This is the second solo record from Saskatoon resident Shuyler Jansen. Shulyer was formerly one of the leading lights of the Edmonton, Alberta country/roots rock band Old Reliable, who knocked out four albums during a twelve year career. The press release suggests the music harkens back to the 70s country sound of Willie Nelson’s ‘Shotgun Willie’, or Merle Haggard’s ‘Back To The Barrooms’ but also shares something with the likes of Tom Petty, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Mark Kozalek, Neil Young and Will Oldham. 70s country is the strongest of those links, maybe some Tom Petty in the occasional country poppiness, there’s nothing here as stark as Gillian Welch, nor as raw as Lucinda, and it’s a struggle to get any comparison Mark Kozalek or Will Oldham. It seems the promotional material is keen to align Shuyler with modern alt/indie figures when he’s actually playing fairly straight 70s style country pop, like a less glitzy Mavericks, he’s even wearing a big cowboy hat on the album sleeve! The record is produced by Steve Dawson who also contributes all manner of instrumental assistance including some nicely atmospheric pedal steel, notably on ‘Windswept’ a song which has a Chris Isaak quality to it. The record is pleasant, sometimes too pleasant, the title track has some fairly frightening reminders of the sappy classic ‘Seasons In the Sun’, ‘Hellhounds’ is again a little Chris Isaak like, but when Shuyler sings that there are ‘Hellhounds on your trail’ it’s so unthreatening you get the idea it’s probably because they need a good walk and a few chocolate drops. The straightforward pop country of ‘Rivals’ is probably what suits Shuyler best, it’s believable and enjoyable. A solid enough record in terms of performance, but it’s way too nice, Shuyler has the skills but could really do with getting rougher and tougher to break away from all these pleasantries.
- Patrick Wilkins