Peter Verity,
Sometimes a Journey
(Plastic Bag, 2005)

This disc is the perfect soundtrack for anyone interested in contemporary Canadian folk music. Sometimes a Journey is the third album released by award-winning musician Peter Verity of Toronto.

His website describes his style as being "influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, and many other strong writers" and that "Peter has crafted his own unique expression of writing about life and love." True to the CD title, Verity takes us on a circuitous musical journey around the North America continent, via his voice and his guitar. A small band of musicians provides background instrumentation and vocals.

We start with "North Ontario," leading us to believe that our excursion will focus only on sites north of the border. With an opening line of "You know what it's like at 25 below / In the middle of a winter night in North Ontario," we're transported directly into the middle of a frozen landscape. But the next thing we know, we're headed for Memphis, Tennessee, and the promise of a "Mississippi Ride." According to the liner notes, "Blue As I Can Get" was written "in a motel room in Sault Ste Marie in the middle of an early March snowstorm." But the tune is as clear a blues dirge as anyone from Texas or Georgia would craft, complete with harmonica interlude. As if reading our minds, "Norma Jean" indeed then takes us to Texas, and includes an infectious call-and-response chorus thatÕs sure to stay with even the most idle listener.

The musical pace slows down with "Healing Rain." This pensive song reminds us of times when we needed and perhaps sought out the solace and soothing sound of such weather. Next up is a shuffle called "Highway Town." We all know places like this. We've all stumbled upon such settlements when we've exited a highway at inopportune moments. Civilization seems to have passed them by. "Lights go out at ten / You wonder if they have the will to shine again." We know; weÕve been there.

"The Ballad of Rachel Davis" is a solemn tribute to a young woman who was just 23 years old when she was killed while breaking up a fight in Vancouver in 2004. "Rachel was the best among us / Defying darkness she lives still / And I don't know why these things happen / In all my days I never will."

Those who travel a lot may feel at times that they're on a "Mystic Caravan," searching for something on the road. "When you got no destination / It ain't hard to lose your way," especially if you find yourself drifting "from oasis to oasis." A fiddle instrumental provides an eerie tone, reminiscient of the gypsy the main character consulted at the beginning of the song. "All Fall Down" references the old ring-around-the-rosie children's circle chant and makes an analogy to the connectedness of humankind. "If someone cries and no one hears / We all fall down to unforgiving ground." Perhaps Verity was still thinking of the fate of Rachel Davis.

"All I'll Ever Be" is a wanderer's lament, an attempt to find contentment in the Canadian east, the south, the north or the west: "I've always been a wanderer / And that's all I'll ever be." By the end of the song we realize that the words give voice to an admission, not necessarily to regret. Perhaps it's simply meant as an explanation. The concluding song, "Desperate Heart," reminds me musically of Carole King's "Way Over Yonder" from her Tapestry album. But the lyrical message couldn't be more different. King's hero knows where she's headed and has found peace in her fate: "And the sweet-tasting good life / Is so easily found / Way over yonder / That's where I'm bound." Alas, Verity's weary traveler questions the very meaning of life itself, to the unfortunate point of near-desperation. "Desperate heart you know you must / Find a reason to live, someone to trust / Been a long lonely time, long lonely time." When scrutinized, this is an eerie end to our musical journey. In fact, if the last two songs here had been offered in reverse order, we would be left with a more hopeful vision for our traveling companion.

Nevertheless, Sometimes a Journey has something in it for any folk music fan -- story songs, blues, country, shuffles and good solid musicianship. It's easy to see why Peter Verity was named the Best Folk Artist at the Toronto Independent Music Awards in 2005. We'll surely be hearing more from him.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Corinne H. Smith

6 December 2008

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