is one of the vocalists and guitarists who front Great Big Sea
, a folk-rock band from Newfoundland, Canada. The group is one of Canada's most popular bands, although their acclaim up north has yet to be translated into a sizeable following in the lower 48. McCann
's been with the band for their entire 19-year history, and has written a goodly portion of their repertoire. Still, he writes more tunes than the band can use, so he's launched a solo career as a sideline. In 2010, he put out Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes
, songs that dealt with his experiences as a new father. Son of a Sailor
includes some songs of the sea -- McCann
is the son and grandson of sailors -- and has a few rowdy, uptempo things, but most of the tunes here are folksy ballads detailing the ordinary tribulations of ordinary people. McCann
's weathered vocals fill every tune with understated emotion, while his lyrics often give you an unexpected jolt of recognition. On the ironic "Doing Fine," the tale of a loner facing his morning hangover and an uncertain future, he sings "Get up every morning and make my empty bed/Feathers in my pillow feel like bullets in my head," a startling image that fits the song's grim subject matter. "The Reply (The Ballad of John and Mary)" celebrates a long marriage, concentrating on the early days of the couple's love affair. It's delivered simply with acoustic guitar and voice, and avoids the usual sentimental clichés in favor of deep emotion. The title track details the toll a life of hard work takes on a man, balancing it with his innate love of the sea that provides his livelihood. Uptempo tracks include "Long Road (Lead Me On)," a trucking song with a distinctly Canadian bounce to its rhythm, "Rather Be a Sailor," a tip of the hat to mariners with a jaunty rhythm and uplifting lyric, and "Back to You," the breezy song of a man driving back home after a long time away. Its uplifting rhythm and singalong chorus make it the album's catchiest track.