Black Dogs Blue Giants
'From an Edmonton basement emerges a beautifully-crafted debut album from a band called Jeff Stuart & the Hearts. The band lovingly recorded it all themselves, over a long period of time spent sequestered away at their rehearsal space, in the basement of the house belonging to guitar player/ engineer/ co-producer Gavin Dunn. It features a remarkably fully-fledged sound for a band that has yet to truly spread it's wings extensively in a live music setting; the record's maturity is owed in part, perhaps, to the fact that all of the members of this band are richly seasoned in the Albertan roots & rock'n'roll scenes -- beginning with Jeff Stuart himself, who up until this point has been known to most as a solo acoustic performer. He's certainly eschewed the solitary singer/songwriter format with this new project, surrounding himself with a sprawling, richly-textured sound that encompasses a wild array of electric & acoustic instruments, some highly sophisticated vocal harmonies, as well as an adventurous, nearly-unhinged approach to arrangement that allows the music to veer from one emotion to the next with a barely-restrained sense of abandon. While leaning strongly toward a candid, wistful country sound overall, there's plenty of indie-pop at play, and you'll also find some crunchy rock'n'roll moments, stark balladeering and delicate instrumental interludes; a general sense of rampant creativity lends these heartfelt, plaintive songs a dreamy, unpredictable quality that keeps the listener engaged from the disc's beginning to it's end. Whirling from mood to mood on a sea of reverb-drenched guitars, percussion, piano, fiddle, steel guitar, background vocals and horns, the ambitious arrangements highlight Stuart's songwriting and vocal performances to great effect, burnishing the lustrous melodies with layer upon layer of musical dynamism. Keeping the album's pace moving along briskly is a handful of cameos from illustrious Edmontonian indie-scene guests, including James Murdoch, Amy Van Keeken (Dub Vulture, the Secretaries, the Colleen Brown Band), Scott Davidchuk (Darrek Anderson & the Guaranteed, the Get Down), and many others, all of whom serve to broaden the already-considerable sonic scope of this record, one which hangs together remarkably well, despite being so multi-faceted. It's elegant, sophisticated, daring, and brilliantly creative, but more than anything, just as the band's name suggests, this music is indeed from the heart.' -CKUA Radio Network-.