Something Beautiful

Great Big Sea

Zoe Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Perhaps it's the curmudgeon in me, but I occasionally mutter that I knew about Great Big Sea before most people in the US did. I remember paying ruinous rates for import copies of Up and Play long before someone at Rounder/Zoe got a good idea and signed the boys from Newfoundland up. However, it's impossible to remain grumpy very long while listening to GBS; they're just so darn...joyful. Perhaps even better, they've grown as musicians; starting with their groundbreaking Turn, they became something more than just a ceili band, a synthesis of rock, folk, Celtic, and a few other influences whose whole is distinctly more than the sum of its parts. As such, they've become huge in Canada, with their last studio CD, Sea Of No Cares, debuting at number one on the Canadian album charts.

However, the road developed some bumps recently. Longtime bassist Darrell Power left the band in January of 2003 after ten years of no lineup changes. So as GBS headed to the studio to follow up my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Sea, there were some questions.

Fear not, O Ye DV Faithful. Consider 'em answered. The seventh disc from Great Big Sea, Something Beautiful, is just that. Alan Doyle, Sean McCann, and Bob Hallett, joined by drummer Kris MacFarlane and Moxy Fruvous bassist Murray Foster, have turned in a tight, concise, and downright tasty disc. Having now seen them live (check out our concert review here), I think I can safely say that GBS takes names, kicks butt, and can get ME -- a rather large and immobile individual -- to dance.

The production on Something Beautiful is immaculate, handled by Michael Phillip Wojewoda, best known for producing Barenaked Ladies' early CDs and Ashley MacIsaac's groundbreaking hi how are you today. The hallmark of this CD is vocal harmonies that are even more intricate than past GBS CDs, fueled by the addition of Foster's hallmark baritone. There are also a few song surprises, including a lovely cover of Runrig's "The Pride Of Summer" (retitled to "Bang The Drum"), and a rather interesting songwriting contribution from Bob Hallett -- more on that in a moment.

Highlights include the driving opening track "Shines Right Through Me"; Sean McCann's gentle vocals on "Summer"; Alan Doyle's tribute to his new niece, "Sally Ann"; the truly wonderful "Let It Go", which gets my vote for the best song likely to be overlooked on this CD; the traditional ballad "John Barbour"; the elegant and magnificent "Lucky Me"...then, of course, there's "Helmethead".

Remember I mentioned Bob Hallett's songwriting? He has given us the hilariously funny "Helmethead", a song that mixes "I'm A Rover" with the Hanson Triplets from Slap Shot to tell the story of a hockey bruiser who has more luck with the ladies than with his skates. I'm an American, I'm not supposed to laugh at hockey jokes. This should be illegal, darn it.

I could go on and on like this, but it's taking away from time I could listen to this CD. Something Beautiful is an early contender for 2004's Top Ten and a magnificent piece of work from the most original band currently recording. Do yourself a favor and pick it up today.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Zoe Records, and is used for informational purposes only.