Continuing a history of fairly frequent lineup changes since its inception in 2005, Alberta Cross, down to only co-founder/singer/songwriter/guitarist Petter Eriksson Stakee after the departure of co-founder Terry Wolfers, presents a perhaps unexpectedly uplifting set for its self-titled, third full-length. With Stakee joined by a crew of as-yet-unofficial bandmates, it's also the band's first release with Dine Alone Records. There's little sign of frustration on the finished product, even if there was any at its birth; Alberta Cross is a lively and breezy release with less of the '90s alt-rock weight of prior albums and at least as much melodicism. It eases the listener in with the delicate, acoustic bulletin "You'll Be Fine" before settling into full-band mode, and that band is more ambitious than ever. The gently sauntering "East Street" adds brass and melodic percussion to more expected instrumentation for a richly textured ballad ("I can't afford your love/Haven't warned you down on Easy Street'), and organ and orotund backing harmonies join Stakee's scraggly, slide guitar-friendly vocals on "Western State." Strings appear on multiple tracks, including the wistful, soaring "Water Mountain" and the artful, Noel Gallagher-esque "Beneath My Love." Even with the more broad-ranging accompaniment, though, arrangements are lucid, and the songs shine through the production. Stakee's delivery was always the most defining characteristic of the Alberta Cross and, underscored by the sole figure pictured on the album's cover, this more singer/songwriter-type of alt country-rock suits him well. While fans may have to make a slight adjustment to their expectations, it's a minor one, and most will likely find the results refreshing.
(CD - Dine Alone #601149)
Review by Marcy Donelson