Luke Doucet Aloha, Manitoba

Luke Doucet, the Vancouver singer/songwriter who doubles as the guitarist and bandleader of Veal, is one of the most accomplished and tasteful guitarists working in Canadian rock today. He also has a smooth set of crooning pipes, yet somehow it all seems too nice and polite to have any real resonance and ends up sounding a bit hollow for no reason other than its inoffensiveness. The album's main strength is Doucet's narrative writing style in songs like "The Defector," "Pedro" and particularly "New York," about a native teenager who feels like a freak in his restrictive rural environment and longs to fit in with the freaks in the Big Apple. The success of Aloha, Manitoba hinges on whether or not you enjoy Doucet's nondescript voice, or if you wish he sounded more like his characters than an objective storyteller. (Six Shooter)