Published Oct 21, 2014It's been ten years since Elliott Brood released a debut EP, Tin Type, and five years since they graced the cover of Exclaim!. The Toronto-based trio have since worked their way to the top of this country's roots music scene, as exemplified by their 2013 Juno Award for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year for the superb Days Into Years. Don't let that "traditional" tag fool you, though. Sure, they still feature banjos and mandolins in their fiery live shows and on disc, but they've gradually moved into more rock'n'roll territory and away from the bluegrass meets death country sound of the early years.
That transition is exemplified by the presence of guitar hero Ian Blurton in the producer's chair for their fourth full-length, Work and Love, and the solid wall of guitar sound that drives most of the tunes here reflects his touch. Songwriters Mark Sasso and Casey Laforet dig deep here with personal reflections on such themes as the passing of youth and young love, as on opening track "Little Ones": "We should all stay little ones and never be bitter ones." They probe feelings of fatigue ("Tired") and loneliness ("Nothing Left," "Mission Bell"), but the energetic delivery of the material keeps angst at bay. Guesting on the disc are horn player Michael Louis Johnson, pedal steel ace Aaron Goldstein and, on one cut, bassist John Dinsmore. A mariachi trumpet blast by Johnson lends a spaghetti western touch to the opening of "Mission Bell." While it'd be nice to see the band occasionally ease up on the throttle in favour of some quieter textures, this is another consistently strong outing from one of our best. (Paper Bag)