Review: Doug Paisley’s Starter Home is a gem of an album

The Toronto singer/songwriter's new album is nine simple-but-deep tales about life and love

Rating: NNNN

Doug Paisley is a talented Toronto singer/songwriter, but it took me several listens of his first album in five years, Starter Home, to fully appreciate it for what it is. 

The album, Paisley’s third full-length, opens with the title track, a twangy down-home story about Paisley’s dream of home ownership, starting a family and living a comfortable working-class life. It starts things off with strong country elements. Country music is known for its storytelling, and here he has compiled nine simple tales about life and love. 

Starter Home is country music for intellectuals, but he still hits those classic country tropes: longing in Waiting and alcohol as a cure for regret in Drinking With A Friend. His voice is velvety and smooth with texture, vital for a mature sound. 

It’s rare to find a Canadian, male contemporary country musician this sincere and devoid of clichés, but Paisley is known for infusing depth into straightforward-sounding music. Though his sound is bare, he has a great supporting cast: Bahamas’ Afie Jurvanen, Blue Rodeo’s Bazil Donovan, Matt Barber, Stew Crookes and backing vocals from Jennifer Castle, to name a few. 

After walking us through a range of emotions, Paisley ends with Shadows, an upbeat song about sharing space with someone you connect with deeply. But it’s hard not to circle back to the title track: its lyrics, steel guitar and melody all feel classic.

Top track: Starter Home

Doug Paisley plays the Drake on March 28 and the Jim Cuddy Band’s A Night Of Country Covers benefit at the Horseshoe on December 16. See listing.

@nowtoronto | @checkoutrach

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