Jim Bryson The North Side Beaches

Ottawa singer/songwriter Jim Bryson follows up his 2000 independent album The Occasionals with this slickly-produced record on the new Orange imprint. For the most part, Bryson takes the low-key route, murmuring pleasant songs about the gambit of issues that concern the lovelorn. Having been at this game for a while now (with a history that includes touring with Kathleen Edwards and way back when in Punchbuggy), nothing Bryson does is going to be incompetent or half-assed. He’s a talented and engaging writer, but The North Side Benches is burnished to a glossy sheen, which has silenced Bryson’s unique voice to some extent. There are the requisite twangy country numbers and the nod to poppier efforts, but what seems to be missing is the caustic, hilarious attitude that Bryson regularly brings to concert performances. Even a simple throwaway like the clunky piano on closing track "Broken Fingers” indicates that a few more mistakes would better highlight what’s true about Bryson’s vision. (Universal)