Matt Paxton Back Home In The Village

From the bittersweet opening track of this debut album, "City Of Smoke," Matt Paxton leaves no doubt that he's a Hamilton, ON boy through and through. He goes on to take several cues from Bruce Springsteen about how to romanticize/demonize your hometown, all the while aided by some of the Steel City's finest musicians, including guitarist Bill Dillon, a veteran of many high-profile Daniel Lanois projects. The hazy, Lanois-esque vibe complements Paxton's often-laconic delivery, and sets him apart from the common herd of no-nonsense troubadours. That's not to say Paxton's songs are run of the mill. He has a good descriptive sense, and anyone with any experience with gritty, working-class life will relate to everything he's saying. The Springsteen-isms sometimes get a little too obvious, as on "Me And Johnny," but then again, Bruce sounded a lot like Dylan on his first album. Paxton's produced a solid starting point from which to make his mark. (Down By The Point)