Take a Look: Shawn Clarke

Photo by Cody Walker

I featured Shawn Clarke‘s song “To Think I Once Was Lost” just earlier this week to make Torontonians love the city again after the G20, but now’s the time to make you love the rest of his music.

Clarke, a country-folk singer/songwriter who is now based in Toronto, has recently released an album titled Like Birds, too Tired to Fly. It’s beautiful.

When I visited my Canadian grandpa’s home as a kid, he’d often have the radio turned on to some country radio station. I’ll always remember hearing these twangs and songs about women, trucks and baseball. It didn’t make me love country music for the rest of my life whatsoever, but it didn’t make me hate it either. It was something in the background, a detail of the scene that seemed to describe it wonderfully. The first guitar notes of this album take me back to that place, but it’s one now that I can learn and love.

Now I don’t really listen to country music, but I do appreciate some bands that have parts of country stylings in them, like Elliott Brood or Fish and Bird. I guess I just don’t like that commercial kind of country that just keeps getting as shiny as Taylor Swift’s next dress. But Clarke has created a perfect balance of country and folk and it just feels so personal, which is why I like it so much. It’s simple: the friendly back-and-forth bass notes and soft drumming will first find you, and then comes the banjo and most of all the clear voice.

Clarke doesn’t sing about trucks and baseball, but he does sing about women, working and as I’ve mentioned before, loving Toronto. It’s easy to relate to for almost anyone, and it makes the album that much more charming. Songs like “Empty House” and “Hurt Before” are sadder songs, but they still feel pretty optimistic. “Secret Bear” is practically an indie flick on love waiting to happen. “I’ll Miss you When You’re Gone” is smack in the middle of the album, a peaceful acoustic piece that will give you pause rather than make you hit ‘next.’ There is not a song on this album that I don’t like.

Clarke enlisted a lot of other Toronto musicians to be on this album such as Olenka of Olenka and the Autumn Lovers (Clarke plays saxophone in her band occasionally) on “Empty House,” The Wilderness of Manitoba on “Sick Song” and “Untitled, ” Rebecca Willoughby-Rowan who lends her vocals to “Sick Song,” “Song for Kathleen,” “I’ll Miss You When You’re Gone,” “To Think I Once Was Lost” and “Untitled” and other musicians (Mark Hart, Marty Smyth, Marshal Bureau, Amanda Penner, Darren Wall, Nick Zubeck) as well.

Definitely check out this album, you won’t be disappointed. Clarke has made an organic album about sincere love and loss with lovely musicianship from him and all of his contributors. It’s impressive, heart-warming and adaptable.

Like Birds, Too Tired to Fly is available on iTunes or if you’re in Toronto, at Soundscapes.

***Clarke plays tonight at the Holy Oak Cafe with Priya Thomas.***

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