There's also something about his voice which makes it memorable and unique. While he has the same high, lost/lonely quality as Neil Young, his voice is in a lower register and has more of a tonal range than Young. However, what you'll really notice is his voice has character. You can tell by listening to him that he's experienced almost everything the world can throw at somebody. You can hear, heck you can almost see, both what's scarred him and what's given him hope. While there are times when he gets angry and times when he can be biting in his satire, you can hear he's not tired of the world, nor does he believe he's seen everything it has to offer either.
Of course you also hear a lot of this reflected in the lyrics of his songs. Now some of the location names mentioned won't be familiar to those outside of Canada, but the circumstances his songs describe are universal. There's the young woman in the ironically titled "Miss Canada" who moved from her home in the Maritimes when the fish stocks disappeared in the hopes of finding work in the oil fields and tar sands of the West. You have to wonder what work she thought there'd be for a woman out there. "She takes off her dress/In a Fort MacMurray motel bedroom when the boys cash their cheques in the fields of Black Gold/Back home the cannery's closed and the fishing boats don't hardly fish no more/She came out West/Hoping to make the best of it/It wasn't what she planned/But who can draw a line in the tar sands/Money's a fast talking bird in the hand". Obviously this isn't a song about a beauty pageant contestant, but the young woman in the song is much more emblematic of life in Canada than anybody bearing the title of "Miss Canada" is liable to be.
To me the line "money's a fast talking bird in the hand" says far too much of what people are being forced to do in order to keep body and soul together. "Miss Canada" is the first of three songs in a row which are related to what politicians euphemistically refer to as an economic slowdown. It's easy for them to talk about the necessity of cutbacks and restraint, but they're not the ones who have to suffer for it. There's almost no pause between "Talk Radio" and "I Wanna Rob A Bank", which follow "Miss Canada". You have to wonder if the latter isn't the answer to the dilemma expressed by the person in the former.
I'm sure all of us have heard people call into radio shows and talk about their lives. Well, "Talk Radio" is the voice of one of those people, somebody who's obviously at the end of their rope. "What is happening to me?/I have done all the right things/I'm a Christian, God-fearing/I work hard for my family/I have a gun and I believe in the values of the country/And my life is collapsing". Spaced over just a bit more then two minutes of music, that's the song's lyrics in their entirety. Delivered slowly with only basic musical accompaniment, it's a cross between a lament and a whine. So it catches you by surprise when, before the echoes of its last notes have even completely died away, the crunching guitar and opening lyrics of the next song burst upon you.