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Justin Rutledge

The Devil on a Bench in Stanley Park

(Six Shooter; US: 2 Oct 2006; UK: Available as import)

With help from some of the finer Canadian roots rock/alt. country artists behind him (members of Blue Rodeo and Oh Susanna), Justin Rutledge seems best when he lets things evolve. Strong songwriting, a great voice and arrangements that scream Americana make numbers like “Robin’s Tune” glide so gracefully. Think of, well, Blue Rodeo, Oh Susanna and Kathleen Edwards and you would get the gist of this record. Just as laidback is the fine “I’m Your Man, You’re My Radio”, which is in no hurry, just riding a fine groove from top to bottom. The same can be said for the pretty “Emily Returns”, a track that could fit on any Blue Rodeo album. Rutledge rarely alters his approach, resulting in a consistent, but rather unadventurous album. And that sometimes can be a great thing judging by an almost hymnal “Does It Make You Rain?”, and the lovely, Ryan Adams-esque “Come Summertime”, with its pedal steel and piano touches. Some songs stretch into six minutes and change, including the darker “The Suffering of Pepe O’Malley (pt. IV), a slow, mysterious number that brings Calexico to mind as it concludes. Although the album feels like it’s basically one song done with slight variations, Rutledge has made an extremely impressive record with another highlight being, “I Am With Her Where the Avalanche Begins”.

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Originally from Cape Breton, MacNeil is currently writing for the Toronto Sun as well as other publications, including All Music Guide, Billboard.com, NME.com, Country Standard Time, Skope Magazine, Chart Magazine, Glide, Ft. Myers Magazine and Celtic Heritage. A graduate of the University of King's College, MacNeil currently resides in Toronto. He has interviewed hundreds of acts ranging from Metallica and AC/DC to Daniel Lanois and Smokey Robinson. MacNeil (modestly referred to as King J to friends), a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan, has seen the Rolling Stones in a club setting, thereby knowing he will rest in peace at some point down the road. Oh, and he writes for PopMatters.com.


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By David Berry
17 Feb 2009
Rutledge's strengths are evident, but he's reaching the point in his development where he needs to start synthesizing them into something more ambitious.
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