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Pete Lanctot and The Stray Dogs

No Sign of Love or Farewell – 2015 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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CDs by Pete Lanctot and The Stray Dogs

Pete Lanctot might have a rotating cast of characters that make up his Stray Dogs, but this ragtag lot wouldn't be out of place on stage with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Daniel Lanois or even Bob Dylan. This at times swampy-sounding, loose collection of tunes gets off on the right foot with "Could've Been Good." Lanctot and company sound like they've listened to Dylan's "Time Out Of Mind" for a week or two before nailing this little Dylan-meets-Tom Waits nugget. Fortunately, the album is musically all over the place with Lanctot leading the way quite nicely during most of it. This is exemplified on the dirge-soaked "Coming Around," which would fit on a Gillian Welch/Dave Rawlings album.

There are a few songs which on paper should work, well but just fall short, particularly the melancholic waltz-y "Come To Me Now," which might fare better in the hands of Nick Cave. "You were a jewel/And I was a fool/Won't you come to me now," he sings with a decent if uneventful arrangement supporting him. Thankfully he moves back into the "swamplands" during "Used To Be A Rambler." It's on this track when he steadies the album again with a simple yet solid performance accented by some sweet lap steel guitar. From there, the Diddley-light approach to "Fifty Miles From Nowhere" takes the record to a whole new level. The only snag might be that it doesn't flesh itself out as thoroughly as the listener might hope for with its guitar work.

The real highlight is the driving-friendly sound rumbling from "Perdido," which has enough Fabulous Thunderbirds oomph and moxie to make Lanctot and the Stray Dogs sound in fine form. And he atones for "Come To Me Now" with "I'll Meet You At The End Of The Line," a very gentle and '60s sounding soulful jewel Lanctot shines on. It's a testament to the Brooklyn-based Lanctot that he has managed to navigate his way through so many Americana-tinged waters with a sensitivity many would be jealous of.