William Prince – RELIEVER [review]

Commentary, Music

William Prince’s Reliever is as much of a balm as its title would suggest.

The Peguis First Nation folk singer’s long-awaited follow-up to his JUNO-winning debut sees him no less thoughtful, and even more assured in his song-writing. There’s a distinct gospel influence on this record, with gentle acoustic arrangements and Prince’s soothing baritone belying sweeping reflections on life, death, love, and redemption.

In the inspirational “Leave It By The Sea,” a cathartic visit to the seaside town of Brighton prompts him to let go of the regrets that had been holding him back: “I’ve been carryin’ ‘round this baggage for too long,” he sings wistfully; “think I’ll leave it by the sea.” And the poetic ballad “Lighthouse” credits a lover for being his salvation.

The album is dominated by tender love songs (opening single “The Spark”) and break-up songs that are no less heartfelt. “Heaven and Hell” reflects a romance that may have reached the point of no return; the chorus starts with the bold declaration “I’d move heaven and hell just to bring you closer,” before concluding on a resigned note: “you deserve better than the middle of just heaven and hell.”

“Always Have What We Had” finds peace in the end of a relationship. The song places Prince in an empty apartment (“This place is unfamiliar / Can’t even set the shower / Hot and cold merely for display”) where he ruminates on his break-up with the mother of his son, looking back with some regret but no bitterness: “I pray for deliverance / replay my decisions / take the blame and cut the righteous out.”

Meanwhile, country-tinged confessional “The Gun” cautions against trying to find love without being secure in yourself: “Doesn’t matter who you love, son / if you don’t love yourself some / She could be the only one and still not want to stay.”

That song features one of Prince’s most devastating verses (“There was a time when I thought to say goodbye / I’d just walk into a field somewhere, sit back and close my eyes / ‘Cause the woman I loved ain’t the woman I love no more); however, it ends on a hopeful note: “Still, the woman I loved gave me more than any woman before.”

Like on his debut Earthly Days (which featured tear-jerking tributes to his parents), family is a palpable theme here. His devotion to his son informs songs like “That’s All I’ll Ever Become,” which has him wishing to “live to the second last day that my children do;” its flip-side comes on the closing track “Great Wide Open,” in which he urges a departed loved one to “forget me in heaven…stop looking down through the holes in the clouds and keep on baskin’ in healing.”

Similarly, the encouraging “Wasted” shares some wise advice from his mother: “What puts a shuffle in your shoes, babe? / That’s the thing worth chasing / Gotta love what you do, babe / So not a day goes wasted.”

“Wasted,” along with the galloping “Old Souls,” is one of the livelier tunes on the record; Prince seems to prefer things slow, with understated orchestration keeping the focus on his contemplative lyrics.

The best songs on Reliever feel like conversations – the type you have with family and close friends when you’re trying to figure things out, secure in the knowledge that they are as well.

Title: Reliever

Artist: William Prince

Year: 2020

Tracklist: 

  1. The Spark
  2. Wasted
  3. Reliever
  4. Always Have What We Had
  5. Old Souls
  6. That’s All I’ll Ever Become
  7. Leave It by the Sea
  8. Lighthouse
  9. The Gun
  10. Heaven and Hell
  11. Great Wide Open

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