Whitehorse’s The Northern South Vol. 2: Whitehorse sings the post-holiday blues
January has barely passed, but it’s already been a busy year for Canada’s favourite Americana-obsessed band Whitehorse.
In mid-January they released an EP titled The Northern South Vol. 2, and in late January their Christmas album, A Whitehorse Christmas Classic, was nominated for a Juno Award.
While A Whitehorse Christmas Classic shines brightly like a Madison Avenue storefront at Christmas, The Northern South Vol.2 is about as festive as Dry January.
Even though The Northern South Vol. 2 misses the mark, it’s not necessarily unexpected, since the band, which is made up of supremely talented husband-and-wife duo Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, have put out a musical release every year since the band was formed in 2010.
The band seems to be stretched thin on The Northern South Vol. 2, which is a follow-up to 2016’s The Northern South Vol. 1. The newest EP is once again a collection of classic blues covers by the band from the likes of Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo, and Willie Dixon.
The lead single “Baby Scratch My Back” plods along with surgical blues precision as Doucet unleashes some crafty guitar work, but it comes off with the blunted spirit of a suburban pub’s cover band.
In the video for “Baby Scratch My Back,” the couple plays multiple instruments during the song’s recording, and the musical chemistry between McClelland and Doucet is considerable. However, the song’s lyrics are phoned-in, literally and metaphorically, from a telephone receiver hooked up to a mic, with the overall joy of a call to the CRA.
On “Baby, What You Want Me To Do,” Whitehorse slowly builds intensity, but the song explodes at the end with the spontaneity of a nine-to-five office job.
The EP’s highlight is the closing track, a superb cover of the traditional folk song “St. James Infirmary,” first recorded by Louis Armstrong. The haunting guitar sounds like the ghost of Jack White past, and the song floats into the cold, cold night, in a fog of hazy feedback.
Whitehorse have produced a number of charming works in the past decade including 2015’s Juno Award winning album Leave No Bridge Unburned. Unfortunately, The Northern South Vol. 2 can be relegated to the dusty basement of your local public library where sadly, much of this cover album’s reference material now resides.