Review: The Fugitives, “The Promise Of Strangers”

Fugitives - The Promise of Strangers

We have been incredibly fortunate to work with several new artists over the last few months and share their first or new album releases with our audience.  Indeed, if there is one thing that constantly fuels our passion for Canadian music, it is the knowledge that there is an abundance of music still out there that we have not yet discovered.  And of course, we sometimes stumble across a ‘new’ band (at least, to us) who are actually a pretty well-established act who have simply not crossed our musical radar until now.  So with this completely long-winded introduction over, allow me to introduce you to a not-so new band, The Fugitives.

Hailing from Canada’s west coast, this folk ensemble was originally established in 2007 by founding members Adrian Glynn and Brendan McLeod.  With four studio albums already on their resume, The Fugitives are releasing their brand new album “The Promise Of Strangers” today, through Borealis Records.  With album in hand, I spent a few days this week discovering The Fugitives and their new material for myself.

With eleven tracks on offer, this album wastes no time making a very strong first impression with the opening track alone.  “No Words” is an atmospheric musical tribute to the late, great Canadian icon Leonard Cohen, with a pace and lyrics that accurately reflect loss and mourning.  But stick with this one and you shall be rewarded with the inclusion of a gospel-laden chorus courtesy of the ‘Awesome Strangers Choral Choir.’  And is that chorus ever a powerhouse, as both The Fugitives and the choir harmonize beautifully to deliver the lyrics: “I have no words, he took ‘em all with him / I have no voice to shout from the ground /  There used to be grace / There used to be meaning / I have no words, he took ‘em all out.”  The addition of the organ immediately afterwards increases the sentiments, and sets the bar incredibly high for the remainder of the album.

It has been incredibly difficult for me to stop listening to this album over the last few days.  The Fugitives possess such wonderful harmonies and some very tight instrumentation to really bring out the best in each song.  With a multitude of instruments used across the album, from strings and banjo, to piano and horns, the diversity of sound is certainly refreshing, as are the hints of other musical genres that have influenced the sounds and styles on certain tracks.  For example, a traditional folk sound is dominant throughout “See The Winter Out,” but listen for that discreet banjo that adds a little bluegrass to this number.  Go ahead and skip to “Orlando,” and see if you too detect a little similarity to the sound of ‘Stars’ vocalist Torquil Campbell during the opening verses.

When encountering both “Til It Feels Like Home” and “My Mother Sang,” I found myself questioning if The Fugitives were indeed from British Columbia.  With a strong emphasis on the banjo, fiddle and piano, these two songs in particular could easily pass as traditional East Coast folk music, and strongly demonstrate just how easily this band can cross not only musical boundaries, but geographical ones too.  Indeed, there have been many instances recently where folk acts have created music that appeals to a wider, more mainstream audience.  The Fugitives have two songs in particular on this album that have all of the ingredients to propel them to a non-folk listener who is looking for great lyrics, great harmonies, and enough of a radio-friendly sound to make them take notice.  “Northern Lights” certainly possesses all of these qualities, as does the incredibly up-tempo “Come Back Down,” that offers both a wonderful beat and some great ‘sing-along’ moments to keep you returning to this one.

I always appreciate an album that is consistent from start to finish, and not made up of a few popular cuts and the remainder being filler.  The Fugitives have crafted eleven original tunes here that are all equally appealing and incredibly well produced.  While I always like to reference a particular track that stands out for me, it has been a lot harder to narrow down the choices when all of the songs are just this good.  However, as a transplanted Brit myself, who took that one-way journey across the pond to create a new life in North America, “London In The Sixties” seems to be a natural fit.  Sharing the experience of the song’s main protagonist (Adrian’s dad), I can perfectly relate to Adrian’s additional liner notes where he states, “This song is about making the leap, despite the regrets that may linger in quieter moments, and being glad the risks were taken.”  Yup- no regrets here neither!  And how about the smooth addition of the baritone and tenor saxophones during this track?  If you are not up and dancing to the amazing folk-soul sounds here, please be sure to check your pulse and call a doctor if necessary.

Team GDW are very impressed with this album, and strongly encourage you to pick up a copy on the release date.  We shall have the opportunity to see Adrian and Brendan perform these tracks live during their tour across Ontario, and look forward to seeing both violinist Carly Frey and banjo player Rob McLaren (formerly of Union Duke) as part of the ensemble.  Hopefully the band will not be too disappointed that this particular Englishman will not be donning his best waistcoat and Italian shoes for this one (ala “London In The Sixties”).

~ M

Visit The Fugitives’ website.

Selected Tour Dates:

01/26 – Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts, Oakville
01/27 – Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, Brantford
01/31 – University of Guelph, Guelph
01/31 – Hugh’s Room, Toronto
02/01 – House show, Collingwood
02/02 – Burlington Performing Arts Centre, Burlington
02/03 – Carole’s Place – Ottawa
02/04 – Casa del Popolo – Montreal


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