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On first blush, the self-titled solo debut from Toronto's Doug Paisley--released by No Quarter, a Philadelphia label best known for issuing heavy rock from the likes of Endless Boogie and Circle--is almost unnervingly plain. His music is clearly steeped in American country and folk traditions, but aside from some tasteful steel guitar he doesn't bother with twangy ornamentation or any kind of regional affectation; he seems content to rely on his original tunes, which he delivers with restrained grace.
Most of the songs are gentle and beautiful, though Paisley, who's toured with Will Oldham as part of Dark Hand and Lamplight, certainly comes out of the rock tradition. I have no idea if he's listened much to Michael Hurley, one of American music's true originals, but there's something in the timbre of his voice--especially the way it interacts with the wonderfully wobbly singing of his female foil on the album, Simone Schmidt--and in his understated but hooky melodies that makes me think of Hurley. (Paisley also imitates a trumpet with his voice on "Take My Hand," another Hurley trick gleaned, I imagine, from the Mills Brothers.)
Just about everything I've read about Paisley has mentioned Neil Young, another Canadian with a strong grasp of American music, but I think a better comparison would be Gordon Lightfoot, minus his mawkishness. I realize I may not be making the strongest case for Paisley's music, but trust me--in its own quiet way his record has insinuated itself into my brain. I'm bummed that I'll be out of town this weekend, but it you're around you can check him out for yourself.