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Friday, December 12, 2008

Reviews:: The Western States Bye and Bye

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When we first started looking for Manitoba bands for the next edition of the Great Canadian Mixtape (yes, we are still working on that), the first place we turned was Winterpeg native and all-around good guy, Ken Beattie. Almost before I had even hit send on my email, he was replying with three simple words… The Western States. Their self-titled record was a treat, albeit one that I missed until it was already collecting dust on CD racks. Thankfully, front man Sean Buchanan sent over an advance copy of the new record – Bye and Bye – and I have a chance to get the word out early and often.

In August, Sean and the band piled into a car and drove to Texas to record the new record, and weary country tunes like Outstanding Balance perfectly fit the exhaustion you feel after days spent in a van. The lazy steel that floats around the room and the subtle ivories that dot the soundscape are beautiful, but certainly accentuate the fatigue that Sean emits with each breath. From even a casual listen, you’d get the impression that Buchanan has been run over; whether by love or life, but despite it all, he still holds onto the slightest glimmer of hope.

The emotion that runs through Bye and Bye is staggering, and I think that is largely because they recorded the songs straight to tape. The imperfections, heartache and energy aren’t hidden or manipulated and as a result, a lot of the songs feel like intimate conversations between friends. The inspiration of the stripped down fiddle/acoustic closer, I’ll Be Free is enough to knock you on your ass, and the misery of Time to Lose is enough to drive you to the bar, but on the flip side of the coin, you want to join in when you hear the bar room sing-along sounds of Backslider’s Wine Pt. 2.

The Western States mix in just enough piano (it explodes in the last two-minutes of Fictional Divide and drives Bide My Time) and organ (that mix with nice female harmonies to fill out Used to the Rain) so they never lose the listener in a bout of self-pity or reflective obsession (although you really start soul searching on tracks likeRight of Return). They control the pace and emotion perfectly, treating the record more like a live set than just a recording and at the end of the day, the nice mix makes it almost impossible to turn Bye and Bye off.

Posted at 11:19 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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