Canadian folk rock band Great Lake Swimmers new record, ‘A Forest Of Arms’ is their sixth studio album and after a career now spanning 12 years, everything seems to be on the up and up. Bandleader Tom Dekker has managed to slowly and methodically build up the Toronto band, through numerous live shows and the fine tuning of his songwriting, creating a record of worthy songs and performances.

Great Lake Swimmers at the moment consists of Tony Dekker on lead vocals and guitar, long ti Great Lake Swimmers consists of Tony Dekker on lead vocals and guitar, long time guitarist and banjo player Erik Arnesen, Miranda Mulholland on violin and backing vocals, Bret Higgins on upright bass and newcomer Joshua Van Tassel on drums. There are several special guest appearances on the album by Kevin Kane (Grapes Of Wrath) on 12-string electric guitar, as well as backing vocals on the song “A Bird Flew Inside The House.”

The sound is never forced or pushed, the band creating a groove in the songs that allows the music and lyrics to breathe, often with very effective string arrangements accompanying the simple but not bland melodies. The languid pace relaxes and seduces the listener allowing us to dream away whilst different specifics, be them instruments or words, every now and then jolt us back into reality.

The album opens with ‘Something Like A Storm’, a track that has an Arcade Fire type aura and sets the tone with it’s lala chorus, jungle drum and percussive rhythm and delicately sweet violin.
‘Zero in the City’ and ‘Shaking all Over’ keep things moving nicely and then the wonderful ‘Don’t Let me Hanging’ implodes, sounding like it’s been taken from an Eagles best of. Indeed “ hell freezes over” is part of the lyrics, it also being an Eagles live album; coincidence or not?

‘One More Charge at the Red Cape’ is too pedestrian for me but ‘I was a Wayward Pastel Bay’ is simply beautiful and the best track on the album. A lovely percussion beat starts off an enchanting band rhythm section,Tom’s vocals with echo. All playing is measured, creating a magical ensemble with a chorus to die for. It all ends much too soon.

It’s difficult to follow but of the remaining songs, ‘I Must have Someone else’s Blues’ is great; straight out of the Wilco songbook, looser in its execution than the other tracks; it rocks.

‘Expecting You’ which closes the album is also expertly delivered, the acoustic guitar caressing the listener, slide guitar lingering in the background, beautiful vocal harmonies in the style of America the band, it more than satisfactorily closes the album.

Hopefully they will be venturing to Europe soon, where they will win over many an audience i’m sure, but in the meanwhile , A Forest of Arms’ is a pleasure not to be missed.