Folk & Country 2011: 16 Best Albums
Having put in time re-drawing the boundaries of independent post-rock with seminal Ottawa outfit the Wooden Stars and acting as atmospheric guitar slinger for fellow Canadian acts Kepler and Bell Orchestre, Mike Feuerstack has steadily committed his most personal material to record as Snailhouse all the while. This year's Sentimental Gentleman feels like a culmination of sorts, containing Feuerstack's strongest collection of songs to date. His roots as a folk storyteller inform the basic structure of these pieces, with "Great Storytellers" acting as a kind of statement of intent, careful finger picking and conversational lyrics at the forefront. Elsewhere, Feuerstack builds elaborate layers of psychedelic guitar sounds around sophisticated chord sequences and picking patterns containing hints of classic pop and world folk without straying too far from a roots music base. Graceful slide guitar supports beautiful vocal phrases, with wry wit balancing yearning romanticism in Feuerstack's stories. In some ways, Sentimental Gentleman is most comparable to Wilco at their least pop-orientated. Few artists can so comfortably marry the musical ideals of classic Americana with wildly inventive and exploratory instrumental manipulation and Feuerstack accomplishes that here with aplomb, creating an album of such melodic strength that it should appeal to anyone who loves great songwriting, regardless of genre.
Scott A. Gray
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