Reviews:: Kent McAlister & the Iron Choir

Perhaps it’s because I’m all swollen up with Canadian music pride after the Popfest or more likely, it’s because Kent McAlister brings a fantastic twist on roots music, but I am really enjoying his new record, The Way it Rolls.

Despite being only nine songs, McAlister showcases a diverse palette and a mature style. Sure he uses country jangle and Canadiana, but he has a subtle 90’s alternative, slacker route that puts a modern spin on the dusty themes without straying too far from the things that make those styles so timeless. Wow, that was a long sentence.

The opening track - Circumstantial Dues – could have been lifted from my father’s record collection. The emotion filled strings and steel work (courtesy of Tim Tweedale) contrast the guitar work nicely and any doubt about his song writing is erased within a few strums.

McAlister stays with the traditional country vibe on Losing (Always Seems To Find Me), and if you played it at the local line dancing bar, no one would blink an eye until the nice melodic acoustic break down and rollicking, heavy outro. Hopefully Kent and the Iron Choir play in Vancouver soon (December 15th actually) because this is the type of song that takes on a life of its own live.

The band switches gears on the Spanish style horns on Ole Bandolier. The lyrics, banjo and drums would just play like another country song, but adding the horns to the arrangement adds an identity (kind of with the same success as Richmond Fountaine). It’s these types of risks that really make this album special.

The success of the record continues with the fantastic Leonard Cohen cover (which I talked about here) and then slows with the mysterious A Twisted Wire. The swirling strings and echoing guitar notes set a great tone for McAlister’s reflective thoughts. All That You Know sounds like it could be a The Great Outdoors track (Kent’s voice even sounds like Adam Nation’s).

The record ends just as strongly, with The Way it Rolls (which takes on a Minuteman feel), Ballad Of The Jaded Wagoneer (a dusty trail, lo-fi noise epic of an alcoholic falling of the wagon), and It Counts for Something.

This record would be a nice addition for any fan of country fried roots records, but don’t try to force him into the genre. McAlister really tries to think outside the box on this effort. Check out the band’s myspace for dates.
MP3:: The Way it Rolls

web site :: myspace


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