The Guthries' debut marks the arrival of a mature band already hitting their stride. The first track, "Better Part of an Hour," could stand with anything on the Jayhawks' "Hollywood Town Hall," and that's a great way to start.
The six members provide a lot of talent to establish a good mix of styles and sounds. "Wednesday Night" introduces singer Ruth Minnikin's languid, Natalie Merchant-like vocals. Minnikin shares duties with Matt Mays and Dale Murray, a blend that helps keep things fresh without too jarring a change. Most players swap instruments, with different players covering banjo, mandolin, pedal steel, organ, harmonica and accordion at different times. Guest players also help to round out the sound, as with the mariachi trumpets on "Wednesday Night" or the strings on "Pure Calm."
It all adds up to a band that can move easily from lush pop filled with gorgeous steel ("Deep Blue") to the guitar crunch and jangle of "Suited," to a more down home, banjo pickin' sound ("Harbor Queen"). But it all still sounds like The Guthries. This is a good find. (The Guthries, Brobdingnagian@hfx.eastlink.ca)