City and Colour – Little Hell (Border Music)

Canadian Dallas Green has been cheating on his band Alexisonfire again, and the result is his third solo studio album released under the moniker City and Colour. While the previous two albums retained tendrils of Green’s post-hardcore roots, not even a sniffer dog could scout out any whiff of emo in Little Hell, which is a primarily acoustic journey into folklore and family.

The first track, the country-tinged We Found Each Other in the Dark is a soft and beautiful introduction which is followed by the poppier Natural Disaster. This song could have come across as middle of the road, but the pairing of the jaunty guitar with Green’s mournful vocals elevates this track to something special.

Green sings about not measuring up to his father on The Grand Optimist. Crashing bass drum, snake-like tambourine and haunting backing vocals give depth, and with the refrain “I guess I take after my mother” this is one of the most powerful songs on the album.

Green rocks out on Fragile Bird, using a classic pop/rock riff during the verses and branching out into art rock on the chorus. Like a milk chocolate truffle coated in silky dark chocolate, the layers of rock create something delicious. The catchy Weightless features jangly rock n roll moments almost reminiscent of that other famous hairy songwriter, Dan Auerbach.

Sorrowing Man is overly long and dirge-like, but is redeemed by some inspired wailing on the outro from Green. Silver and Gold is another alt-country track with the line “everything I wanted and feared had all at once disappeared” sung with pretty female harmonies that give it extra resonance. On final track Hope For Now you are treated to Green singing over a gentle piano riff, sounding like Stevie Wonder on downers until the screaming guitar and heavy metal cello take the song off on a journey down Led Zeppelin lane.

If you weren’t sure about Green’s previous solo album Bring Me Your Love, give Little Hell a shot. While one or two of these tracks lack a little punch, overall Green has crafted an album of varied songs that are an original and contemporary take on folk music.

Kathryn van Beek

Click here to listen to The Grand Optimist from Little Hell