Duane Rutter,
Waiting Room
(Busted Flat, 2007)

On his debut album, veteran Ontario musician and singer-songwriter Duane Rutter offers 10 originals (plus a hidden track), performed in an acoustic folk style that brings to mind a Texan, Guy Clark, and a fellow Ontarian, Gordon Lightfoot. His cracked vocals are like Clark's, his fluid melodies like Lightfoot's.

Well, maybe not melodies. Waiting Room has approximately one melody, a pleasant, finger-picked, mid-tempo one that, if welcome on the first cut, "I Waited for You," begins to try the listener's patience soon enough. (And is it entirely coincidental that Lightfoot once wrote a song titled "Waiting for You"?) The mood, too, doesn't vary much; with one or two exceptions, it's gloomy ruminations on what one presumes to be the Rutter autobiography, particularly as it pertains to -- what else? -- romantic conflicts and entanglements.

On the positive side, his lyrics are well constructed and occasionally striking, as in "Heartless Wheel," perhaps the best song here. "I Believe I'll Take a Walk" is a nice take on the eternal theme of ramblin' down that long lonesome road with one's heart in hand. The hidden track, a pure folk blues (whose title, I infer, is "Kitchen Table Blues"), is the one deviation from The Melody. Why Rudder chose to conceal it, I have no idea.

Let me be clear: no song here is mediocre or embarrassing. It's just that bunched together they sound too much alike. What Rutter needs is a producer who will prod his imagination and encourage him to expand his sound, and maybe get him to take his songs outside into the open air more often. Perhaps Rutter, who is obviously a talented guy, just needs to relax, take a deep breath and look to a farther horizon. Let's see what he does next time out.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Jerome Clark

5 January 2008

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