The risk of using a place name or person for the title of a song is that a multitude of information is telegraphed indirectly to the listener about your song. The new single release, “Cézanne,” by Rick Sparkes & The Enablers, immediately floods the imagination with dappled summer light, Mediterranean blues, spring fresh green and yellows blossoming on vines surrounded by never ending hills and landscapes. Despite the key that Sparkes provides to unlock the mystery of his story, the surprise is in the vista that awaits.
Greeted by bright acoustic guitars and silvery electric guitar phrasing, Sparkes walks you gently into the footsteps that follow two unidentified lovers as they whimsically travel through dreamscape and fancy from one famed and framed painting to the next. “Paul Cézanne was one of the most influential artists in the history of modern painting. His works and ideas influenced the aesthetic development of 20th-century artists and art movements like Cubism and Fauvism,” according to https://www.wikiart.org/en/paul-cezanne. Of course, what is striking about Cézanne’s work is the transformation that was to follow, changing modern art expression through form and colour for the following hundred years. Perhaps Sparkes is suggesting that a similar time is approaching. Or is he hinting that we are stuck for longer still?
The single “Cézanne” was released in late November 2020, as an introduction for the album “Pleasure in the Pathless Woods,” Sparkes’ second, expected, tentatively, in the spring of 2021. The characters in “Cézanne” ache for something more, but somehow recognize that an act of some sort is required. Yet they drift through the fantasied landscapes of blurred colour and uncertain realism. “Essentially, it’s about two young lovers aimlessly navigating their way through eternity when eternity is one Cézanne painting after another,” shares Sparkes. “They inhabit a world that is both beautiful and constant, but ultimately devoid of any potential for transformation, and as tragic as it is, I think I was finding a certain level of comfort in that idea.”
Through the clear production, the musicians – Ruth Ann MacMurdo (backing vocals), Danny Drouin (electric guitars), Brent Chaisson (drums/bass guitar/cello), and JUNO Award-Winning artist Tim Chaisson (violin) – establish a charming backdrop as Rick (vocals/guitar) spins his tale. The song is a charming example of what a thoughtful lyricist is capable of. Given that Sparkes is an award-winning poet as well as a songwriter, this should come as no surprise. The PEI resident has been acknowledged as an accomplished writer – winning the Milton Acorn Poetry Prize for 2016, and nominated as songwriter of the year.
While this song may seem like a flight of fancy, there is more than what at first catches your attention. Using the infamous painting of the well-known creator as a narrative device, Sparkes is singling his own exploration and search for clues to rise above what many of feel to be an exhausting historical period. Furthermore, Sparkes provides us all with one enduring nuanced piece of advice at the coda of this newly released song; “Excelsior,” the story tellers sing as the song fades, often translated as “ever upwards.” Ever upwards. Strive and dream and be lifted up – ever upwards.