Doug Paisley – Strong Feelings (No Quarter Records)

Doug Paisley – Strong Feelings (No Quarter Records)

“I turned the radio on twenty five years ago”. And with these words Doug Paisley lights the lyrical flame to his third album, Strong Feelings. In keeping with its two predecessors the record mines those familiar seams of past relationships, lost loves and the intense emotions of yearning and deep regret they can still generate. By way of musical contrast, though, Paisley eschews the earlier simplicity of his acoustic guitar and piano accompaniments for a much fuller, richly textured sound.

Most of the ten songs that comprise Strong Feelings were extensively road tested by Paisley over the two or three years prior to his going into the studio with The Cairo Gang‘s Emmett Kelly on guitar, bassist Bazil Donovan from Blue Rodeo, drummer Gary Craig and keyboardist Robbie Grunwald.  The space, trust and spontaneity afforded to him by these supreme musicians and the further telling contributions from his fellow Canadians Garth Hudson and the mercurial maverick talent that is Mary Margaret O’Hara move this record onto an altogether higher musical plane.

Whilst his cultural reference points are often plotted around singer-songwriters from the early to mid-70s – traces of Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne and even Nick Drake do occasionally float to the surface – and great country stars such as George Jones, John Prine and Don Williams, it is to the music of the past two and half decades and from a time when he had first started playing guitar that Doug Paisley seems inexorably drawn. Opening song ‘Radio Girl’ is grounded by an ageless melody that will run around inside your head for hours after first hearing it; ‘Song My Love Can Sing’ would not have been remotely out of place on Paul Simon’s Graceland, and is further blessed by Garth Hudson’s Hammond evoking wonderful memories of his peerless contributions to those early albums from The Band; and Mary Margaret O’Hara rides harmony pillion on ‘It’s Not Too Late (To Say Goodbye)’, the vulnerability of her voice a perfect counterpoint to Paisley’s lonesome croon in much the same way that the latter-day Nancy Sinatra fully complemented an ageing Lee Hazlewood.

The album’s stand-out song ‘Where The Light Takes You’ is a mature, distinguished piece of writing that takes the listener far beyond any of the folk, roots and country preconceptions they may have had about Doug Paisley and his music. Immersed as it is in deep humility, honesty and quiet understatement, it captures the essence of the man and the record from which it is taken. It may not yet be the second week in January but in Strong Feelings there is already an equally strong contender for all of those best album of the year polls.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Strong Feelings is released in the UK on 20th January 2014 through No Quarter Records

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