Saddle Creek | The Rural Alberta Advantage | Reviews



Author: Kristie Shanley
09/28/2009 | | | Live Show Preview
Once in a great while, a band comes along that makes you feel as if the human story is worth telling. The Rural Alberta Advantage is one such band. Now based in Toronto, Canada, it's surprising what full sound they accomplish between their three members. Lead singer Nils Edenloff has a vocal quality that is both urgent and honest with the nasal reminiscence of Jeff Magnum from Neutral Milk Hotel. Alternating between guitar and a Casio keyboard, his lyrics are often autobiographical and clearly genuine. The effect is both disarming and one to be treasured.

"I don't mean to tell a story in front of every single song" Edenloff reassured the sold out audience towards the end of their set. Yet, it's this sense of personal identity that makes the band unique and cherished. The way the songwriting unfolds brings about lush rich images of humanity and the past as well as the small towns in Canada he speaks of. The band's full length album, 2008's Hometowns is filled with such impressive wonders, songs that can only be appreciated more on each new listen.

At the same time, the tracks often have a sense of edge that recalls even bands as epic as Arcade Fire. "Frank, AB" is perhaps the most fitting of this comparison. Aided by the backup vocals of the lovely Amy Cole, who also plays drums, keyboards, and glockenspiel, the songs feel inspired and whole. Meanwhile, drummer Paul Banwatt doesn't miss a beat and provides a subtle grounding to the tunes that allow them to take off more completely between Cole and Edenloff.

Overall, the dynamics between the trio are fantastic. They've clearly mastered the art of playing off of eachother's talents. However, one gets the sense that Edenloff has a lead in the songwriting process the way he takes the stage and speaks so candidly with the audience. He has a humble yet distinctive stage presence with the ability to easily both develop a story and joke about his willingness to play anyone's BBQ. This makes him immensely likeable as the creator of his songs and encourages the audience to actively hear more.

Clear song highlights from the Rural Alberta Advantage's 75 minute set included "The Ballad of the RAA," "Luciana," and "The Dethbridge in Lethbridge." However, Edenloff also played two unexpected covers on his own, Abba's "S.O.S" and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." The style of both songs were drastically changed from their originals and seemed quite a bit more sentimental and stripped down. Without the fame and popularity of the choruses on FM radio, they might even be unrecognizable in Edenloff's style. The band also ended their encore and overall set on a sensitive note by joining the audience and singing from the floor a lullaby entitled simply "Good Night."

North Carolina's Love Language proved the perfect opener and pairing for The Rural Alberta Advantage. Proof that southern charm goes a long way, the seven piece delivered tambourines flailing and raucous fun dancing with songs like "Lalita" and their cover of Ricky Nelson's "Hello Mary Lou" especially. With ample keyboards, drumming, vocal harmonizing and guitar parts, their presence was always an engaging one.

Love Language has a style that feels too pop influenced to be classified as garage and too garage influenced to be pigeonholed into the pop category. Similar to their live performance, their self titled record is full of both energetic songs as well as ballads such as "Two Rabbits" and "Manteo," which came off rather enchanting live. Though the style of the two bands is ultimately quite different, garnering a contrasting sound, what Love Language and The RAA share is a sense of youthful honesty that feels both wholesome and memorable.


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