The former frontman for Mercury Pickup, Alguire has a vocal style that’s relaxed yet dominant, akin to Greg Keelor and Declan McGarry. Now Before Us, his third solo album, is a stripped-down, squeaky clean production with some very enjoyable moments; unfortunately, those moments are too few and far between.
Algure has beginnings down pat (many of the tracks seem promising at first), but it’s the middles and endings that he hasn’t quite mastered. Backed by an outstanding and technically precise band, he has more dobro, mandolin, steel guitars and four-part harmonies than you can shake a stick at.
The melodies are often lost in the rather rambling and repetitive allegories and story-song lyrics. I’m not sure what it is, but there seems to be something missing — perhaps he tries to go too deep lyrically, because by the end of the album not any one song stands out or gets stuck in your head. Too many country-rock songs about metaphorical roads and storms and rain tend to blend together:
“Once again I will drift away / Muttering what I had to do / Chasing down that dusty road … Lost piece trying to puzzle it together/ Trying to figure where we all should be.”
It’s a shame that Alguire, with his fine voice and stellar backing band, spends so much time navel gazing about Judgement Day or the fleeting nature of human existence or whatever. This album is like a beautifully written novel with very little plot — there are some nice moments, but when all’s said and done it leads nowhere very interesting and uncovers nothing new.
Standouts are the upbeat bluegrass of “Pen A Man Down” and the loping country trot of “Hands Full of Flowers,” featuring Alguire at his best: when he’s not attempting to puzzle out the meaning of life or why some lives are cut short. “Hold On” is a galloping number full of mighty fine harmonies and gritty dobro.