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You might think it a tad risky to start an album off on an apologetic note but, Alan Doyle proves he has precious little to be sorry about with his solo debut, Boy On Bridge. As the rapid-fire guitar strum and rat-a-tat-smack of the snare drum on ‘Sorry’ insistently announce its arrival, one of Canada’s favourite Newfoundlanders shows he’s quite ready to captain his own ship.
After nineteen years of platinum-powered kitchen parties with our beloved Great Big Sea, Doyle has temporarily stepped out to make his own creative mark. But like any successful kitchen party, he’s filled the place with a lot of good, talented friends from far and wide. The colourful and varied bunch that Doyle partnered up with to help create Boy on Bridge each add their own distinct flavour to a hearty stew. Frequent Doyle collaborator and Cape Bretoner Gordie Sampson is part of a Nashville contingent on the album that also includes top writers Troy Verges, Kelly Archer, and Ryan Tyndall. Doyle also headed to Los Angeles to work with his friend, TV theme titan Mike Post (Law & Order, Hill Street Blues). He paired up once again with his good friend from Down Under, Oscar winner Russell Crowe to pen three songs for the project. Canadian heavyweights Colin James, Jim Cuddy and Hawksley Workman all lent their considerable talents as well.
Just like the bridge that once separated the Protestant and Catholic sides of his hometown, Doyle stands with both feet spanning the short divide between rock and country. There’s just as much rock attack as there is country release on this effort, providing enough stylistic shifts from track to track to make listening an interesting navigation. If the jubilant guitar riff in the first single, ‘I’ve Seen a Little,’ rings somewhat familiar, it’s purposefully so. In his website blog, Doyle notes that he wanted to “write a real simple country/rock tune that almost any band could play real quickly.” Mission well accomplished. The song’s keep on striving sentiment leads nicely into the bold, this is my moment statement of ‘My Day,’ the first track on the collection to get a big country stamp in the form of a fiddle and dobro breakdown. The waltz-time fairytale of ‘When The Nightingale Sings’ brings a gentle breather before the bluesy shuffle of ‘Testify’, co-written with Crowe, kicks things back into higher gear featuring some searing guitar work from Colin James. The rock energy continues to run high on ‘Light The Way’ and ‘Perfect Excuse,’ while ‘Lover’s Hands’ and ‘Love While Love’s Awake’ stand on the more contemplative side of the stream.
Boy on Bridge has a lot of places it wants to go but, it manages not to make any disconcerting detours. The farthest side trip is also the most scenic. ‘The Rules Will All Be Broken,’ a collaboration with Mike Post, puts Doyle in an unexpected but, refreshing orchestral setting as he makes a plea to “Come and follow me. Oh, with footsteps free through the sunlight and the snow. We’ll cross the line and we’ll take our time. The rules will all be broken when we go.” It beautifully sets up the album closer, ‘Where I Belong,’ with nothing but Doyle’s endearing, scruffy baritone delivering a love letter to his home.
Doyle and his AD Band are out on tour this month and next to cover lots of territory in support of Boy On Bridge. Later, he’ll rejoin his GBS compatriots to celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2013. In the meantime, we can mark down ’11 and ’12 as the time he took to explore his own sonically satisfying horizons.