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Jim Bryson    (photo: Shane Ward)

THE NORTH SIDE BENCHES (Orange) • Jim Bryson

It's easy to see why Jim Bryson is an Ottawa pop star. It's a little harder to understand why his name isn't more widely known, but I'm sure it's a long story, they always are. He's great, immensely and instantly likable. And the record has a tactile immediacy, it's a little uncanny.

If you read last month's interview with Canadian star Kathleen Edwards, you will recall how she went on glowingly about her close friend Jim Bryson as a huge influence on her music and career. His signature guitar playing is all over her stunning debut Failer.

Hell, now I must go back and get Jimbo's 2000 debut, The Occasionals, this disc is the nice, grown up pop the way we like it, indeed. Big warm personal vocal out front, soft but very present, mostly clean guitars playing beautiful melodic parts, crisp crucial drums that still know their place in the mix, groovy bass that's louder than the kick drum. Great playing, and songs even better. Vintage analog keyboards that rule. All the stuff we like.

There are notable vocal cameos by Canadian stahs Lynn Miles, and Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo. The artist co-produced with electric guitarist Ian LeFeuvre. The other Occasionals include Darren Hore on bass, Peter von Althen on drums, Tom Thompson on steel, and Dave Draves sings and plays various keyboards, he co-produced the Kathleen Edwards records, the big debut and the original EP. This is a helluva crew.

One of the gifts of doing Puremusic these last three years is getting turned on to a bunch of incredible Canadian acts of various kinds. We are always indebted to our friend Allison Green, who's been talking to us about Bryson for some time now. And I'm sure Jim won't mind if we remind you to check out the reviews of fellow Canadians The Henrys, Stephen Fearing, Kathleen Edwards, Ray Bonneville, Kevin Breit and Harry Manx, two reviews of Ron Sexsmith (1 and 2), plus our early interview with Ron, the recent interview with Kathleen, and one with the classic Fred Eaglesmith as well. (And coming soon, Blue Rodeo and The Sadies.)

We love Jim Bryson, that's the long and short of it. Check him out on the Listen page, and we dare you not to buy it, here. • FG

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