ALBUM REVIEW: Janice Lee & the Free Radicals – Drown the Earth

drown the earth cover only

Gregory O’Brien

Drown the Earth
Janice Lee & the Free Radicals

Janice Lee, when not too busy reimagining communities through art, speaking truth to power, or just plain indulging in the poetic joys of spoken word, is able to enchant with a soulful musical touch.

Together with fellow musicians AFL, Brockenshire, Daniel MacPherson, Rachel Avery, and Kathryn Wetlauffer – the ensemble known as Janice Lee and the Free Radicals – Lee has released their first album, Drown the Earth, which bellows and swings across blues, folk, and indie terrains with a social conscience that has something meaningful to say.

Drown the Earth begins on the bittersweet resound of Lee in “I Lost My Darlin (They Gone Take Him to Jail),” which arrests the ear with its stark vocal power before galloping forth into a fleshed out groove.

The album as a whole follows similar structures, where Lee’s voice is given the space to set the
melodious vision at each song’s beginning as the rest of the instrumentation catches up, develops the sound, and carries the tempo forward.

And yet, there is enough thematic depth on offer to appeal to variety of sensibilities.

“Take a Walk with Me” is a sweetly paced lullaby that showcases Lee’s strengths in a true to form singer/songwriter style. “White Collar Blues” thumps with groove and political fire as it mockingly disarms the hypocrisies of modern philistines. “Struggle” presents a blues sensibility with a gospel finish as the track meanders high and low with melancholic pathos. And on “Will you Go,” the group crafts a striking ballad that positions Lee’s siren-esque voice in the center of a whirling sea of sound and shows the Free Radicals at their most moving and emphatic heights.