Melwood Cutlery,
(Borealis, 2005)

With a voice like Arlo Guthrie and a sound as unique as his name, Melwood Cutlery's CD, Campfire, is an eclectic mix of folkroots singer-songwriter tunes. Hailed as "one of the best songwriters on the scene today," Cutlery is definitely interesting.

Recorded live with just his acoustic guitar and voice, overdubs added later, Campfire is a tossed salad mix of tunes ranging from swingy jazz to pedal steel roots to topical John Prine style. And he knows some heavyweights in the folk biz in Canada. Lynn Miles, Bill Garrett and David Francey, to name just a few, all perform back-up duties.

So what is folk music, I asked myself, as I was listening to this CD? It felt like old Slim Whitman or Hank Williams records. There was a definite twang in the pedal steel and I distinctly heard yodeling. And that three-chord simplicity was loud and clear. But was it folk? If folk music is the stories of our lives, then yes, Cutlery is folk. He tells simple intimate stories about lots of things we deal with every day. But....

Nowhere did I hear the acoustic soft-sided ballad or boot-thumping protest song; these were rootsy, sometimes a little jazzy, sometimes a lot more twangy songs about life. There was a soft side with "Jimmy's Room" and "Last Lullabye," there was fun with "Too Stoned."

But you know what? I felt let down. I wanted to believe he was one of the best songwriters around. But....

I like his voice. It's interesting and a little arresting. But I didn't feel connected. The songs are good but not great. The production was a little flat and there weren't any lyrics included, which makes me crazy.

I would suggest going to see him live and connecting with him. He looks like a fun guy. He looks like he would tell a great story. He sounds like he's having fun. It would probably be worth it.

by Jane Eamon
6 May 2006

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