JACK PINE TAKES ROOT
Heartache, adventure, a sense of home — these were all starting places for the songs on the self-titled debut disc from Ottawa’s Jack Pine & the Fire, but it’s not a self-pitying release. The bustin’, bluegrassy album is technically slick, but leaves enough room for the rising vocal idiosyncrasies of the frontman to shine through.
Front man Jack Pine is the nom de tune of Gareth Auden-Hole, 31, formerly of the Slackjaw Sinners. He liked the symbolism of the tree: its ability to re-seed burnt ground after a forest fire gives it a sense of purpose and legacy. There’s also the ability to coattail on the iconic Tom Thompson painting of the same name and all its implied Canadiana — another element in the nine songs on the album.
A stream of mandolin, guitars, dobro, pedal steel, and fiddle give the album an haute-campfire vibe, made resonant by Auden-Hole’s vocal edges. His stories play on average themes, but are made bold and new by a robust telling and smart unravelling.
There’s Home, about a guy who has been vagabonding all his life until he realized the only sensation he hasn’t experienced was that of home. “It’s the smash country hit on the album,” Auden-Hole laughs. In addition to the “accessible” track, there’s Everybody’s Blues, a gentle take on collective misery, and the kicker, Gather, for hardened hearts and shattered spirits.
Auden-Hole pursued songwriting while wrapping up a combined communications and humanities degree from York University. He returned home to Ottawa after school and, overdue for adventure, took off for Victoria, B.C. He hitchhiked from his family’s cottage in Thunder Bay to Calgary, riding along with new wave hippies in a VW van. He bridged the rest of his route out west by riding along with various characters and gathering up tales and experiences.
Later, as his songwriting developed, Auden-Hole started to fiddle around with recording in studio, but became exasperated by the technical learning curve.
“I didn’t want to flail around and be frustrated by not knowing enough.” So he went to the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology in London to become a recording engineer and currently works a day job as the technical lead at the First Unitarian Church. He has a studio in his Alta Vista home called Wee Vox Sound, where he’s recorded tracks for the Occupy Ottawa compilation and vocalist Tara Porter. Porter is also among a long list of local artists who guested on the Jack Pine album, including Anders Drerup (The VanMeters), Tim Watson (Dave Norris & Local Ivan), Stuart Rutherford (Dusty Drifters), Martin Newman (The Flaps), Kelly Prescott, and John Showman (Creaking Tree Quartet, New Country Rehab).
Jack Pine & The Fire’s CD release party takes place Friday, Jan. 27 at Irene’s Pub (885 Bank St.) with The John Punch Band. 9 p.m., $10.