A concept album for Almaguin Highlands. (2021)
After a successful 20 year stint based out of Toronto, Ontario as an international touring and recording artist in the songwriting-performing duo The Undesirables with hometown friend and collaborator Corin Raymond, Sean Cotton retired from the road, settling north of Muskoka in the Almaguin Highlands.
He spent the next several years writing and performing new original songs for the locals and tourists alike. These songs would become his 2019 solo album Only in Muskoka. The record celebrated the region while offering some character sketches that touched on some of the rougher edges of Muskoka. Songs like Hard Time of Year, The Accidental death of Thomas John Thomson, and his anthemic regional hit Broke in Muskoka.
The first Covid lockdown created a window of opportunity for Sean Cotton to spend each day in his home studio in Burk's Falls Ontario. After purchasing a 12 string guitar, dobro, and a mandolin, he could finally get down to laying all of the tracks down for the songs that he'd been writing. Self produced, Sean performed all of the instruments on the album and employed the assistance of Burk's Falls neighbour and singer-songwriter Gina Horswood as well as Gravenhurst Blues singer Tamica Herod to add background vocals.
Inspired by his home region of Almaguin Highlands, Sean wanted this record to be a harsh contrast to the more upbeat, "touristy" lyrical elements of his 2019 album Only in Muskoka. He wanted it to be less Jimmy Buffett, less Stompin' Tom, and more Robbie Robertson, more Stan Rogers. He wanted this album to reflect the more rural experience of living and trying to survive in Almaguin Highlands. On the album, fact and fiction coexist. Sean even elaborated on a Burk's Falls songwriter's existing work, expanding Pam Millar's local hit song Small Town Girl into the epic Ballad of Pam Millar, in true troubadour tradition. The regions mythology is richly reflected in this epic Folk Rock album Almaguin Gothic.
The album will be available for CD purchase and on all streaming platforms April 30, 2021. The CD album artwork features three works of art by Emsdale, Ontario visual artist Janet Stahle.
A concept album for Almaguin Highlands. (2021)
Album Review #1
Jesus Christ, I just listened to the first track on Sean Cotton's new album Almaguin Gothic. It is insanely good. So epic...such a quality of "taking it's time" that feels like a lost art. It is too early in the day for whiskey, but I want to crack the bottle and continue.
I can't remember where Sean and I were driving, but I remember, a long while ago, being in his car and playing him what was the new "Who" album from 2007. I remember him saying, "Wow, they still have a lot of ideas". I thought of that as I listened to his new record. It is bursting with ideas! It is so well realized. I mean this as a compliment when I say that I love hearing all of Sean's different influences filtering through his songwriting. It is so great.
Sean is primarily a guitar player so this record made me super curious about the differnt keyboards on the songs. Sean made some really cool choices including a very Mellotron-like string section at one point. In this age of home studios it got me wondering what instruments he actually used, and if he played them himself.
Almaguin Gothic had me really thinking about the balance of "production" and "song" with this album. I know so much of what Sean does is solo performance these days (well, not THESE days, but you know what I mean) and I imagined that it would be easy and perhaps business-wise, advantageous to make records that reflect that. That was part of what I really dug about this album...that he didn't do that. And though the songs come through loud and clear, and it is not hard for me to imagine them stripped down, the record did not just sound like acoustic Folky tunes dressed up. The arrangements felt really central to the vibe of the album. It's like a "real" record! (Haha)
And yes, I heard an I'm On Fire vibe immediately on The Ballad of Old Man McLaren, but I felt that the song went somewhere else, especially on second listen.
I really love how the record starts and ends. I was thinking about even, like, 10 or 15 years ago there would be people telling you not to open an album with a song like The Serpent...you know? That, "If the CD falls into the hands of some CBC person, you want the first 10 seconds to really grab'm!" kind of thing. Well, forget that. The first track just totally sucked me in...like real records used to.
Written by Brad Hart: Writer and actor of the one-man show OH GOD - THE DRUMS