4. John K. Samson – Provincial
This list has featured a lot of music’s greatest songwriters. Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are legends, and John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats is certainly working his way there as well. But leave it to John K. Samson to fly in under the radar.
Samson has long been a master songwriter in my book. As the frontman for the Weakerthans, he makes it seem easy to write from the point of view of a cat or about explorers in Antarctica. And while his debut solo album is different, his brilliant character-driven fiction still shines through.
As its title might suggest, Provincial, is about Samson’s homeland of Canada. Some tracks, like “www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle/” — a literal petition to the Hockey Hall of Fame — are unmistakably Canadian, but most carry familiar themes like the small-town boredom of “Cruise Night” and the frustration of “When I Write My Master’s Thesis.”
That’s what makes Samson a great songwriter. His songs read like works of fiction, with creative characters and settings, but they always boil down to something universal and true.