Jason Plumb and the Willing – All Is More Than Both
2012, Soccer Mom Records
2012, Soccer Mom Records
Saskatchewan-based singer/songwriter Jason Plumb got his start in the early 1990’s as the front man for The Waltons. Touring with Barenaked Ladies early in their career, The Waltons became a fan favorite across Canada and parts of the Northeast U.S, largely on the strength of Plumb’s songwriting and his voice. The band waned with the 1990’s, and Plumb has gone on to become one of the most respect Indie songwriters in Canada. Both as a solo artist and with his band The Willing, Plumb historically brings a quiet intensity and subtle melancholy to his songwriting that is compelling. Plumb turns a corner on his latest album, All Is More Than Both, his third turn with The Willing. With Canadian super-producer Michal Phillip Wojewoda at the helm, Plumb finds the anger and the joy embedded in his melancholy and lets it rip on what is his most vibrant album to date.
Recapturing a sonic vigor not seen since his earliest work with The Waltons, Plumb begins a full-on aural assault with “First Time”, a wondrous blend of 1980’s rock and Americana that recalls the glory days of a teenager and first love. This is easily the most commercial single Plumb has produced in some time, but he does so without giving up a bit of quality in his songwriting. The chorus is infectious and will inhabit your head for days; you won’t be able to help yourself from dancing and singing along. “Losin’” has a much darker and heavier feel. Co-written with Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies (who also contributes vocals here), there is a palpable anger to the song that may surprise longtime fans.
“What You Leave” is quite another matter altogether, a wonderfully melodic take on growing up, aging gracefully and coming to terms with what is important in life. Former Barenaked Lady Steven Page lends his golden pipes in support of the most aurally appealing track on the album. “Alone With You” is a catchy, mid-tempo anti-love song with a chorus that sounds like it belongs on 1970’s classic rock radio (Eagles, anyone?) Plumb’s brilliance shines here in simple things, and you’ll find it hard to get this song out of your head.
Jason Plumb returns to gentle, melodic melancholy on “Hold On”, a gorgeous rumination on not being taken in again by love. The vocals here are sublime, and Plumb builds the song in small measures to a chorus you simple cannot shake. Listen for vocal support from Alexa Dirks, whose voice could light up a room. “All By Myself” finds Jason Plumb and the Willing muscling up for a buoyant mid-tempo rocker full of the sort of hooks that make radio programmers drool. Don’t be surprised if this song finds its way to the airwaves as we move into the summer months.
“On A Chain” blends pop and Americana in a brilliant reflection on not being able to break away from an old love. The chorus is full of gorgeous vocal harmonies spread out around an edgy melody line; the contrast is appealing, and the mix of voices is pure magic. Plumbs dips into romantic territory with “Falling Star”, which sounds as if it might have been left over from his Beauty In This World sessions. It would, in fact, be surprising if this were a leftover, as the song is Plumb at his finest blend of poetry and melody. It’s a beauty, and builds into a symphonic sounding chorus that leaves an impression on the listener.
"Under A Gun” finds Plumb sticking with his more lyric side, crafting a subtly beautiful melody line drenched in an ethereal, country-tinged arrangement that wraps you u and rocks you gently in its arms. “Sweet Misery” starts with the simplest of piano lines and builds into an ode to the mix of suffering and joy that so often makes up love. The twist here is that Plumb is looking back at someone from the past and realizing how good it was even if he couldn’t see it at the time. Plumb reasserts his status as one of the finest working songwriters of his day right here. You’ll have this song on continuous repeat. Jason Plumb and the Willing close things out on a pragmatic note with the incredibly upbeat country/rock of “Naturally (Ain’t Up To Me)”. The chorus will invade your brain and refuse to leave as Plumb waxes poetic on a newfound acceptance of our ultimate place in life.
I’ll step outside the role of reviewer for a moment and offer a disclaimer: I have been a Jason Plumb fan for years. I saw him with the Waltons back in the day when they opened for Barenaked Ladies in Ontario and small clubs in Buffalo. I have followed his career as he has branched out; first on his own and later, with Jason Plumb and The Willing. It’s not surprising that a fan is going to like the work of one of his favorite artists. (Reviewer hat back on.) What is surprising, however, is when a well-established songwriter who is respected by his peers remakes himself and raises the bar twenty-five years into a successful career. Some credit has to be given to Michael Phillip Wojewoda for overseeing the same sort of transformation he has wrought with acts such as Barenaked Ladies, The Rheostatics, Spirit of the West and Ashley MacIsaac. But the bulk of the credit goes to Jason Plumb and the Willing. All Is More Than Both is brilliant from first note to last. This is Prairie Music Award worthy, Juno Award worthy, and yes, GRAMMY Award worthy. It’s also one of the easiest selections ever as a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Jason Plumb at www.jasonplumb.com or www.myspace.com/jasonplumbandthewilling. All Is More Than Both is a Canadian release. If you need a CD, you'll have to go MapleMusic. Digital versions are available from the e-tailers below.iTunes
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