After spending the first few weekends of 2022 here at home (catching up with more than just GDW related tasks), we hit the road recently to pay a visit to our local independent record store, Hub City Vinyl (located in Hagerstown, MD). That is, of course, if your definition of a forty-mile drive is considered ‘local’ – it ultimately depends on your own perspective of time, space, and distance – but for us, our store of choice is an absolute gem if you are looking for something a little outside the box, and not the usual bland selection that most ‘chain store’ retailers typically offer. This is the sort of record store that you can walk in to with no predetermined purchase in mind, but will walk out each time with many items in hand.
Walking into this cavernous vinyl warehouse, and dashing for the “New Arrivals” bins, I thumbed through many albums before finding four recent Canadian releases to bring home with me. And, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find 3 of the 4 available here in the US, due in part to a cocktail of popularity (Colter Wall, “Imaginary Appalachia”), relentless touring (Arkells, “Blink Once”), and the well-deserved attention of Rolling Stone magazine (Charlotte Cornfield, “Highs In The Minuses”) – thus leaving one in particular that was just an unexpected surprise.
Hailing from Winnipeg, MB, Field Guide – the moniker of singer-songwriter Dylan MacDonald – has been steadily earning radio airplay, and first came to my attention last year with the single, “Nobody Else.” Sandwiched between the keys and guitar centered sound were MacDonald’s smooth, dreamy vocals, delivering the memorable opening lines: “I love how you love a sunny day / ‘Cause sometimes my mind gets stuck in the shade / And I know you know how to pull it out / Ooh, and you’re always late / ‘Cause you don’t see time spent as a waste / And I know I could probably stand to figure that out.”
From this first taste of music, I immediately tagged MacDonald as being similar in sound and style to both fellow Winnipegger Ariel Posen, and Montreal’s Leif Vollebekk – which also prompted the recollection of a conversation I had late last year with one of our regular readers, who informed me that Field Guide was the supporting artist on Vollebekk’s Canadian winter tour. It is a small world, indeed.
Released back in September, finding a copy of Field Guide’s “Make Peace With That” album was definitely quite the surprise. Just how did the music of a relatively little-known artist from Winnipeg (and more than one copy) navigate their way to this small western Maryland city? As a music fan and vinyl collector, I was simply grateful to stumble upon something previously unconsidered for purchase, and after noticing both “Nobody Else” and “Make You Miss Me” on the track list, this one was added to the growing stack being carried to the checkout register.
Clocking in at around twenty minutes (and played at 45rpm), this is a very short, but pretty incredible collection of tunes. I’m not sure why “Tupperware” was excluded from the vinyl (appears on the digital version), as this is a track I’d have loved to discover here – and can only speculate that it was one track too many for the 45rpm pressing. Of course, not to be overly critical, but I really expected to find “Separate Bills” here, Field Guide’s earlier 2021 digital release that danced frequently across our radio waves, and became a pretty popular hit. Maybe I am just overthinking the possibilities of both tracks perhaps filling space if this had been pressed for playing at the conventional 33rpm.
Minor personal grumbles aside, there are a pair of tracks on the album that very quickly earned my attention for their observational simplicity. The first is “Me & You,” a feel-good tune in which MacDonald is more than comfortable expressing some of the simple enjoyments discovered in this particular relationship. “You leave your clothes all over the floor / But I don’t mind picking up after you / And now half of my closet’s filled with half of your clothes / But half the time you wear my things and I love when you do.”
The album closer, “Slow Down,” finds MacDonald slowing things down in the literal sense. “Slow down, I know I’m yours and you know that you are mine now / It’ll take some time but darling I will find out / I’ll learn all your hurts.” The subdued beat and instrumentation offers plenty of those Vollebekk similarities, but I’m prepared to go out on a limb here, and state that MacDonald is equally willing to tread lightly on Andy Shauf territory. “So know that you’re not tied down / No, you’re not tied down / No, you’re not tied down / But you are mine now.” This is a strong finish, and may be an indicator of the joys awaiting the listener in subsequent releases. A great record store find, and a worthy addition to the GDW vinyl collection.
Photo Credit: Artist Website