Craig Carswell is a multi-instrumental, producer and singer/songwriter from High River, Alberta, Canada. Owner of the RedBlack Recording Studio, Carswell played in metal bands while growing up in the Calgary area. For a time, he was the vocalist for the well-known Calgary metal band Grimzen. After calling it quits, Carswell focused his energy on more behind the scenes aspects of music, receiving his certificate for production from The Academy of Production and Recording Arts (APRA) in Calgary. Since graduating, he has made a name for himself in the music industry as a producer, working with a large roster of popular local artists as well as being producer for Juno Nominee Maren Ord and recently producing a song featuring America’s Got Talent finalist Evie Clair. In September of 2018, Carswell decided to start playing as a solo acoustic artist and released his first single and music video for the song “New York Lights” later that month. A second single and music video for the song "Run" was released in April of 2019 and can be viewed on YouTube. Both of these emotionally driven songs can be heard on his debut release December Songs which came out last winter. Carswell has been compared to artists like Dustin Kensrue, Dermot Kennedy and Lewis Capaldi.
Carswell’s newest release is Dark and Dreary. The first track “Not Today” begins with a bright, clean sound. It features acoustic guitar rhythms layered on top of a solo electric in a style that mixes up country rock with contemporary pop rock. Carswell explains that he’s “not a country artist” but he “produced this song this way as a thank you” for the local radio station Sun Country 99.7 FM that supports his talent as a singer/songwriter. In a way, Carswell’s style and voice reminds me of Rob Thomas and Matchbox 22, but with a bit more country flavor. “Like a Ghost – Album version” has a somber feel to it and lyrics to match the song’s melancholy nature. The song is about loss, regret and thoughts of a loved one who’s passed on. If you’ve experienced losing someone close, you’ll be able to relate to this number. Carswell’s use of backing vocals emphasizes the sadness within the song’s melody even more. And I loved his line, “the path that we walk is paved by the death of our innocence.” Damn, that’s good.
“Acceptance” is another slower, introspective song but with more instrumentation added by the drums, piano and keys. I liked the dark chords of the piano – quite chilling. The song’s style is contemporary pop ballad and has a very likable, radio friendly sound. Carswell’s electric guitar solo brings an element of soul, too. Carrying on the singer/songwriter structure of thoughtful words and tender melodies is “Internal War.” Carswell sings about his struggles of battling the demons within and thoughts of a relationship that didn’t go as planned. Overall, the words are sad, but relatable in many ways. Stylistically, this tune has a stripped-down sound as the artist plays just enough guitar to focus more on the words he sings.
The last two songs contain a bare bones sound and will be featured on Carswell’s next album. “Burnout” (demo) features a straight acoustic sound and a clean, live sound like how I imagine Carswell would sound on stage. The last number is “Face in the Crowd” (demo) and it has a lively folk pop rhythm to it. It opens with the words “how do we carry on when the world is cold and gray / and it’s your mind that’s making it that way” that brings a philosophical point of view to the song. Other questions and observances within the songwriting ask – how do we get on with life when the world is so messed up anyway? Carswell’s style and the way he arranges his rhythm reminded me a little of Billy Bragg. A very honest and open song to end the album. And that’s my overall takeaway from Dark and Dreary – a sincere album that asks some tough questions that I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves. A bit dark and dreary as the album’s title says, but Carswell taps into the singer/songwriter style very nicely and without a hitch.
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