Dylan Rysstad, formerly performing as Dylan Thomas with various backing bands, is back with another folk-influenced album of very well-crafted songs. Having left the glorious life of Vancouver rock ‘n’ roll (The Badamps, The Jolts, the Neo-Nasties) to move to Prince Rupert (where he spent his childhood), the leather seems to have been permanently discarded in favour of the plaid. I’m not saying that is a bad thing; in fact, this is some of Rysstad’s strongest writing. From the mostly acoustic songs to those that tastefully use arrangements of a full band, the consistent songwriting and lyricism are the stars of this record. Lyrics are crucial, but never moreso than when you turn your Marshall stack off and expose them, naked and raw, to your audience. That’s why lines like, “Sometimes we lie in silence, sometimes with words” (“Sparks & Gasoline”) or the playful story of a banker named Shirley (Yes, he uses the Shirley/surely double entendre, and yes, he pulls it off) are so important. In “Shirley,” the lines “But I never did hold a gun to her head / Like all those other men she knew,” are a perfect example. Remember… she’s a banker.
Great playing, including some really good slide guitar and fiddle parts tastefully employed throughout the record, and a few duets with singer Mercedes Taylor, keep the album interesting and ear-catching. In fact, I would say every song is strong, although I personally find the album too long. Clocking in at almost six minutes, the Neil Young-esque “Matador on Acid” might be better served released elsewhere. It’s a great song, but it almost seems like it belongs on another record. Another shorter record. Overall, though, thumbs up.