Stephen Fearing

Yellowjacket

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Two decades into a solid but low-key career, rootsy Canadian folk-rocker Stephen Fearing is as unfashionable as ever, and it seems he wouldn't have it any other way. Yellowjacket is Fearing's eighth solo album, and a return to stripped-down self-production after a slow and gradual creep toward a more polished AAA-radio sound. Crisp and uncluttered, the sound of Yellowjacket recalls that of a classic Richard Thompson album minus the guitar heroics. Similarly, Fearing's songs are unpretentious and charming even when covering such well-worn topics as the siren song of the road (the title track, which seems to be referring to truckstop speed even though the song itself never rises above a sedate amble, and the barroom rock of "One Flat Tire") and the pitfalls of parenthood (the slightly soppy "Love Only Knows"). As comfortable as a favorite old sweater, Yellowjacket is geared almost exclusively for Fearing's small but dependable fan base; there's no attempt to reach out into the larger pop marketplace, and none is required.

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