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My Walking Stick [Digipak]
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  • Like fellow countryman Colin Linden and the Band (whose "Ophelia" he covers here), Byrnes assimilates a variety of Americana influences, filters them through his grizzled, often spiritually based viewpoint, and delivers a wonderfully diverse disc, surely the equal of, and arguably better than, his 2007 Juno award-winning Album of the Year HOUSE OF REFUGE. There are a few originals, but the majority of MY WALKING STICK is comprised of wildly eclectic covers from dissimilar sources such as Irving Berlin, the Valentinos, Ray Charles, Conway Twitty, and Mel Tillis. Despite the varied material nabbed from different decades, the album coheres due to Byrnes' and producer Steve Dawson's infallible sense of direction, and a rustic, sonic landscape that keeps the sound rootsy yet not musty. Double bassist Keith Lowe and Tom Waits' drummer Stephen Hodges create the shadowy pocket, while Byrnes' powerful salt-and-pepper vocals and Dawson's firm grip on guitars and especially arrangements take the dusky spotlight. Much of this is blues based and the songs are bound by a lyrical thread of working-class folks searching for love and salvation while refusing to be deterred by life's roadblocks. It's a consistently engaging hour-long set that, like any formidable work, demands repeated listens to expose its deeper layers.
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