No Language

Love Nor Money
How Strong is Your Sorrow
All Around
Almost Alien
No Language
What I'm After
Clouds and Rain
Lives Change
Only One
Amsterdam Canals
Burn the Boats

These are 12 songs that follow in the footsteps of Betty's Room but with the confidence that comes with experience. The themes continue to be inspired from autobiographical 'journalling' and move further into the political, universal realm, a natural progression.

Recorded bed tracks for 12 new songs at Reaction. Gary Craig, drums, and Maury Lafoy, bass, Andy McLean on guitars, me on vocals, John Whynot at the knobs, in 2.5 days. John came home with Andy and me and the three of us worked on the overdubs in our home studio. We were guessing it might work, but hadn't tested it out so we were taking a bit of a risk that the sounds would be good ... worked out better than imagined. There may be some chain saws or bird chirps in the backgrounds. That's ok. John's sense of the ridiculous kept us laughing, and guided us through all the songs, and we got them all 12 of them, can't believe it. After 2 weeks, John has packed up the porche and flown back to LA. Now we wait to begin that long journey into mixing.

This is a piece of the story behind the songs ...

This album started coming together about a year before we got together with the players Gary and Maury, and the producer John Whynot, though some of the songs had been around a lot longer. A couple of songs were originally demoed in our basement studio in Toronto, years before we moved to Muskoka ... "Love Nor Money" was written on the deck of a cottage we stayed at in Haliburton in the mid 1990's. It was a melody that would not recede, and when we started pre-producing it for fun last year, it was clear the song had a place in our current repertoire. It's a great hooky rootsy tune, part country, part rock, perfect for the genre crossing we love to do. The title came from Andy's gran, who used the expression "can't get it for love nor money" a lot while he was growing up. I liked applying her catchy phrase to my rant against what I call "empty calorie culture". It's a really fun song to play with the band, great song to dance to ... "

Burn The Boats" was an "instant classic" song Andy 'channeled' (by which I mean, it was one of those songs that seem to write themselves) in that basement studio, a true love song that visually refers to my Viking ancestry... The melody for "Calling" emerged 2 years earlier during the 8 whirlwind days of recording Betty's Room at Canterbury Studio in Toronto.

The lyrics are some of the most political I've ever written, as I wondered about the relationship of material poverty to poverty of the spirit and war... "How Strong is Your Sorrow" is another favourite to play live with the band. The song feel was born while I was working hard on my rhythm guitar playing, and Andy was laughing at my frustration, saying things like, "you could be in Neil Young's band. So we started pretending we were Crazy Horse, and literally, the feel created this great canvas, where for some reason, (who knows where these images come from) I could see this lone crazed individual dancing on top of a hill in the dark, screaming into the void their lonely unrequited desires. And it became this rocking lament we have here, kind of like a lot of Neil Young's earlier songs. I think a lot of people have dreams they never admit to, and that's very sad ...

Another sad song, that rocks along because of the great feel to it created thanks to the creative genius' of Andy and Gary, is the first song I ever wrote, "All Around". I originally composed this song on the piano, and it was a bit of a dirge I have to admit. But I always loved singing it with its "prisoner in her mind" lyrics, the poignant heartbreak of remaining still, of never following your bliss, which is the sort of artistically static place I was for many years ... I think "Almost Alien" was written, though a few years later, in answer to that first song, because the words are direct and focused on taking action and making positive change. I wrote 90% of it in about 15 minutes at my kitchen table one night. I love the way John layered the harmonies in the chorus, and of course Andy's attaching it to his retro Fleetwood Mac stylings created a perfect platform for my vocals. But it was a difficult song to nail in the final blending, I wanted it to have an intensity overlaying a feeling of not quite being sure, for a long time I didn't know if it would make it to the album, but John's brilliant mixing saved the pudding ...

I would say my favourite song is "Amsterdam Canals", because of it's poetry, the idea of ancient walls baring witness to loss, public and private. And when I was touring in Amsterdam, Johnny Cash died and people were so sad, it was as if you could hear the walls mourning... "What I'm After" is another great crossover tune, it's danceable and hummable, and at the same time holds a deeper message; "choice is a privilege, make it responsibly", without sounding preachy because I'm trying to set the example. I think it's a healthy perspective to have... "Lives Change" is a haunting beautifully wrought (if I may say so) and simple song. It's a perfect statement without judgment or cynicism, just reveals a life changing moment. I have always been fascinated by the concept of time, and how wound up it is with our thinking, with our choices. Everything can change in one heartbeat, a whole lifetime can be altered irrevocably, just from one decision ...

"Only One", is another song that refers to choice, although it's a bit more enigmatic because it is drawn from the memory of a really bad dream I had years ago, the kind of dream you always remember, as if it's there to tell you something about yourself you need to know. I dealt with the dream head on in this song. It took a long time to begin to write the lyrics. The chord progression Andy had developed created a dark space in my minds eye, and as I was playing around with melodies, all I could ever see was a dark cloaked figure running along a barren path towards a pile of rocks and the sounds coming out of my mouth were gibberish. Eventually, I followed that cloaked figure behind those rocks (figuratively speaking) and the images made way for the lyrics; the first line, "I'm going back in there" set the rest in motion... "Clouds and Rain" was written in a similar way, but the image I had going there was of a person climbing Mt Everest, trying to find a place to lie comfortably, failing, and tumbling down the side of the mountain. When I realized the image was a metaphor for my fear of commitment to love, I was flying ...

The most wonderful thing about these songs is how simple they seem, and yet how deeply they resonate with people. There is always a lot going on in our songs, thematically and musically, so if you want to, you can dig into them and not be disappointed. The more you dig into them, the more they reveal. The most personal song on the album, and the title track, "No Language", is built musically on the rhythm of the ocean, with allusions to my Norwegian ancestry, but when I listen to it now, I realize there is a strong universal message about our Canadian identity. My parents emigrated from Norway before I was born, and when I grew up, the culture inside my house was different than the culture outside it. To find the way to fit into the world at large is complicated by that reality. Any child of immigrants can relate to that, and indeed I believe it is a huge measure of what makes us Canadian. We are always trying to figure out how we fit in ...

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