Late last year we were treated to March 12, the debut album from Sackville, NB's Frederick Squire. If you were a fan of that album then be sure to grab Fred's just-released follow-up Frederick Squire Sings Shenandoah and Other Popular Hits. The title of the album does a good job of showcasing this talented singer's trademark wit: none of these songs are 'popular' or 'hits', no matter which way you look at them. However, taken together, these nine songs will further cement Fred as one of Canada's best singers and songwriters, definitely deserving of some popularity.
Running less than 30 minutes with each song flowing quickly into the next, it would be easy for this record to pass by unnoticed. Luckily, from the second Fred picks up his guitar (one of the many sounds left on the tape, alongside the odd creaky floorboard and bird chirp) and starts singing, you won't be able to ignore the beautiful music coming from your speakers.
The album starts and ends with two anomalies. The first track is the traditional song "Shenandoah", which sets the tone of the whole album, while the last song is "Theme From a Small Town", an instrumental that ties the album in with March 12's "Theme From a Northern Movie". In between, you'll find seven original compositions that explore very similar terrain. Pouring over the lyrics, there are a few words that show up over and over: 'dream', 'forgive', 'heaven' (and 'hell'). Don't let the heavy, often spiritual subject matter scare you away, though—while Fred obviously has a lot on his mind, he has a knack for creating utterly captivating melodies out of despair. Always careful with his words, Fred can start a song with a line like "Each mistake you make when you are young will be forgiven" and have it be the hook of the year. This is thanks in large part to his gift of a voice. Often singing at barely above a whisper, you'll surely get shivers each time he sings a little louder or draws out the end of a sentence (when his voice sounds like it's instantly aged 40 years).
With two impressive albums in such a short amount of time, you'll forgive us if we greedily hope Fred starts work on album #3 right away. Even if he doesn't, we're eternally grateful for all the great music he's already delivered, and we're confident we'll be satisfied for a while. You can take your time, Fred: we'll be waiting.