Willie Stratton & the Boarding Party

The Bus Stop, Halifax NS, January 23

Willie Stratton & the Boarding PartyThe Bus Stop, Halifax NS, January 23
Photo: Lindsay Duncan
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If the alt-folk revival means we're threatening to reach peak "stomp," someone forgot to tell Halifax's Willie Stratton.
 
I spent a good chunk of last night's Dead of Winter deeply concerned about whether the wobbly Bus Stop stage would survive the thundering force of Stratton's foot. I kept watching the bouncing guitar stand, shaking from each impact, wondering if it would topple over into the amplifiers. With every downward strike, I became increasingly convinced that Stratton's leg would simply burst through the wooden floor and emerge a bloody, tangled mess. (In the end, the only minor casualty was a single monitor, which toppled off the stage near set's end and was quickly recovered.)
 
Stratton, whose record Deserter won the Music Nova Scotia Award for Alternative Album of the Year last year, clearly has an undeniable energy, matched with a throat-tearing voice that resembles Marcus Mumford after several shots of fiery whisky. At times, the five-piece band's boisterous cacophony proved a bit much to handle, becoming tangled ball of indistinct noise in the mix (and requiring extensive retuning that hurt the set's flow somewhat). But the material was quite strong, particularly a late-set take on Stratton's two-part epic "The River" that sprawled and swayed — and stomped — the Dead of Winter festival's second night to a close.

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