Dallas Green, as City and Colour, unlocks something bravely remarkable on Little Hell. This, his third studio record, is couched in mystery, intimacy and quietness.
For those precious few who perhaps only know Green for his role in Alexisonfire, the Canadian hardcore outfit City and Colour will come as a welcome surprise. Little Hell is comprised of songs that are part blues, part folk, part country, and all soul. Green reveals his heart in these pieces that run the gamut of relationships, invoking the spirits of the “little hells” and “little heavens” we go through.
Little Hell is actually the first of City and Colour’s albums to be recorded to tape. The music is deeper and richer as a result, with fully realized songs springing to life gorgeously. Green’s vocals, unassuming yet assertive, smoothly take their place amid the guitars and other instruments.
Green, along with vocals, plays guitar, bass, Wurlitzer, piano and drums. Also along for the trip are Daniel Romano (guitars, bass, harmonies, organ, piano, pedal steel), Dylan Green (drums, percussion), and Scott Remila (bass, harmonies).
Little Hell opens with “We Found Each Other in the Dark,” a haunting and beautiful song that Green accents with a falsetto. The twang of the pedal steel adds perfect framing.
Green gets personal with “The Grand Optimist.” His vocals take on a different bent and he captivates with the way he spaces the words and takes his time with developing the story. He sings about his father being a hopeful thinker and, amid a clatter of dark atmosphere, sings that he probably takes after his mother.
Ever the cynical troubadour, Green still has fondness for love in his heart. “Northern Wind” is filled with sounds of Anna Jarvis’ glorious cello and shards of a relationship. “O’ Sister,” another intensely personal tune, is so dear and hopeful that it could draw tears under the right light. “I know it’s tearing you apart, but it’s a storm you can weather,” sings Green.
A stellar, sublime recording, Little Hell is City and Colour’s best and most ambitious recording to date. It’s also some of the most personal music I’ve heard this year so far, resonating with deep colours and thoughtful ruminations to draw us in to Dallas Green’s world. Amazing.