“Town to town- road to road- door to door- coast to coast,” is the opening lyric from the song Everywhere a Man Can Be off of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native son Zachary Lucky's new album of the same name released October 7th and the lyric fits nicely with the itinerant theme running throughout the album. Six of the nine tracks featured here deal directly with being a touring musician and the highs and lows that are part and parcel of that. This is the first release in three years from the Orillia, Ontario based, Folk/Country singer-songwriter and from this writer's perspective, his most accomplished yet.
A few things are different for the 27 year old grandson of Canadian Country and Western legend Smilin' Johnny Lucky since his last release, 2013's The Ballad of Losing You, not the least of which is becoming a father. He and his family also departed Toronto for a more serene setting in Orillia, a small city 150 kilometers north of Canada's largest metropolis. Lucky has definitely stuck closer to home since settling into family life and understandably so however, he is set to hit the road for 28 shows to promote the new material starting in Toronto October 7th and ending December 11th in Guelph, Ontario. In between those two geographical neighbours are where the real miles will be put on as he will travel as far as Vancouver B.C. and to off the beaten path locales such as Twin Butte, Alberta and Onanole, Manitoba.
Everywhere a Man Can Be is a beautiful collection of nine songs produced by Toronto based musician and producer Aaron Goldstein who also happens to lend his pedal steel playing prowess to the album. Other contributors to the album are Taylor Knox on drums, Darcy Yates on bass, Dan Edmonds from Harlan Pepper fame on piano, Rosalyn Dennett on fiddle, Frank Evans lending vocals and playing banjo, Nichol Robertson helping out on electric guitar, Jay Swinnerton lending some piano help and finally Julie Fader adding her gorgeous vocals to two tracks. Although these songs could get by just fine with only Lucky's vocals and guitar, the additional instruments, in particular the pedal steel and drums (which are absent from Lucky's previous releases) add a much appreciated richness to the listening experience.
Amazing musicianship and Lucky's robust baritone notwithstanding, what draws me into a Zachary Lucky album are his unique experiences from the places he's been in this world and the lyrics he pulls from those personal places. As alluded to above, Lucky is a wanderer and has travelled extensively across North America and parts of Europe on his various tours. His road weary descriptions on the new album of his travels through Kansas, Colorado, Oregon and Tennessee as well as every corner of Canada (except the great white northland, as he mentions on track three) are instantly relatable to anyone with a case of wanderlust or a need to escape the confines of their life. Additionally, his name-dropping of musical heroes and influences of his such as “Waylon, George and Willy,” from the song South Colorado Murder Ballad and Townes Van Zandt in two songs from the album should indicate to any listener Lucky's lyrical aspirations. There's a lonely, isolated and at times, desperate feel to his lyrics but they're always tempered with a resilience and a keen sense of the things that bring joy to us in this world. Be it the awe-inspiring impact that the sight of the Rocky Mountains had on him during a tour stop in Jasper, Alberta or a call home to a loved one from a pulp and paper mill town in Northern Ontario just to say he was alright.
Four full length releases into his career, Lucky seems to be in a good place. After several years of hard but enjoyable touring, he seems content to slow things down just a bit and direct more of his energy toward home life. But you can't keep a songwriter of this caliber down for too long. He'll be back on the road periodically and who knows, maybe he'll reach that great white northland that has thus far eluded him, just don't forget the snow tires.
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