Paul MacLeod Close And Play

The beauty of living outside, but near, a major urban centre like Toronto is that you can develop as an artist without the pressure of competition. Some may call it a big fish in a small pond syndrome, but the slow climb of Kitchener-Waterloo's Paul MacLeod onto the national singer/songwriter stage proves that if you can afford the time, the artistic payoff can be tremendous. Over the past decade, he has obsessively honed a comparatively small but powerful catalogue through weekly hometown gigs, won the undying respect of the Rheostatics and was tapped by the Skydiggers to fill the void left by Peter Cash. His 1999 EP, Tell The Band To Go Home, was an insufficient teaser recorded live at Edmonton's Side Track Cafe, but Close And Play is finally the piece that fans and the curious have been waiting for. Basically a two-man collaboration with producer and multi-instrumentalist Hawksley Workman, the album, for the first time, presents fleshed-out versions of MacLeod's best material - many of which appeared on the EP - propelled by Workman's Britpop flair. This likewise brings out MacLeod's own Anglophile and Brian Wilson leanings, adding a new-found punch to songs like "Cruelty" and "Giants," and bringing out the fragility in "Schopenauer's" and "Listen Mary." I envy anyone hearing Paul MacLeod for the first time. (Independent)