In City and in Forest, which is a Leonard Cohen covers record, is a giddy, lilting album of beauty, which may come as a bit of a surprise given Cohen’s penchant for the sardonic.
I know what you’re thinking. Another Leonard Cohen tribute album? Yes, In City and in Forest is another entry into the ever growing list of Cohen tributes. However, there’s a bit of a twist on this one. First of all, no “Hallelujah”, which is arguably the most covered song in Cohen’s canon. Instead, this album generally skips over some of the more obvious cuts in the Cohen catalogue – though “Everybody Knows” and “Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” are represented – in favour of the deeper tracks. Betcha you probably didn’t know Cohen had a song named “Unicorn”, did you? Secondly, this folk rock-inflected record features female vocals sometimes in the lead (yes, I know, I know, Jennifer Warnes was there first). Comprised of Oliver Swain and Glenna Garramone, both residents of Victoria, British Columbia, Tower of Song shakes up Cohen’s material and makes strides to turn his songs and ideas into their own. The end result is that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Cohen tribute record. There are enough curves to keep listeners, even those who have followed Cohen’s nearly 50-year recording career, on their toes and satisfied.
In City and in Forest is a giddy, lilting album of beauty, which may come as a bit of a surprise given Cohen’s penchant for the sardonic. It does pay tribute to Cohen’s folk roots, and makes it vaguely contemporary at the same time. Not everything works – opening cut “True Love Leaves No Traces” tip-toes ever so slightly into James Taylor territory – but when this duo are firing on all cylinders, boy, do they let it rip. Hands down, the best track on the record is “Stranger Song”, which is haunting and foreboding. And “Everybody Knows” is interesting in that it reimagines the song as having something of a jazzy nature, which is also true of “A Thousand Kisses”, which features just Swain’s voice and an upright bass. Beatniks are sure to dig this. All in all, In City and in Forest is a fairly successful tribute to one of Canada’s most iconic acts, even though the field is already quite a bit crowded. Swain and Gerramone do put their own stamp on things, which transcends this above the standard covers fare. Plus, thank God, and this might be the biggest recommendation, there’s no “Hallelujah” anywhere in sight.