Album: Jim Bryson

The Occasionals, Square Dog
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The Independent Culture

Everyone knows that Canadians make the best roots-rockers, and Ottawan native Jim Bryson and his band The Occasionals are no exception. Bryson's voice has the slightly road-ravaged, careworn tone we demand from our country-rockers, and though his melodies aren't quite as instant as those of, say, Ryan Adams, they're not without their own subtle charms, worming their way into one's affections over several listens. His lyrics, meanwhile, self-deprecatingly depict Bryson as something of a schlemiel, "not necessarily very smart", and especially clumsy when it comes to romance. "I'm not very clever with the matters of the heart/Guys like me, we don't get too far," he claims in "26 Miles By Car", though one suspects that, being smart enough to come up with a couplet as charged as "My tired mouth is wired open/It's better that it's left unspoken" ("Lately"), he's probably fibbing about his prowess as lover, too. His band brings depth and character to his songs; the interplay between his and Ian Lefeuve's guitars and the pedal steel of Tom Thompson propelling them in several different directions. The punky arpeggios and downbeat vocals of "February" resemble early REM, while elsewhere the guitar work has the spiky, troubling quality of Richard Thompson, or Steve Fellows of the late and underrated Comsat Angels; and by the time "26 Miles By Car" draws to a close, it's on the verge of turning into Neil Young's "Cowgirl In The Sand". The most dramatic transformation, however, has to be on "Impaler", a tough rocker reminiscent of The Pixies.

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