When listening to Debra-Jean Creelman’s four-song contribution to the Railtown Sessions EP series, the phrase “standard for the genre” comes to mind. The EP is a fair representation of alt-country singer-songwriters in Canada. Fitting, given Creelman’s work as co-founder of Mother Mother, and frequent collaboration with Vancouver mainstay Frazey Ford. Despite these past successes, Creelman’s second solo EP fails to distinguish itself as inventive in a highly saturated genre.
She opens with “Maybe They Were Right,” a sulky track with muddled lyrics at the front of the mix, which adds to the song’s general tone of confusion and mournful longing. Unfortunately the verse hits much harder than the chorus, which leaves the listener wondering: why has the rhythm section abandoned us? This track is followed up by “Midnight Sun,” a song full of sweet backing vocals and sparse guitar, heavily reminiscent of Frazey Ford’s 2014 release Indian Ocean. Unlike the tight pop of Ford, however, “Midnight Sun” meanders for two minutes too long. Weakest by far was “Up In Smoke.” There are nice moments of harmony and syrupy guitar on “In the Dark” to finish out the set of four song set, but the breakdown was underwhelming, and again, far too long.
Yet, this release still has merit. Creelman’s vocals shine throughout the EP. On “Midnight Sun” her crisp belting carries the verse. Similarly, on “In the Dark” her voice leads moments of cleanly refined harmony. But unfortunately, her strength as a singer and the spotless production fail to hide derivative lyrics and wobbly songwriting.