Without knowing Rah Rah is from Regina, Saskatchewan, one can quickly tell by listening to their latest record The Poet's Dead that it was written by a lively group of grown-up country kids. Similarly, without knowing that southern Saskatchewan is mostly prairie land, one could just as well pick up the new album and get a good idea about the life and landscape it came from. Besides the dead giveaway second track "Prairie Girl," Rah Rah's third LP is full of catchy rock songs that hint at folk life, and tell tales of growing up and being in a band.
The album's opener "Art & a Wife" struts in with a countrified guitar riff. Singer Marshall Burns reminisces about playing along to Crazy Horse, touring with his first band, and trying to get girls. He then admits that nowadays he just wants to settle down, so long as he has music. A similar nostalgia continues through the album, as the songs alternate from male to female lead vocals. Rah Rah's dual-gender vocal approach works in a couple of ways, not only offering a welcome mix of tones and harmonies, but also humanizing the characters who are telling their tales. In "20s," we find Kristina Hedlund (vocals/violin/accordion) singing about feeling old in her 30s after years of "rock and roll," and we want to believe multi-instrumentalist Erin Passmore when she proposes robbing a bank for a lover in "I'm a Killer."
Since it's hard for anyone not to relate to things like regret, drinking, being far from home, being at home, falling in and out of love, broken promises, and knowing people from either a farm or city, the lyrics on The Poet's Dead are easily digested. However, the music is what makes the album tasty. Guitar tones range from a solid twang in the title track, to strumming and reverb in "Prairie Girl," and even some messy overdrive on "Dead Men." Light organ touches "Fake Our Love," synth sounds introduce "I'm a Killer," and strings glide over the galloping "Saint."
I wasn't too surprised when I read that Rah Rah does a lot of instrument switching during their live shows. Each song on the record seems to introduce at least one new sound and a different voice. The Poet's Dead is a bright, mid-tempo alternative rock album with a young heart and a folk spirit. It feels like you're riding on Rah Rah's tour bus, staring out the window, listening to the band tell you stories about people and places passing by.
Watch/listen to "Prairie Girl," and stay tuned to see Rah Rah's live performance at The Launch Pad at Spike Hill.