Vancouver, Canada’s ACT Americana Trio began their creative journey five years ago. Singer/songwriter and guitarist Andre Chrys, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Chris Lok, and singer/songwriter/musician Taryn Laronge are a sort of low-key roots music “supergroup” with decades of collective artistry between them. Their EP True North features four tracks steeped in the music that’s defined each of the principals’ lives, but it is never overly reverential.
The trio has drafted several top-notch talents to help fill out their sound. Named The Henhouse Express, Guitarist Steve Dawson, bassist Jeremy Holmes, and drummer Gary Craig share the trio’s vision of Americana music and ably support the songs. The outlaw-on-the-road blues of the title song fuels the song across countless miles and, despite the specific details of the lyrics, they sound like travels within instead of without. Steve Dawson, delivering pedal steel contributions to the song, is melodic and eloquent.
Many listeners familiar with the genre and top-flight songwriting, in general, will be impressed with the song’s lyrics. The trio chose this as the album’s single for clear reasons as it isn’t only representative of the EP overall, but it’s equally representative of the band’s aesthetic character. Their songwriting language always relies on plain-spoken verbiage laced with dramatic power; some of the lines are breathtaking in their directness. Conversational poetry in this setting is an ideal fit.
The song’s video is full of the same road imagery present in the lyrics. The muted colors of video are appropriate for the song’s emotional weather and the same utter lack of pretentiousness in the trio’s music define the accompanying promotional clip as well. Fans of the lyric video formatting will appreciate “True North” including the words in a plain font. ACT Americana embraces several time-tested video tropes without ever boring viewers. It’s an arresting and complimentary piece.
Laronge delivers the lead vocal for “Rescue Fantasy” and her voice shares obvious sonic characteristics with her fellow band members while offering a distinct texture. ACT Americana adorns the track with several bluesy touches and the dominant is introducing dobro into the EP’s sound. Steve Dawson’s playing burns bright once again and the song’s careful, deliberate build doesn’t dilute its emotional potential.
“Whole Lotta Livin’” places Laronge front and center once again. The song steps back from the acoustic Delta blues influences of “Rescue Fantasy” and, instead, opts for something closer to a blues rock approach. Laronge’s lower register serves her especially well without ever stumbling into regrettable histrionics. “Nothin’ You Can Do About That” closes True North with a return to the band’s foundational principles. ACT Americana arranges the song at a near-shuffle pace and lays out an acoustic line of attack for the EP’s finale without ever sounding like they are retreading familiar ground.
The distinctive vocal harmonies are a big reason why. They aren’t overpowering, however, and the ACT Americana Trio exhibits the same unshakable balance highlighting the preceding songs. True North’s songs glow with an undeniably bright light but few recent releases sparkle with such inviting intensity. It’s all the more remarkable that they are working within such a deep traditional vein yet possess a fierce identity of their own. It comes through in the particular way they turn a melody, a line in a song, and where they choose to place their emphasis. Such attributes are the hallmarks of a band built to last.