Toronto singer-guitarist Grant Lyle is probably tired of people comparing him to Eric Clapton, but truly that’s the easiest way to give listeners an idea of what to expect on So There, Lyle’s latest full release. Of course, that comparison only does Lyle partial justice. Disregarding Slowhand for a second, Lyle’s a highly skilled singer and guitar player who covers a wide span of territory here. Really, So There is kind of like a classic rock cocktail with blues and jazz accents. It’s a joy to listen to and a fantastic release.
But, Clapton. The biggest area of comparison here is in Lyle’s vocals, which have that soulful, low-mid grit that makes the guitar legend’s voice so compelling. If you weren’t paying attention, you might think that this record’s second track, “Let It Out,” was a Clapton/Bonnie Raitt mash-up (instrumentally it has the confident strut of the latter’s best records). Lyle’s vocals are nimble, though, and contain shades of other noteworthies – Bruce Springsteen, Duane Allman, Elton John. Like I said – classic rock cocktail.
As for his guitar playing, while there’re Claptonesque elements here, there’s a bit more flash to Lyle’s playing. Some of that is his production, which gives the guitar a sheen Yngwie Malmsteem wouldn’t turn away. But even beyond that, Lyle explores a lot of territory here past standard blues-rock – his instrumental opener “Impressions” shows off some technical virtuosity, while later tracks like “Cheri Ann” and “From the Hills” get a little bit country-ish, with steel slide guitars and lovely acoustic fingerpicking. The Allman sound comes through most clearly here, but there’s also kind of a ’90s folk-rock vibe akin to the Counting Crows shining through.
Of course, the more standard blues-rock numbers shine too. What really propels this whole album, actually, is Lyle’s soul, both in his voice and his playing. In both instrumentals like “Trouble Blues” and more straightforward tunes like “You’re Killing Me,” there’s an honest urgency that really works; Lyle knows how to sell these songs, hitting just the right emotional notes in each one. As a result, nothing on the record sounds forced; even the genre detours this record takes in its later tracks feel natural and are welcome.
So There will most easily appeal to classic rock devotees and guitar guys, but his production brings a modern sound to the record that should give it a warm reception from more alternative and indie folk as well. The blending of clean, powerful guitar, deliberate vocals, and catchy songs makes for a release it’s hard to see too many disliking.
Get more from Grant Lyle at his website.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more