CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The solo debut from Montreal singer/songwriter/filmmaker Daniel Isaiah is an ambitious and well-crafted collection of songs that shows off both his versatility and taste.
Isaiah is a vet of the city's vibrant music scene (formerly with Shoot the Moon), and he taps the spirit (and sound) of icons well known and obscure -- from countryman Leonard Cohen to Australian Paul Kelly. Especially on the title track and "Candlemaker Row," the mix of Isaiah's sandy voice and gentle, atmospheric production (an ear-pleasing trademark of many Canadian artists) brings to mind Dylan's "Oh Mercy" (which was heavily influenced by Canadian producer Daniel Lanois).
While the mood is low key, the styles range from "The Hours," which could be an outtake from Calexico's "Feast of Wire" (complete with Band-like horns), to "Emma Grace," which is propelled by a brushed snare drum and framed by soaring pedal steel flourishes. The dark "The Naked Night" rocks it up just a bit -- but not at the expense of Isaiah's evocative (if sometimes inscrutable) lyrics.Elsewhere, "Lady Moon So Far Away" features some fine, understated guitar wrangling. Isaiah won A&E's "Short Filmmaker Award" in 2009, and his latest film recently screened at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.