Composed in the first year of the pandemic, …And The Country Stirred scores the landscapes in which it’s becoming increasingly hard to stay grounded.
There’s a raw edge to Toronto artist Alex Southey’s wailing vocals on …And The Country Stirred. The rattle of steel strings paired with an almost desperation in the lyrics gives these songs shimmery liveness that is both raw and polished. Composed in the first year of the pandemic, …And The Country Stirred scores the landscapes in which it’s becoming increasingly hard to stay grounded.
Southey’s folky arrangements have a hint of cinematic flair in the atmosphere created through a blend of vocal harmonies and strings. While there’s a mellowness in the mix of acoustic guitar and ambient effects on the song “Rosie,” there’s also an urgency in the way fiddle accentuates repetitions in the verse. “On the Dance Floor” makes space for instrumental interludes between lyrics that reflect the cityscape: “On the front porch of my place on the Danforth.”
Recording and mixing in his home studio, Alex Southey worked closely with producers and sound engineers, John Critchley of Green Door Studios, and Aaron Hutchison, who mastered the album. The result is a well-balanced culmination of loose ends and intentional energy. The rhythmic variation on “Friends and Dinner” is one of the features that draws me back to a song…along with the very relatable reference to long-distance connections: “Pour the coffee, I missed your face.”
The comfort evoked in lines like “she’s a little porchlight” contrasts the despair felt on “This Horse Has Gone Down”, which goes to the dark place where “he’s tired of living, pulling punches after lunch, and taking drugs”. Southey’s arrangements treat those dark places with care, adding presence to the isolation with ghostly swells around a contemplative vocal lead.
From start to finish, …And The Country Stirred feels like the whole of a painful transition phase, as people and places that once felt secure are forced to adapt to a world in crisis. Though visceral at times, the process of moving through the transition is where the magic of living to see another day happens: “But I’m ring-ring-ringing the Victor’s Bell.” The final track, “And You Stirred,” is like a reply to the whole of the album that seems to say, as our world stirs, so must we.