Justin Sawicki

I think I’d argue that escapism more than anything may draw a listener to a particular artist. Whether it’s a landscape, avoiding a reality, or being transported back to another time through an homage of sorts, as is the case with Justin Sawicki’s self-titled album at times, if music isn’t transporting you from one place to another, then I’m not sure what else to say other than good on you. Sawicki doesn’t just latch onto what’s one of the strongest singer/songwriter eras since the early 90s though. Nah, the Hamilton, ON native delves deeper into a niche he’s been honing since 2003, and it just so happens his words and sound keep creating bigger doorways and wider gateways for listeners to enter into.

With album opener “Louise,” Sawicki channels his inner, younger Arlo Guthrie vocally. Instrumentally, there’s an old country timpani with a feeling of hitting the town – maybe doing some dancing, some fighting, some loving, etc. all while crooning to that classic mystery lady. “Honey Bee” is a sweetly endearing number not just about lovin’ but really loving and being in awe of who you really love and settle down with. It’s clear that writing like this is what has gotten the man praise throughout Canada.

Whether it’s the constant feel of a train engine roaring on “The Polar Bear Song,” the attempt to shake a bad mojo or environment from his core on “Stranger in My Bones,” or “In the Mornin’”’s cheerfulness through feeling pretty freaking down, there’s an ability to grin and bear it all with a lighthearted disposition. It seems trite to refer to the wordplay as playful, but the narratives created throughout can definitely be seen as tongue-in-cheek at times.

That’s not to say Justin Sawicki is without its somber tones though. “Just My Break” feels somewhere around the classic country track “Make the World Go Away” and the Avett Brother’s “Pretend Love” with a wink at Patsy Cline as well. It’s the last track that’s played before the bartender cuts you off. And “We Like it Here” seems like a warning that we need to take steps forward before all hell starts to fall out on everything. It’s not looking for a utopian society, just a world that wants to be better than its current state. Even “Upsala Trees” feels like he’s squaring off with the devil. Sawicki cracks his musical knuckles and comes out swinging in a modern battle of good v. evil. It also may be the best track on the album.

But you’ll definitely get more good times than bad. You’ll clap and stomp along to “I’ve Never Been a Farmer.” And even though “Summer’s Last Dance” moves like two dancers approaching each other and feels like the coolest days of summer, there’s a glowing warmth. You go through a world where Sawicki lives with a missed chance at finding out more about a summer love due to being so keyed in on a singular moment that he missed the grander picture. Fear not though, the waiting pays off once chance finally brings everything together.

So it’s this movement coupled with waves of nostalgia and the mental pictures evoked that has us swooning over Justin Sawicki. His album is out now, and you can find it on his website. Just be prepared to leave this world for a while. Joey Smith