Release Date: September 4, 2012
Rebeltone Ranch; 11 Tracks
Review by: Lee Fraser
Everyone needs a musical hug now and then and John Antoniuk's new record is the big, warm kind.
After losing his Mom, John Antoniuk did what comes naturally to gifted musicians: he came to terms with the change in his life through art and creativity. Always With You is an album that starts off supportive and pensive and slowly draws you into an optimistic and cheerful mood. It’s the kind of album that’s a great solution to feeling a little down. It starts off by comforting you, then gradually lifts you out of your funk and, by the end, has your spirits lifted and puts a smile on your face.
There's a simplicity to the arrangements, yet the hooks and notable guitar stylings are effective at catching your ear and keeping you absorbed. While difficult to put your finger on, there is something reminiscent of early 70's music in this album. It's something in the attitude, the smoothness and the economies of doing a lot with a little.
Some of the slower tunes are clearly inspired by his mother; the album kicks off with a tribute, "Holding On (For Marlene)". The whole record is scattered with songs about support and about letting go. "Last Day of the Year" speaks to the heartbreak of marking New Year's Eve without someone for the first time.
Conversely, there are a couple of tracks that might be considered to be off-topic but compliment the album well with their wit and humour. In "Break My Heart", Antoniuk describes how the Rocky Mountains of Alberta impact him every time he visits the province. The track "Chicago" is a whimsical tribute to Johnny Cash, an homage to one of John's great influences.
Two of the gems of the album are the last two tracks. "The Secret" is a tissue-worthy beautiful waltz, featuring guitar, piano and vocal harmonies. The message is a classic and the melody is very memorable. The last track of the record, "For You", features a live off-the-floor recording, complete with creaking floors. The song starts off with John's vocals and beautiful acoustic guitar work, but the cellos turn the song into a masterpiece.
You can catch John Antoniuk at one of the stops on his Eastern Canada tour to support this new album. Included on the tour are two Saturday nights at the Cameron House: November 10 and November 17, 2012. John's wife, Jen Lane, will open both shows. Their Prairie warmth, both musically and personally, makes them the perfect guests at Toronto's folk and country music institution.