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New Music: The Rural Alberta Advantage

By Andy Williams, October 2 2014 —

The Rural Alberta Advantage is a three-piece Toronto-based band with a reputation for wistful and compelling folk songs drawn from lead singer Nils Edenloff’s upbringing in rural Alberta. Previous efforts weave Edenloff’s tenor with Paul Banwatt’s remarkable, driving percussion, supplemented by multi-instrumentalist Amy Cole, who plays the keyboard and provides backing vocals.

Mended With Gold departs  from the group’s sparse but insistent production as they wrestle with themes of love and loss.

The songs are more complex, but lack the rawness and simplicity that defined early efforts. Previous songs relied on strong storytelling, infectious energy and rough-around-the-edges charm. But on Mended, the group embraces a fuller sound that just doesn’t fit.

That’s not to say it’s all bad. With “On the Rocks,” Edenloff’s vocals are bolstered by Cole’s back-up singing and Banwatt’s immensely talented drumming.

The same can be said about “Vulcan, AB,” another high point. The songs sound new but capture the intention and intensity of earlier work. They feel both novel and familiar at the same time, and are a definite step forward for the band.

Ultimately, the Rural Alberta Advantage are at a crossroads. Their attempts to flesh out the direction of earlier work with more intricacy fall short. But when they step outside their comfort zone, they uncover a new way to deliver the storytelling and lyricism they’re known for, and it works well.

Overall, it’s not a bad record — it’s just not great.


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