Tin Can Gin: Coming Home

Paul Whyte

Tin Can Gin reunited with Tom Fabjance at Sacred Heart studios on this second release titled, “Coming Home.” Their CD release show will be held at the Red Herring this Saturday with the group, Them Coulee Boys. Tin Can Gin has gained a lot of popularity over the last few years with their often upbeat, high energy and Northland oriented material. The band upholds their sound on this latest release.
The last self titled album had a fair amount of area references and this album definitely ups the local factor. The level of musicianship and what’s going on is comparable to the last album and that can be viewed two ways. People who love Tin Can Gin shouldn’t be disappointed with this album, but the overall sound holds very close to the first album, so it doesn’t feel new.
The thing I like about this album is that several tracks take on this area. The song “Mighty Fitz” is about the legendary SS Edward Fitzgerald. Similar to the Gordon Lightfoot song, there’s a bit of history in the lyrics laid out in an folk/Americana sound. Lightfoot’s “Edmund Fitzgerald” was released in 1976, so it doesn’t seem so bad for there to be another song about the famous sinking of the ore boat.
If the album didn’t seem local enough, they put in the track named, “Duluth.” There have been a number of songs that directly reference Duluth and I enjoy Lake Superior, which this song is mostly about. “Sitting up in the city on the hill/Where the wind it blows so free/I don’t think I’ll leave if I have it my way/It’s a nice place the city by the sea/Give me Duluth so I can live with the blues.”
Indeed they make no mistake about being connected to the area with other songs like, “Grand Marais.” With this there’s also a lot of things things that are a bit typical of the style of music. Tin Can Gin holds down what they do very well and I think it’s great for them to identify with the area. It’s no real secret that bluegrass string bands are fairly common up here and they are probably one of the better ones, but the question that hits me is, “where to from here?” Or, “how do they go farther with what they’re doing?”
This album pulls off some great energy that the band has expressed many times. Between their first album and their live shows, the musicianship is solid. There is definitely an audience for this music and by no means am I saying that it’s bad. What gets at me is this album brings in a lot of the cliches that I’ve heard over the years in folk, Americana and old time country music. Namely: an admiration of nature, having woman problems and drinking…especially drinking whiskey. I’m not going to say that there’s anything particularly wrong with writing about these things, but it’s really been done over and over again. I think great story telling and original topics is what will hold up music of this genre in the years to come.  
The delivery, recording and the music itself is great. The feeling that any part of this album could fit into any part of the last one and the fact that this music is quite prevalent makes this an album that the locals and people who are already fans of the band happy. On the other hand, in the sense of originality, it’s thin and the subject matter on several of the other songs brings that out.
This isn’t to say that some of the songs are really fun to listen to, but I’m getting the feeling that the band is geared more to play live shows with the uptempo drinking related songs. The song “Doghouse” is hard driving and fun. The female vocal retort at the end really pulls it together, “well, he’s in the doghouse tonight/flowers will never make it right/he’s in the doghouse tonight/and he’ll be in the doghouse for the rest of his life.” It’s easy to get into this band and for the genre and they do what they do well.
Overall, the album gives a nod to the Northland, has great musicianship and this band plays regularly both locally and at local festivals. If you’ve liked Tin Can Gin’s prior work, this album holds up. In my opinion, it doesn’t pack the punch I was hoping for in a second album. I should just accept that certain bands do their thing, but if I know that everyone is a capable musician, I start to look to see if there’s a new level. Although I was hoping for something more, do not dismiss this album if this particular style of music is to your liking. They do bring it, but just around the level they have before.