Label: Self Released
Album: Alone In This Crowd
Tracks : 11
With a long career as the frontman for the iconic country roots band Prairie Oyster, two previous solo albums, and during his ‘Oyster’ years harvesting a crop of awards and enough gold and platinum records to cover a large wall, it is little wonder that on Russell DeCarle’s third solo album he sounds so effortlessly relaxed as his warm vocals wash over the listener. He makes it sound easy.
But it’s the easiness of someone who has walked the long road to perfecting their craft for many years, testing those skills in hundreds of live performances and hundreds of hours in the studio. This results in a superb new album of eight originals and three cover songs. How to describe the musical style of ‘Alone In This Crowd’ is best described on his own website: “It offers a fluent collection of songs that mix southern soul and restrained balladry, with obvious touches of jazz, blues, old-school country, and western swing”.
Fans of these genres will be delighted with this album, and if there is anyone left in Canada who actually hasn’t heard of Russell DeCarle there should be at least one or two songs that will tempt them into the fold. The title track begins with some fine guitar from Steve Briggs, and DeCarle’s distinctive vocals tell a tale of sadness, loss and heartbreak.
Now, how many country hits have had lyrics that reveal that the singer has a wonderful wife, fantastic job, a dog who adores him, a pay rise, and at the weekend his motor mower starts every time? With the lives most in the audience have to live, would that singer get out of the show alive? But the lyric “In my dreams you come running back to me, say ‘Darling how could I be so blind’. I awake to reality, going out of my mind. Sad it’s come to this, tearful goodbyes, a lingering kiss”. Oh boy, a whole bunch of folks in that audience will be right in there with that song as Russell sings.
The second track is a sparkling version of ‘Ruby Ann’, a smash hit for Marty Robbins in 1963. The third track ‘Tanqueray’ is smooth, smoochy and gives the backing band the opportunity to strut their stuff. ‘Lock, Stock and Sorrows’ follows with a beautifully crafted instrumental soundtrack to another sharply lyrical song from DeCarle. The other two cover versions on this album are ‘Rain Just Falls’ by Jimmy Dale Gilmore, and here DeCarle delivers a classic sounding slow country ballad to absolute perfection, and the 1966 hit for Charlie Rich, ‘She’s a YumYum’, which DeCarle really makes his own with a very superior production.
He doesn’t simply catch the essence of each genre he sings, he actually embodies the sound and feel of them. The interestingly titled ‘Uncomplicated Unconditional’ swings along at a bright pace, “We grew up we grew older, Took the world on our shoulders, Fell in love fell out, Never grow old enough to figure that out, Angry words got spoken, So many hearts got broken”.
The whole album is so listenable, with DeClare’s vocals being described as “Rich and resonant” that any listener could be forgiven for humming away to the music in a foot tapping reverie, but careful listening is repaid by some sharply written observations about the life, loss and loves of our sometimes troubled lives. ‘Let the Healing Start (Light in Your Eyes)’ is a happy refrain, “There’s a light in your eyes, Touching my heart, Straight to my soul, Let the healing start. Too much time spent on the downside, Walking alone no place to hide, From the dark cloud I just could not lose, Now I’m stepping out from under in a new pair of shoes”. Yes, DeCarle shares the good times as well!
Alone In This Crowd is a testament to four decades of musical craftsmanship, and an album that should sit very proudly alongside the recordings of many of the stars of country music past and present.