HWY 63
CD review: SONGS FROM THE OIL PATCH
By: Dan Brisebois

The debut album from Calgary's HWY 63, SONGS FROM THE OIL PATCH is a pleasant contradiction - at times a throwback to a forgotten time, when the soul of a country song was a slide guitar solo and fiddle bridges. But the slick production brings out the best in the vocal harmonies and puts it on par with the best new country on the airwaves today.

The record is the culmination of Paul Primeau on vocals, Mel Smith and Dan Duguay on guitars, Charlie Hase on pedal guitar, Kit Johnson on bass, and Ross Watson on drums. The highlight of the ride is the fact that out of 13 tracks, there isn't one song that doesn't have its own special appeal. And there are several gems on this album that has cross appeal written all over it.

Songs like "Rust," "V Door," and "Home Again" (featuring the 'nasty girl next door' vocal style of Jenny Allen) help make up an overall very good album that's full of tight arrangements like the roads leading through the province, taking you through several mood changes like the unpredictable weather patterns.

"Breakup" is powered by a slick jazzy bass intro, while the snare drums and natural two-stepping rhythms would make "Spyder Dan" and "Jughound Blues" snappy additions to the best saloon dance floors in the country.

"Rig 42" is one of several slower numbers that are put together well, and along with "Roughneck" and "Keep On Drilling" tell the tales of the working man and Alberta's blood. Mix it with the dreams and imagination conjured up in other tracks like "Forever Stained" and "Ice Bridge" and you have an album that as a whole is very identifiable. Whether you've been there and done that or not, the songs reflect stories that are engrained in us as part of Canada.

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