What made the ’90s alt-country insurgency great were all the great artists who emerged from the unlikeliest of places — towns like Belleville, Illinois and Jacksonville, North Carolina. It was music made by people with nothing to lose, a trait shared by their country music forebearers whose stories formed the basis of the patchwork quilt that is the North American musical tradition.
These days it’s getting harder to find voices capable of sewing new patches, but dig around in any small town and you’re sure to come up with a diamond in the rough. That’s certainly the case with The Maple City, a loose Canadian contingent focused around singer/songwriter Jason McFadden, which took its name from the moniker bestowed upon its hometown, Chatham in southwestern Ontario near the Detroit border. The Maple City’s debut album, Brief Golden Age, is indeed a reminder of how music sounded so much more honest and spontaneous in the pre-internet era, especially when it was made by a tight-knit group of friends out of a pure expression of joy.
That’s clearly evident by such standout tracks on Brief Golden Age as “Come With Me,” “Love Means,” and “Home,” all of which crackle with the band’s ragged-but-right arrangements created by McFadden’s principle cohorts, bassist Dennis “Easy” Reissner and guitarist Steve Wiseman. Drumming duties on Brief Golden Age were handled variously by Nick Sennema and Steve Basiaco, with backing vocals contributed by Ashely Earthchild and KerryAnne Lashbrook.
Their shared connections go back a long way to the 1990s scene in nearby London, Ontario when McFadden and Reissner were members of local heroes Square Root Of Margaret and Wisemen was part of Champion Sprout with renowned Canadian indie producer Andy Magoffin. McFadden’s own indie credentials extend even further to the time he spent in Brooklyn working at Shimmy-Disc Records (founded by U.S. indie legend Kramer), which released a string of influential records by the likes of Bongwater, Daniel Johnston, Ween and Gwar. As if bringing things full circle, Kramer applied his mastering skills to Brief Golden Age.
McFadden compiled the songs that became Brief Golden Age while living in an abandoned century-old church rectory in Chatham, where many bodies laid in state in what is now his living room. Brief Golden Age is essentially a reflection of how McFadden sorted out his life there—aided by copious amounts of wine—and he now recognizes the therapeutic value of making the album. The songs grew out of regular weekly jam sessions at the church, and whatever he was listening to at the time, whether it was Van Morrison or Belle & Sebastian. However, lyrically every track on Brief Golden Age tells a unique story.
For all the nostalgia that The Maple City’s Brief Golden Age conjures, there is an equal sense of new discoveries and opportunities. Expect to hear more a lot more from this fascinating Canadian collective.