On his new album, Dirt Road Confessional, Jeffery Straker continues push the boundaries of what it means to be a piano balladeer. With themes both contemplative and joyous, the 12- song collection encapsulates the seasoned Saskatchewan singer/songwriter’s experiences of playing over 200 shows around the world since the release of his previous album, 2015’s North Star Falling.
Straker regularly draws comparisons to a young Billy Joel or Elton John, with touches of Rufus Wainwright and Harry Nilsson thrown in. With Dirt Road Confessional Jeffrey was determined to explore different approaches in the studio, which led the album to be constructed out of five separate sessions. Daniel Ledwell (Jenn Grant) produced three songs in Nova Scotia, Royal Wood co-wrote two songs and co-produced them with Lawrence Katz in L.A., Dean Drouillard (Justin Rutledge, Amelia Curran) produced two songs in Toronto—where additional tracks were also laid down with Robyn Dell’Unto—and Murray Pulver (The Bros. Landreth) co-produced the balance with Brad Prosko during sessions in Regina.
Despite the many hands being involved in the end result, the foundation of Dirt Road Confessional is Straker’s unwavering sonic vision for the record, and its story about finding love while at the same time finding courage to pursue one’s art. Straker says, “When I was writing these songs I didn’t realize how cohesive the theme and inspiration was. A strange result of being away so much is that you gain a perspective of what’s most important to you. That led me to call the album Dirt Road Confessional. It consists of songs that came to me while I was touring, and more specifically, from all the time you have to think while driving from show to show.”
Album opener “Beauty in the Grey” serves as the story’s prologue with its opening line, “Another view of the country, from here behind the wheel.” It speaks to the musician’s reality of meeting so many people but never really getting to know them, and how sharing music ultimately creates the bond. Another key track is “1000 Miles Away,” on which Straker goes deeper into the self-discovery that occurs on the road. While there’s a tinge of regret in the opening line, “There’s a part of me that’s never ever left the farm,” the reward is clear by the end when he sings, “I’m grateful for the distance that I traveled, ‘cause I finally saw you from a thousand miles away.” That sentiment could be directed at many people but on “Walking Shoes,” Straker writes specifically about his father. Although the family business was farming, both of Straker’s parents play instruments and they always encouraged him to pursue his dream to be a professional musician. What it comes down to, as the song illustrates, is that you should strive to do what you love. The story comes full circle with closing track “Fades to Grey,” which, by contrast, heartbreakingly illustrates the dichotomy between an artist’s life on and off stage.
“From the release of my first album to now, I’ve tried to balance my inner feelings with chronicling the stories of people around me,” Straker says. “Characters have popped up on all of my albums and a few do on this one too. But this album feels more personal. Lyrically I share more about myself than I have before, and musically I’ve moved in a more rootsy direction, in some ways because that’s the sound I grew up with. It seems like a really natural progression—dobro, banjo and acoustic guitar are featured, but piano is, of course, still at the core of most of the songs.”
Jeffery Straker is giving all he has to his music, and the evidence is clear from the creative strides he’s made on Dirt Road Confessional, an album that confirms his status as one of Canada’s most gifted singer/songwriters.
Jeffrey Straker – Dirt Road Confessional (Acronym/ Universal Canada - Released May 2017 )
1.Beauty in the Grey 4:05 (roots/folk)
2.Bravery 3:07 * (roots/folk)
3.Thousand Miles Away 4:26
4.Boom Boom 3:06 * (roots/folk)
5.Deliver Me 3:55 (roots/folk)
6.Sweet Sweet Nothings 3:12 (folk/pop)
7.Something’s Gotta Give 4:14
8.Queen of Broken Souls 5:17
9.Fool for You 3:22 * (alt-pop)
10.Get What You Give 4:47
11.Walking Shoes 4:12 (roots/folk)
12.Fades to Grey 4:21