Ottawa’s Jonathan Becker & The North Fields recently released their debut full-length album Sober Dawn. The album builds on the success of the band’s previous EPs as well as their excellent live show which has graced many bars and pubs across Canada—and a few big festivals such as Ottawa’s Bluesfest and Cityfolk.
The twelve-song release is soaked in roots and folk with country flares and a certain punk-rock ethos surely amassed by the various influences of the many members, some of which currently play or have played in several bands around town. With that in mind it isn’t hard to understand why Jonathan Becker & The North Fields are for fans of Lucero, Drive-By Truckers, Waterboys, Replacements and Leatherface.
Fans of the band will hear a familiar sounds right from the first song “Tiger Lilies” from the band’s 2015 EP Cigarettes, Strings, and Other Breakables. The track was previously my favourite song by the band and they somehow found a way to make it even better. The combination of Becker’s gritty voice perfectly meshed with Laura Sinclair’s delicate keys and Luke Pearson’s guitar had already wowed me. Then version on Sober Dawn sounds crisper and all the instruments and vocals complement each other just that much more this time around.
Another song that may be familiar to some is the lead single “New Blood,” which the band has been performing live for some time now. It is great to finally hear the song in recorded form. The very catchy chorus makes it perfect for sing-alongs, arms wrapped around your friends at the show or by yourself at home thinking of what to do next. I’m also a sucker for songs with local shoutouts, so the opening line about local tattoo artist Jesse Germs opening Otherside Tattoo parlour immediately puts a smile on my face.
Becker’s impactful songwriting and gruff vocal style is unavoidable in the best possible way. I love it when a band has a calling card or some great consistent feature that makes you go “That is 100% a Jonathan Becker & The North Field song” for all the right reasons. The songs on the album, while rocking and intricately assembled, are very accessible and ones so many of us can relate to. From love to cold sobering mornings of lost love, to the interwoven good and the bad side of alcohol consumption, you can’t help but feel like Sober Dawn is the best sounding house show you have ever attended with a friend needing to open up and share some introspection.
It is also important to highlight the musical progress of this band and not just their frontman. The instrumentation has gotten tighter and fuller over the years, while still feeling very true to their beginnings. I also love the additions of Marlena Pellegrino on violin and Pascal Desgagne on pedal steel guitar really help elevate certain songs to that next level.
Catch Jonathan Becker & The North Fields live at their “Sober Dawn” album release show July 27 at Babylon supported by Claude Munson playing with a duo, as well as Little Suns frontman John Aaron Cockburn. Details can be found here. In the meantime, listen to the album below and learn all the words so we can sing along together.