Jim Bryson The North Side Benches (Orange Music/Universal) Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
For an album populated by bad drunks, sad sacks and landlocked, self-deprecating losers who stumble out of love and can't work up the energy to get out of bed, there's a lot of character in Jim Bryson's The North Side Benches album. The Ottawa songwriter's inward-looking tunes are brutally honest but never grim or depressing, and much of what lifts the stories is the music. Broadening his sound beyond a guitar/bass/drums/pedal steel mix to include horns, piano and organ, Bryson here tones down the ragged country energy of his The Occasionals debut for something more delicate but no less direct. At its best, The North Side Benches is pure power pop, from the bah bah bah sing-along choruses on down. It's carefully understated but about as subtle as a kick in the stomach.