#33 on "the actual best albums of 2016" list: The Scottish artist King Creosote is a genuine DIY artist, turning out a seemingly endless series of albums and collaborations... this collaboration with Michael Johnston definitely hits the dusky, contemplative sweet spot that is King Creosote at his best...


King Creosote and Michael Johnston – The Bound of the Red Deer
(Self Release)
Ten years in the making, thanks to the prolific nature of both musicians and the distance of the Atlantic Ocean between them, The Bound of the Red Deer is a simple collection of modern Folk songs hinging on acoustic guitars, keys, percussion, and the lightest of ambient textures. Having met while working on the project that would become The Burns Unit, the pair have produced an album that in no way feels collaborative. That is to say, there appears to be such a singular vision and continuity in style through the tracks that the circumstances of the albums making surprise.


Go out: Quintessentially Scottish singer-songwriter King Creosote has teamed up with Michael Johnston, a latter-day member of quintessentially Canadian folk-rock group Skydiggers, on the richly ambient and elegaic album The Bound of the Red Deer. It shifts between their respective geographical viewpoints, so it will be interesting to see what tone is set when both take the stage tonight.


The Bound of the Red Deer - King Creosote & Michael Johnston

(Independent, 2016)

Michael Johnston is one of my favourite musicians in the world.  A Toronto native, Michael runs his own music school, performs with the Skydiggers and writes and records his own music.  His music is infectious, beautiful, sincere and full of joy.  His voice is familiar and comforting, and his melodies are well-crafted and compelling.  Michael’s album Curious Heart is a masterpiece.

King Creosote (aka Kenny Anderson) hails from Scotland and has released over forty albums.  He has been nominated for the Mercury Prize and the Scottish Album of the Year Award.  Many of his albums have been released in small runs of vinyl only.  I have yet to get my hands on one of these prized records.  Anderson and Johnston also lay in a Scottish-Canadian collective called the Burns Unit.

The two have crafted a stunning album together, and one that immediately demands your attention. Recorded over years, the long-distance friendship has given way to a glorious record, rich with ambient textures, piano, guitar and two unique voices tangled and woven together.

Many of the songs feature cyclical chord changes that give them a meditative feel, and a sense of never-ending bloom and morphing.  Round & Round is what we call “an ear worm” because it crawls in and refuses to leave.  The melody is timeless, and lends itself to rich counterpoint.

Billows Roll is deeply haunting, with Anderson’s voice sending a chill down my spine each time I hear it.  Supermoon is a touching love song, while Since We’ve Fallen Out is a sad tale of love lost.

Will You Wait for Me features slide guitar and harmony vocals credited to Gurf Morlix (rumoured to be Lucinda Williams).

Other highlights include When I Was a Thief, Helpless to Turn, All of This is Writing, and Hangdog.

As part of their first Canadian tour, King Creosote and Michael Johnston will be performing at Centennial Secondary School on Tuesday May 31, at 7 p.m.  The duo will be joined by the CSS Choir for this special performance.  Admission is $10 at the door.  CDs will be available for purchase.  This marks the first time Johnston returns to Belleville since his performance with the CSS Choir back in 2005, and the maiden voyage for Anderson in the friendly city.

The Bound of the Red Deer is a record that will haunt you, inspire you and bring you joy.  Although the term has not been used in a long while, I would consider this album “essential listening.”