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City And Colour

Every so often there comes a singer-songwriter that oozes class, but there’s not many that come from a hard-rock background – maybe former RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE guitarist TOM MORELLO would be an obvious example. The man in question here is Canadian multi-instrumentalist Dallas Green, formerly of post-millennium, post-hardcore outfit, ALEXISONFIRE, and also a high-octave side-line soloist opting to bill himself under the descriptive, CITY AND COLOUR (named so… Dallas = a city / Green = a colour).
Born September 29, 1980 in St. Catharines, Ontario, Green first grabbed a bit of attention from 2001 onwards as the quieter vocal foil to AOF’s larynx-crusher, George Pettit. Not exactly breaking new ground, Canadians lapped up their blend of screamo rock, while south of the border, the USA picked up on the quintet’s Vagrant Records-financed third album, “Crisis” (2006); the eponymous “Alexisonfire” and “Watch Out!” had been issued in 2002 and 2004 respectively. Whether their US Top 100 set, “Old Crows / Young Cardinals” (2009), will be their swansong, only time will tell. One thing is sure is that it’ll be without Dallas who left early in 2011, although he subsequently reunited with the group for a farewell mini-tour the following December.
Dallas Green’s CITY AND COLOUR, meanwhile, kicked off his acoustic-folk campaign in 2005, when, with time to spare on his hands, he released his debut set, SOMETIMES {*7}; recorded initially for download-only on the net. Self-penned but for one song, `Casey’s Song’ (penned with Casey Baker), the album finally received a Juno Award in 2007, while a release in America came a few years later on Vagrant Records. `Save Your Scissors’ and `Comin’ Home’ were picked as singles for Canadian release, while there was a song named after the Cheers TV show barman, `Sam Malone’.
The tattooed troubadour was quick to fire in a second set, the homely and intimate concert CD/DVD, LIVE (2007) {*6}; basically songs from his debut and a few extras. Boosted by the guest vocals of TRAGICALLY HIP’s Gordon Downie and ¾ of label-mates, ATTACK ON BLACK, sophomore set proper BRING ME YOUR LOVE (2008) {*7} again established the bearded man as one to watch. In the mould of ELLIOTT SMITH or RON SEXSMITH, Green’s delivery was of a melancholy nature, fuelled with emotion which was endearing and self-assured. Of the dozen songs, stand outs were arguably `Sleeping Sickness’, `Waiting…’, `The Death Of Me’, `The Girl’ and `As Much As I Ever Could’.
The recent commercial breakthrough of BRIGHT EYES, IRON & WINE and BON IVER had paved the way for country/folky-styled singer-songwriters, and with the help of producer Alex Newport, third album LITTLE HELL (2011) {*8}, scaled the Canadian charts, while reaching Top 30 status in the States. `We Found Each Other In The Dark’, `Fragile Bird’ and `O’ Sister’, were three tracks to at least give out his sense of foreboding and despair, while the rockier `Weightless’ might well’ve fitted nicely on a JEFF BUCKLEY album.
The pattern and template was set for the Ontario man’s next offering, THE HURRY AND THE HARM (2013) {*8}. Worked on in Nashville’s Blackbird Studio, the rootsy and rustic charmer strummed his way to the top of the charts again, while taking further steps in to the US Top 20 and UK Top 40. From the delicious opening title track to the moribund finale, `Death’s Song’ (with the classy `Harder Than Stone’, `Commentators’ and `Thirst’ in between), Green’s CITY AND COLOUR were perfect late-night listening snuggled up cosily in front of the fireplace.
If Dallas Green was by definition the “City”, then his new rhythm-section team-mates Jack Lawrence (of The RACONTEURS and The DEAD WEATHER) and Doug MacGregor (of The CONSTANTINES) were the added “Colour” when it came to 2015’s IF I SHOULD GO BEFORE YOU {*7}. A chart-topping artist in his own right in his own homeland, Green could been forgiven if he was thought it would be as easy south of the border and across the Atlantic, but respective Top 30 and Top 50 peaks were hardly failures. Critically, his sound identified with a pastoral Americana fused with flashes of soul; bluesy ballads such as `Killing Time’, `Blood’, `Northern Blues’ and the 9-minute opener `Woman’, deserving of FM radio play sometime during the wee small hours.
© MC Strong/MCS Jun2013-Nov2015

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