Touch The Void
On Falcon’s Heart, Joe Grass lifts fresh sounds out of old forms—deconstructing timeless country music and making it kaleidoscopic. The propulsive new record’s ten tracks burst with colour and texture, but they were born in the sparest way: by a man with three chords and a big-bodied guitar, writing in the tradition of John Prine.
“I thought that if I could write a simple song, the rest would follow. And I learned that from working with other people,” Grass says. He’s been writing his own music for almost 20 years, but since moving from Moncton to Montreal he’s become one of this city’s most sought-after musical partners, collaborating with Lhasa, Patrick Watson, Elisapie and the Barr Brothers—as well as working with his avant-pop band, Klaus. Those partnerships have taught him how to unmake a tune—picking up someone else’s idea and finding new ways to fill it in. With Falcon’s Heart, he wanted to bring that same process to his own work: could he write the song himself and then reassemble it, changed?
This time, he drew his inspiration from classic country songwriting. He’d spend mornings at the rehearsal space with his father’s old guitar in his hands. “I was trying not to think,” he says. “Just to sing what was on my mind.” At the end of a sitting, if he hadn’t finished a song, he threw it out. Then, with the bones of the songs in place, he led improv sessions with friends—jams with pedal steel, flutes, bass clarinet and viola, which allowed him to re-write and re-arrange the originals. By the time they went to record at Pierre Marchand Studios, what had begun in the spirit of John Prine and George Jones now evoked the wider spectrum of Grass’s affections: from Tom Zé to Steve Reich; Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and Sam Amidon’s All Is Well to the latest Big Thief.
The result is vivid and opalescent—Grass’s keen and heartfelt lyrics lit up by leftfield arrangements and shimmering sound. It’s at once completely simple and utterly lush.