Headwater are simply a delight. I haven't come across a blue-grass country record with such sweet, sentimental song writing appeal since I went through a short lived Emmylou Harris phase about a year ago. This Canadian roots band have produced a truly scrumptious collection of what are, essentially, love songs. What sets this album apart from other generic country records is that there's a definite bluesy, soulful, edgy streak that runs through many of the songs. And those songs that don't opt for blues-inspired basslines and deep choruses are true, unashamed, foot-stomping, barn-dance anthems. Both are very welcome.
'Freight Train' is a treasure, if not slightly atypical of the honeyed sentimentality that coats the rest of the album. Any song that include the lyrics "I wish I were a diesel locomotive / I'd come whistling down your track, crashing through your door," just has to be on to a winner. This genius extended metaphor is a gift that just keeps on giving, but even underneath these tongue in cheek, mock-serious lyrics ("My stoker will not stoke / My boiler will not boil") there's real rockabilly raucous appeal, positioned, I suspect, so that Headwater's aim to 'Lay You Down' with this record hasn't actually made you so comfortably supine that you've fallen asleep.
But, 'Freight Train' aside, Headwater really manage to capture a fuzzy-inside kind of warmth with emotional appeals to long lost loves, distant mountain ranges and little houses on the prairie. 'The Drifter' is particularly successful and also really shows off how tremendously musically accomplished the band members are. Intricate steel guitar and mandolin rolling riffs compliment the deep humming vocals; a gentle, whimsical but yet startlingly poignant moment is created.
As expressed with beautiful female vocal accompaniment on 'Pleasure and the Rhyme,' "old boots still have their shine." Country music is still alive and well and is more accessible and more diverse than ever; this is certainly the message that Headwater are sending with this alluring, engaging, delightfully humble collection.