a rural community hall dance. “Headin’ To The Trestle” is the kind of upbeat shaker the farm boys are happy to tip a bottle back to, and “The Tale of Wesley Muskrat” hides its hard times in a catchy chorus melody, with a regal steel shimmering in the background.
Like Clark or Prine, Ian is willing to let a slow burn see its way through, and in some cases, it works, as on “Drunk Woman Blues,” with a submerged tremolo providing a sonic contrast to the cleanliness of the arrangement. Other times, the free reign afforded by helming a project on your own can result in songs that can feel overlong, but with Ian’s hard-earned ability to make an album like The Trestle on his own, he’ll be a fixture in Alberta folk music for years to come”
-Mike Dunn, Beatroute Magazine
“Dare I say there’s an Alberta sound? I’ve spent much of my adult life writing about the effect Alberta’s geography has on its local music, more often in the unnecessarily circuitous language of academic jargon (see how I’ve already made this sentence more complicated than it needs to be? See that?) than in a regular ol’chatty style. But, for all I might be trying to convince my readers this is the case, I finally believe it myself with Jake Ian’s new album, It Don’t Really Matter Anymore.
Maybe I’m just influenced by his subject matter – lost characters, rural settings, and references to Alberta sights – or perhaps it’s the appearance of Alberta’s musical elite on the album — Jeremiah McDade, Grant Siemens, Shuyler Jansen — that make it familiar. To me, though, the opening track, “Summertime in a Lonesome Town”, has a sound that can be locked securely into an Alberta roots aesthetic. The harmonica part evokes a gentle breeze across open spaces, then the steel guitar takes over the same role. Short mandolin riffs add to the delicate playing, until the fiddle moves in to dominate the chorus; all a classic approach to arrangement found in Ian’s peers. Above it all, Ian sings in a warm voice. His delivery is friendly; he’s an accomplished singer without making you feel like you can’t join in, and backup vocalists add to the warmth with some well-placed harmonies.
Maybe we should expect this: Ian is from northern Alberta, and the places and people from his rural past populate his songs. Even his tour schedule privileges the country; tiny taverns and concert halls are the preferred backdrop for his narratives of plain folk.
Some of my favourites include “Black Black Dirt”, a tune that to some extent relies on dark country tropes, suggesting the ominous Wild West in its sparse beginning, echo, and slow build. It’s a contrast to lighter songs on the record, like the cheerful, organ-driven title track, or “Bunkhouse Blues”, a tune anchored by pleasant vocal harmonies and catchy, straightforward guitar strumming. “Hide the Guns” features some great picking on both mandolin and guitar; it could be an instrumental song on its own. The highlight for me is “68 Malibu”, which has that ethereal pedal steel sound that rarely populates country, but makes me like any song it appears on, regardless of lyrical content.
It Don’t Really Matter Anymore is an album deserving of close listening on good headphones. I say this because I’ve listened to it in my travels a lot, and the intricacies of the instrumental performances, Ian’s words, and Jansen’s production get lost in the bleed from external noise. Pour a drink and give it some concentration. The album, not the drink.”
-Gillian Turnbull, No Depression
“Great musical stuffs brewin’ in Alberta. Recently I’ve become inordinately fond of the new works of 100 Mile House, T. Buckley, The Coal Creek Boys, Reuben and The Dark, Matt Pattershuck, Joe Nolan and The Boreal Sons. The wells here in Alberta are overflowing and a new gusher of sweet water joining the flow is Edmonton-based Jake Ian.
With his fifth album since 2008 and his conversion from the punk scene, Northern Alberta’s Jake Ian has hit the jackpot with It Don’t Really Matter Anymore. Ten great songs and stories about livin’ the Alberta advantage. Jake has the juice of a great songwriter: I gotta trailer out by Hillcrest/it’s kinda sinkin in the front/ Anna moved away/she went to go live with some rich guy in the south….Jenny had a walk that was louder than the hole in the muffler of her ’68 Malibu…”
With producer Shuyler Jansen, Jake has assembled a sterling group of musicians, including Jeremiah McDade and Paul Rigby, to swaddle his songs in lovely, straight-forward arrangements with deft touches of accordian, mandolin, banjo, and a very tasteful slide guitar.
This album is a winner and I can’t wait to see more of Jake Ian in the near future”
-Les Siemieniuk, Penguin Eggs Magazine
“Whether you are 18 or 80, Jake Ian knows how to get your toes tapping”
–Kevin Maimann, The Edmonton Sun
“An Awful Sky” is a true slice of Alberta; a strong and confident collection of dark prairie tales and bar room two steps”
-Mike Garth, Vue Weekly
“Ian sang songs about stripper poles and broken hearts while blowing plenty of tasteful harmonica solos. He sounded like a stripped down Wilco”
–Richard Amery, The L.A. Beat
“Jake has a pretty damn cool way of singin’ his ragged old tunes”
–Eden Munro, Vue Weekly
“Over 40 years ago Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and their contemporaries completely revolutionized the content of popular songs. The “moon, June, spoon” sentiments of that era were replaced with songs of personal statement, content and meaning and for that we can be thankful. Although, at the same time, songs tended to become more oblique and obscure. Almost to the point where sometimes, even with some head scratching and research, it has become difficult to figure out the meaning of the song. Clarity often was sacrificed for the pure poetry of the words. So Jake Ian is a pleasant respite from the “fuzzy” songs of recent years. In his craft he returns to songs of narrative, songs that tell stories, songs that reflect the “rolled up sleeves and callused hands” of rural Alberta.
Jake is a guitarist/ singer/ songwriter hailing from Warspite, Alberta, a small hamlet of 48 people located 100 km north east of Edmonton. He grew up on a family farm and his Ukrainian cultural heritage stretches back though several generations. In listening to his songs I was transported back to the world of the great short story writer W.P. Kinsella. Not to the scenes of Kinsella’s Hobbema Ermineskin reserve but to a series of stories that he did about Ukrainian communities north of Edmonton (I have been unable to recover the name of the collection but the stories still rattle around in my brain). What Kinsella managed to put into print Jake manages to put into song. Although some of the evening’s performance included covers of acoustic material by Neill Young (Long May You Run), and Town Van Zandt (If I Needed You) the strength of the night was in Jake’s original material about life on the farm, people met, people left behind, old cars, and old experiences. Included in the originals were Bunk House Blues, Hide the Guns, The Hired Hand (based on some late 1800′s poetry by dissident Ukrainian Ivan Franco), Down the Drain, White Wagon Blues, Maria, Public Defenders Blues and Fort Qu’Appelle by Dusk. Jake played a beautiful small bodied Martin 000-15M guitar in a wonderfully clean complementary style and was supported by the bass player Braden Sustrik.
Once again the evening was testament to the management of BJ’s Creekside Pub (Shannon and Kurt Schiller) and their commitment to live music. It was also a testament to the cultural strength of the land north of “Edmonchuck” (Edmonton).”
-Rod Wilson, Kimberly, BC