Top 5 recording artists: #3 City and Colour

In a drastic shift from the hip-hop stylings of Madvillain and the chirpy alt-country brilliance of Limbeck, my number 3 favourite recording artist is City and Colour, a.k.a Dallas Green.

The heavily-tattooed man himself.

The heavily-tattooed man himself.

Dallas is pretty well-known for his work with metal band Alexisonfire, who combine him with lead vocalist/screamy bloke George Pettit to great effect – Green’s piercing tenor cuts offers a stark contrast with Pettit’s throaty shouts and songs like ‘Boiled Frogs’ and ‘This Could be Anywhere in the World’ have found great success due to this.

But if you were to listen to a City and Colour CD after Alexisonfire, you could not fail to notice the gulf of difference between the two. Alexis’ new record Old Crows/Young Cardinals, reviewed nicely here, and CaC’s latest, 2008’s Bring Me Your Love are starkly different, the former laying on the rock thick, whilst the latter is an exercise in acoustic delicacy, a million miles from the band Green is a member of.

Thus far, City and Colour has two releases to its name, 2005’s debut Sometimes and the aforementioned 2008 followup. Although these albums themselves contrast, Green’s sound is constant and offers a wonderful reservation not often found in solo acoustic projects. Far from slapping on the finger-picking intricacy thick and fast, Green chooses simple chords and a simple sound to act as backing for his astonishing voice. Rarely accompanied by anything outside of a single acoustic guitar, songs like ‘What Makes a Man?’ (BMYL) and ‘Comin’ Home’ (Sometimes) ring true as their lyrics aren’t overshadowed by the complex fretwork that say, a John Mayer acoustic song might.

Sometimes is a grower of an album, one more noticeably angsty and perhaps harsher on the ear, whilst Bring Me Your Love (possibly my favourite album of ’08) is a more reserved affair, full of dreamlike yet morbid lyrics: “And don’t you bury me six feet underground, just burn my body in a box” (‘Body in a Box’). Green’s vocals can be all at once powerful, delicate and purposeful, driving home painful messages about his personal trials or the ‘Confessions’ of the first track on BMYL. Far from moping around in his own self-pity, Dallas makes his pessimistic lyrics somehow triumphant (“so here’s to living life miserable”) and emphatic, eschewing the possibility of sounding ‘sad’ the entire time. His songs on both albums are crafted beautifully, rarely misplacing a hook or dragging on too long – his longest track to date, ‘As Much as I Ever Could’ is perhaps his best and rounds out his second album with an almost incantatory bang.

Green himself is an odd figure who until recently resided in the small town of St. Catherine’s in Ontario, Canada and seemed to constantly be immersed in music. When he released Sometimes in 2005, it was directly after a nationwide tour with Alexisonfire, and he once said that he just “needed to get these songs out of his system” because they were all he could think about. Someone writing their own songs whilst on a tour with another band? Pretty impressive, especially given the quality of music that Green has managed to create.

Dallas live in action (and probably in stereo).

Dallas live in action (and probably in stereo).

City and Colour are one of a number of metal-band-member-goes-solo-acoustic-side-project artists (Thrice’s Dustin Kensrue has released 2 solo albums to date and Slipknot’s Cory Taylor also fronts Stone Sour), but in my mind Green is streets ahead of his compatriots. His lyrics are among the best on any album not made by someone called Adams (tune in tomorrow) in the last few years, and his guitar work is effective in its simplicity and melody. Quite recently I acquired two bonus tracks from the deluxe Bring Me Your Love album which weren’t deemed good enough to make the final record. These two songs (entitled ‘Faithless’ and ‘I Don’t Need to Know’) would waltz onto any other album, but it’s a testament to Green’s songwriting skill that they’ve been kept off this brilliant record. Sometimes offers a transition from the heavier Alexis into Green’s true acoustic colours, which BMYL fully embraces. Both records offer something different but the quality does not waver, and Green’s following only continues to increase as he releases quality track upon quality track. Undoubtedly, there is more to come from this gifted young (he’s still only 28) vocalist/guitarist/songwriter, and I for one look forward to each and every song or album he releases.

I’ll leave you with a video of a performance of ‘What Makes a Man’ that Green did live for The Myspace Transmissions. It’s a beautiful rendition of a great song, made to sound so full with just one guitar and one man. Brilliant stuff.

Sickest tracks: ‘Comin’ Home’ and ‘Save Your Scissors’ from Sometimes, ‘As Much As I Ever Could’, ‘What Makes a Man’ and ‘Sleeping Sickness’ from Bring Me Your Love.

If you like this, you’ll also like: Dustin Kensrue –Please Come Home, Owen – At Home With Owen and Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago.

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One thought on “Top 5 recording artists: #3 City and Colour

  1. Pingback: Top albums of the ’00s: 5-1 « Odessa & Tucson

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