Review of The Rural Alberta Advantage Show in Dallas at the Cavern on December 12th, 2009 by Nick Rallo
About a hundred years ago in the coal mining town Frank, Alberta, there was a big rock slide. Millions of tons of limestone buried a piece of the town and around 70 people died. This is what the song “Frank, AB” by The Rural Alberta Advantage is about. Listening to The RAA live is pretty much like a rock slide: the band is a trio of rollicking, bone cracking drums & jingles (by Paul Banwatt) and mirthlessly shrewd singing (by Amy Cole). Lead singer Nils Edenloff’s high voice is pungent enough to cut through bar noise, and it forces you to hear his storytelling strength. What you get is Edenloff’s singing about the inevitability of loss, and the acceptance & bereavement when it happens. Live, it’s not beautiful, and it’s not rock and roll.
At the Cavern bar in Dallas Saturday night, after a decent rock fest from The Shaky Hands, Edenloff and the rest of the AA showed off their rawness from their debut album, Hometowns (saddle creek)–the most poignant being the stripped, too short “In the Summertime.” It opened with a funeral-like organ, and singer Nils Edenloff came in with some potently simple lyrics:
“And once in a while / I know our hearts beat out of time / and once in a while / I know they’ll fall back in line”
“Drain the Blood” had a good balance of wonder and harshness and a catchy chorus: sort of like an angrier Feist. Weirdly, the only moment of the show that was not about the acceptance loss was the cover of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger“–which Edenloff performed by himself. Pretty bold. Somehow, he managed to turn ridiculousness into pretty great emo.
If there was anything bad to say (hard to do in a show that sounds as exact as the produced album) was that the band was so humble, so thoroughly egoless that it left me wanting more. A bass solo, something. Maybe a microphone stand toss? I consider the show more of an oral short story reading, than a rock show. Edenloff, who is from the Alberta province in Canada, told the rock slide story of “Frank, AB” unpretentiously. It was the show’s peak. Driving home in the Dallas night fog it was hard not to dwell on the sadness of being buried alive in limestone. So, I guess that’s how the show ultimately left me: blood let. But that’s the point, isn’t it?
The RAA’s new single “Drain the Blood,” comes out on 7″ in Jan, featuring that cover of “Eye of the Tiger”–weirdest B-side ever. Also, if you’re a history buff, go read about the “Frank Rock Slide,” or “Frank Slide,” go: here.
MP3 of “Don’t Haunt This Place” via Saddle Creek.