Hymns of the 49th Parallel

Hymns of the 49th Parallel

4.8 8
by k.d. lang
     
 

Blessed with one of the most beautiful voices in contemporary pop music -- is there really any competition? -- k. d. lang can turn any song into an emotional tour de force. Throughout her career, she's mixed collections of her own compositions with songbook-style albums of interpretations, from her forays into countrypolitan on 1988's See more details below

Overview

Blessed with one of the most beautiful voices in contemporary pop music -- is there really any competition? -- k. d. lang can turn any song into an emotional tour de force. Throughout her career, she's mixed collections of her own compositions with songbook-style albums of interpretations, from her forays into countrypolitan on 1988's Shadowland through 2002's collaboration with Tony Bennett on Louis Armstrong–affiliated standards. On Hymns of the 49th Parallel, lang mines her native Canada for source material and comes up with a stunning set of understated ballads. Opening with Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush," lang mixes establish masters such as Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen with younger upstarts like Ron Sexsmith, Bruce Cockburn, and Jane Siberry. Wisely, she lets her voice take center stage while still being a model of restraint; most arrangements build on a singular piano or acoustic guitar line bolstered by soft background strings and a delicate rhythm section, and there's none of the bombast here that lang occasionally indulges in. As a point of contrast, she reprises her own "Simple" from Invincible Summer and improves on the original by simplifying it even more, slowing it down and expanding its range of emotions. Whether the song is very familiar (Mitchell's "A Case of You," Cohen's "Bird on a Wire") or less so (Siberry's "Love Is Everything," Sexsmith's "Fallen") lang treats it with aching sensitivity.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
In 1988, Stompin' Tom Connors, the most fiercely patriotic Canadian musician to ever take the stage in the land of the Maple Leaf, wrote a song in tribute to fellow Canadian k.d. lang for continuing to hang her hat in Alberta after enjoying a commercial breakthrough in the United States. It's hard to say what Stompin' Tom thinks about lang these days, now that she's an out-of-the-closet lesbian, an animal rights activist, and (gulp) spending most of her time in America, but it's a good bet he approves of Hymns of the 49th Parallel, in which lang turns her attention exclusively to the work of Canadian tunesmiths. Anchored by classic songs from Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen (all of whom rate two songs each), Hymns of the 49th Parallel is not so much a flag-waving celebration of Canada as an appreciation of the often spare and evocative style of its best-known lyricists (or at least that's the case with the material on board), and lang and frequent collaborator Ben Mink have matched the selections with production and arrangements that are simple and to the point, with only a piano/bass/drums trio for accompaniment (though a string section pops in every once in a while). With her phrasing subdued and her projection scaled back from the big-as-all-outdoors sound of her early days, lang seems to have kept her own instrument in check as well, though her best moments still inspire a very real awe. Though lang has chosen some superb songs (and written a fine one herself in the album's only original, "Simple") and performed them with obvious love and affection, Hymns of the 49th Parallel seems oddly lacking in passion; perhaps in deference to the frozen North, this album has a cool and frosty undertow that seems designed to hold the listener at arm's length, despite the inarguable beauty of its craft. Perhaps for the follow-up, she should bring in Stompin' Tom for a duet on "The Hockey Song" to liven things up.

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Product Details

Release Date:
07/27/2004
Label:
Nonesuch
UPC:
0075597984729
catalogNumber:
79847
Rank:
2105

Tracks

  1. After the Gold Rush
  2. Simple
  3. Helpless
  4. A Case of You
  5. The Valley
  6. Hallelujah
  7. One Day I Walk
  8. Fallen
  9. Jericho
  10. Bird on a Wire
  11. Love Is Everything

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

k.d. lang   Primary Artist,Vocals
Deodato   Conductor
Teddy Borowiecki   Piano,Accordion,Keyboards
Clayton Cameron   Drums
Larry Corbett   Cello
Brian Dembow   Viola
Stephen Erdody   Cello
Armen Ksadjikian   Cello
Ben Mink   Acoustic Guitar,Fiddle,Electric Guitar
David Piltch   Electric Bass,Bass Guitar,Acoustic Bass
David Stenske   Violin
Cecilia Tsan   Cello
Sara Parkins   Violin
Tiffiany Yi Hu   Violin
Cynthia Fogg   Viola
Ralph Morrison   Violin,Concert Master

Technical Credits

Leonard Cohen   Composer
Jane Siberry   Composer
Bruce Cockburn   Composer
Joni Mitchell   Composer
Neil Young   Composer
Deodato   String Arrangements
k.d. lang   Composer,Producer,Audio Production
David Leonard   Engineer
Ben Mink   Producer,Audio Production
David Piltch   Composer
Ron Sexsmith   Composer
Andy Goldsworthy   Cover Photo

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