If the singer-song writer's goal is to create a finished product that is entirely original, yet invariably relatable, then Dallas Green has made a push toward greatness with Little Hell. While his previous City and Colour albums have been saturated with hallmark diction and terminology like "love" and "hurt" and "strength", his sincerity-casted tracks in his third album feel less like emotional sucker punches, and hit much closer to home. By mixing up his musical style, and hooking a sharp right turn away from the warm and fuzzy, or archetypal depressed-man-with-a-guitar sound, Dallas Green has crafted his most versatile album to date.
The stand-out amendment to City and Colour's sound dwells within a new fullness that eminates an adult contemporary feel. Tracks like "Natural Disaster", "Fragile Bird", and "The Grand Optimist" redress the stripped down exterior of Green's folksy lounge style, and replace his predictability with a libertarian maturity. Backing vocals, harmony, and plush instrumentals decorate the music without watering down its emotional potency. In other words, there's a lot less cheese, and the wine is of higher distinction.
This can also be seen in Green's lyrics, which seem to have been largely sifted of their preoccupations, only enhancing the level of sincerity in his sound. Words are woven into melodies with more ingenuity, but without the cost of genuineness. For example, the chorus of "The Grand Optimist" is filled with hymnal backing vocals, bells, and piano dissonance, yet the experience clings to a sense of simple honesty with the personal and mantra-like line "I guess I take after my mother". The sincerity of Green combined with the new and original variations almost lends itself to the same artistic ball-field that bands like Bon Iver and Death Cab for Cutie (especially with the track Northern Wind), have been playing on. This is saying a lot for a musician who hasnt quite broken through the way Justin Vernon or Ben Gibbard has, and its a tell-tale sign the Green is stepping up his game.
There has never been anything pretentious about Green's music, and the main appeal of his sound has always been his hard hitting colloquialism, such as in the very personal track off Little Hell titled "O' Sister": "What makes you feel so alone/ Is it the whispering Ghosts that you fear the most?" The fact that Green manages to hang onto this intimate element while also flushing out his sound makes Little Hell a rare sell in that is made it through the improvement process without sacrificing any of the the bands original appeal. This means that City and Colour's new sound will keep returning fans hooked, while also branching out to a wider audience, particularly among aficionados of alternative inspired music. With such potential for mass appeal, Little Hell is crafted as cleverly as Dallas Green's moniker. To date, it trumps all ranks that City and Colour has earned, and may well prove to be the revision that Green's musical legacy has been in need of.