Little Worry is the debut album by the Toronto alternative rock band Paper Saw. The members are Mike Travis (guitar/vocals), Chris Jurashcka (lap steel/guitar), Jose Guillen (bass) and Stefan New (drums). They say that their music “stretches across genres including alternative, blues, country and psych-rock. The album is heavily influenced by the sounds of Wilco, Magnolia Electric Co and Radiohead with guitar licks that wink at Tom Petty, Neil Young and The Allman Brothers.”
Of course, bands hate being pigeonholed and most claim that they straddle many genres. Paper Saw definitely sound alternative most of the time, but the feel of country rock is never far from the surface, simply due to the prominence of the lap steel on many tracks. Guitarist Mike Travis has a road-hardened but melodic voice that floats atop these songs like cognac after a fine meal.
These seven tracks were written by the band with lyrics by Travis with the title track co-written with Guillen. The album was recorded and mixed at Baldwin Street Sound by Aaron Goldstein and mastered by Kristian Montano at Montano Mastering. The sound often builds to near overload, without ever quite crossing the line into distortion.
“Defeat, and” opens with a bittersweet roots-rock assault, featuring electric guitars, organ (uncredited) and lap steel with all the boys harmonizing beautifully. Love the chord structure here with the emphasis on certain riffs, plus a great guitar solo. “It Don’t Phase Me” is the album’s first single and the guys say it was recorded quickly, almost by mistake. “The lyrics are a mashup of nostalgia, regret, longing, happiness, disaster. Understanding that all things eventually go the way they go, dust to dust and all that.” The arrangement dives feet first into Allman’s territory with Jurashcka’s lap steel taking center stage, and even dueting with slide guitar for a “Rambling Man” feel.
The title track “Little Worry” slows things down for a somber beat, great dramatic alternative rock guitars and crying, wailing lap steel, kicking into full speed about halfway through for a touch of R.E.M. “Hard to hide it” starts beautifully like an early Genesis instrumental, before kicking into a solid rock beat with metallic guitar riffing, as all that background spacey stuff continues to swirl about. A fun space-prog detour!
“Calendar” has the lap steel plugged into heavy reverb, which always sounds great and expansive. Travis takes a hearty lead vocal surrounded by a wall of chiming electric guitars with some gorgeous country flourishes at the end. “Pretty Petty” features another wall of driving hard rock, this time summoning the sprits of Neil Young and Crazy Horse (or is it Tom Petty?). The middle section actually feels like a garage rock single from the late ’60s with country influence again sneaking in toward the end. “Toronto #5” is a gently picked fuzz guitar song, starting slow and then hitting glorious stride midway for a quick conclusion.
Aside from a bit of genre whiplash, I really enjoyed these songs and the unusual use of lap steel as a primary instrument. Great things ahead for these boys!
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