Reid Jamieson at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Saturday (May 1). $10. 416-596-1908. Rating: NNNNN
Local singer/songwriter Reid Jamieson is a genuinely and almost freakishly gentle soul. He's one of those people who, no matter how hard you try to be a good person, makes you feel like an asshole just by virtue of his, well, virtue. "I could never live with someone who ate meat," Jamieson informs me over dinner at the downtown apartment he shares with Carolyn V. Mill, tireless promoter of overlooked Canadian singer/songwriters, who has cooked up a vegan repast.
Normally, such a comment would make me want to cook and eat its communicator. Don't get me wrong - I'm a vegetarian myself (90 per cent of the time). It's just that such pronouncements usually reek of self righteousness, which is so irritating. But in this case I just think, "Aw, of course you couldn't."
This rare quality, his fetching good looks and keen songwriting ability have led some to dub the former Alvy frontman "the George Clooney of the music scene." Not bad for a guy who was so shy he barely left his house as a kid back in Brampton.
"I'm much less shy than I used to be," he notes, "but I didn't go out on my first date until grade 12."
It never fails to baffle me how these people who were so terrified of the human race as kids wind up wanting to get onstage in front of people and be the centre of attention.
"I started playing when I was 13, but didn't play in front of anybody for quite a few years. Not even family members. I was very timid. You can tell in the recordings that I'm hunched over a microphone in the corner."
Then he met another musician kid in high school, and the two of them played a school assembly.
"I didn't think I was going to be able to do it, but when I was up there it was amazing. Everybody was there watching me, and I could express myself in a way that was controlled. I didn't have to talk."
But even back then he was breaking hearts. He just didn't know it.
"We went to his eighth grade reunion a little while ago," Mill tells me, "and of course all the girls told me they had crushes on him."
And now Jamieson is launching his second solo record, The Unavoidable Truth (MapleNationwide/Universal). A more generous offering than previous LP Cowlick Bravado and EP The Noise in My Chest, The Unavoidable Truth features guest appearances by Sarah Harmer, Mia Sheard, Bob Egan and others.
The result is lush, mellow country-folk-tinged pop with piano, pedal steel, accordion and banjo. The lyrics feel warmly confessional, and Jamieson's voice sounds delightfully like a honeyed, more mellifluous Neil Young.
"I love Neil Young," he acknowledges. "If I had to list my three main influences, they'd be Neil Young, Willie Nelson and the Beatles."
Live, Jamieson has a rep for being terribly compelling.
"I think part of that comes from being honest with people from the stage. I like revealing parts of myself or telling stories, like maybe revealing bad things I've done.
"I stole $10 from my best friend when I was 10 and bought a GI Joe, but I couldn't bring it back home because I couldn't explain where I got the $10, so I had to throw it out.
"So all I did was enjoy a GI Joe for half an hour and throw it out at the expense of my best friend's $10. Isn't that evil?"
Yeah, I guess. Well, no. Not really. Good story, though.