Gordon Downie / Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles

The Grand Bounce

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The Grand Bounce is essentially a mainstream rock record with a novelty factor of, say, Counting Crows' debut, but Gord Downie manages to make it a convincing listen that, while not exactly Rock and Roll Hall of Fame material, is a nice fit for any music collection where unpretentious but not primitive music is valued. Downie and his crew get by on a standard rock setup -- a live rhythm section that has skills but is never flashy; plenty of clean guitars and a smattering of very moderately distorted ones; everyman vocals that have a tinge of roar to them in a couple of places, but never explore that enough; and some piano for slower tracks, just to drive the point home. It stands to reason that the music is a mix of heartland rock from the Boss to Tom Petty, R.E.M.'s coyly straightforward college rock, and a whiff of Hüsker Dü (probably the one not entirely predicable ingredient here), country, and Dylanesque folk sped up by half and infused with a good dose of rock swagger. Making music from these influences is one of the easiest things a dude with a guitar can do, but making it interesting is a different story. Luckily, Downie is up to the challenge, just because he is interested in writing songs with good hooks and honest emotion -- not preaching, doling out precious opinions on past girlfriends and current world affairs, or boosting his ego. This restraint may cap The Grand Bounce's drama value, but if it also helps to produce a catchy record with next to no filler tracks, it's a good bargain.

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