Justin Rutledge: The Devil on a Bench in Stanley Park
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”.