Folk is a genre that has been tried and tried again. While there is no shortage of folk artists out there, these days it still seems to remain a sound that is rarely landed in an authentic and unforgettable sense. Michael Bastarache is one of those few artists who achieves it, and Half Truth is one of those albums.
Hailing from Atlantic Canada, Bastarache’s heart wrenching, yet soul-soothing sound is the result of various collaborations with friends, all of whom seem to only deepen the beauty in his song writing. Half Truth is Bastarache’s third album, recorded at Moonbeam Studio in Nova Scotia and released in the spring and early summer of 2014 by Bastarache and good friend Paul Vidito (who also plays and sings on all of Bastarache’s albums).
Refreshingly, it is hard to analyze the album in terms of songs; it just doesn’t make any sense, but while it diverges slightly in sound from his previous album Timberwolf, a careful listen to the two hits you with the same fiery, maritime-gypsy-meets-delta-blues sentiment. The album opens up with “The Wolves Serenade,” in which you hear the blues-like banjo that immediately throws one’s mind back to Timberwolf. Even upon the first listen to Bastarache’s out of this world, soul-soothing voice, you will not be sure whether to cry, or to jump up and tell all of your friends to listen to this brilliant music coming from Canada’s east coast.
Following the haunting beauty that is the “The Wolves Serenade,” the album turns to “Coal Mine,” a song whose jaunty pace exemplifies Bastarache’s ability to mould his sound into different, unexpected, but equally powerful audible realms. What follows is the angelic ballad that is “Denine,” whose lyrics make you think that the song could have been written by Henry David Thoreau if he was ever as good a musician as he was a writer. From there, the album continues in a slower vein. Listening to “Je Suis Saoul,” you feel like you should be wandering aimlessly in the dark in a small town. Nailed down by great harmonies between Bastarache, Lisa Abramowicz and Kimberly D’Ambrogi, “Je Suis Saoul” outlines Bastarache’s maritime gypsy perspective on life, a viewpoint that he admits in the Zeppelin III-esque, “Behind My Eyes” which you may or may not understand.
Picking up the pace after the lead of “Behind My Eyes” is “Creative Control,” which melds a soft bluesy sentiment with the fuck-you tone of an acoustic punk song, and a chorus that speaks of creative frustration of an ambiguous nature. However, just when you are contemplating the very nature of this frustration, the song ends with a short laugh (presumably from Bastarache) and you are reminded that even though he is able to emulate that fiery attitude, he is still having fun.
All of these various sounds and themes come together in the second last song “Grow,” which becomes the most dynamic song on the album. The song reverberates between a mix of playful, bluesy, finger-picking electric guitar, and an opposing dropped-down, spacey, and haunting tone that is perfectly brought together by Bastarache’s unforgettable voice and Thoreau-esque lyrics. The album closes with a return to the same beautiful sound it opened with in “I Dream a Highway.” Reminiscing about Tennessee, Joesie Palmer’s violin playing perfectly complements Bastarache’s voice, and is combined with the kind of bluesy guitar he refrains from highlighting throughout the rest of the album. Just as it starts, Half Truth ends on a note that leaves your soul in a beautifully carved space of refreshing, mutual solitude between artist and listener.
Written by Jordan Hodgins