James McKenty & the Spades Burning On Fumes

Peterborough-based singer-songwriter James McKenty puts mentor and number one fan Gord Sinclair to work at the production helm on this independently released ten-song debut CD. Though recorded by the Tragically Hip bass player at his band’s Bathhouse studio, this upbeat set doesn’t bear much of a resemblance to anything the Hip has released as of late. Still, there’s a clean, straightforward sensibility to these at-times rootsy rock proceedings, that isn’t entirely out of step with the music of the Kingston veterans, who have invited McKenty and co. to share the stage with them on at least a couple of occasions. The disc benefits from Sinclair’s decision to record most of these tracks live off-the-floor — a move that imparts fluid energy and warmth to these fresh, well arranged songs, and, in the process, showcases the band’s noted live performance acumen. Though more gruff than sweet sounding, McKenty is a strong vocalist and no slouch with the pen, either, even if he does return a bit too frequently to images of fire and combustion, and flog thrift-store analogies to death on "Salvation Army Love.” (Independent)