Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case The Sun in Your Eyes

Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case The Sun in Your Eyes
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Winners of CBC's Searchlight, Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case return with a second album that offers plenty of unassuming roots-pop pleasures and showcases the Newfoundland band's accomplished musicianship.

Opening with the jaunty, Cajun-tinged "The Right Idea," The Sun in Your Eyes plays like a rousing live set by a quintet of friends who relish making music and singing together. Unsurprisingly, the Band shows up as a prominent influence on several of the album's highlights, most notably in the gorgeously ragged harmonies on "Annalee" — perhaps a reference to "The Weight" — and the call-and-response chorus of "The Calling." The mournful "All That You Hate," featuring strings as well as a gentle accordion that is more Paris café than Louisiana hoedown, and the plaintive pedal steel on the breakup country shuffle "An Apology" also suggest that there is more to the group than good-time music.

While the line between unpretentious and pedestrian can be a fine one — The Sun in Your Eyes' generally sunny lyrics occasionally stumble on the wrong side of that divide — the album also offers some unexpectedly sophisticated musical touches: a horn arrangement on "Outta Your Mind" could be stolen from Allen Toussaint's lost notebook, and the guitar solo at the end of "The Calling" recalls Buck Owens sideman Don Rich. On the poppy "Thick As Thieves," the exuberant round-like vocals almost dare you not to join in; for much of This Sun in Your Eyes, it's an invitation that's impossible to refuse. (Independent)