It’s easy to overlook the fact that most of the people banging out lo-fi nuggets or power punk gems can barely play their instruments. Thankfully, we live in a world where the uber-talented Colin Stetson is getting credit for challenging the traditional arrangements associated with his instrument, The Creaking Tree String Quartet can get nominated for Junos and big risks are acknowledged and celebrated.
The instrumental collages TCTSQ deliver offer more emotion than most lyricists, constantly prove their technical ability is off the charts, but it’s how these seasoned TO players forge jazz, bluegrass, bebop, folk and traditional sounds into their own sound that makes the record so impressive. Much like their previous releases, Sundogs showcases astounding diversity; whether it’s cinematic soundtrack ready numbers (“Ours Truly” and the dreamy “3 – 4 In The Morning”), airy picking of “Kicking Up Dust” or the violin/fiddle heavy groove (yes, you read that right) of “Last Payphone In Parkdale”, the quartet and their featured guests fearlessly dismiss your expectations and assumptions.
It’s easy to imagine “Jazz Hands” taking shape at an afternoon jam session at The Rex, but almost impossible to think the same band that wrote that song could bring “Big Stache” or “Zero Zero” to the table. Music reviewers always talk about bands that “meld styles” when really it’s just different hues of the same color. The Creaking Tree String Quartet draws you in win rootsy instrumentals, but their sonic explorations into jazz and the avant garde take you to unexpected places on almost every song.