Jon Brooks – No Mean City

$9.99 CAD

Toronto’s bard of the outskirts Jon Brooks finds humanity in his city’s past hopes and present tensions.

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“Deserves to be heard and begs to be listened to.” ~ Penguin Eggs

Weaving stories evoking the failure of the modern urban ideal, singer-songwriter Jon Brooks none-the-less reveals intractable humanity in the multi-cultural fabric of his city, Toronto.

Through 13 acoustic tracks, Brooks tours us around a great city and an impoverished one, a hopeful city and a divided one. A city that takes the lives from its inhabitants (“The Industrial Part of Town”), and one that gives purpose to great lives within it (“Michael Power”).

Tutored and encouraged by renowned Canadian author and poet Barry Callaghan, Brooks took an ethnographical approach to craft the stories he presents through songs. He reveals the stories of those who feel they don’t have a story to share. From the arrival in No Mean City of two suburbanites, their departures from their home satellite cities drowned out by the clockwork departure of the buses and trains, to the impact of the cloying “St James Town” neighbourhood on its residents, who bank on escape to lead them to new fortune. Neighbourhoods and architecture impact Brooks’ residents, a city that in its heart is a “Two Storey Town,” with shopkeeper living above the store, so struggle to squeeze in the high-rises thirty three storeys up. He tells of the 40,000 Irish immigrants, many suffering typhus, who passed through Toronto in 1847 when the city had only 20,000 residents and he tells of the Somalian refugee whose traumas led to addiction, panhandling between the mental reprieves each fix temporarily and devastatingly provides.

It’s a city Brooks acknowledges is not great, but he challenges us to name a city that doesn’t house these traumas after opening their arms to help. And he finds courage and love in that simple act. He seems to say, that if your city can care, can love, can try, it too is No Mean City.

“Highly literate, musically sparse work of true grit.” ~ Exclaim!


1. No Mean City (4:00)
2. No Good (3:42)
3. How Good It Is to Love Someone, How Right It Is to Care (4:04)
4. Miracle on Bleecker Street (3:39)
5. The Curve of the Earth (3:35)
6. St. James Town (5:13)
7. Two Storey Town (3:18)
8. Kept Plans (3:51)
9. The Industrial Part of Town (6:16)
10. Stairwell Anniversary (4:36)
11. By the Lake (3:54)
12. Michael Power (3:26)
13. Ray Westernson’s Mistake (10:50)

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