Whether you know him as Dylan Thomas (his recently retired moniker), Dylan Rysstad or “that guy who’s played with a huge list of talents”, one could never say that the Prince Rupert, BC native is content to sit back and rest. Mustering up a near army of music talent, including Polaris Prize nominee Daniel Romano, members of Chains Of Love and John Sponarski (Portage and Main), Rysstad has crafted his fifth release for Sakamano Records, Halfway Houses.
Opener “The Great Wall” is reflective of the album’s varying sonic layers. Peppered with the folk-rock sensibilities of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and just enough twang to lend a “long drive” sprawling feel, it’s easily a standout on the album. Doesn’t hurt that it echoes one of my life mantras: “Common sense ain’t common.” “Send ‘Em To Jasper” delivers the straight-up country ballads of whiskey-soaked bars with poor lighting and great clientele, the kind of people that one simultaneously wants to study from afar and slam a shot back with. Think Harvest Moon and you appreciate the subtlety and rich vocals.
While Rysstad has gravitated away from his early leanings in punk for the most part, now favouring more of a country feel, he hasn’t lost his touch for a more rocking melody. Track “When In Rome” evokes a mature Social Distortion with folksy sensibility and a hip-shimmy vibe. It radiates the feel of the punk teen grown into corporate worker bee, cutting loose in the bar on Friday night with a loosened tie. “If Only For Tonight” has that similar feel of a song both rooted in earthy riffs and a man on the verge of becoming unhinged with the slightest provocation lurking beneath the surface.