John Guliak

The Black Monk

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    5
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John Guliak is the owner of both the kind of dust-caked, cracked-leather voice a generation of alt-country upstarts would kill for and the kind of impeccable musical taste that engenders covers of classics vintage ("Streets of Baltimore") and modern (Uncle Tupelo's "Still Be Around") alike. So why isn't The Black Monk more memorable? Tough to say: the songs, singer, and backing band (including Vancouver luminaries like Carolyn Mark and guitarist/producer Tolan McNeil) are all there, but somehow the end product never catches fire -- the record is so laid-back and lived-in that it suggests nothing so much as a group of friends singing songs around a campfire, which is all well and good assuming someone's handing you a s'more. Listening at home, however, is a different story altogether.

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