“Mean Old World” – Gordie Tentrees

4 stars (out of 5)

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“Mean Old World” is a very thought-provoking album. One of those that will have you firing up your search engine of choice to check out some of the references in the lyrics. It’s partly a political album, but the references aren’t the usual ones we’ve seen over the last year and a half. Gordie Tentrees is from Canada, making Trump references we’ve heard elsewhere less relevant, and there’s barely a mention of the pandemic. What we do get are references to gender identity and issues related to indigenous peoples as well as stories of how mean this old world can be to the loners, the outsiders and the vulnerable. The lyrics lean to a greater or lesser extent on Gordie Tentrees’ life story, including experiences as a foster child and later as a foster parent.

Musically, the stylings are basically string band and a kick drum, with a few additional seasonings of pedal steel and electric guitar and the slightly more exceptional synth that decorates “Lefties” a tale of two women who take an annual road trip together leaving their partners to deal with domestic arrangements. It combines a serious message about gender and domestic roles with a tongue-in-cheek delivery. “Danke” is in a similar vein, telling stories of life on the road while trying to secure record deals. “Twice as Nice”. I did mention political sentiments earlier and “Rosetta” refers to the Canadian legal bill C-92 dealing with the recognition of indigenous people’s jurisdiction over child and family services. Even “Train is Gone”, about an old friend dying, fits in references to equality before signing off with a carpe diem message.

The closing song, “Ring Speed” is a very cleverly-constructed autobiographical song structured as a boxing match in three rounds where the rhythms evoke the speed and the movement of the action in the ring. The song references one of Gordie’s previous occupations as a Golden Gloves boxer and ends on the advice the “Become a folksinger get out of ring”.

There’s a lot happening on “Mean Old World”. There’s a message that this life can be incredibly cruel, but there’s also some positivity and a bit of humour to balance things up. It’s raw and potent and it even has a genuine classic in the stunning closing song “Ring Speed”.

“Mean Old World” is out now .

Here’s the official video for the album’s opener, “Wind Walker”:

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