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The Guthries | Off Windmill (Brobdingnagian)
Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, not a place that you'd immediately associate with alternative country, The Guthries and their debut album Off Windmill may help to alter that perception. Featuring no less than three songwriters among their six members, namely Matt Mays, Ruth Mannikin (also a member of orchestral pop outfit The Heavy Blinkers) and Dale Murray, all of whom sing lead vocals, The Guthries have produced an album of songs with charm, warmth and diversity. Whilst Matt Mays vocal style bears a passing resemblance to that of Jay Farrar, his excellent songs are amongst the albums best. In fact he gets the distinction of contributing both the opening and closing tracks on Off Windmill (Better Part Of An Hour and Rhubarb Pie respectively). Elsewhere, the vocals of Dale Murray and Ruth Mannikin may lack the depth and more traditional approach of Matt Mays but this in no way detracts from their more pop oriented alt-country material, which is no better exemplified than on Trials And Tribulations.. A delightfully whimsical duet it wonderfully combines elements of country music with the sounds of a brass band and is the kind of song to lighten the darkest of moods. The Guthries are also great musicians with virtually the entire line-up capable of playing several instruments. The pedal steel playing on several tracks is particularly impressive. They've also been able to call on an array of other musicians including other members of The Heavy Blinkers who've made their own impressive contributions to the album. The wonderful strings on Season To Leave and Rhubarb Pie for instance or the brass arrangements on both Trials And Tribulations and Harbour Queen help transform these already impressive songs into something memorable. The Guthries are capable of injecting a little warmth into those impending winter evenings.
CWAS #6 - Autumn 2000