Review: Lee Harvey Osmond: “Live at Tractorgrease”
It seems a little odd to be talking about a DVD released to chase an album that deserves a much larger audience. Yet Lee Harvey Osmond‘s album A Quiet Evil deserves to be heard and this video Live At Tractorgrease equally deserves to be seen.
I wrote about Lee Harvey Osmond here some months back, and Cowboy Junkie Michael Timmins (who produced the album and released it through his Latent Recordings imprint) more recently wrote about the project here.
LHO is fronted by Hamilton, Ontario’s Tom Wilson, who is probably best known these days as a member of the roots rock group Blackie & the Rodeo Kings; he’s also an avid painter. In the early to mid-90s, Wilson fronted Canadian grime-rockers Junkhouse. Although the name Lee Harvey Osmond was intended as a nom du disque to represent the collective spirit in which the record was made, the more I listen to A Quiet Evil, the more it emerges as the purest distillation of Wilson’s artistic voice. This is dark, spooky stuff — folk music that defies the feel-good vibe with which the genre has become associated.
Last October, armed with little more than an acoustic guitar, a magic FX box and drummer Ray Farrugia’s sympathetic syncopation, Wilson set up in British Columbia’s Tractorgrease studio to run through 10 songs — six from the album and four others, the searing confessional “That’s How I Walk Through This World,” “Fennel Square,” the two-fisted “This Old Man’s Too Drunk To Drive” and a reclamation of “Freedom” — the latter was a modest hit for co-author Colin James, but it slides beautifully into the Oswald oeuvre. Artfully shot by a team helmed by director Jeff Bonner, these are bare bones performances that spark new insights into LHO’s songs. It’s that most rare visual accompaniment for music that enhances the experience of the songs.
A Quiet Evil is available now. Wilson and LHO will be on tour in October, supporting the Cowboy Junkies. Get there early to catch Lee Harvey Osmond, and stop by the merch booth for a copy of Live At Tractorgrease.