Bruce Guthro,
(EMI, 2001)

The long-awaited follow-up to Cape Breton singer-songwriter Bruce Guthro's critically acclaimed debut Of Your Son is finally here. Three long years later, Guthro presents the world with another collection of masterfully crafted songs.

Guthro is one of the most skilled songwriters to come out of Canada in recent years. He has won six East Coast Music Awards, three Canadian Radio Music Awards and a Canadian Country Music Award. The songs on this record show a progression in his songwriting that is due to more than just the passage of time. It seems that the experience he has gained and the life he has lived since his debut have given a new depth to his songwriting. He seems to have found his ideal expression in these twelve songs.

There are rockers and country blues kickin' tunes, woven expertly with Guthro's trademark aching love songs. The record starts out on the right note with the quirky rock song "Hopeless," about heartbreak in which the anguish is palpable. Also included is "Don't Go," a lyrical follow-up to the heartbreaking story "Falling" from Of Your Son. He almost whispers the words of a son to his father, pleading with him not to leave now that they've finally come back together. I'm a sucker for really well-written, believable story-songs; Guthro has a rare talent for spinning those tales and making it look easy. He does so again with "Factory Line," a country-rock ode to the perseverence of love which he performed acoustic on "Songwriter's Circle" (which he also hosted) on CBC this spring.

Notable on this record is the impressive list of supporting musicians who join Guthro -- the list is too long to quote here; it takes up half a page in the liner notes. The musicians use strings, saxophone, trombone, organ, guitars and various different percussion sounds to fill out the tracks. In Guthro's case, the songs would sound as good with just an acoustic guitar and his voice as they do with a full line of supporting instruments. The arrangements are wonderfully diverse, adding depth to the lyrics and vocals.

Speaking of vocals, Guthro's voice has matured in the three years since Of Your Son; he seems much more confident in manipulating it to throw out emotion through the speakers. "Hey Mister" is a snarling, angry tirade against our tendency to look down on teenagers as troublemakers. "Dig in Deep" is the story of a young girl looking for herself -- Guthro growls most of the lyrics. "Wonderful Night" is what it sounds like, a fun song, celebrating life. The record changes tempo, slowing down again for "The Songsmith," a unique glimpse into the mind and life of a songwriter; one of my favourite things about singer-songwriters is that they tend to write songs about what it's like to be singer-songwriters, giving us a look at the creative process.

This record is well worth the long wait for fans of Guthro's music. It also has much more of a focus than Of Your Son, which bodes well for its chances on country and pop radio, as well as with a new crop of fans who didn't hear the first record. I'm sure we'll be seeing Guthro prominently featured on the East Coast Music Awards in February -- he deserves it for the creative accomplishment of Guthro.

[ by Rachel Jagt ]
Rambles: 22 September 2001

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