Renegade is being true to its name.
It’s going against the grain, existing in a time of its own. It probably wasn’t intentional. The six song record isn’t hip hop, pop or even modern rock, but mostly rock-based ballads. If it has to be slotted anywhere, it might be from the 70s mainstream. Not corporate or faceless but certainly not distinctive.
It’s more the sound of musicians doing what comes naturally without heeding trends. There is something brave and wilful about that. Long I’ve felt that the music industry’s tendency to follow trends, whatever the cost, is unjust. It has moved on from city to city – from Seattle to Montreal – and style to style from roots to grunge to hip hop without asking the potential listener who suddenly is left wondering, “Huh?”
That implies there is an audience for Renegade that isn’t being served and wants this music. All Renegade has to do is find it, which should be easier thanks to social media and streaming.
Producer and songwriter Jim Bukshon tellingly has titled the record, The Story Of My Life and there is a personal element to It Wasn’t Meant To Be, Window Shopping or the title track. Singer Marty Sippola is straightahead, singing without 70s-rooted histrionics, while there is a detectable blues-rock influence in Geraldo Dominelli’s guitar playing. All of it is pleasant and satisfying but not outstanding. Renegade hasn’t written its hit yet, but if it builds an audience with this, it won’t matter.
Scott Perry was with Orchid Highway, later with Top Drawers and more recently played with Stephen Drake, all talented but, in their way, difficult. So it’s not surprising they blew up without realizing potential.
It also might explain why Perry’s Songs Of Serenity is a more modest offering. A quartet, his band takes an unfussy approach that underlines an album that mostly is folk and country, soft-rock possibly but light. This suits a record that is honest, beguilingly so, as it nakedly explores feelings in Serenity, alludes to family history or elicits a contentment. Its one topical song, a slight risk called Gunsun, is an antiwar chant whose last line ends the song on an optimistic note. Indeed, the sun will rise.
Perry’s voice sounds untutored and vulnerable, which underlines the personal quality of Songs Of Serenity and its twang. It’s human and in that humanity is virtue.
Doug Andrew also is a distinctive singer but on Outside America he tries on several voices, like an actor,according to character from the plaintive storyteller of lead off track, The Baptist, to the rheumy codger who has seen it all on The Magic Kiss. He’s taking chances, too, holding notes or wailing convincingly. Andrew is the central figure but the band is Circus In Flames, four guys who give Andrew’s songs sympathetic arrangements from the blowsy Come Out Marissa to country-folk of Closer To Montgomery. In this, Brian Barr, who had a hand in arranging and producing, particularly stands out. Andrew’s songs are thoughtful and poetic, sort of like the late, great Gene Clark.
He’s one of Vancouver’s best writers but overlooked partly because The Circus In Flames doesn’t follow a smooth career path. It seems to go in spurts of activity followed by periods of quiet. The band’s records are consistently good , though, and Outside America stands as one of the best.