Front and back of Willie Stratton's self titled album.

Album Review: Willie Stratton

NSCAD student influenced by legendary conductors and folk singers

On the first listen of Willie Stratton's self-titled debut album, it is hard to believe this music was written by a 19-year-old. Sure, there are many young musicians who have made big splashes in the music world the past few years, such as Taylor Swift who reached stardom while still in her teenage years.

Stratton's music, however, sounds like something a twenty-something-year-old may find in their parent's dusty record collection. Banjos, guitars, piano and other instruments come together along side Stratton's voice and lyrics to create a folk, country sound. At times, the vocals sound unpolished, choosing volume and soul over a quieter polished sound.

Stratton's musical influences for this record come as no surprise as well. Influences include current Italian composer and conductor Ennio Morricone, as well as Romantic era composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Richard Wagner.

Folk music legends such as Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson and North American Aboriginal music also helped shape the end result of this record. Stratton says the drums were heavily influenced by Aboriginal music giving it "a more organic quality."

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Snippet of Willie Stratton performing "November" at the DAL student union building in November.

Tracks

These influences all come together on the opening track, November. The sounds of drums continue throughout the song as Stratton and backing vocals deliver passionate and emotion filled lyrics such as "oh I won't surrender, I don't want to eat your meals, I'm not going to swallow your pills". Piano, guitars and organs build a wall of sound in the background giving this song a haunting feeling.

The short instrumental piano track Lament provides a musical interlude halfway through the album that pays homage to the composer and conductors that have shaped Stratton's music.

Towards the end of the album, the track Phoenix starts to bring the album to a somber ending. The song starts off with the lonely sounds of vocals and acoustic guitar before bringing in some simple percussion, backing vocals and strings. By the end of the song, a range of vocals swirl together for a chorus of "ooh woah ooh's", providing the album with it's most tender moments.

Stratton the student

Stratton is currently attending NSCAD focusing on film, although he is not quite sure when he'll graduate. Music has always been part of his life, ranging from playing the family piano as a child to getting his first guitar when he was 12-years-old. He plays the guitar, banjo, trumpet, accordion and piano.

Highlights of his music career so far include playing with the University of King's College Orchestra in October and getting a shout out on stage from Mother Mother where lead singer, Ryan Guldemond, called Stratton a troubadour during one of their Halifax shows in November.

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