Photo: Kyle Bell via Six Shooter Records

Whitehouse Find What’s Funny in Shedding Tears on ‘I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying’

On Whitehorse’s I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying, they wear their hearts on their sleeves, tears in their beers, and tongues in each other’s cheeks.

I'm Not Crying, You're Crying
Six Shooter Records
13 January 2023

Whitehorse are a quirky Canadian duo who perform old-fashioned style country music with a droll edge. On their latest record, I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying, partners Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet wear their hearts on their sleeves, tears in their beers, and their tongues in each other’s cheeks. The two aren’t combative as much as they present different perspectives on life’s travails. As the album’s name suggests, it’s suffused with emotional songs delivered with a wry grin. Life can be cruel, eh?

Consider the opening track, “If Loneliness Don’t Kill Me”, as representative of I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying. McClelland sings lead and describes her search for true love among the bars and streets of the city. She may be without a human companion, but she’s thankful she’s in good company with Tanqueray and El Jimador. The response to the song’s title non sequitur is “then good times surely will”. The clopping hoof rhythms of the drums and the whine of a steel guitar complement the implied humor expressed in the lyrics. She’s not putting nails in her coffin. Instead, she’s having fun feeling bad. Sure, the female first-person protagonist is lonely, but she has found solace in alcohol, and she’s doing fine, thank you, until she isn’t.

Nothing can be sadder than a country song, and Whitehorse create their share. Especially noteworthy is the slow walk of “Leave Me as You Found Me”, allegedly inspired by Dan Savage’s advice to the lovelorn column. According to Savage, one should treat an affair with a younger person like a stay in the woods (i.e., the old adage “Leave your campsite better than you found it”). McClelland slowly drips the lyrics ala Patsy Cline. Each note suggests heartbreak tempered by the knowledge of what one has gained from the relationship. Just because a love affair didn’t last doesn’t mean it was wrong.

In Whitehorse’s metauniverse, there is something humorous about getting dumped even on a weeper, such as “Leave Me as You Found Me”. McClelland primarily plays the role of “straight” (wo)man. The tunes in which Doucet croons lead features him vocalizing with a bit of a smile in the knowledge that the joke is on him. He understands the absurdity of his predicaments.

In “Division 5”, Doucet takes things to the extreme when his lover leaves him and won’t return. He calls on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for help. They may always get their man, as Dudley Do-Right used to quip famously, but they cannot assist a man who has lost the love of his woman. Instead, the men at the station house laugh at Doucet’s tears. Then in a comedic twist, one of the officers takes sympathy for Doucet’s pain and offers him advice and a solution. “I have just the thing for a sad sack like you,” the Mountie says, launching into a classic-sounding (imitation) country song. The best one can do is wallow in the hurt via old-time music, like by listening to the songs on this album.

RATING 8 / 10