Album Review

Guthries - Self-Titled

Guthries - self-titled

You can't blame a band for trying to expand its range. The Guthries' 2000 debut Off Windmill positioned the Halifax group squarely in the alt-country milieu, with comparisons to The Band and the Byrds showing up in the international press. Apparently the versatile multi-instrumentalists were not settled with that. Their vaguely adventurous second album is not an entirely satisfying experience, which may be why songwriter Matt Mays split before it was completed. At their best, the Guthries put across a playfully ragged, happily infectious vibe that lets you know they're doing this just for fun. The most memorable, and listenable, numbers are those by singer-songwriter Dale Murray. His tunes, such as "Terrible Things" and "On Our Way", tend toward bright, catchy melodies that bounce on banjos and joy. Gabe Minnikin provides comic relief with his campy baritone and whimsical spirit (the drinking song "The Ballad Of Buck Steel", the swinging honky-tonk of "Willin' And Able"). Ruth Minnikin, who provides harmonies and lead vocals on other songs, sings a couple of numbers that stop the disc cold: the dirges "Leave Me In Montgomery" and "Be Careful Love" only serve to show the band's weaknesses (off-key deliveries, guitar clams). She redeems herself with "I Will Forget", which plays to the ensemble's strengths. Exploring range is fine, but the Guthries would do well to keep within theirs.