Skydiggers Bittersweet Harmony

From the opening chime of "Anything For You," it's amazing how much the 'Diggers' trademark sound has been missed over the past five years. Then, they had just regrouped from the departure of co-singer/songwriter Peter Cash with the at-times brilliantly innovative Desmond's Hip City and seemed poised to enter a new creative era. But unfortunate circumstances didn't allow that to fully occur, so the appearance of Bittersweet Harmony brings with it both a sense of nostalgia and hope that once again the band will be the creative force in Canada it was in the early '90s. The nostalgia derives from the fact that BH overall returns to the twangy power pop of their early albums, although spiced up by the production of Ian Blurton and (on three tracks) Hawksley Workman. The hope comes from the strong songwriting turns by Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson, who both have refined the experiments of Desmond's Hip City into a more finely balanced mix with the band's traditional strengths. Still, "Horseshoe Bay" is a tough, Crazy Horse-styled rocker, and "Sweet Heartache," featuring probably Maize's most moving vocal yet, stretches the band into new emotional territory. If there is any complaint, it's that new kid Paul MacLeod is showcased on only one song, his infectious "See You Again." While it was clear that Maize and Finlayson weren't looking to replace Cash with another singer/songwriter, incorporating MacLeod's talents more can only enhance the creative wave the 'Diggers are currently riding. Bittersweet Harmony already has my vote for comeback of the year. (MapleMusic)