Co-Op Music LLC / Cooking Vinyl Ltd
Release Date: January 21st 2022
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Bloor Street
- Going Down
- Two Stepping in Time
- So Full of Love
- Country Jail Gate
- Lean into Me
- Chasing the Rain
- Nothing Left to Say
- Set Me Free
- Down The Line
Everyone knows Kiefer Sutherland the actor. Known primarily for his standout performances of Jack Bauer in the long-running television series 24, alongside other roles like Tom Kirkman in Designated Survivor; Freddie Lee Cobb in A Time to Kill; Martin Bohm in Touch and John in Melancholia, Kiefer has been well-known for delivering standout performances always worthy of praise and respect over the years. But though he’ll always be remembered for playing the prolific Jack Bauer; Kiefer has been pivoting his success as an actor; and has been creating something in an entirely new direction over the last few years. We know Kiefer the actor, but Kiefer the musician is something we may not really grasp and get our heads around. Needless to say, Kiefer’s been in the music business over the last 6-7 years, with his debut being unveiled in 2016, as we see an artist in his own right, create 3 albums full of rich, poignant and heartfelt emotion- Down In a Hole released in 2016 and Reckless & Me in 2019. His third, Bloor Street, was unveiled just this last January, and while Kiefer the music artist will never compare to Kiefer the actor; Bloor Street still has songs that tug at our emotions- namely the title track and others like ‘Chasing the Rain’, ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘So Full of Love’, to name a few. Kiefer’s music is an acquired taste, and though I haven’t fully listened to his first two albums from start to finish yet; what I have heard is everything you would want an actor-turned-musician to accomplish. An album that is a must if you enjoy artists like Kevin Costner & Modern West, The Shires, Chris Stapleton, and Keith Urban; Kiefer’s delivered a few surprises in his career thus far. Music by far, is arguably the most surprising, but equally the most impressive and compelling.
Let me just say from the outset of this review, that I’m not that much eloquently knowledgeable at the music genre that Kiefer is delivering from- sure, Bloor Street is a holistically country album, but with elements of Rock & Roll, R&B, blues, folk, and Americana fused together in Kiefer’s new record; Bloor Street has since become an eclectic genre form, in and of itself. Nevertheless, in spite of the many, many reviews online for the new Bloor Street album, from sites like American Blues Scene, Rock ‘N Load Mag, Buzzmag.co.uk and LyricMagazine; to Express.co.uk, MaximumVolumeMusic, NarcMagazine, and Verve Times; my very own ‘review’ and my own two cents worth…well, it could add to the conversation in and around Kiefer, or it could easily become lost in the shuffle of every other review out there about Kiefer and his music. And that’s ok. I may not know all the technical jargon about what the Americana music genre entails, but what I do know well is this- that since my first introduction and foray into the music of one of Hollywood’s most down-to-earth actors I’ve seen (in various interviews over the years) in recent memory, I’ve entered a world in which I don’t really know, but nevertheless a world where the fusion of folk, Americana, Rock & Roll, country and R&B can happen in a seamless fashion, as 11 songs were created full of lyrical and musical prowess. Though not an album (or even an artist) at the forefront of people’s minds anyway, this new album by Kiefer has given the proverbial door a crack a little, as we’re excited about learning something new, but maybe also at peace in knowing that we’ll never know things to the full extent that we may want to know them. And that’s fine. Bloor Street is a deeply personal album, one that has allowed Kiefer to be vulnerable in parts. And that’s what makes this album something worthy to check out, at least once. As I was surprised by how interesting and enjoyable Kiefer’s music has been this year thus far, here’s hoping people become surprised (in a very good way) from his music as well.
