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Stephen Fearing | The Unconquerable Past

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The Unconquerable Past

by Stephen Fearing

Multi-JUNO winner and co-founder of Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, Fearing is one of Canada's greatest storytellers. His 13th solo album transcends a single genre, leaning into sounds from Country, Americana, Roots, and the golden era of analog recording.
Genre: Folk: Modern Folk
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Break Our Mother's Heart
4:08 album only
2. Gold on the River
3:59 album only
3. Stay with Me
2:48 $1.99
4. Marie
4:41 album only
5. Someone Else's Shoes
2:59 $1.99
6. The Unconquerable Past
4:43 $1.99
7. Sunny
4:07 album only
8. Christine
2:59 $1.99
9. Emigrant Song
4:03 album only
10. No Country
2:19 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
"I feel as if I’m writing myself into other people’s lives.”

Multi-JUNO Award winner and co-founder of Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, Stephen Fearing has been doing just that as one of Canada’s great musical storytellers — not to mention one of its most acclaimed guitarists — since the 1980s, and his 13th solo album 'The Unconquerable Past', adds another unique chapter to that impressive body of work. It’s also a striking and often surprising example of his restless creative spirit.

While fans of his solo work may be more familiar with Fearing’s acoustic side, brilliantly displayed on his 2018 special vinyl-only release 'The Secret of Climbing', or his electric-trio work on 2017’s 'Every Soul’s A Sailor', 'The Unconquerable Past' finds him stepping back into the wide-screen world of layered instruments and arrangements. In collaboration with Winnipeg-based producer/songwriter Scott Nolan (William Prince, Mary Gauthier, Hayes Carll) and a superb group of players featuring acclaimed pianist Jeremy Rusu, bassist Julian Bradford, drummer Christian Dugas, vocalist Andrina Turrene, and Nashville’s legendary multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke.

Like other artists who are loosely categorized as ‘folk’ and ‘Americana’, Fearing questions what those terms really mean. 'The Unconquerable Past' can be seen as embracing and transcending the labels and genres simultaneously. “I’m always intrigued by unknown territory, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone,” he says. “I had a concept of leaning into a specific sound, but doing it in a simple way, with a pallet of potential sounds and instruments drawn primarily from Country-Americana and Roots music and with frequent, deliberate glances over my shoulder to the golden era of analog recording. I have long admired Scott’s work, so the idea of recording with him in Winnipeg (a city with a rich history of the arts including world-class musicians) seemed like a wonderful idea.”

Fearing wrote most of the songs in a condensed, creative burst just prior to going into the studio. “I’m comfortable with leaving some details up in the air and always excited by how each musician will affect the arrangement or even the intent of a tune. I try to arrive in the studio with the songs under my fingers, as ready as I can be to perform the ‘definitive’ version and yet still be flexible enough to incorporate the contributions of all the personalities involved.”

One aspect of the album that came very early was its title, 'The Unconquerable Past', a phrase that leapt off the page and got Fearing thinking.

“Sometimes a lyric fragment or title can open so many doors in a writer’s mind. 'The Unconquerable Past' became the title song and set the stage for most of the other tunes. My interpretation goes far beyond the often misquoted phrase - Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The album is a reflection on both where I am in my life and where we as a society and a planet are right now. Even within the recording industry we are in such a period of transition…the past has so many good things to offer us that we are in very real danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. They say you start to understand country music better as you get older. I can relate to that…I hear George Jones singing 'Good Year For The Roses' in the back of my head at all hours of the day and night.”

While the past may be unconquerable, the present remains unavoidable and, as is the case with much of Fearing’s catalogue, he pulls no punches on new songs such as 'Marie', chastising those hiding behind “tinfoil hat religion” and “dark conspiracies,” while Sunny explores courage and love in the story of a transgender person and their relationship with a heterosexual man. 'Someone Else’s Shoes', a deceptively smooth track, takes things from the personal to the universal, exploring themes of empathy, understanding, and tolerance.

Another of the album’s highlights is the (humourously titled) 'Emigrant Song', a 2012 co-write with Belfast troubadour Andy White. It mirrors Fearing’s own life in some respects; born in Vancouver, he was raised primarily in Dublin and returned to Canada in his late teens. After periods living in Guelph, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Fearing now calls Victoria, British Columbia home. His may not be the typical emigrant story, but the song beautifully illustrates Fearing’s empathy toward any North American arrival hoping to start a new life.

Fearing is one of the co-founders (with Tom Wilson and Colin Linden) of Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, set to mark their 25th anniversary in 2020. Over the course of his career he has also collaborated with a host of celebrated artists including Bruce Cockburn, Rosanne Cash, Richard Thompson, Cassandra Wilson, Nick Lowe, Sarah McLachlan, Keb’ Mo, Erin Costelo, and Rose Cousins, along with performing at major international events such as the Shrewsbury Festival and WOMAD. For his 2017 studio album, 'Every Soul’s a Sailor', he won Worldwide Album of the Year from Blues & Roots Radio and Contemporary Singer of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, and garnered an additional three CFMA nominations for English Songwriter of the Year, Solo Artist of the Year, and Producer of the Year with co-producer David Travers-Smith.

With 'The Unconquerable Past', Stephen Fearing steps out once again with a fresh perspective and a new batch of songs and stories drawing deeply from over thirty years of writing and playing across Canada and around the world.



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