NQ Arbuckle Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON, June 19

NQ Arbuckle Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON, June 19
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"I can write about three things," joked Neville Quinlan, lead singer and prime mover in this well-travelled Canadian alt-country combo. "My wife, these guys and [friend and frequent collaborator] Carolyn Mark." Humble, silly and honest, Quinlan's songwriting and stage show are all comfort, all casual embrace. But what can come off as unprofessional in the hands of most performers is, in Quinlan's, a kind of sloppy grace. It's infectious, and at their best (as they were on this night), his band ranks among one of Canada's most entertaining country acts.

Opening a lengthy showcase for Six Shooter Records at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, NQ Arbuckle played with such urgent passion that their abbreviated set felt like half its actual 40 minutes. Really, it was a hell of a 40 minutes. If I wasn't a believer before, consider me a convert on this sunny morning. Arbuckle's most recent songs ring with such humour, such poetry and wit, they reach deeper and feel truer than those of so many of his peers. And he can back it up with an act that combines offhand delivery and casual banter with precise arrangements. On show-stoppers "Lifeboat," "Hospitals" and "Cheap Town," the band hit homer after homer, and guest fiddler Miranda Mulholland lifted the irresistible "Red Wine" into some rare air. Warm-up acts don't get much warmer than this.