Shane Simpson,
More Electric
(self-produced, 2002)

Although Ottawa-based singer-songwriter Shane Simpson's latest release is titled More Electric, the opening track certainly doesn't indicate that he's abandoned his acoustic roots. "Nowhere Near" leads off with gentle finger picking on an acoustic guitar that eventually climaxes into a salsa-meets-jazz feel. The second track, "Not On," continues in the singer-songwriter style, but with a bit more emphasis on guitar work than often found in that genre. The vocals showcase a frank voice that's seemingly spent a lot of time flexing its muscles in smoky pubs and clubs over the years.

Overall, none of the songs are all that electric in terms of amplification and electric guitars. Their electricity is more the spark derived from a strong musician at work. The title comes from an instrumental selection of the same name. But even it is relatively mild in terms of wattage; it's not as if Simpson has strayed into heavy-metal territory. What he has done, however, is blend his folk roots with his jazz background to create some electric guitar lines that serve as highlights rather than the main course. The same goes for the electric guitar on "I'd Find My Own Way," with a line in its chorus that made me momentarily think of the Rolling Stones' "Time Waits for No One." He's not out to prove that he can play electric guitar; it has a definite purpose within the songs.

Indeed, all of the songs are well written and arranged so that each one comes out as an individual, organised selection that shows off Simpson and his band. "Strong Passing On" is voice and acoustic guitar in a young Bob Dylan fashion, albeit with a sweeter-sounding voice than Dylan's. Lynne Hanson's backing vocals are so light that I wasn't even sure they were there at first, but they're just what the song needs. Her voice provides the same light support on "Wished It Away," on which Simpson's voice adapts a Bruce Cockburn-like tone.

Right now, Simpson might not be too well known beyond Ottawa's boundaries. However, that error should be amended easily once his music stretched out to other parts of the world.

- Rambles
written by Ellen Rawson
published 7 December 2002