According to Rae Spoon a country cannot be defined by its national anthem. He rolls into town with his latest, seemingly patriotic release, Superioryouareinferior, at Gus' Pub Saturday, November 22, along with local glowing hearts Ghost Bees and Laura Peek, who stand on guard for thee.
"I think songwriting is one of the most accessible art forms," says Spoon, calling from his Montreal home. "It crosses boundaries that usually wouldn't be crossed. A lot of my early country music tours were proof of this. I was in places that I may have never gone meeting people that I may never have met."Over the past decade Spoon, a born and bred Albertan, has toured extensively throughout Canada, Australia, Europe and the United States, all on his own accord. As an independent transgendered country crooner, Spoon knows a thing or two about life off the beaten path. It's within this mysterious terrain that he conjures up his muse. Similar to writer Ivan E. Coyote, who collaborated with Spoon on the multimedia performance You Are Here, gender and sexuality are aspects of their personhood, but doesn't take over their artistic focus."I draw a lot of inspiration from my surroundings. I think I like to use description of place to make emotional meaning," Spoon says. "I've been writing songs since I was 12. In some way making music is more of an identifier for me than anything else that came later on."
Superioryouareinferior dives into the depths of the Canadian psyche, tackling issues of colonialism, isolation, racism, wildlife, ghosts, economics and madness. This isn't your typical ode to the vast and expansive country we call home. Oddly enough, the majority of the record was created over Spoon's six-month stay this past winter in Weimar, Germany.
"I see colonial ghosts as all of the not-so-far-off histories of colonization in Canada," says Spoon. "Everyone who lives in Canada plays some role in colonialism. It seems like it has become really easy for the people who have benefited from that history to ignore all of the effects of it.
"I think that solidarity with First Nations people's interest, as well as acknowledgement of all the racist actions by Canadians in the present and the past, is the only way we can really be present in who we are and how we all got here."
Spoon's previous discography includes: White Hearse Comes Rolling (2006), Your Trailer Door (2005) and Throw Some Dirt On Me (2003). He attributes his times spent away from the wild west as part of the reason for leaving the honky-tonk blues behind. "I haven't really lived in Alberta for longer than a month in the past 10 years. The country music and metaphors would have felt a bit put on if I had kept writing them."
The album's title Superioryouareinferior stems from the opening track "Great Lakes," which navigates through all the internal and external anxieties found among our inland seas. "My Heart Is A Piece Of Garbage Fight Seagulls Fight" should tug at a few displaced Maritimers' hearts when he beautifully sings, "I need a history," only to describe the Calgary Tower in metaphoric terms as both a giant fist and the mast of a ghost ship. "Come On Forest Fires Burn The Disco Down," could come across as a danceable salute to kids stuck in the suburbs, but it's more of a call to social responsibility. A nod to the queer community appears in "Off The Grid, Underground." Even lost coal miners are found on the "Strength From Within," but it's Spoon's notion of dancing grizzly bears on "I Can't Wait To Hear The Noise" that portrays a truly unique Canada.
"The amount of wild we still have in the country is crazy," he says. "I watched elk walk up railway tracks in Jasper a few weeks ago while waiting for the Greyhound to leave at four in the morning. You don't get that at bus stops in other countries. A lot of Canadians haven't been north of Edmonton, so it's not something we all see. Going to the Yukon as much as I have really made me see how special it is."