(4 / 5)
Such a lovely album. The Canadian twosome drop their seventh thus far, and they feel it is THE album they were always destined to make, since their debut 12 years ago.
Lots of pre-planning and pre-production went into it. Er, not at all! The guys hooked up with their bassist Louis Sadava, booked the studio and left the rest to fate. This is the most organic and naturally evolved collection of songs of their career.
Jon and Roy are Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer, who are long-time band-mates and began releasing music under the Jon and Roy moniker while they were at University. The pair from Victoria, BC pushed aside a long-term plan that would have put them in the studio many months down the road, for this record. The 11 songs took shape with relative ease.
They recorded “The Road Ahead Is Golden” at a small, rural West Coast studio, a setting which stands in contrast to Greenhouse Studios in Vancouver, where 2015’s “Riverside” was recorded. “Riverside” pushed the musicians outside of their comfort zones, but “The Road Ahead Is Golden” marks a return to organic operations for the group.
Coming on the heels of 2014’s “By My Side”, the upbeat tone of “Riverside” positioned the band for success on a worldwide scale. A recent tour of Europe was brought about by a booking agent whose eagerness to see them overseas, presented Jon and Roy with a long-awaited opportunity. The guys had no choice but to trust his enthusiasm, and their maiden tour of Europe wound up being an amazing success.
They were stunned to hear audiences in Amsterdam singing along to their 2008 single, “Little Bit of Love”, on a tour where they were selling out venues. Jon and Roy return to Europe on two separate occasions in 2017 – already been over here for three shows in March. This gorgeous album will do no harm to their potential for further major success across the pond. Previous tours with Xavier Rudd and The Cat Empire had put Jon and Roy before fans across North America. Exposure in TV ad’ campaigns for Volkswagen, Scotiabank, and Lululemon, in addition to song placements in TV shows on HBO, MTV, NBC and OLN among dozens of others, broadened their reputation further.
Jon Middleton’s electric and acoustic guitar skills and his distinctive rootsy vocal, blends well with Vizer’s creative drums and percussion. The pair wrote all 11 songs on the record. Middleton is joined by other voices on several songs, including members of Current Swell on The “Better Life.” Their regular colleague Louis Sadava is on bass, Stephen Franke on keyboards, Sierra Lundy, Scott Stanton and David lang on backing vocals. Produced by Jon and Roy, with Stephene Franke.
Theirs is a chilled, alt folk meets Americana and roots sound. Stripped back, lots of space, less-is-more production values. The songs allowed to breathe and the focus is on the overall vibe and not any one specific aspect. Much like the warm and gentle ambience that Simon and Garfunkel created. No big epic, over blown stuff here and also; no really memorable hooks. Cleverly understated and subtle. To wash over us and leave us feeling calm and serene. Predominantly ballads or mid-tempo material.The percussive side of things is ultra measured and pulled back, adding tremendous value to the material because of it.
Jon’s vocal and the overall emotional atmosphere puts me in mind of the likes of Mumford and Sons, Belle and Sebastian, Foy Vance, Bon Iver and even Nick Drake. The short and sweet instrumental cut “Silent Lou”, at track eight is a nice touch, and I wonder if there’s a vocal left on the cutting room floor from that track. The closer “Every Night”, is a little more rambunctious than the rest of the songs here, and may well be many people’s pick of the bunch, methinks.
A delicate, sensitive and beautiful piece of work, from musicians who have something special going on and are not trend led, but deserve widespread attention. * This is the place where some reviewers will end their piece with a play on the title, and how Jon and Roy’s future really is golden! Cannot argue with that.
By Simon Redley
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’