The term world music is polarizing. For most indie snobs, you can’t help but recall John Cusack’s rant about Tim Robbin’s in High Fidelity, shudder as you hear more and more song writers pick the carcass of Graceland clean and pass many of the same judgments.
When it comes to Montreal’s Chris Velan, the time he and his friends spent in a Sierra Leone refugee camp with the now famous Refugee Allstars actually shaped his musical (and personal) vision and playing with the likes of ALO, Brett Dennen and percussionist Adam Topol has helped him fine tune his sound.
All things considered, it’s hard to find fault at the breezy, uke driven melody and harmonies that kick start Velan’s fourth record, Fables for Fighters. “Any Number of Ways” and “Same Clothes” float along effortlessly and set the tone , but Velan doesn’t rely on those familiar sounds. His songs, while still light song writer numbers (any radio programmer would happily invite “You Don’t Know What You’re Asking Of Me” and “Hurting You Kind” over for a cup of coffee), do themselves a favor by exposing some grit and and more surprisingly (and for me, most enjoyably), jamming out some Phil Collins inspired gems (“Interrogate Me” and “You’re On Your Own Now”).
Velan’s story is a good one, and Fable for Fighters fits into the pocket carved out by musicians like Paul Simon and James Taylor maintained by Dennen or The Brushfire Records crew. Velan’s not reinventing the wheel, simply helping it keep turning.