Saturday, March 2, 2013


Our saintly-voiced smoothie, Rutledge presents another thing of beauty.  Nobody evokes a mood better than him, up close to the microphone and sending glorious signals our way.  Amen America, the lead track, has the pure acoustic soul of a song off of Neil Young's Harvest, guitar and piano and quiet, the gentle drums, even the mournful harmonica.  That's a great start, but he's a lot more than a Neil fan.  Rutledge's great strength is to keep the songs subdued.  That doesn't mean there aren't some big moments; every once and awhile a twanged-up, raunchy guitar will drop in (courtesy David Baxter, or Burke Carroll's pedal steel will shine through.  On Out Of The Woods, the great band builds to moments of sublime tension.

The words are stirring, too.  Kapuskasing Coffee, well, right there, that has a fine ring to it in the title, and the opening line of "Sometimes I find that I get too sentimental when I think of you" is a killer opening.  Then when he hits us with "Sometimes it helps to play some heavy heavy metal" as the cure, it's such at odds with the delicate tune we're hearing, it's a brilliant touch.

Now is a fine time to bring up another strength on the album.  There's already one terrific singer here, but it's doubly grand when Carina Round joins in on harmonies.  She's featured on Kapuskasing Coffee and most of the other tracks, the perfect compliment to Rutledge, with a voice similar to Sarah McLachlan.  Then add in the rhythm section of Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo) and Blake Manning (The Heartbroken), keys from Steve O'Connor (Jim Cuddy Band), and Kendel Carson's fiddle, and a Doug Paisley guitar solo, wow, everything, everybody sounds great on this rich disc.

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