Winnipeg quintet the Western States offer a great album with Bye and Bye. Sean Buchanan, front man and primary songwriter, is backed by a team of musicians who flatter his already-welcoming sound. While Buchanan’s vocal range and style may be somewhat limited and simplistic, every song is approached with the same conviction and sincere emotion, giving him the likeability of Ron Sexsmith. The album opens with “Time to Lose,” a ballad driven by a soft drum beat and the faint cry of the steel guitar.
While Buchanan proves himself a clever lyricist, the predictability of the album’s pacing, tempos and arrangements may leave some listeners unsatisfied. Ballads like “Wichita County” and “Right of Return,” with their finger-picking openers and mirroring melody lines, parallel one another a bit too closely. Fortunately, the Lyle Lovett-esque standout track “Backsliders Wine Pt. 2” offers a nice break from the album’s repetitious tendencies, and the addition of the trumpet adds texture to the album. Even better is the upbeat “Fictional Divide.” Overall, Bye and Bye is a smart combination of the bluegrass, folk and country genres. You may begin to imagine yourself at a summer barbeque when everyone has left except for a few close friends with whom you can just sit back and stare at the stars while this album softly plays in the background.