(Illusion Records, CD)
Most Vermonters know Scott Tournet as the guitarist for the ever-ascendant Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. Touring and recording with that group is a full-time job, yet Tournet still finds time to produce and release music under his own name. His latest solo effort is the curiously titled Everyone You Meet Is Fighting a Hard Battle.
The album is a guitar-driven affair, packed with the '70s-style playing Tournet is known for. His singing is plain in a good way, devoid of pretense or affectation. It's nice to hear a male rock voice free of macho mannerisms and artificial emotion.
The disc offers quite a few gems. I was instantly smitten with "Homefunk," which kicks off with a slinky bass line that's soon joined by feisty chord vamps and choice slow-hand licks. Tournet's buttery vocals are excellent, nicely complementing the tune's sensual groove.
"Judgment Day" is also quite interesting. It's built on a modified J.J. Cale-style shuffle, upon which silvery guitar and subdued vocals compete for attention. The result is both familiar and forward-looking, and provides a fine example of Tournet's broad musicality.
There are a few ballads, such as the profoundly bleak "Share Your Grave." Coarse vocals and melancholic guitar are met by moody fiddle from guest Patrick Ross. The blend, while beautiful, practically bleeds pathos.
"Feelin' Bad/Feelin' Mean" is equally doleful, but a good deal more spacious. A muted, Mark Knopfler-esque number, it boasts ghostly guitar flourishes and intimate, almost whispered vocals.
Not all the tracks are as engaging, however. Some are built on repetitive chord progressions that might be conducive to live jamming but sound kind of dull on record. The biggest offender is "Sitting Here (Too Long)," which has plenty of axe action but little in the way of melody or hook. The rock-by-numbers "Sinkin' In" suffers from a similar lack of imagination.
"Tell You the Truth" contains a few nice slide runs, but sounds more like a GP&N reject than the locomotive blues workout it aspires to be.
Everyone You Meet Is Fighting a Hard Battle is what we music critics like to call "uneven": The good stuff is excellent, the rest, well, not so much. But chances are, even the weak tunes will sound solid live. Find out for yourself when Tournet and his band play the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge on Saturday, February 3, with Luke Eriksen.