Peter Verity,
High Flyer
(Plastic Bag, 2001)

When I listened to Peter Verity's album High Flyer I sometimes had the feeling I was caught in a time-warp. But it was a pleasant one, thanks to Verity's engaging voice and clear talent for writing a catchy song.

The title track is as catchy as they come. I immediately took to this song, humming to it to myself for the rest of the day. I liked it even though I found the production and arrangement pretty predictable, and even though the lyrics didn't say anything new. ("Ooh baby, I'm a high flyer, don't know much but I know I've got a wandering soul/ooh baby, I'm a freight train rider, I got to go when I hear the call of the road.")

Verity, an experienced Toronto singer-songwriter, reminds me quite a bit of '70s country-rock artists like the Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, even early Doobie Brothers. I wonder if he was influenced by those folks ... but then, who wasn't? Clearly an admirer of the classic song, Verity can himself write radio-length material with commercial sounding choruses. "High Flyer" is one of several strong songs on the album including "Aftermath," "So Long Gone" (featuring beautiful vocal harmonies) and "Not a Thing" (which has a slightly rockier edge).

The melodies are for the most part upbeat and optimistic. The ballads are less successful in my opinion, coming across as quite conservative in a straight country style. The lyrics stay comfortably within the genre, with heartfelt songs of love at various stages. The arrangements are effective (if conservative) and supported by strong musicians including John Shand (bass and electric guitars), Michelle Josef (drums) and Peter Nunn (keyboards). Moxy Fruvous alumnus Mike Ford provides background vocals on "High Flyer." Verity plays acoustic guitars (6 and 12-string), electric guitar and mandolin (very nice) on "Black Mountain." Jamie Snider adds fiddle to that tune, too.

On one level, it all works. But on the other hand, I found myself wishing for more originality and risk-taking in the songwriting, performance and production. It all sounds a bit "safe," as though we've heard it before. There are several options for shaking things up, depending on which direction Verity wants to go. He could opt for a more contemporary sound (which might not be comfortable and might alienate his audience) or better yet, take more risks with the songwriting and the performance. With songwriting chops like his, he's unlikely to go far wrong.

- Rambles
written by Joy McKay
published 22 February 2003