Valdy & Gary Fjellgaard Contenders

Even the most cynical of folk-bashers must concede that Valdy's warm, moustache-filtered voice, a Canadian touchstone, has been missed. His return with touring mate and fellow westerner Gary Fjellgaard is a welcome one on this sunny, all-too-short recording that clearly chronicles their infectious chemistry. The folk-meets-country nature of this union takes both individuals strengths and forges something greater than the sum of its parts. Superb session musicians add surprisingly lush accompaniment on violin, mandolin, accordion and dobro, creating a well-orchestrated backdrop that elevates each composition. Valdy contributes three originals, Fjellgaard five, and the two best songs are collaborations. Roger Miller's "King Of The Road" closes the disc - an appropriate choice given the origin of their association. Gary Fjellgaard's title track, "Contenders," is surprisingly worthy of its claim. Given Valdy's Danish origin and Fjellgaard's Norwegian roots, this homespun tribute to Canada is made all the more moving. Here's hoping these contenders overcome the odds and find the success they deserve, encouraging them on this worthy new tack in their careers. (Stony Plain)