Red Deer Advocate
Edmonton’s Old Reliable is a band with a wealth of talent and vision, more than can possibly be contained within their sporadic group recordings. Earlier this year, Mark Davis released a tremendous double-shot of alt.Canadiana on the dual albums Don’t You Think We Should Be Closer? and Mistakes I Meant to Make. This fall sees cohort Shuyler Jansen producing Today’s Remains.
If you are not a fan of Jansen’s unadulterated country vocals and modern arrangements, Today’s Remains will not change your opinion. For those of us who long ago came under the spell of Jansen’s country-folk vision, Today’s Remains is a welcome repast from the bleak offerings currently being marketed.
From the opener, Pegasus- a tune reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt’s Tecumseh Valley- through to the final notes of Chief, this new disc is a far cry from Jansen’s previous solo effort, the spacey, folk-electronica of Hobotron. Windswept has a bit of an Iron & Wine vibe, while the whole album benefits from a sense of adventure reminiscent of Scott Miller- anything is possible musically, and stylistic labels only represent vague directions.
Now based in Saskatoon, Jansen- like Howe Gelb, Richard Buckner, and Miller- doesn’t fit into a neat cube labeled ‘sensitive singer-songwriter;’ his lyrical themes are often dark and moody, but also occasionally capture an unexpected lightness. Lush but not over-produced, the atmosphere of the disc is rich, but not dense. The majority of the instrumentation comes from album producer Steve Dawson, who has never met a guitar he couldn’t squeeze into a song.
Consolation and desolation are equally represented in the ten tracks. In fact, it sounds very much like the country album Old Reliable never made. Today’s Remains is darn near perfect.
- Donald Teplyske