Jon & Roy – The Road Ahead is Golden
Blue Heron Music – 9 June 2017
Though little known outside their native Canada and parts of Europe, Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer have clocked up six albums since making their debut back in 2005. The Road Ahead Is Golden is their seventh, a straightforward, easy on the ear collection of rootsy pop with Middleton on guitar and vocals and Vizer on drums, backed up by Louis Sadaya on bass and Stephen Franke on keys, along with assorted backing vocals.
The opening track, Runner, pretty much epitomises their sound, a jangling acoustic guitar with a jogalong rhythm in service of an easy rolling toe-tapping melody with Middleton’s slightly woodgrained vocals. Breakdown has a slightly softer shuffle and tinkling keys, while The Better Life, a paean to the simplicity of rural living, is more of a chugger and Clever One pulls it back to brushed drums, cymbals and a circling fingerpicked riff.
Sierra Lundy adds background vocals to the almost calypso melody of How The Story Goes while, for some reason, the pulsing bass and keys of the mid-tempo Window put me in mind of Can’t Get Used To Losing You. The lazing How The Story Goes and the instrumental, Silent Lou, add little to proceedings, just sort of ambling along to nowhere in particular, but the title track recovers momentum with Middleton’s worn-heart vocals and some Spanish guitar-styled fingerpicking that gets a solo passage towards the end. Atypical of the other numbers, Nothing But Everything has a laid back, late night jazzy-soul groove before they close with the more desert roots feel of Every Night, gathering its pace with urgent snares and another agitated circular guitar line.
Lyrically, the songs tend to revolve around the more negative and difficult aspects of relationships, but, as Middleton prefers to let listeners find their own meanings, I’ll refrain from interpretation and just say that, even if you can’t decode them, the experience of listening won’t be time wasted.