Local singer/songwriter Jon Brooks has just released an album with an intriguing concept. It’s called Ours And The Shepherds and it had me interested even before I cracked open this record. There was a little sticker on the cover with the words, “A collection of songs examining Canada’s war experience. From WWI through to Afghanistan.” Musically, it’s a laid-back affair that’ll appeal to fans of roots and folk. And lyrically, the stories that inspired these 13 narratives are so interesting and the songs are so visual.
In an interview, Brooks told Speak Music’s Jennifer Claveau that he has no knowledge of a record like this being done before in Canada. And he said that he feels that folk musicians here have veered away from the subject of this country’s war experiences. On the subject of the stories and characters behind these songs, “Sgt. Tommy Prince” is dedicated to the Ojibway Canadian war hero, “Tajik Boy” is about a Toronto cop who still fights the memories of killing a 14 year-old Tajik boy outside Kandahar, and “Jim Loney’s Prayer Parts 1 and 2” honour the work of Canadian Peacemaker and former hostage, Jim Loney.
Jon Brooks describes himself best on his home page (http://www.jonbrooks.ca). In it he writes, “Jon Brooks is part unrepentant idealist, part fallen mystic, part secular preacher. He is a troubadour wholly devoted to the song as being a necessary means toward greater social justice. His inspiration is taken from those on the outside of the circle of approval.”
Brooks’ last album was called No Mean City, and he says that disc and this one share a theme. No Mean City, he says, was about the failure of neighbours to get along and this disc addresses the failure of nations to get along.
The song we signed off with was “The Latest Great Embarassment,” which calls out the UN and the West for turning a blind eye toward Darfur . ‘Tajik Boy’ and ‘Cigarettes’ were also played.
NOTE: If you like what you hear, check out Jon Brooks when he plays the Cadillac Lounge (1296 Queen Street West) tomorrow, and The Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington) on Friday.