City and Colour is a side project of AlexisonFire guitarist, Dallas Green. His new album Little Hell is a big departure from Alexonfire’s post-hardcore and punk sound. Little Hell is Green flexing his singer songwriter muscle and throwing plenty of influences in along the way. There are traces of Americana, folk and a country western hidden throughout the tracks that bring acts like Ray LaMontagne or Dawes to mind. The thing I was questioning with this album is whether City and Colour would have a voice of its own or if it would blend obscurely into the singer songwriter landscape.
The album is mellow throughout giving the record an intimate feel at times. In fact, there are songs like “Sorrowing Man” and “O’Sister” that barely even have a tom drum fill or a tambourine at all. However, the sound that Green does display on Little Hell is perfect for the content of the lyrics and harmonic vocal style he utilizes. Green’s guitar work is a complex blend of finger picking and chord usage; and at times sounds a bit like Fleet Foxes. There are some intriguing layers to this album that really draw the listener deeper into the songs. The lap steel guitar he uses on tracks like “We Found Each Other in the Dark” just oozes that country western feel and adds a lot of heartbreak and conviction to the lyrics. The background string arrangements on “Northern Wind” fill in perfectly and keep the track from having a sense of negative space.
As good as some things in certain songs are the album as a whole lacks personality. “Silver and Gold” and “The Grand Optimist” seem bland and feel canned. The upside to that is that the songs that work, work very well. On “Fragile Bird”, “Weightless” and “Hope for Now,” Green picks up a Stratocaster and rocks out. He uses some very nice guitar tones and classic rock-style drums that give these three songs enough style to break the stereotypical feel that plagued a handful of songs. This is the formula where City and Colour really excel. If you like Americana or folk music you should check this album out, there’s bound to be something on there you will dig.