Standing at a reasonable length of 11 tracks; Kiefer allows us into his world where he delivers his songs that have been birthed through the last couple of years where introspection and reflection were the norm (and are probably still the norm) due to this ongoing pandemic the world is facing at the moment. Title track ‘Bloor Street’ lands at track #1 as we get a glimpse into the childhood he had and how he grew up on Bloor Street, and what that street name means to him and all the connotations and feelings that come up with the mention of a street name. Bloor Street, the street name, is just a street name to people who hear the track. But it’s so much more than that to Kiefer himself. The song itself is about coming home, returning to your roots, and realising that where you grew up, has more of an impact on your life than you realise. As Kiefer relays himself, ‘…there’s been moments that I’ve loved Toronto and there’s been moments that Toronto has taken a piece out of me, you know, and so I have this back-and-forth thing with Toronto…they say you can never go home. This song, for me, says in your heart you never leave…’ ‘Bloor Street’ reminds us that we all have something in our past. It can be a street, that was momentual and important to our own childhood, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be a circumstance, an event, a person who impacted our lives, even global events and technological advances that have shaped our lives more than we care to admit. Hopefully, ‘Bloor Street’ encourages us to identity what these things are, and to be ok with things, events, people, and even streets, impacting us in our lives, in a greater capacity than we even think they did.
‘Going Down’ follows along as track #2 and continues to bring us heartfelt moments of realisation- the track itself speaks of a warning someone is sharing to someone else, about how whatever these people are having (either a relationship, or even a very close friendship) seems to be ‘going down’, and there is nothing they can do about it. The poignant chorus really highlights how far-gone the persona and the other person really are- ‘…we’re going down, and there ain’t no turning back, you set us in motion on this one-way track, we’re going down and it’s time to face the fact that we ran us into the ground and we’re going down…’, and is a timely, yet equally sobering reminder that unfortunately in life, relationships and friendships ‘go down’. Whether it’s one person’s fault or another, is really immaterial at this point, but the crux of the matter is this, that things aren’t meant to last forever. Whether the relationship ends prematurely via divorce, a partner dies, or if a friendship drifts away over time, it’s worth nothing, understanding, and dare I say, accepting, the unfortunate reality that relationships don’t last as long as we want them to. They’ll ‘go down’ in some shape or form, and we, just like the persona in said song, need to be aware and vigilant, to know how to conduct ourselves and how to act, when such relationship breakdowns occur in our lives (and it’s not a matter of if, but when they come, too).
Throughout the rest of the album, Kiefer continues to bring forth hard-hitting themes packaged in accessible country melodies that would rival any current country song on the radio at the moment. ‘Two Stepping in Time’ showcases a multilayered song about love through the passage of time, as we see an unashamedly delivered loved song speaking about a union and commitment between two people throughout the decades who have made the conscious effort to stick together and choose to be married- something couples need to exercise more than they really have been over the years. Because a love that lasts for years upon years if often seen as a rare feat, ‘Two Stepping in Time’, though not as ‘polished’ as other love songs, ought to be a testament to marriages out there that have stood the test of time and all of its difficulties. ‘So Full of Love’ continues along the theme of love between two people- this time Kiefer sings this song for his mother. Written during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a lot of this songs that speaks of what to be thankful for; and is a track that reminds us to be appreciative, even during seasons of lack and ‘drought’. As Kiefer relays himself, ‘…I woke up humming that melody, then I’m in the shower, singing it. So when I went to dry off at the kitchen island, where I write a lot of songs, half of me was laughing, thinking this is the most corny thing I’ve ever written…’ An expression of gratefulness, humility and honesty, we see Kiefer also tribute his very own mother on this track, actress & activist Shirley Douglas, who passed away in april 2010, when the pandemic was starting to come into what it currently is today.
