Alun Piggins,
(Moldy Floor Records, 1999)

A regular on the Toronto bar scene for years, Alun Piggins has finally released his first solo record. It is an interesting set of songs; he has an understated, dry sense of wit with a combination of classic folk and modern rock influences. It is "balladesque" -- it straddles folk and rock comfortably. One guarantee is that you won't be bored while this disc is playing.

The opening track, "Heading Out West," is a pilgrimage song with a catchy rhythm that makes me think of what would happen if Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo ran into Counting Crows' Adam Duritz and wrote a song. The harmonica in this song appears throughout the record, adding that little hint of folk to the mix. Notably, Piggins plays almost every instrument on the record -- the only exceptions are the drums, handled ably by Michelle Josef, Justin Perof and Mike Munro, a cameo by Blue Rodeo keyboard wizard James Gray on "Navigate by Stars," cello and hand drum on "Rainstorm" by Don Kerr, piano on "Fire in the Window" by John Francom and assorted percussion by Mark Kesper. Fellow Toronto artist Oh Susanna helps Piggins out with harmony vocals on "Fire in the Window," "Catatonic Heart" and "Rainstorm."

If I had to pick a favourite track, it would be "Fire in the Window," mostly because of lyrics like "dancing to songs you hate ... you know every bridge will burn before you reach it." It's one of those "fire in your soul" kind of songs. Other highlights include the stripped down "Cocoon," about isolation in a big city, the bluegrass-influenced "Catatonic Heart," and "Eclipsing," a strident love song destined for radio.

There is a lot of variety on this record, which was recorded primarily in the moldy-floored basement of Piggins' Toronto home. It took some time for the songs to really make an impression on me, which always means that they won't grow ordinary quickly either.

[ by Rachel Jagt ]