Tag Archives: John K. Samson

John K. Samson Finds His Own Voice (With a Little Help from Neil Young)

John Kristjan Samson

If John K. Samson gets overlooked as one of his generation’s finest songwriters, it might be thanks to the unconventional road he took to get there. The Winnipeg-born musician joined Canadian punk outfit Propagandhi as a bassist while he was still a teenager. He began honing his own voice as a songwriter in his twenties with his own band, The Weakerthans, which would release four albums from 1997 to 2007. Over the course of that decade, Samson—who wrote smart, catchy songs—shed his tendency for verbose or overtly political material in favor of deeply moving vignettes, often portraying characters living on the fringes of society. In 2012, with The Weakerthans on indefinite hiatus, he released Provincial—a sprawling portrait of his native Manitoba that included both urgent, impressionistic rock songs and ambitious works of historical fiction—under his own name. His follow-up, Winter Wheat, is comparably stripped-down and focused, but it finds Samson experimenting with various songwriting approaches that feel totally fresh, including a handful of songs that are responses to tracks from Neil Young’s On The Beach. It’s a more personal album than Samson devotees are accustomed to, but like all of his songwriting endeavors, Winter Wheat slowly reveals interconnected themes and characters with each new listen. It also expands on at least one storyline—involving a cat named Virtute—that Samson has been working on for nearly two decades. He spoke to Bandcamp via phone from his home in Winnipeg.

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