Kyp Harness

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Born in Sarnia, Ontario, he has been described as a "songwriter's songwriter", "a kind of genius", and "kind of like Dylan Thomas fronting a punk band". Over the past six years he's released three diverse albums which have received strong campus radio airplay and have won him fans in both folk and alternative music circles - fans including such artists as Daniel Lanois, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Ron Sexsmith, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Wiseman And Bob Snider.

Not too many other people know him, but they should. On his fourth album, Houdini in Reverse, Harness spins epic tales of innocence and experience that capture the desperation and guarded optimism of urban life.

Kyp Harness exists, to quote his own lyric, "in a crippled crevice of a city wall/ Where life is cheap if it's even there at all." That sounds a lot like Toronto. He is a bard of what author Hal Niedzviecki calls the "concrete forest." In his introduction to a new anthology of that name, Niedzviecki explains the term as being: "a fiction forest overgrown with the joys and terrors of the urban, a land where the events of the everyday are depicted as real to us in lasting ways that transcend the ephemera of our fleeting lives." That could just as easily come from a review of Houdini in Reverse.

Sitting over a late night coffee on a Toronto patio, the man speaks in modest tones, attempting to explain his profession. "As I'm getting older, I see myself as part of more of a tradition. I'm not sure what that tradition is, other than people who just write songs, write where they're at, at that moment, as best they can, and then move on," he says humbly. "I don't have any illusions about being this amazing singer or a youth culture guy. It's just songs. I'm happy with that."

...excerpts from Exclaim, August 1998 by Michael Barclay