Chris Altmann's new album Nothing But Nice Things is a definite late contender for album of the year, it's an album with a timeless quality, beautifully crafted songs, Altmann is the quintessential storyteller. It's an album that has a personal reflective quality, it raises the concept of being a better individual and making a contribution to society. It brings to the fore the importance of community, there is no stronger or more resilient community than a musical one, solidarity and comradeship go hand in hand. This is the second album from Chris, his first album Que Paso was released in 2010 and prior to that he was a member of local band The Vanda's. The album was recorded in Peterborough in Ontario where there is a growing music scene. He has also recently played on the new Susannah Espie album Sea Of Lights co writing some of the tracks as well as contributing backing vocals.
Nothing But Nice Things sounds like it was recorded at Big Pink for The Basement Tapes, Altmann sounds like Dylan from the John Wesley Harding era. Reminiscent of The Bands The Rumour from the Stage Fright album, the song is a commentary on rumour, innuendo and small town talk and maybe in the larger microcosm of society it reflects how we are often disingenuous in how we treat people.
Well it's probably Chinese whispers,
but they make out that it's gospel,
what starts out being friendly,
Can soon end up being hostile
Some people is a deeper reflection on today's society which is very individualistic, there is a distinct lack of community nor is there a sense of respect to our fellow citizens. Altmann sings of a personal crusade of pushing towards a higher ground.
Some people will rob you,
When you crawl around on your knees
They're blowing their noses,
On the fabric of society
Some people are righteous
With kindness in their hearts,
They don't look any different
But inside they are miles apart.
Carrodus' Mountain View Hotel is breezy country with some nice slide, it's a rollicking tale of a rough and ready establishment, like a southern honky tonk. Altmann shows an adept ability at incorporating dry humour into his storytelling, once again it has that loose feeling that you can hear on The Basement Tapes. I Told A Lie is a cracker, resplendent in sleazy guitar tones it's a tale of regret and how a lie always comes undone and it's never a good thing to deceive freinds.
Walk On (You're Slowly Heading Home) is cloaked in the pure tones of southern gospel, with a touch of country, I can imagine Richard Manuel singing this one. It also has a keyboard sound reminiscent of Garth's playing on those early Band albums, pure but slightly distorted but drenched deep in the baptist tradition. It's a meditation on how in our age to have faith is out of step with current discussion, thinking along the lines of the dogged atheism of people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.
When you feel like your lost
Tired from travelling
Walk on you're slowly heading home
In this day and age, they will tell you you're deranged
To believe in anything you can't see
They'll dismiss it straight away if it can't be explained.
Living It Up offers hope that you don't need to be the best at everything, it has a delightful wry tone, he sings of there being no Top 40 in his house and that the music he plays isn't exactly hip today but it gets him to where he wants to be, he also sings of the trouble he has to avoid when he goes to the supermarket in his cowboy hat! Whole Wild World is a dedication to his Canadian wife Alysha, it's a dedication to how hard they have worked to be together, it's such an honest downhome acknowledgement. I Know It Isn't Right is late 60's Nashville along the lines of Kris Kristofferson, honest and raw in it's depiction of a family break up, the despair and isolation is really stark in this song, Altmann is an amazing songwriter.