City and Colour – [Album]

Wednesday, 08 June 2011

Since Alexisonfire first broke out in 2002, it has been really interesting to watch singer/guitarist Dallas Green develop as a musician. Of course, Alexis blew up on the strength of raw adrenaline and aggressive tendencies so, when Dallas' side project at its debut album, Sometimes, came along in 2005, City and Colour got a lot of attention because the album was the perfect antithesis of Alexis' convention. When the project really started to get a head of steam behind it and take off, the singer was so encouraged that he made a legitimate play at a “big deal” record with help from members of The Tragically Hip and Attack In Black (members of Rasing The Fawn also stepped up to help out with a few tour dates as well) but, while it sold well, the reaction wasn't as good as anyone expected (nor were the songs). After an extensive tour (that, again, did pretty well), the singer went back to the drawing board to knock some of the bugs out of the project and has now released the fruits of that labor on Little Hell – a far less dramatic record with a far better presentation.

From the opening track, “We Found Each Other In The Dark,” Dallas Green has clearly let himself relax a little as he softens his sibilance and enjoys a nice flowing melody with his vocal rather than letting his signature nervous and clipped phrasing that can occasionally get awkward play a role. In addition, the airy, spacious arrangement (which includes accompaniment by Attack In Black's Daniel Romano as well as Dylan Green and Scott Remila of Raising The Fawn) supports the general sense of satisfaction which comes across courtesy of some pretty authentic-sounding Country overtones.

A little looser, a little more laid back and a little more easy-going, there's no mistaking that Dallas Green has become more comfortable with his home away from Alexisonfire on Little Hell, and the singer wears that vibe incredibly well.

With the stage set by “We Found Each Other…,” Green just rides his wave of inspiration, examining some Country roots to fantastic effect through songs including “Natural Disaster,” the album's title track and “Northern Wind” before going home for a minute to visit “The Grand Optimist” (anyone from the Welland/St. Catharines, Ontario area will recognize the wry, dismissive language and tone as very close to their own) and then going a bit further out as he stomps his way through the raucous verses of “Fragile Bird.” Listeners will recognize some of the tones and timbres in each of these songs as being the sort which helped to build some classic albums by artists like Neil Young, The Tragically Hip, 54-40 and a few other fixtures who have been revered for their country-folk-rock craft, and the play of the album starts to get pretty exciting when a listener realizes that that's the direction Green seems to be inevitably angling in. That fairly consistent strength also makes the two poorer songs on the album (“Sorrowing Man” sounds a bit too much like a Moody Blues throwaway for anyone's own good, and “Hope For Now” almost sounds like a half-assed David Gilmour knock-off) totally forgivable and forgettable. Simply said, when Dallas Green is 'on' through the running or Little Hell, he's dead on and so solid that fans will hardly notice those few occasions when he's not; it's just a great record, overall.


Little Hell is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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