Secrets, the latest release from singer-songwriter Derek Christie marks a new beginning in a musical journey that spans three decades. Christie is a Montreal-born, now Richmond Hill-based veteran of the Queen Street Indie scene. In the 80’s he was part of activist post-punk band Conditioned Response; he then found a home as a solo artist during the 90’s in the Toronto underground folk scene (which spawned the likes of Ron Sexsmith, Bob Snider and Cowboy Junkies). A few bands later (MayDay, Shredding Party) and then a return to solo-artistry with a pared-down acoustic CD ‘Undecided’ which was released in 1999. A decade long hiatus followed during which he partnered up with long-time friend and musical co-creator Rein Vares to release 3 albums under the name DarkRide. Most recently (2010), Christie produced a solo, unplugged effort ‘Deep Roots Radio’ which acts as a collector’s item companion CD to Secrets as it contains alternate unplugged versions of some of its songs.
Which brings us to May 2011 and the release of Secrets…
Travelling roads that swerve from garage to gospel, roots to rock, lost to found… Secrets puts a stake in the ground and examines some uncomfortable yet everyday topics. The middle class, mid-life, crash and burn crisis is met with both compassion and disdain. The characters are lost in a snowglobe haze… mostly deaf to those outside it, oblivious to the suffering, confused by the rage. Yet they also evoke sympathy – they are just as lost as everybody else. Loss, being lost, and trying to find your way through it all, these are all themes that permeate the lives of the characters that inhabit the songs on Secrets.
Based in Richmond Hill for the past 10 years, living a typical family/mortgage/day job existence, Christie has drawn upon the everyday lives of those around him on Secrets: their struggles, their questions, their journeys. At this stage in life, as he observed a number of friends going off the rails, he felt it was time to pronounce and process the mid-life crisis era with celebration and defiance. Produced by guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Marc Ganetakos (Nelly Furtado, Jay Sparrow, The Marcus Trio), the album is populated by a myriad of guest talent in addition to the core band which consists of: Marc Ganetakos, Jon James on bass (Jay Sparrow, Yiannis Kapoulis), Richard Allen Brown (Edwin, Jay Sparrow) on drums and Rob Cooper (The Kings, Harem Scarem, Jay Sparrow) on keyboards.
We begin with the police kicking open the door as guest drummer Brian Dunne (Hall and Oates) almost puts a hole in the snare drum. As they enter the premises, a father sits at the kitchen table reflecting through the fog of addiction on a marriage failed, the money gone, his future in question. The daughter calls home in the chorus to let the mother know Daddy’s Burned Something Again… In The Kitchen. But regardless of the bleak circumstances, there is hope before the second chorus:
“There’s nothing left to pawn/but I’m beating off all the sharks/’til I learned God’s the one you call/when you really need to borrow.”
We then stumble abruptly into the lobby of the Winnebago Graveyard Motel, a meeting place for the displaced, a symbol of unsuccessful intimacy and alienation on a dead-end street accessed by the off-ramp&ellip;
“Where dreams come to die/or maybe just fall asleep/A lot of road’s gone by/and we’re checking in again”.
The mid (and likely) turning point comes in Prodigal Son, a first person plea from the father’s point of view, based on the biblical parable. The foundational tenet of Christian faith – unconditional love – is the underlying theme which now begins to tip the balance in the journey from darkness to light.
We then veer off into less personal and more world-level issues with Broken Code (written the day the US invaded Iraq) and The Lie Machine in which:
“The Chairman of the Board of the Lie Machine”, arrested and “spread eagled on the hood of a late model Ford”, as the progenitor of WW4 which “can be an easy sell, if the positioning is right”.
A pause for reflection with Golden One, then the journey to redemption and healing begins with the gospel/blues tinged Bring It On where we are urged to:
“Bring out every dream or plan you’ve ever made/if you’re sick of standing still.”
Sharon Riley and members of her Faith Chorale lift up the choruses, while the saxophone solo at the end by Robert Martin (Etta James, Frank Zappa) evokes a scene where a door opens, she brings you in and kisses you gently on the forehead after you have been walking through a snowstorm for 24 hours. The album ends on an up note as Lisa MacIsaac (Madison Violet) guesting on fiddle and vocalist Laurelle Augustyn on harmonies bring a tender magic to the Celtic flavoured Let Love Lift You Up.
In this sound-bite download era where many contemporary music releases tend not to have a cohesive story woven together through song, the intention was to make ‘Secrets’ an album, to be played from beginning to end. ‘Secrets’ meets the objective.