Imagine the baby of Bob Newhart and James Gandolfini joined a band.
(Actually, maybe don’t. Because that’s just weird.)
Blair Packham, songwriter, is back. And with a vengeance.
“Not literally—I’m not seeking revenge on anyone or anything, honest! But it’s true that I’ve been on a bit of a tear in the songwriting department lately,” the critically acclaimed artist admits.
Having first burst onto Canadian radio and music video TV as the lead singer of 80s power pop stalwarts The Jitters, Blair later released two strongly-reviewed solo albums before shifting his focus to composing music for TV and films, teaching songwriting at the post-secondary level and in numerous special event workshops, and co-hosting a long-running major market weekly radio show about music (“In the Studio” on the Bell Media talk radio network).
Now, 13 years after his last release (2004’s “Could’ve Been King”), Blair Packham has returned to the role of recording artist with a collection of clever, catchy, at times poignant and always satisfying songs, titled “Unpopular Pop.”
“No one has ever accused me of being prolific, and yet somehow I’ve found myself in the middle of my most productive period ever. Suddenly, I’m writing more—and better—songs than I ever have before, and I’m excited to share them with the world,” Blair says.
Playing, producing and engineering the tracks in his home studio, Blair also called upon some respected peers and friends to bring some additional magic to the mix.
“I’d write and record the songs up to a certain point, and then ask Mark Kelso (Michael Bublé, Bonnie Raitt) to record some drums. Then I’d ask Maury LaFoy (Jann Arden, k-os) to play bass, or Simon Kendall (Doug & the Slugs) to play Hammond organ or piano. It’s a real luxury to have such top-notch players more than happy to get involved,” says Blair.
A couple of the songs (“Don’t Know Why” and “Loved By You”) feature the debut of a one-off/twin star vocal duo calling themselves 20 Years From Stardom: none other than Ron Sexsmith and ex-Barenaked Ladies’ frontman Steven Page.
“As I was saying, it’s a real luxury…” Blair laughs.
While rarely overtly mixing politics with his art, the (if you will) Trump-card track “Enough Is Never Enough” features bigly help from Odds’ frontman Craig Northey, who co-wrote the words—about an unidentified decadent narcissist Tweeting away madly in a luxury suite in the middle of the night.
Northey, who has been a key collaborator of Blair’s on previous projects, also contributed backing vocals and a rollicking double-lead guitar solo that recalls The Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing,” a psychedelic pop gem if there ever was one.
The Beatles are a touchstone for Blair, and although he’s had many other influences over the years, from John Prine to XTC to Jules Shear, the Fab Four (“especially the period from 1965 to 1967”) loom large for him.
“My dad asked me, many years ago—he died in 2003—what kind of music I was making. I tried to explain that a lot of it was Beatle-esque, power pop, with big guitars and catchy choruses—the kind of music that appeals to people like me. My dad had a pretty good take on it: ‘So…it’s not designed to be the kind of pop that sells millions of records? Like, it’s ‘unpopular pop?’ I thought he nailed it, actually. So thanks, Dad, for the album title.”
Unpopular pop? Long-time admirers of his songwriting, singing and musical prowess will surely disagree. Hear it for yourself: Blair Packham is back!
—Paul Worthington, 2017
Media Contact: Eric Alper/647-971-3742 or email@example.com