Bob Mersereau Music Review: Dylan Guthro All That’s True

I’m having a mid-life music columnist crisis folks. It’s serious. I think I might have been doing this too long. I’m feeling…old. Here’s why. I can remember things very clearly from when I started on CBC talking about East Coast Music, back in the 80’s, yet I have trouble remembering what I reviewed last week. Case in point? I know where I was the first time I heard Bruce Guthro, and writing about him as the breakthrough artist that year from the Maritimes. Now here I am, writing about a Guthro as the hot new artist on the scene. Only this time, it’s his son.

Sons and daughters face a hard time in some music circles, especially celebrity ones. The inevitable comparisons drag the artist down, especially when there are similarities. Ask Adam Cohen, Harper Simon, the list goes on. I think on the East Coast, it’s more accepted, because there’s long been a tradition of passing music on in families, and that’s your main audience in a lot of cases, for kitchen parties and house concerts. It probably wasn’t much different for Dylan Guthro, growing up in his musical household, going on the road with his dad. He’s got something else going for him as well, as he really doesn’t remind me of Bruce much.

Well, I suppose they are both singer-songwriters, but you’d never guess the relation in a blind listening test. I’ll tell you one thing, the kid sounds like he’s got the songwriting thing down already. His debut disc All That’s True features a string of polished gems, every one of them with his name on the credit line. There are a few younger references, not many though, and for the most part his songs aren’t dated by age in any way, they are mature, solid, and confident.

Musically, he mixes things a bit. Lead track Thinkin’ is a bouncy acoustic one, and not far off the David Myles style. There are strong ballads, not soppy but instead with some guts behind them, some drama, both in words and music. That includes excellent strings running through the album, really powerful orchestration. Then you have some pop rockers, uptempo numbers that could very well find the radio charts this year.

And, I haven’t mentioned Guthro’s voice, which may be his strongest asset. It’s one of gentle ones with lots of high range, that’s going to go straight to the hearts of certain audience members. He really soars on the high stuff, and his singing is always plaintive and emotional. The backing vocals are also a great treat, mostly provided by another young Nova Scotia star on the rise, Breagh MacKinnon. The two co-wrote and duet on one of the highlights on the disc, called Sing To Me. I love that a new artist like Dylan still has the time to feature somebody else on his disc, because the song comes first.

Now, Dylan Guthro has one great advantage with his upbringing, in that he knows a lot of talented people who he can call on to help make music. Wisely, he picked two of the best to record and produce his album. Dave Gunning is all over it, with lots of guitar, bass, vocals and co-production. The other guy in the producer’s spot? Well, it’s dear old dad, and he has the credentials, you know. It would just be silly to not tap into all that experience. But as for his music, Dylan Guthro is proving to be his own man.

by Bob Mersereau