The High Canadians

Empty Chairs: Festivity

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Hailing from New Jersey, not Canada, the High Canadians' polished back-porch country sound grew out of informal jam sessions and open-mic nights, and this relaxed quality of their music is one of its most endearing features. The songs aren't hurried, nor do they meander. Instead, the music takes its time to unfold, and the results are songs that are lush and full. Each note sounds like it was played by a musician in love with his/her respective instrument. The album's crystal clear production and blooming sound allow every note to ring loud and clear. However, the album is almost too clean; a country record should have at least a little bit of grit to attest to the band's bumps, bruises, and broken hearts, but the High Canadians don't really have this. Oddly enough, the laid-back country/folk-rock style of the High Canadians has almost as much in common with groups like Moviola and Brad as with Blues Traveler (as the High Canadians' vocals prove a sometimes uninspired blend of John Popper, Shawn Smith, Tom Waits, and Bruce Springsteen). However, the crisp production and straightforward performances of the High Canadians generally lack the experimental spirit of acts like Moviola and Strapping Fieldhands. The music tends toward mid-tempo jangle, but the instrumentation is full of merry arpeggios and accents that keep things interesting (although the music is sometimes considerably more intricate and attention-grabbing than the vocals, as with "For the Love of Two Years"). While a bit more variety in song structure and pace would have really helped set them apart, nothing the band does could be considered abrasive or offensive, though it does risk being relegated to background music at times. The pensive piano of "Saddle" easily ranks it as the most beautiful song on the record, and is evidence of the brilliance the High Canadians are capable of.