Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Having seen Neil Osborne do an acoustic gig at the Halifax Urban Folk Festival last September, I already new that the 54*40 catalog worked well in an acoustic setting. Plus, everybody was remarking on just how many great tunes the group has done over the years, when you put them all together. Here, the full group takes on the unplugged style, but with a brand-new and very successful twist.

Instead of doing the usual unplugged show, a greatest hits with acoustic guitars and limited percussion in front of an audience, 54*40 went back into the studio, and came up with completely new versions of ten group favourites. These feature very different and fun arrangements, such as the fiddle-fired, bluegrass take on Baby Ran, barely recognizable if not for the familiar lyrics. If the Mumfords came from Vancouver, it would go like this.

These aren't piss-takes though; while fun for the listener, the songs feature seriously good ideas and radical reinventions of the highest quality. Everything is on the table except the basic melodies and original lyrics. I Go Blind is one of several with added backing vocal parts. Since When is supercharged with a flute of all things. One Gun, always catchy with its repetitive chorus becomes a thing of beauty with its harmonies and piano break.

You could put together a very solid greatest hits collection of these songs in their original form, and probably be impressed how many truly fine songs 54*40 have made over the years. But get them this way, and you'll hear the first really great new album of 2016.

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