Andre Ethier is a world-class storyteller-songwriter on Under Grape Leaves

Andre Ethier - Under Grape LeavesTelephone ExplosionSinger/songwriterThe cover of Andre Ethiers third solo album, Under Grape Leaves, depicts a lush.

The cover of Andre Ethiers third solo album, Under Grape Leaves, depicts a lush landscape of palm trees brightly rendered in blues, yellows and greens. Painted by the veteran singer/songwriter and former Deadly Snakes frontman himself, its a befitting choice for the psychedelic folk record, the Toronto artist’s first since 2007s On Blue Fog. Despite being released in the dead of winter, these laid-back songs conjure up sunnier days, inviting listeners into the artists idyllic world for an afternoon.

Ethier is a first-class storyteller in the mould of Bill Callahan, capable of turning daily mundane activities like ordering dinner or washing dishes into compelling, free-form vignettes. His low baritone barely raises above a whisper, and his lyrics feel like eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. Ethiers wry, off-the-cuff observations are accentuated by Sandro Perris minimalist but effective production, bridging together lopping acoustic guitars with understated drum machine, Mellotron synths and New Agey flourishes like recorders and wind chimes. On Mondays employs flutes and a purring feline for an oddly soothing interlude lasting just over a minute.

Compared to his previous solo and collaborative efforts, including the rollicking 2004 LP Andre Ethier With Christopher Sandes Featuring Pickles And Price, Under Grape Leaves finds Ethier at his most contemplative, a whistling journeyman seeking contentment in simple pleasures and honest work. The best example is album highlight Making A Living, an homage of sorts to the professional baseball player who shares a name with the singer, featuring a meandering saxophone solo courtesy of DIANA member Joseph Shabason.

Under Grape Leaves proves that Ethiers still discovering new pastels to work with.

Top track: Making A Living

Andre Ethier plays an album release show Friday (January 19) at the Baby G. See listing. | @Max_Mertens

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