Bob Egan The Glorious Decline

Here’s one American import we certainly want to keep. Pedal steel ace Egan made a mark Stateside playing with the likes of Freakwater and Wilco, and has been embraced by the Canadian roots community since moving here. Blue Rodeo remains his main gig, but Egan has found time to pursue a solo career his well. His third full-length disc, The Glorious Decline is definitely his strongest and most coherent to date. He’s no vocal virtuoso, but his unaffected and slightly haunted delivery proves a fitting complement to his fluent steel playing. The instrument is, of course, just made for sad songs, and Egan has deliberately created a thematically-linked work, one he explains he wanted "to be linear and sad.” He sets the stage nicely with the opening track, "An Airport Bar on Christmas Day” (how’s that for a sad image?), and continues with an exploration of the desolate state of his protagonist. The lyrical bleakness is offset by the original instrumentation here, with classical piano and vibes (from Weakerthan/Hylozoist Jason Tait) adding intriguing textures. Oh Susanna adds harmony vocals to "Spalding’s Lament,” and a horn section beefs up "Pleasantville Bar.” A fitting disc for the approaching cold nights. (Fontana North)