‘Country Jail Gate’ is a warning of sorts; and was borne out of Kiefer’s own personal experiences and brushes with the law, and how his time in jail at various points throughout his life (his most recent stint in jail was in 2007- 48 days behind bars for drunk driving) reminded him to never embark upon a wrong path again. ‘County Jail Gate’ tells of the persona’s time behind bars (himself) and offers up some timely wisdom for us all, in the poignant words of how ‘…my mother died when I was inside, that’s something I’ll never forgive, and wasted time’s what’s on my mind, ’cause this ain’t no way to live, she’d hoped one day that I’d change my ways and, kids, you should listen up here, what started out as fun became a life on the run and turned into nothing but fear…’ ‘Goodbye’ is Kiefer’s lone ‘revenge’ song on the album where he unveils a toxic relationship experienced by the persona, painting a story of someone who wants out of a relationship (for whatever reason), and the other person not accepting the decision, becoming ultra-impulsive, obsessive, manipulative and deceitful. In those circumstances, sometimes you just need to say ‘goodbye’, walk away, take one step in front of the other, and to not look back. The lone swear word on the song (and the only track to have explicit lyrics) shows the urgency and rawness of the persona feeling used and abused by their partner- ‘…I said goodbye, yeah, goodbye, it’s finally over so don’t even try, I’ll see you in hell when I f***ing die, goodbye…’ Sometimes in these circumstances, to get a certain point across, all you can do is use colourful language. Not ideal, but the song’s purpose itself is still served.
‘Lean Into Me’ is one of the most inspirational songs on this album, that arguably- rightly or even wrongly, could feel at home with a lot of the CCM tracks on K-Love. The song itself speaks of this persona offering their love, support, and assistance to someone who is at the end of their rope, feeling down, and longing for a change in their life. While this song was written from the point of view of a friend singing to another friend, the song itself could also be taken as God singing to us, wanting us to lean into Him and His love and promises for us, whenever we feel as though we have nothing to hold onto in our walk in life. ‘Chasing the Rain’ is about life on the road, touring, and being away from loved ones; to the point where you’re wondering whether you’re ‘chasing the rain’, going after things that are futile that don’t matter in the end; while ‘Nothing Left to Say’ highlights once again, another failed relationship to the point where it just ends and there’s really nothing left to say to the other person. That the relationship is too far gone that the possibility of just ‘being friends’ or even just being polite and having human decency, is not even on the cards. The album then ends with the songs ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Down the Line’- the former is a metaphor comparing putting faith in older cars, to putting faith and belief in people that have been passed over for whatever reason (and because of said belief, they feel set free to showcase their skills and abilities for people to see); while the latter is a powerful duet with Eleanor Whitmore of The Mastertons as the track embodies something of a more traditional country sound (complete with fiddles and violins). The song itself is a story of a persona in a predicament where their spouse leaves them, and they don’t know what will happen to them in the immediate future. While the song paints a bleak picture about relationships and society currently (‘…when you’re running out of time, where did all the good men go, while you were running down the line…’), we see hope prevail in the final chorus, as Kiefer urges the persona to hold the line, to keep on hoping that things will turn around for the better.
Bloor Street as a whole isn’t really anything that is groundbreaking. But maybe it doesn’t have to be. Kiefer has been at this music game for quite some time, so he’s no amateur at this. But in the same breath, this album will only be probably for people who have loved and appreciated his previous work…and not much else. While Kiefer’s music reminds me of artists like Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban, Kiefer’s popularity as a musician comes in second to his acting. And that’s ok. Kiefer’s music is unique and enjoyable, traditional, and heartfelt. Whether or not he will continue down the road of acting, or pursue this recent-found trajectory of music, is anyone’s guess. All I know is that Bloor Street is album #3, and that I haven’t fully listened to Kiefer’s previous albums. And that’s a shame. And if Bloor Street can make me excited to listen to Kiefer’s previous material (and be excited for anything new for Kiefer in the future, as well), then this abum has served its purpose. Well done Kiefer for these 11 songs on Bloor Street. Looking forward to brand-new singles in the upcoming weeks and months ahead.
3 songs to listen to: So Full of Love, Chasing the Rain, Lean into Me
RIYL: Kevin Costner & Modern West, The Shires, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban