Review: Canadian Americana Duo Whitehorse Shift to Traditional Country on ‘I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying’

I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying
(Six Shooter Records)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Look no further than the album’s witty title or songs named “If the Loneliness Don’t Kill Me,” “Scared of Each Other,” and especially the evocative “I Might Get Over This (But I Won’t Stop Loving You”) to understand where married Canadian duo Whitehorse have wandered to on their eighth full-length album. If that isn’t enough, the album’s cover claims its recording is “Heartbreak in Stereo.”

Melissa McClelland and her husband Luke Doucet have abandoned their indie rocking or alternative psychedelic Americana impulses of the past to focus squarely on straight ahead, non-ironic, honky-tonking country, the way it used to be done in the time of June and Johnny, Emmylou and Gram Parsons or George and Tammy. There’s no fussing as the twosome are joined only by pedal steel and skeletal drums, keeping the sound full yet unembellished, with the emphasis on their solo and harmony voices along with Doucet’s reverbed guitar.

There’s a strong ’70s sensibility at work, especially noticeable in McClelland’s Emmylou Harris style as she sings with a similarly determined clarity on “The Road,” about missing chasing the yellow lines now that her lifestyle has become more sedate. Even though she has the stronger voice, the few songs where McClelland and Doucet trade verses, such as “Scared of Each Other,” where the twosome reflect on life before the loss of their romance, connect with compelling authenticity.

But when McClelland emotes on the soft, affecting “Leave Me as You Found Me,” you’ll return to Linda Ronstadt’s early country material, which reflects a comparable vocal flair. The tempo revs up for the rollicking “I Miss the City at Night,” where Doucet takes lead on a song that seems to be about the pandemic dissolving any hope of the nightlife the singer used to enjoy like having a drink and getting into a fight. He also displays some swift picking worthy of Buck Owens on the high-energy twang of “Manitoba Bound.”

While there may not be any future classics in these dozen originals, the couple has tapped into an earlier, simpler time when songs were driven by clearly defined vocal personalities.  Those days probably won’t return any time soon, but we have Whitehorse to carry on that tradition, at least until they shift to a different musical approach.   

Photo by Lyle Bell / IVPR  

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