First Listen: Adam Winn’s “Roots”

Fort St. John's firefightin' troubadour Adam Winn returns to the mic with new stories, more wisdom, and a fulsome sound on his latest album, Roots.

The 10-track full length, released April 12, builds on the tight and sparse acoustic sound Winn debuted with on his self-titled EP in 2017. Winn still sticks to those folk musical roots, a fine treble to backdrop and carry the earnest tremble he keeps at the edge of his voice. 

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But for an album all about roots and family, and the lessons of time, it's the flourishes that Winn adds this go-around that stand out: the instrumentation is more complex and expansive, the percussion more encompassing. A smooth slide guitar can make anyone's knees go weak. Indeed, the musicianship here is on point, and the mix from Ryan Mcallister of Five Acre Studios elevates Winn to his natural next level. 

On Roots, Winn wastes no time sweeping listeners into the album on the opening track Suzannah, a mid-tempo toe-tappin' shuffle about the betrayals and double-crosses of an outlaw life, and the pain of being separated from love. "Suzannah, it won't be long; If I can make it through the night, I hope to be back home before the dawn; But for now I best be moving on," Winn sings. His bluegrass influences are on display here, and the banjo-like lead sets the tone for the album to come. 

The album's first single, Song For The North, is the hometown summer anthem of the year fit for those late night campfire singalongs. It makes sense: Winn's been a Northerner now for more than a decade, so he knows the people, he knows the life, and he knows the pride. Plus, after writing and releasing a music video about his hometown Creston on his debut, the North was owed an ode — some pushing from his fellow firefighters made the track a reality.

But that doesn't mean Creston doesn't get a sequel here — though Winn's a happy, hardworking northerner with solid new roots here in Fort St. John, he reminds us we never really forget where we come from, and the nostalgia and yearning that lingers along with it. "My hometown, it's still the same; Oh man, ain't it good to know some things never change? Sure do try to make it back, but it's never quite enough; I miss the place where I grew up," Winn sings, his lyricism strung together with a strum and a rhythm sure to keep listeners bouncing.

Pouring Rain is the surefire single of the album, and deserves mainstream radio play. Here, Winn channels his inner Garth Brooks with a song about the difficulties we all experience in the face of unpleasant honesty, the exasperation of feeling helpless and hapless, the struggles of moving on — with love still at the heart of it all, "as hard as it may be," Winn sings.

There's much to please listeners on Roots.

On one hand, Winn slows down the album with the tearjerker, Dear Jenny, a track about accident and addiction, recovery and regret. "My mistress Miss Morphine, she helped me relax; One kiss from her lips, and I never looked back," Winn sings. "But if I could turn back time, to that day in November, well I never would have left your side and our home on the farm; But I traded it all for two nickels and a needle in my arm..." The song is based on a true story and is timely one with the opioid crisis — if a listener can't identify with it, Winn's weary tremble will certainly make them empathize with it.

On another hand, Winn kicks up the tempo again with He Wanted More, a soldier's shell-shocked reflection about D-Day at Normandy and the hunger for war. Winn captures it all: the desire for glory, the fear of a fight, the cost of a life, the legacy of a sacrifice: "He was there the sixth day of June, 1944; Gunshots and bombs dropped like they never had before; They died in his arms that day on the shore; The red waters turned the tides of the Second World War."

On his debut EP, Winn planted a seed few at the time likely realized would one day grow into such formative Roots. It's a strong sophomore effort that earns Winn a footing in Canadiana.

Winn will host a CD release party April 13 at Evangel Chapel. Tickets will be available at the door. Visit adamwinnmusic.com for more.

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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