The Evolution of City and Colour

by Bryce Arbour

Last Wednesday I went to see City and Colour (aka singer-songwriter Dallas Green) perform at the Electric Factory. Though he started as a guitarist and vocalist for the post-hardcore band Alexisonfire, I realized that the evolution of his solo career actually parallels the evolution of music that we have learned about so far.

At the beginning of his solo career, he released the album Sometimes (2005) – a ten song acoustic collection. It is music at its finest: one guitar, one voice. It received critical acclaim and created a sizable fan base for him. At the show I went to, he performed the song “Day Old Hate.” He admitted that he had written it when he was 16 years old and never expected to perform it for anyone, let alone thousands of people in a tightly packed room. That’s when I began to notice that the beginning of his musical career was similar to the beginning of music itself. Much like the anonymous composers of Gregorian chant, his early music is simple, pure, and singular, focusing solely on one voice and one supplement (an acoustic guitar, though piano was added post-production):

In contrast, his second full-length release, Little Hell (2011) began to evolve from simple to more complex. Though it is mainly acoustic, he incorporated the use of percussion, bass guitar, and rhythm guitar on this album. This is similar to the way music evolved from Gregorian chant to the styles found in the Renaissance and Baroque periods – there began to be more experimentation and use of varied instruments and voices. The song “Natural Disasters” from this album contrasts the above song:

Furthermore, his latest album, The Hurry and the Harm (2013), evolved even further. The instrumentation is focused heavily on his band (rather than one acoustic guitar) much like music found in operas uses an orchestra as the supplement to a vocalist. The song “Thirst” highlights the distortion and effects used by his band as well (like Steve Reich’s experimentation in It’s Gonna Rain):

Though he stays true to his acoustic roots on each album, he has evolved musically on each release, from acoustic guitar, to subtle backing instrumentation, to a full band… Seems a lot like the evolution from Gregorian Chant to Renaissance/Baroque and then opera!

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