Monday, April 11, 2011



Just in time for Canyon to host the East Coast Music Awards April 17th in Charlottetown comes his sixth long-player.  The Nova Scotia-raised, Alberta-settled star manages to straddle the middle ground of modern country, trading in lots of traditional rural topics, a little cowboy and western, and a big hat, while giving it all a modern production, as radio-friendly as it gets.  Once again he's aided by producer Richard Marx, yes that Richard Marx, he of the similar shiny sound back in the 80's.  Marx and Canyon, the co-writers, are a pretty formidable team, one that Nashville types should check out for more potential hits.  They certainly seem to have found the formula.

There's old-school country and popular, modern country, and Canyon certainly fits into the latter, the post-Shania and Garth Brooks era.  Now, there are lots that complain about that style, and I've been one of them at times, but it's often because it's largely transparent and somewhat soulless.  However, there's a place for pop country, and not everybody has to sound like Merle Haggard or Hank Williams.  Lord knows there's lots of people doing that already.  And Canyon means it, he grew up with a mixture of Top 40, from rock and country fields, and came to the crossover honestly.  Plus, as he points out in the cut Real Thing, is does come from rural and farm stock in Nova Scotia, and now Alberta, and he cuts the phony competition like a gangsta rapper:  "Being a cowboy is more than just wearing the boots/I got the hat but I got the cattle too".

It's interesting to hear him cover the Crowded House title track, a pop hit I never thought would make the country charts.  But Canyon rolls out one of his strengths, his big voice, and owns that number.  He even keeps the haunting quality of the original, a sadness not normally found on happy radio dials.  Plus, he sings in a quiet, higher register than normal.  Hey, the guy is stretching and succeeding here.  I know he won't win over any alt-country or outlaw fans, but mainstream country is obviously here to stay, and I like having Canyon there a lot more than the poster boys of Nashville.

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