Derek Swain,
Simple Things
(Shaggy Mane Music, 1998)

Simple Things is Canadian songwriter Derek Swain's second album, produced by his own label, Shaggy Mane Music (and one glance at his photo will tell you the origin of the name). Swain describes his music as "country folk."

My first impression of Simple Things was that it was ... nice. And it is. It is a nice, simple CD, with pleasant melodies. The songs are easy to sing along with if you're so inclined. It does, indeed, have a country feel, but it's not twangy, so it won't drive away people who (like me) don't generally care for country music. The arrangements are very uncluttered; no extra musical trappings, just guitars and drums, with some keyboard, violin and harmonica on certain tracks. John Gulley, who also plays guitar, is credited as co-writer on most of the songs.

The first track, "In Time," does have rather more pronounced a country feel than some of the other tracks, but don't let it sway you from listening to the rest of the CD.

Following this is "Someone I Used to Know," a tune about friends who have been parted for some years. This track is somewhat reminiscent of some of Jim Croce's work, both in melody and Swain's voice.

Other highlights on the album include the fourth track, "Last Night I Dreamed," a foot-tapper with a violin accompaniment -- which might sound strange, but it definitely works. "A Little More" is an odd tune; for a song about an ended relationship, it's awfully upbeat. The title track, "Simple Things," deals with the pressures of everyday life and the wish to enjoy the simpler pleasures.

Simple Things is enjoyable music that works well for either driving down the road or as something to lighten up a dull cubicle. Just be careful that your boss doesn't catch you singing along.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

Buy Simple Things from