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Jim Guthrie - Now, More Than Ever

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Artist: Jim Guthrie

Album: Now, More Than Ever

Label: Three Gut

Review date: Aug. 2, 2004

With his third solo album, Three Gut Records namesake and Royal City guitarist Jim Guthrie has crafted a pleasantly lush album that may be his finest work yet, if not the best record on Three Gut so far. Putting his Playstation back on the shelf (he used it to record most of the music for his previous two albums), Guthrie has opted this time for a full-band sound to compliment his catchy, upbeat pop-folk tunes. Banjos, flutes, clarinets, and ukuleles all grace the album’s sunny landscape. Guthrie does not rely too heavily on a sense of Americana, thankfully, and instead Now, More Than Ever sounds like its own record – one hard to pin down in regards to style or era.

The well-balanced use of strings, provided by the Hidden Camera’s Owen Pallett (Violin) and Mike Olsen (Cello), is the album’s ace in the hole. Adding a dramatic flare without resorting to, as so many string-laden pop albums do, an over-the-top, Disney-esque grandeur, the strings offer a fluid counterpoint to the bouncing drums, skipping guitar and banjo finger-picking, complicating the seemingly simple folk melodies to grand effect. Guthrie’s vocals, which may seem a bit lackluster at first, eventually come to complement this tender balance by hovering somewhere between melancholic and blissful.

Standout tracks, like the album opening “The Problem With Solutions” and “Time is a Force,” show why Guthrie is in fact a better lyricist than his Royal City partner Aaron Ritchies. Guthrie’s detached yet oddly personal observations on identity and mortality are effective in their modesty; pseudo-wisdom on “The Problem”: “Sometimes words just sound like noise / other times noise makes the prettiest sound” is followed by “That’s the silliest thing I’ve heard”. Both Guthrie’s lyrics and melodies seem to be searching for beauty in simplicity, and thus contain measured amounts of spontaneity and familiarity – a fine balance that points to Guthrie’s ability to recognize, then one-up his influences.

By Jon Pitt

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