Ottawa, Ontario-based singer-songwriter Kate Weekes second album, Frost on Black Fur, is a travelogue. It draws on her experience as a dog musher and a paddler in Canada’s Yukon Territory, as well as her travels to China (where she’s toured twice) and Ireland. Indeed, much of Frost on Black Fur is like peering into someone’s personal diary, and gaining insight into what they’re thinking and feeling. That gives the album an intimate feel. Even though the lyrics can be a touch coy, there’s much appeal here. Weekes has a very girlish singing voice, which is wildly enthralling and leads an expression of innocence to the material, and her music could be best described as country folk rock. However, there’s a pop touch to this Canadiana and it is highly varnished, so basically it wouldn’t be too out of place on a Top 40 playlist. That’s actually not a bad thing, as it broadens the collection’s likeability and should help Weekes establish herself as a force to be reckoned with.
One thing is clear from Frost on Black Fur: Weekes really loves Canada’s Arctic as well as sled dogs. She wears the pride of the north on her sleeve and makes no apologies for it, which is crucial because northern Canada tends to get forgotten about in the daily lives of most Canadians. Also, the LP verges on the political: “Banks of the Snake” is a shot at Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s treatment of northern Canada as a region whose resources can be plundered, rather than retained for its natural and pristine beauty. Overall, this album is quite enjoyable and pleasantly pop-oriented. There are songs that are a little too rote here and there, but when you get to something as lushly stunning as “Cold Like I’ve Never Been”, which sounds a lot like a lost early Bruce Cockburn track, all is forgiven. Essentially, Frost on Black Fur sparkles like snow and is broadly enjoyable, even if you don’t like dogs. It’s a potent snapshot of life lived in distant places, so if you’re looking to take a vacation without leaving your own home, this record should do the trick.