On Spec 15: Paul Gross & David Keeley – Two Houses
I grabbed this 1997 record just because I’d never seen it before. Some of you may know Paul Gross from his time as a mountie in Due South, or as a troubled curler in (the hilarious) Men With Brooms, or in Passchendaele, or in Gunless, among other things he’s done. I didn’t know David Keeley by name, but he’s from Sarnia and has been in The Manchurian Candidate, Warehouse 13 and Total Recall 2070. Both also have lots of stage performances under their belts, too.
As for the music here, it’s pretty damn good! It walks the line between new country and inspirational pop music, with some soulful backing vocals and bluesy moments thrown in. Lots of cowboy references, my favourite in the album opener Ride Forever, with “Kick your spurs, we’re gonna run like stink / We’re gonna tear across these Blue Alberta Skies,” and in the chorus, “ But I’m gonna ride forever / You can’t keep horsemen in a cage / Should the angels call, well it’s only then / I might pull in the reins.” It sounds cliché, but in the song it fully works! Also, we used to say ‘run like stink’ as kids. I wonder if I still use it… probably! Elsewhere, Promise Us The Night sounds like a swing shuffling Mavericks or Chris Isaac track, I just love that beat! I also liked the one-two punch of the last two tracks, Papa’s Front Porch, and After The War, especially the latter is an album highlight because songs that bring the sacrifice, pain, loss and remembrance of stupid war always hit me in that same spot every time.
Some of the lyrics are sophomoric, “I’m the desert, you’re the rain,” etc, but that somehow just adds to the charm of it all instead of grating. And there are great lines, like the title track’s opening, “Don’t call me for supper / if you don’t mean to feed me / Don’t tell me you love me / with that gun in your hand.” These are tales of reminiscence, storytelling and imagination, complete with occasional sound effects of rain and war guns and cowboy whoops, and with enough twang to know it’s an affectation but still I didn’t care.
I’d call this one a win. There’s something real in these songs, an earnestness, something Canadian about it. Of course I can’t quite explain it, but I can feel it.