The Sympathy

Unfinished Sympathy

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A twangier, more relaxed effort than his previous outing (Sympathy's Long Way Down), Scott B. Sympathy's fourth album, Unfinished Sympathy, still manages to exude an undercurrent of fiery rock passion that's all the more potent for its control and precision. While this record may not have the ragged-but-immediate sonic impact of some of Scott B. Sympathy's previous work, the low-key playing here is top-notch, and the folk-rock hooks sink in deeply after a few spins. This time out, Scott's excellent backing band features a selection of Canadian folk and alt-country all-stars (including Blue Rodeo's Bazil Donovan, fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, vocalist Oh Susanna, and producer/multi-instrumentalist David Baxter), but the focus on Unfinished Sympathy is more on Scott's voice and lyrics, thereby playing into two of Scott's more underappreciated strengths. Lyrically, Scott spins his usual quiet, closely observed studies of downhearted ne'er-do-wells and barely hopeful misanthropes, from a "drunk with a story to tell" in "Under the Line" to an agonized friend of a rape victim who wonders "What Went Wrong?" And once again, Scott's writing and singing somehow contrives to balance both heartbreak and optimism, without ever selling out the characters he sings about. All in all, then, Unfinished Sympathy is yet another small, brilliant gem from the ever-reliable Scott B., and it's an album that is perhaps his most mature release yet. It's also, incidentally, an album that doesn't sound in the least "unfinished."

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