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Jason Collett

Lost in the hoopla of Toronto collective Broken Social Scene'scelebrated You Forgot It In People was an outstanding release by Arts and Crafts Productions label mate Jason Collett. Which isn't all that surprising, really -- Collett doesn't write songs that jump up and down and say "look at me"; his tunes are as unassuming and familiar as an old pair of Levi's, and every bit as reliable and well-crafted.

Long a performer in various Toronto-area bands, most notably north-of-the-border alt-country pioneers the Cash Brothers, Collett went solo in 2001 with the album Bitter Beauty. His 2003 album Motel Motor Love Songs features a number of tracks from that album and a half-dozen new ones, mixing up brash rockers with introspective ballads never wanting for nuance or sophistication. Lyrically, Collett tends toward poetic highway vignettes that reveal the emotional distance between love and lover. His warm, mellow neo-Americana compositions offer acoustic guitar and drums at their foundation and are fleshed out with expressive electric guitar, wonky vintage keys, tinkling piano, well-placed pedal steel, and more. Collett gets help from a host of noteworthy collaborators including Andrew Cash on guitar, Howie Beck on drums, and the Scene's Leslie Feist on gorgeous backing vocals. Motel Motor Love Songs' cover shows the long-haired singer bathed in shafts of sunlight, gazing out the window at the trees and fields of the great big world outside -- just the kind of feeling you get from the music.