Winnipeg’s Grant Davidson, who records as Slow Leaves, has a style of music that could be called country-folk. His latest,Beauty Is So Common, could be cynically dubbed “dad rock”, as it fits well within the early ‘70s country-rock movement of acts that made their way to California, if only it weren’t as good as it is. The album was co-produced by Davidson and Rusty Matyas (Imaginary Cities, the Weakerthans), and, with the exception of bass on one track, both men played all the instruments. A couple cuts, “Second Chances” and “Life of a Better Man”, already appeared on a three-song EP that was released in 2013, but don’t let that deter you. This is evocative music, and the album works as a whole. Some of this material echoes latter-day Iron and Wine, but leaning a bit more heavily on the country and rock sides of the fence. (Not to mention that Beauty Is So Common is much stronger than the last couple of releases from Sam Beam.)
The album begins with the gently plucked “Everybody Wants to Be in Love”, which gradually becomes a rootsy number complete with pianos, horns and rolling drums. “Life of a Better Man” has a very ‘70s glam rock strut to it, with fuzzed out guitar and a jumpy piano serving as an anchor. “Second Chances”, meanwhile, is the record’s most obvert nod to the ‘70s country-rock sound; it could easily be a track by the Eagles, kind of. “Neighborhood Watch” is a bluesy swing, with a sharp guitar piecing through. “Rearview” could pass for a Neil Young tune, with its acoustic guitar and harmonica playing. So, Beauty Is So Common is a strong record that offers so much variety, and that’s what keeps things from getting stale. There’s also energy to these songs, even the laid-back numbers, which is also a key strength. Basically, Slow Leaves is an outfit that has brought forth an excellent LP, and country-folk-rock fans will clutch this close to their chests. Beauty Is So Common is beautiful and not altogether common, and it’s quite startling.