Toronto resident and sometime Broken Social Scene member Jason Collett is definitely a song man. With a couple of the songs on his seventh album, Song and Dance Man, he’s a dance man as well. These songs, the first two on the album, are steeped in mellow funk and bass groove, with “Provincial Blues” adding in some soul-style backing vocals as well. The other, the title song, kicks the energy up a notch with an insanely catchy, but simple sounding, jangly guitar riff.
From thereon in, though, the funk is gradually left behind as the songs ease into a dependable mid-tempo, acoustic-based pattern, hook-filled and with plenty of sing-a-long choruses (or whistle-a-long as in the case of “Forever Young Is Getting Old”). In short, a versatile assemblage of roots and country-influenced singer/songwriter pop, with splashes of ‘70s AM soul.
There’s no filler on Song and Dance Man; each song bears repeated plays and throws enough curveballs and snappy lines to keep things interesting. On that title song, for example, a sardonic commentary on technology and popularity in today’s music industry, Collett sings “If you can tweet something brilliant / You got a marketing plan” and “Now that the future has swallowed the past / It’s one step forward and two steps back.”
Collett isn’t shy about crediting his influences either, as he proclaims “we all want to sing in American” in the aptly titled “Singing American”. This extends to the country textures and pedal steel guitar in “Long Day’s Shadow”, and the bouncy roots-rock of “Love You Babe”, which wouldn’t be out place on a Traveling Wilburys’ album. He extends things a bit further south (of the border) in the Mexican-flavored “If She Don’t Love Me Now”.
If there is any weakness with the album, it comes down to the singing. Collett’s laconic vocals, drawing out his vowels and consonants in a suave and smooth-tongued manner, coming across like a more self-conscious Josh Rouse, can seem affected in places. This is most pronounced in those two lead-off, funkier tracks. Granted, it fits more in that style, but whether he manages to pull it off is debatable.
Song and Dance Man is in many ways a taking stock album, a mature album, from “Forever Young Is Getting Old”, to the nostalgia of “Black Oak Savanna”, and to the calm acceptance of “Staring at the Sun”. Though he’s been writing strong material throughout his career, this batch of songs, from an older and more seasoned Jason Collett, show that he’s only getting better.