Solar Powered Too
Rick Fines hails from Peterborough, Canada in Central Ontario. He gained attention in the 1980’s as the co-founder, front man and guitarist in “Jackson Delta” who recorded their 1989 debut “Delta Sunrise” in Memphis. They followed up with two Juno Award nominated albums; 1991’s “Acoustic Blues” and 1992’s “I Was Just Thinking That”. Fines recorded his own solo debut “Arcadia” in 1996. A proficient guitarist Fines also played with Pinetop Perkins. In 2006 he and Suzie Vinnick recorded the album “Nothing Halfway”, featuring organist Richard Bell, and Fines won the Maple Blues Songwriter of the Year Award. Fines has played the Montreal Jazz Fest, Ottawa Blues Fest, Edmonton Folk Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Internationally he has toured France, Italy and Scotland.
This is Fines’ eighth solo album recorded during the global pandemic. Half of the album was recorded in a gazebo near his solar powered cabin in the Kawartha Highlands with the sounds of crickets and cicadas in the background. The other half of the album was recorded at studios in Toronto.
As a songwriter and storyteller Fines crafts his own blend of blues, folk and soul as he has been influenced by multiple genres. He opens with the fabulous “Below The Surface” as he sings “He’s got a coffee in his hand, shuffling down the street, cars race to the red, rushing the morning beat, the sun is picking up steam. Everyone seems full of purpose, somehow this whole town’s got the blues, just below the surface”. Fines accompanies himself on a baritone guitar, sounding like a twelve string, as his dramatic phrasing is reminiscent of Guy Clark.
Fines switches to a Resonator guitar for “Worry Be The Death of Me” with Roly Platt on harmonica. “I worry when I wake up, and I’m troubled when I sleep, I worry all the time, worry be the death of me. I’m worried for the children, what kind of world will we leave, well I worry all the time and worry be the death of me. Yes money never enough, we live in a false economy, I worry all the time and worry be the death of me. These men who rule the world, don’t care about the air we breathe, I worry all the time and worry be the death of me”. Fines guitar playing is beautiful.
“Laundry On the Line” is styled like a John Prine song. “She left the laundry out on the line, when she left that house for the very last time, she only stayed so long cause she thought she should, live the life everybody always thought she would…the weight on her heart began to fade, she closed her eyes the train pulled away. So much of life is all uphill, you keep on moving ‘cause you can’t sit still, Until, you just sit still…she left the laundry out on the line, so he grabbed a basket and went outside”. Another well written song. Two more songs about the beauty of the Highlands are “Fundamental Nature”, and “One Lone Loon” with Bowskill on pedal steel.
The only cover is performed in the studio. “That’s What Makes You Strong” was written by Jesse Winchester and first recorded in 1999. Fines sings and plays some beautiful acoustic guitar as he is accompanied by Jimmy Bowskill on Mandola, bassist Alec Fraser, and drummer Gary Craig. Melissa Payne provides the backing vocal. The studio session also includes the originals, “You Only Want Me When You Need Me” co-written with Matt Andersen featuring Rod Phillips on piano; “Yellow Moon, Indigo Sky”, a duet with guest vocalist Vinnick, featuring Bowskill on fiddle; and “Never Let Go” with the lyric “Larry Jones, he keeps a chip on his shoulder, it gets heavier and heavier as he gets older…he gets a little bit louder with (each and) every beer, he can never let go, he can never let it go, never let go, he could never let go of that heavy load”. Fines’ observations on the human condition inspiring the latter, and also the closer “Scared To Dance”.
As a guitarist and vocalist Fines’ is outstanding. As a songwriter he is among our very best. This album is highly recommended.