Kyp Harness

Kyp Harness

Kyp Harness is a Canadian social activist and folk singer, known for the poetry of his lyrics.

He was born in Sarnia, Ontario. He arrived in Toronto, Ontario in 1984 and began playing in coffee houses and open stages across the city, most notably Fat Albert's, where he met fellow songwriters Ron Sexsmith, Bob Wiseman, and Bob Snider.

In 1987 Harness recorded a demo tape with Bob Wiseman, then of Canadian roots-rock group Blue Rodeo. Songs from the recording emerged with others on Harness' debut release 'Nowhere Fast' in 1991. From the beginning, the bleak, wry poetry found on the admittedly low-fi release attracted attention, with Crash Magazine declaring "Kyp has his own style. It may not be a style that everyone likes, but there are those of us who think he's a kind of genius".

Harness' first CD release, "God's Footstool" (Amatish), followed in 1992. Drummer Don Kerr produced the album, diverging from the bare bones sound of 'Nowhere Fast' to implement cello, trumpet, and sax in creating a more colourful backdrop for Harness' circusy/cinematic lyrics. Canadian Composer noted it was "an album that sparkles with rich, vital imagery and audacious song arrangements", with Bob Wiseman proclaiming in the same article "He's a genius, a revolutionary...he creates pieces that are dense with imagery yet are continually stimulating, informative and innovative."

In 1994 Harness released "Welcome to the Revolution" (Amatish), a stark album of raw folk-based music, which included intensely narrative-driven songs like 'Song for a Man', 'Ballad of Curtis Merton', 'Jackson Homer' and 'Chemical Valley', painting pictures of alienation, Everyman angst, environmental collapse, and apocalyptic fury. Melodic laments such as 'Wayward Son' and 'Remember Love' offered some respite from the grimness, and overall the release featured some of Harness' finest writing. The Toronto Star called it one of the year's "most passionate and articulate albums". A video shot on super 8mm and 16mm film for "Chemical Valley" was released in 1995 by Toronto based director Liz Marshall.

1998 saw the release of "Houdini in Reverse", an upbeat pop/rock band-driven album featuring Harness classics 'Good Old Days', 'Old Grey House', and 'You're the One'. The record prompted Id Magazine to observe that "Harness is an urban poet of the highest order; no-one who cares about the state of songwriting in this country or any other can afford to ignore him any longer". The Calgary Straight noted "I won't mince words: Right now, Kyp Harness is the most vital, essential Canadian singer-songwriter out there."

Harness released "All Her Love" in 2001 with the Porterbeach label, presenting a country-tinged selection of songs that told stories commenting on, as The Peterborough Examiner put it, "the fragility of human existence". Toronto's eye magazine remarked "Harness is one of the best songwriters this city - if not this country - has ever seen".

Porterbeach also released the double album "The Floating World" in 2002, a tour de force of 26 songs running the gamut from solo acoustic ballads to bar-room rockers featuring the avant-garde rock trio The Dinner Is Ruined. The first disc mixes the rockers with spirituals and ballads, while the second disc focuses on acoustic songs about death and mortality. Exclaim! magazine stated "Harness has assembled a songbook which should rightly be regarded as a national treasure". Heaven, an alt-country magazine from Holland proclaimed him "one of the best songwriters in the world", while The Moncton Transcript observed "...he is one of the finest songwriters this country has produced."

"The Miracle Business" (Porterbeach) followed in 2004, a more focussed album produced by David Matheson, formerly of the pop group Moxy Fruvous. One of Harness' most polished recordings, the album contains the pop songs 'Diamonds in the Air' and 'Mayor of Crazytown' as well as poetic pieces such as 'Horseman' and 'Fields of Plenty'. Porterbeach also put out a book of Harness' lyrics to date, 'Journey to the Sun', containing the words to 101 songs.

"Fugitives" in 2006 found Harness affirming his faith in Jesus Christ with such proclamations as 'Man on the Cross', 'Devil's Got a Foothold in your Heart' and 'Calm Down'. 2006 also saw Harness revealing another aspect of his talent with the release of his book 'The Art of Laurel and Hardy', an idiosyncratic study of the 1930's comedy team published by McFarland in North Carolina.

Harness has been associated with other Canadian singer songwriters, such as Daniel Lanois, Kathleen Yearwood, who covers three Harness songs on her 'Doglogic' album. Mary Margaret O'Hara, Bob Wiseman and Ron Sexsmith, who covers Harness' 'Thumbelina Farewell' on his Blue Boy album (2001). Lanois calls him a "great writer", and Ron Sexsmith refers to him as "my favourite's his lyrics that set him apart. They are every bit as powerful as the best Dylan, Cohen and Lennon combined."


Nowhere Fast - 1991God's Footstool (Amatish) - 1992Welcome to the Revolution (Amatish) - 1994Houdini in Reverse - 1998All Her Love (Porterbeach) - 2001The Floating World (Porterbeach) - 2002The Miracle Business (Porterbeach) - 2004Fugitives - 2006

External links

* [ Kyp Harness]

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