Review by Roger Douglas Bursey
Released earlier this year, Hello Halifax is the latest recording by Jont (Jonathan Mark Smith Whittington). Some critics call it the best folk-gospel album of the year.
For those who are not familiar with his music, it has been featured on such TV shows as Grey’s Anatomy and Without A Trace and played during the closing credits of the movie The Wedding Crashers.
Amazingly, Jont has never been signed to a big record label, yet he still manages to culminate such success - no easy task in today’s world of entertainment! Will this be the album that vindicates his work? Hello Halifax is being offered as a free download: www.jontnet.com. So, it will be interesting to see what becomes of this latest offering. Well, let’s have a listen....
The album transcends multiple musical genres such as folk, gospel, pop and rock with the spoken word thrown in to create a unique sound that Jont calls his own. However, for me, the album is reflective of the poetic and slow-paced style of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Nevertheless, what is unique is the depth and colour of each melody.
Jont uses an eclectic mix of stringed instruments (e.g., cello, stand-up base, mandolin), while his acoustic guitar remains at its core. The end result is a kaleidoscope of surprises whereby the listener doesn’t know what lies beyond the next note.
The lyrics offer the listener messages of love, hope and forgiveness. The album opens with the ballad “Church On Sunday” and the words “Oh the gods. Oh the gods have blessed me.” It’s a story of a man who graces the inside of a church only on special occasions, such as a friend’s wedding. Its underlying message: to love people for who they are, rather than where in the world they come from or what colour they may be—a life lesson message to his daughter, no doubt, whom he recently found out lives in Halifax, hence the album’s name. On the music side of this song, I must admit, I found Church on Sunday a bit draggy, at first. But, the more I listened, the more the lyrics truly drew me in, tugging at my heart strings.
Some of the other songs are “Best Things”, “Lucky Leaf Falls”, “Teardrops and Pennies” and “Two Days In”, which is my personal favorite. Its earthy tones with smooth base runs are topped with words that, again, speak to my heart.
Currently, Jont is touring Atlantic Canada. So, check his website for tour dates, and let your heart decide.
Roger Douglas Bursey is a musician, writer and a Newfoundlander currently living in Prince Edward Island.