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Inventive blues-rock from
The Great White North

The British Columbians - The British Columbians
(Rural Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Jan. 12, 2009
The British Columbians

Review by Tony Bonyata

While comparisons to The White Stripes and The Black Keys are (not so surprisingly) already surfacing in regards to The British Columbians' new self-titled debut, there's actually a lot more going on with this Canadian rock quartet's music than either of these dynamics duos' own early releases- at least as far as expanding beyond one or two specific genres is concerned. Sure their music is shrouded in the mystique of the Delta blues and, at times, incorporates the heavy, blues guitar-rock of the early '70s, but they also bring a lot more to the table on this enjoyable effort.

The opening track "Bye Bye Marie" is a spooky blues number visited by a possessed slide guitar and led by vocalist/guitarist Girard Knox's muffled and impassioned long-snake-moan howling. They waste little time turning up the intensity on both the pounding, riff-heavy "Gasoline Handshake" and the swaggering, stinging blues track "Hoodoo," which actually does find Knox's spastic vocal delivery very similar to that of The White Stripes' Jack White from their De Stijl album.

They manage to break out the traditional blues-rock idiom when the slide into "The Rolling Tide," which, interestingly enough, mixes their own brand of dirgey heavy metal with hard-bop jazz and '70s stoner rock. The acoustic-kissed folk ballad "By And By" sounds like it was hand-delivered from The Appalachian Mountains, while the harrowing and spacious sonnet "In The Leaves" features Knox dryly ruminating in a lower Leonard Cohen-like register, before ending the number with a pleading, impassioned scream guaranteed to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

While much of the record sounds brooding, foreboding and, at times, even downright creepy, these four Canadians have, nonetheless, produced a creative and compelling first effort strong enough to pique interest in what they'll have up their sleeve next.

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