fROOTS Magazine – Review (UK)

Described by its creator as: “a collection of rural Canadian murder ballads with a total death count of 75”, The Smiling And Beautiful Countryside is the fifth album from a boldly articulate songwriter, thrice-nominated for a Canadian Folk Award. 

Drawing extensively both from folk balladry and literary and philosophical traditions, Brooks howls through the extraordinary, twelve unrelenting rampage-killing minutes of The Only Good Thing Is An Old Dog (a song packed with King Lear references and peopled with characters whose names also happen to be those of Canadian billionaires…) and righteously testifies on the concise These Are Not Economic Hard Times, with its punchline: “these are the days after the days when we were robbed.” There’s plenty of gallows humour among the grisliness, and as many smart observations as damning indictments. There’s some er… killer tunes too, a case in point being Queensville – a deceptively jaunty, banjo- driven ditty concerning the 1984 truelife Christine Jessop murder case, in which the the prime suspect was finally exonerated by DNA evidence. Not for everyone perhaps, but a hugely accomplished and wilfully provocative slice of uneasy listening. 

Steve Hunt 

February, 2015