Trevor Alguire, Thirty Year Run
This world always has room for new easygoing, rootsy country music, as long as the songs are good, and Ottawa-based Trevor Alguire's new disc frequently hits the target. "Full of Rust," a basic, fiddle-charged, two-and-a-half-minute gem, opens the disc strongly. Other highlights include the slow-drawl waltz of "Troubles Me So" with its creamy harmonies, the insistently elemental "Like Old Times," the hard-edged, quirky "The One," and the rollicking "These Words," which asks an unusually honest question: "Would you hold me to / These words I say to you?"
The mostly brief songs don't overstay their welcome, making their statements and closing up neatly. "Away From You Now" is an exception, taking a while to get going but bearing fruit if you're in a relaxed, stick-with-it kind of mood — and that's the mood this disc will put you in, notwithstanding its sprinkling of up-tempo tunes.
Alguire sings in a smooth, unprepossessing, slightly vulnerable baritone that's both expressive and soothing. On the instrumental side, the performances are impeccable. Fine mandolin work by Gilles Leclerc and assured fiddling by Michael Ball stand out.
Melodic conventions pull certain songs down into country cliché, but most of the time Alguire stays on the honest side of the fine line between accessible and unoriginal. The sweet title track helps prove that although his music is rooted in tradition and country music commonplaces, he has a modern sensibility. It tells of a man who's spent his whole career working in a paper mill, but now those days are gone: "There's no such thing as a thirty year run today / Son, you're fired."
Stillhouse Hollow, Dakota
If Trevor Alguire is rootsy, Tennessee band Stillhouse Hollow is downright lo-fi. Their signature sound has a ragged charm, acoustic and old-timey, with banjo, mandolin, harmonica, and upright bass more prominent than guitar. The clear, light-spirited vocals from primary songwriter Nathan Griffin and the boys have a youthful simplicity with just enough quaver to convince. Standouts: "Strollin' In," which suggests the Byrds' country period; the jaunty "Painfully True"; and the silly, sad-eyed "Pimp Hand."