Jim Layeux,
Red Dust
(Stemwall, 2001)

It is really enjoyable to be able to review a fellow Canadian every now and again, and even better when that artist is talented and enjoyable. Layeux has outstanding songwriting ability, and his sincere yet raspy vocals provide the perfect vehicle for these contemporary yet traditional-sounding folk lyrics. In fact, my only complaint with this disc is its brevity. I'd like to know where Layeux has been hiding, for I've not heard of him before this, and this isn't his first release. He is firmly ensconced as a favourite, now!

Layeux is a one-man band -- almost! He's got the vocals, banjo, harmonica and guitars fully covered. Dennis Pendrith adds his skill on bass, while Conrad Steam handles the percussion. Together, these three make a very comfortable and appealing sound as they cover a wide ranging repertoire. We can even find a smattering of blues on this disc, which is always a welcome addition, in my mind.

I was enchanted with the amusing twist of the "Last Successful Heist," as a bank robber manages to stash some cash for the care of his daughter. I'm sure she'd rather have her daddy home than the million he managed to stash, though. The melody is something I'd suspect the Eagles of, to be honest. Light and rhythmic, with some great guitar work.

"Spike" deals with the building of the CP Railroad and the fiasco that was uncovered, and is a rather jaunty and catchy track. It's always nice to get history in the form of music, it is somehow more palatable and memorable. Layeux's delivery of this tale can't be beat!

The bass rhythms of "Night Is Always Young" captured my attention. "They all go out dancing / where night is always young...." The beat is welcome to dancing feet; it almost has a Latin feel to it, as the vocals and melody meld and intertwine in a dance of their own during this track. The guitar is prominent in this piece, and the backing vocals are exquisite. A brief, but rather candid look at what this group can do.

I certainly hope to hear more from Layeux, and am even hoping he might make it over the Rockies for a tour on the coast. However, he seems firmly situated in Ontario and has quite the busy schedule there. If you get the chance to hear him -- take it.

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]
Rambles: 15 February 2002