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Album Review

Leeroy Stagger is Canadian, so Americana is not a label that should be hung around his neck — maybe North Americana, but that's just silly. That said, Stagger's quite staggering mix of folk, blues, country & western, and rock has its antecedents south of the border, although the blend here is uniquely his own. Of course, Stagger is not the first Canadian to roam this musical range, but few have done so with the lyrical wallop he delivers on Depression River. Take "Tired of Being High," an epic number of drone guitars and psychedelic effects whose weary title barely hints at the vitriol spewing from his words, nor the imploding relationship at the song's core. "Payback"'s title is even more misleading, for it's not a tale of vengeance, but an aching romantic number, while "One of the Lucky Ones" is actually anything but. "Depression River" and "Where I Live" describe the small-town life that left indelible scars on Stagger (including the death of his brother). No wonder so many of its denizens escape into the bottle or the needle, and "Saskatoon," in contrast, sounds quite inviting. But even among all the broken and beaten-down lives presented here, there are moments of peace and if not joy, at least contentment, crossed with occasional glimpses of self-awareness. Stagger's eye may be jaundiced, but it remains unblinking, and even if his emotions are rubbed raw, he continues to present life in its unadulterated state, refusing to hide behind metaphor and flowery language. He's uncompromisingly honest, and all the more powerful for it, and twinned with the wonderfully evocative, haunting, and eclectic music within, Depression River is as mighty as the Mississippi.

Depression River, Leeroy Stagger
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