Review: Summersets, “Small Town Saturday“

Summersets

During last month’s installment of our recurring Snappy Singles feature, we introduced “Never Love Another,” the latest single at the time from the recently formed duo, Summersets.  And while the name may be unfamiliar, this duo are no strangers to the Ontario music scene.  Comprised of popular Ottawa-based (and JUNO Award nominated) singer-songwriter Kalle Mattson and North Bay artist/friend Andrew Sowka (Faraway Neighbours), it was pure luck that brought both musicians together in Sault Ste. Marie back in 2014 –  a fruitful musical journey that culminates today in the release of their highly anticipated debut EP, “Small Town Saturday.”

“The whole Summersets project came from a place of desperation and inspiration,” admits Mattson. “After my last solo album, I felt so beaten down by the music industry, but once Andrew and I began writing and singing these songs together I was energized by the process, making music was fun again.”  Entrusting the production duties to acclaimed musician/engineer Jim Bryson (Evangeline Gentle, Kathleen Edwards), the trio quickly conceptualized and recorded the sound for this new project, each song taking no longer than a couple of days to finish.  “When we started this project we had no idea we would be releasing this EP under so many bizarre circumstances,” shares Mattson. “Quarantine shaped a lot of our creative decisions.” “We were trying not to overthink anything,” adds Sowka. “Just trying to chase a warm, lush production, and taking a page or two from the late-60s early-70s singer-songwriters we really love.” 

Summersets

The six tracks on “Small Town Saturday” play out like a series of vignettes, each one exploring a different moment in the two characters small-town world and relationship.  This is soft, mellow, acoustic folk music at its finest, as detected immediately from the opening track (and current single) “Fake Flowers.”  Commencing with some light guitar riffs to establish the tone, you soon discover the dual vocal harmonies that effortlessly characterize the dynamic being offered by two good friends and collaborators.  “Summer sets on us / As our youth turns into dust / Now all I’m thinking of / Is to lose always to love?” the duo recite, “Small town Saturday / When I first saw your face / But who were we to know? / How a heart follows a ghost … / Summer sets on us / As our youth turns into dust.”

Comparisons will naturally be drawn to the sounds of yesteryear, even if you happened to skip the part where Andrew dropped hints about seeking that late-60s early 70s sound.  By the time I arrive at the second track, “Anywhere You Go,” my mind is reeling from thoughts of The Association, Bread, and Simon & Garfunkel.  Add a splash of modern day Andy Shauf, and you’ll see the picture being painted here.  “If we never come back home / I’ll follow you anywhere you go / From Montreal down to Mexico / I’ll follow you anywhere you go / I’ll follow you anywhere you go,” deliver the duo, accompanied by a slight galloping drum rhythm that provides a heartwarming blanket in which you can easily lose yourself, recapturing perhaps your own memories of life, love and adolescence.  “Oh, we could be anybody / Oh, an old car, a little money / Oh, it doesn’t matter, I swear / Anywhere I don’t care.”

“Never Love Another” remains as powerful here today as it did last month during my previous review, and is clearly the anchor track that holds these vignettes together; yet I find myself curiously drawn to the breezy acoustic guitar intro of “More Less,” and the pure nostalgic sounds that follow (striking similarities to the namesakes listed earlier).  I can’t be the only one hearing “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard” here, surely?  “Somewhere there’s a siren ringing / In the middle of my hometown / A runaway from words I’m singing / The more I try it the less I’m down / The more I try it the less I’m down,” are the catchy lines delivered with that slight calypso, up-tempo beat. “Some night when I remember / The two of us way back when / Cigarettes and soft September’s / The more beginning the less we end / The more beginning the less we end.” I must confess that I listened to this track from beginning to end much more than just once – how about you?

“Small Town Saturday” is a thoroughly delightful debut from Summersets, who are already dropping hints of possibly more to come.  Take your time to really, really listen to this one; only then will you fully appreciate the small town life stories that are playing out when you do.  Highly recommended.

Visit Summersets on Bandcamp.

Photo Credit: Brittany Lucas

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

Tags from the story