By Mike Dunn
CALGARY — There’s a lot to be said for having a record on the shelf. Young people start hanging out at shows, and eventually make friends with the older scenesters, “who were there, back in the day,” and glean some pointers on the history of the scenes they live in. Everyone in Alberta alt-country circles knows about Corb Lund, and we’re currently seeing a reborn and rejuvenated Jr. Gone Wild hitting clubs and festivals throughout the west. Certainly as noteworthy and highly regarded are the albums of Old Reliable, and the current work of that band’s two main songwriters, Mark Davis and Shuyler Jansen.
Davis has kept busy making records of his own and with Edmonton “heavy wave” duo Concealer, Jansen has been crossing the west as a family man, from Edmonton to Saskatoon, and finally to North Vancouver, while continuing to make records, such as 2007’s Today’s Remains, produced by Steve Dawson, and 2011’s Voice From The Lake, which found Jansen’s proclivity for experimentation welcomed more strongly by Vancouver producers David Carswell and John Collins.
Never the type to stick to one source of inspiration, Jansen enlisted a formidable lineup of Western Canadian roots musicians to make his latest record, The Long Shadow, in order to bring to life his dramatic alchemy of country-folk, synth pop, and spacey stoner rock. Having players like Kacy & Clayton, Ryan Boldt and Chris Mason of The Deep Dark Woods, Old Reliable drummer Mike Silverman, and Calgary expat Paul Rigby on steel made Jansen’s mixture all the more potent, and The Long Shadow has earned high marks from critics across Canada.
“I had the bare bones of this record when we set up in Wakaw,” says Jansen, referring to a cabin in the rural Saskatchewan town where a lot of the album was recorded. “It was a nice setting, we set up all the gear and played as much as we wanted, we cooked big meals together. When we finished there, David (Carswell) and I took it to Vancouver to put the finishing touches on it and mix it.”
With making and producing records their foremost concern, Jansen and Boldt, along with Kacy & Clayton and a few other close friends and artists have banded together to start Big White Cloud Records, a small label they hope will allow them to always have an outlet with which to create and produce music, outside of the larger independents they find themselves working with more and more often these days. “Well, say we write some songs, and it doesn’t exactly fit with what the label’s working on with the Woods, or with Kacy & Clayton, or with Jayne Trimble, we can record that stuff, together, and put it out with Big White Cloud. It’s nice for us, artistically, to have a home we can come back to.”
While certainly not as busy on the road as he was back in the days when Old Reliable was one of Western Canada’s hardest working bands, Jansen has kept busy, producing Kacy & Clayton’s album Strange Country, and last appearing in Alberta in December, backing up Ryan Boldt on bass, as well as Kacy & Clayton, with Silverman on drums. “It’s pretty cool you know?” Jansen says. “Mike and I have been playing together since we were 14 years old, trying to sound like Danko and Levon. Now that we’re a bit older, we get a lot closer to that than we did back then.”
For this short run through Alberta, Jansen promises, along with the rhythm section of Silverman and Chris Mason, and Edmonton singer and multi-instrumentalist Amy Van Keeken, to stretch the songs out live, with “the possibility of exploding My Bloody Valentine volume and ruminations on a single squalling chord.”
Shuyler Jansen plays a CKUA live taping on April 29th at The Oilsands Discovery Centre in Fort McMurray, and in Calgary, May 1st, at Nite Owl (downstairs).AB, Alberta, Nite Owl, Oilsands Discovery Centre, Shuyler Jansen