Justin Rutledge “Passages” (Outside Music, 2019)

Americana can sometimes tend to melancholy, wistfulness, reflection on life’s journey and misfortunes, cliched at times. Rarely is it delivered by someone who is so obviously happy. Justin Rutledge is clearly content with his lot. Not that there aren’t tales here of small town escape or sorrowful breakup, but they are past and not (currently) autobiographical, and even these tracks are delicate, as in ‘One Winter’s Day’ where a man is hanging himself standing on a block of ice and waiting for the sun.

Three tracks are rewrites of early material, both lighter and meatier. This is the eighth album from Justin Rutledge, feted in his Canadian alt-country community, but getting less traction elsewhere. Gorgeous opening track ‘Captive’ sets a perfect tone, starting intimately with gentle guitar under Rutledge’s soft, hushed vocals. It then rises slowly to a glorious instrumental passage that is both ambient and driven. Penultimate track ‘Chains’ similarly opens tenderly before growing to a magnificent elongated guitar section.

Some tracks are more upbeat than others, but all have a band feel with the consistency of Rutledge’s achingly light but beautiful voice. The title track is a love song, which is the key to this album. Rutledge married recently, has a baby on its way, and radiates domestic bliss. In ‘Passages’ he sings to his wife, “I think our love is something natural / When all of the world is unbearable… you are a book and you are high upon the shelf / You contain my favourite passages, characters and messages / I think we have it all”. 

This whole album is such a delight, to file under easy listening would not be a negative, but a commendation.

Fullfillingness' first overture
8/10

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