NATHAN WILEY Bottom Dollar (Sonic) Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
CBC darling (Definitely Not The Opera gave him a boost with its Big Break contest) and proud Prince Edward Islander Nathan Wiley could be the second coming of Tom Waits. On his phenomenal first record, Wiley shows what happens to a lonesome cowboy when he's stranded Down East, far away from the wide open plains: he drinks some hooch, adapts chameleon-like to his surroundings and becomes a dark and mysterious surfer-pirate-renegade hybrid. Bottom Dollar is a sunken-treasure bonanza, combining the brittle, bleached bleakness of twangy old country tunes (replete with eerie lap-steel guitar), groovy wavering surf guitars, back-room honky-tonk pianos and cabaret swagger. Each song is an origami-folded story, crafted like a lobster trap, with verses and choruses delicately interwoven and hammered in place between secret doors and hidden hinges. Wiley delivers the bar-stool confessions in a perfectly tarnished, gravelly warble that adds credence to his paeans to sin and regret. Perhaps this is the definition of pirate music -- hollow and lonely, desperate for love and oozing emotion, bourbon and soot.