Corey Isenor’s new album. ‘A Painted Portrait (Of The Classic Ruse)‘, is awash with a soothing woodsy aesthetic: warm, but clear, like the transition from summer to fall. It is not, however, so still as to be sleep-inducing—there are plenty of up-tempo songs and thoughtful lyrics to hold one’s interest.
The initial appearance of warm, floating strings on the first track act as a promise: the listener will experience the comforting satisfaction of a good folk song. Isenor’s fans can look forward to a fresh sound.
“Over the past couple of years I was writing the songs from a new perspective and I found a better range for my voice and became a lot more comfortable with singing,” says Isenor. “This lent itself really well to the new kinds of songs I was writing and focused me on what kinds of songs I wanted to write.”
Those hearing Isenor for the first time have the privilege of hearing him in his prime—dynamic and perfectly folksy.
Many of the tracks have a distinctly Maritime aesthetic, but it’s charming rather than heavy-handed. ‘Losing my Mind’ deals with Maritime history: in particular, Isenor’s history. Particularly note-worthy lyrics debate, “Am I just another young blood, another come-from-away? When it was my elders that settled the bay. History is pain here, keep it for the fame, dear.”
According to Isenor, the song was inspired by his life (and the lives of his ancestors) in Nova Scotia. “When I moved [to the South Shore], I looked into my family history a bit and found out that most of the Isenor (formerly Eisenhauer) lineage came right out of the Lunenburg and Mahone Bay area. I was even able to track down a gravestone in Mahone Bay that marks my great-grand father’s grave 6 generations back; it’s the oldest gravestone in the cemetery and has a plaque stating so.”
Similarly, ‘Ferry Tale’ deals with life by the water, in this case, the simple act of catching the ferry. The trip may not go off without a hitch, however, as “somewhat reliable describes the schedule when operating at its peak.” Isenor adeptly captures the traveller’s anticipation of wanting to be somewhere else, but being faced with naturally-imposed delays (a common Maritime experience).
A Painted Portrait’s gorgeously rural themes really shine on the album’s two instrumental tracks, ‘Burning the Hickory’ and ‘The Dark Horse’. Isenor’s country influences are out in full force on ‘The Navy Blues’, where you’ll find the lyrics which have given the album its name. ‘Diamonds on the Moon’ features some interesting collaborators—a flock of geese, their calls weaving in and out through the song as the geese themselves would be seen in flight: every so often, in between trees. Flute trills only enhance the borderline-mythical soundscape. The album is the lovechild of various musically-inclined brains.
“Once it came time to record the album, I found myself really exploring how lush and dynamic the songs could be and that led to inviting many people to perform on the record. The more ideas we brought to the table, the better the songs sounded.”
In spite of this, it still manages to be entirely cohesive. Isenor’s A Painted Portrait is a delicious exploration of Canadiana, and certainly a compelling contribution to Maritime musical history.