“Glory” is the 4th studio album from Kingston’s The Glorious Sons, co-produced by long-time collaborator Frederik Thaae. The album, which was recorded over a two-year period, is the band’s most intimate effort to date, yet it still blazes with outsized melodies that their fan base has come to love since their inception in 2011. Founded by guitarist Jay Emmons and drummer Adam Paquette, and joined shortly after that by Jay’s brother, vocalist Brett Emmons, the band unleashed three studio albums that earned them two #1 Rock airplay smashes in the US and thirteen consecutive top 10 Rock radio hits in Canada. Their album “Young Beauties and Fools” and 2019 follow-up record, “A War On Everything”, took home successive JUNO Awards for “Rock Album of the Year”. The Glorious Sons have supported their albums with extensive time on the road, including headline tours, support runs, three unforgettable stadium shows supporting The Rolling Stones and, more recently, a top-billed appearance alongside Pearl Jam in London’s Hyde Park. Much like Pearl Jam front-man Eddie Vedder, Brett Emmons is a consummate storyteller and although The Glorious Sons are definitely a rip-roaring rock band, he brings a little John Prine lyric sensibility into the mix.
“I think that’s the way I write because I’ve listened to so many of those stories,” Brett says during a promotional stop in Toronto for the new album. “Sometimes people aren’t very impressed with my melodies (laughs), because a lot of times I just want to basically talk. I’ve always had a hand in the folk-writing world just based on my personal taste, and Jay’s the same way. We really love the songwriters, and it can be a different thing when you write a rock record from that angle. I think it kind of gives our songs a bit of their own sort of original spin. To be a rock band where people appreciate the stories and the message behind things is a pretty special thing. I think it also allows us to let our music grow as we grow.”
The album’s first single, “Mercy, Mercy”, is about maturing and learning to accept things rather than lashing out. The song’s vivid imagery includes Spanish wine, acid rain and even the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
“Yeah, the four horses in the song are connected to the fact that we tried recording this album four times before we succeeded,” he explains. “It feels like I ran my four horses until their death. It was kind of like watching each different phase die before your eyes so that was kind of a cool thing I linked to it.
“I wrote that song because I turned 30 and I actually just feel like there’s some magical pull that allows you to let go of some of that stuff that you used to stew over. I don’t know what it is, but I honestly felt better in this full year than I did in my entire 20s.”
Although “Glory” is a rock album there is a strong reliance on the acoustic guitar throughout. The song “You Stay Young” begins with some fine acoustic playing, before the drums and other heavy artillery are rolled in. In this regard, Brett drew some inspiration from the World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band.
“The Rolling Stones, I find, make acoustic guitars sound so relevant and badass. There’s not a lot of witchcraft going on there, and the guitars are not that crazily distorted when you listen to them. I find the acoustic guitar is just such a timeless instrument, and it can be so many different things and so expressive. I also find that Mick Jagger never gets enough credit for his lyrics. I know Keith Richards wrote a lot of the songs too but if you listen to the lyrics of “Sympathy For The Devil”, they’re truly great.”
One of the more intriguing tunes on the album is “Cellular” which begins with the line “Holdin’ a baby, smoking a cigarette”, but evolves into a nostalgic love song dedicated to a departed relative. The song ends on an ascending note, almost like a cellular signal going off into the sky, which connects with the next song, “Dream”, an upbeat number with unsettling lyrics.
“Cellular is about my grandpa Len,” Brett begins. “He was a magnetic man who was an illegal satellite dealer. He used to leave his pool open for every kid in the neighbourhood to come to hang out with their parents. I just remember growing up at his house. He was a widower from when I was born until the day he died. He just had this really easy way of being. I think there was way more to it than that, but I think he did it for other people. He was this amazing role model.
“With the song “Dream”, I wanted to be in this melodramatic dream state but I also wanted it to be super danceable. It’s almost like Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer”. I love the way that some of those ’80s songs can punch you right in the chest and make you feel that nostalgia and sadness, but still be fun to listen to somehow.”
Perhaps the most danceable song, or the one most likely to cause a singalong, is Speed Of Light, which boasts a boisterous introductory count-in and a catchy chorus. As evidenced by a recent YouTube video, the band’s preview of the new song at Muskoka’s Kee-To-Bala prompted an instant party.
“I think “Speed Of Light”, right from the get-go, was going to be a favourite for our fans. I knew that going into it and that’s like the best feeling in the world. I also remember that feeling with our song “Sawed Off Shotgun”. There are just certain things that connect with people and you know when they’re going to connect. The crowd knows when they like it immediately and there’s no reason or way to describe it. That’s pretty much the magic of music. One thing you never want to do is to put too much pressure on yourself to write a killer chorus or you’ll just drain the life out of it. You just have to put the work in and hopefully now and then something immediate and universal will happen.”
In support of “Glory”, the boys will be hitting the road for the North American run of “The Glory Tour”, which kicked off in Pittsburgh, PA, and visits 57 cities in both the U.S. and Canada, making stops in Nashville, Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa and more, before wrapping in St. Catharines on February 17. What comes as a bit of a shock, however, is that the band will be touring without long-time guitarist Chris Koster, who parted ways with them just a week before the release of “Glory”. The split appears amicable as Brett wrote on the group’s website “We wish Chris nothing but the best on his musical journey. He is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met”. Brett sees it as an opportunity for the rest of the group.
“It’s just about guys coming together,” he says. “There’s no way to do what Chris did. That would be impossible because he’s such an individual. But since he left we’ve squeezed a lot into a little amount of time, just growing together. It’s just going to be different for a minute and that is another one of those things that you have to just let be. You can’t go forcing some new chapter or forcing somebody to be like Chris to try and redo what we did with him. Now it’s time to look at things as an open horizon and get excited about what the future holds.”
In addition to the new album, the band recently launched The Glorious Sons Lager beer brand in partnership with Farm League Brewing in stores across Ontario. The beer is branded as “The Rock N’ Roll Lager”, and the can has a bit of a throwback look to it. What also strikes up memories of days gone by is the cover art for “Glory”.
“I was living in Hamilton at the time and my friend Teddy asked me over to help him hang a beam in his house,” Brett recalls. “I reached behind the wall and pulled out a photograph of what the people who previously owned the house had left behind. It was this 50’s photograph of some lady holding a baby. The way that the baby’s arms are raised, looking at the sky, it looks like she’s ready to take on life as it comes. It was overwhelming and I felt it was a good image to put at the start of something new, so I asked him for the picture for the album.”