Sunday, April 20, 2014


Very interesting move for Rutledge, following up the Juno-winning Valleyheart album (Best roots/traditional solo) with an all-covers album.  But what a project;  he's tackled the songbook of The Tragically Hip, ten cuts including big hits and small album cuts.  Can anyone else do the Hip?  They are a unique beast with Gord Downie's singular vocals and lyrics.

Rutledge's answer was to tone down the rock, and concentrate on the beauty and mystery.  That works perfectly for his amazing voice, always a sweet whisper.  The electric guitar is mostly relegated to the background, with piano, acoustics, and voices getting the promotion.  And harmonies!  Something you just don't associate with Downie is all over this album, as Rutledge is joined by an all-star selection of co-singers, including Jenn Grant, Andy Maize, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Brendan Canning and Julie Fader, offering a whole new angle on the songs.

Mostly, the tunes are opened up and given lots of air and room so you can concentrate on the words. Rutledge brings a storyteller style to them, the rich language somehow making more sense slowed down sung gently, and cushioned in studio effects rather than band explosions.  Courage and Grace, Too are the biggest revelations, probably because we're so used to them over the years, but lesser-known numbers such as Long Time Running are just as enjoyable, that one turned into a bare country number, with steel guitar.

The best way to describe it, I think, is to imagine Tragically Hip if they had been the Cowboy Junkies.  There aren't many of these truly successful covers albums, one singer tackling all songs from another act.  There's Danny Michel's Loving The Alien Bowie disc, Nillson Sings Newman, Jennifer Warnes' Famous Blue Raincoat, and now this.

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