There’s a lullaby feel to this disc, as it is so relaxed that some of the songs are on the verge of disappearing completely.
Toronto folk singer-songwriter Shawn William Clarke has a fondness for vintage equipment. Recorded in a Gravenhurst, Ontario music shop in the heart of cottage country, Clarke’s sophomore album William makes use of a guitar that was once owned by Canadian singer-songwriter Mendelson Joe and a 1962 Gibson that was used on the children’s TV show Romper Room, among other things. However, William itself is fairly trendy for the sort of certain sound heard in the Canadian folk scene -- use of horns, yes, and country-flavoured songs, sure. There’s a lullaby feel to this disc, as it is so relaxed that some of the songs are on the verge of disappearing completely. While you won’t go to William in search of pep, it does have its share of natural storytelling moments, such as the song "I Blame the Loyalist Ghost", which is a tongue-in-cheek account of Clarke falling ill while on a tour of Prince Edward Island. "Ballad of a Boorish Man", meanwhile, unspools a horrific narrative of an unfortunate person: "Went to jail at 17 / My mother bailed me out by turning tricks."
There is a bolt from the blue or two on William, such as "Tranzac Club", which is the sort of thing you’d expect to hear outside of a café in Paris during its refrains, and "Some Nerve" dovetails into Hank Williams, Sr. territory. However, William generally moves at the speed of the slowest car in the world, which, throughout the course of a 10-song album, gets pretty wearying. Still, you cannot deny that Clarke has a natural talent for singing and writing songs, and the fact that he was able to rope in James Bunton from the currently on hiatus Toronto band Ohbijou to produce the album shows that he’s certainly someone the musical community in the city takes seriously. Basically, William is a record for those who are fans of Canadian contemporary folk music, and don’t mind the laid-back vibes of this strain of music. Truthfully, the LP is in need of a kicker here and there to prevent it from slipping into something you slip on when you want to fall asleep. That said, there are gems sprinkled throughout William and, for most, the album is the sort of thing that you might like if you heard one or two of its songs on CBC Radio now and then. It’s that agreeable, for better or for worse.