Meet The Rural Alberta Advantage

2 Jan

Happy New Year! Before we start looking ahead to 2015’s indie releases, there are still a few excellent albums I’d like to share with you that were released in 2014 — a fabulous year for indie music.

This week, our featured band is The Rural Alberta Advantage with its latest release, Mended with Gold. Formed in 2005, The Rural Alberta Advantage is not from Alberta. Nils Edenloff — the band’s lead vocalist and songwriter — was originally from the province that embraces the Canadian Rockies, but he put the band together while living in Toronto. Today, the trio includes Amy Cole on keyboards and backing vocals, and Paul Banwatt (a lawyer in his day job) on drums, in addition to guitarist, Edenloff.

The music of The Rural Alberta Advantage could be categorized as rock. But most of the band’s songs have distinctive folk trappings, with a unique wall-of-sound style all their own. Like the Augustines, The Rural Alberta Advantage creates songs that are meant to be played with high energy. Even the soft songs typically build to a big crescendo. No doubt, the band would be amazing to see live, but it does most of its touring in its native Canada.

I discovered The Rural Alberta Advantage when their first full-length LP, 2008’s Hometowns, was re-released by the band’s new (and current) label, Saddle Creek, in 2009. Saddle Creek is a well-known indie label that includes Bright Eyes (Conor Oberst) on its artist roster.

“Frank AB“ from Hometowns perfectly represents what’s good about The Rural Alberta Advantage. Edenloff’s plaintive tenor is filled with emotion as he sings over dry strumming with light percussion. As the song builds, layers are added until it’s loud, driving folk-rock — with nice counterpoint vocals by Cole.

The inspiration for the songs on Mended with Gold came when Edenloff rented a cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness, according to the band’s page at Saddle Creek Records. Locals warned Edenloff about the black bears roaming the woods. And at night, Edenloff listened to the wolves singing around the cabin. He slept with a pocketknife within reach.

Musically, in addition to Edenloff’s trademark tenor, Banwatt’s standout drumming is a true highlight.

The best tracks include “The Build,” which like “Frank AB” starts softly with just a strumming guitar and Edenloff’s vocals, then alternates between loud and soft segments until building to a big finish. “On the Rocks” is a buzzing rock tune with snappy snare and exceptional keyboards. Edenloff’s relatively low-key vocals are greatly enhanced by Cole’s amazing backup.

Finally, “To Be Scared” has a relatively tranquil feel, but nevertheless features Edenloff’s imposing vocals, as well as a melodious instrumental trail-out at the end.

While there is somewhat of a sameness to The Rural Alberta Advantage’s songs, Mended with Gold is the band’s most accomplished effort yet. It’s definitely worth checking out before you turn your attention to 2015.


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