Folk trio BTU serves up a solid set of new material on Tightrope Walk

Published on February 20, 2016

Powerhouse folk trio BTU serve up a fine mix of things on their second outing, Tightrope Walk.

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I remember clearly the first time I heard West Coast artist Shari Ulrich.

She was touring with Valdy as part of The Hometown Band in 1977 and they played a show at Confederation Centre of the Arts.

She caught my attention when she sang lead and played fiddle on a track called Mad Larry off the band's "Flying" album.

I've followed her work ever since, both as a solo artist and as a member of both The High Bar Gang and UHF, the latter another favourite of mine with Bill Henderson from Chilliwack and Roy Forbes, whom some may remember as Bim.

For almost 30 years I've enjoyed the work of Barney Bentall, with, and without, The Legendary Hearts.

So it was with more than a little enthusiasm that I cracked open Tightrope Walk, the sophomore release for BTU, a trio comprised of Ulrich, Bentall and Tom Taylor, another West Coast singer-songwriter, who has spent much of his career with Vancouver cult band, She Stole My Beer.

They were described by one writer as two Canadian legends and a number one draft pick.

Struck me funny when I first read that but it's really not that far from the truth.

This is a musical marriage of three strong artists, each of whom has proven to be a skilled songwriter, an accomplished musician and a singer with serious chops.

Individually any one of them is a force to be reckoned with.

But when you put them together it seems that everybody takes it up a notch.

To call them a powerhouse folk trio, as some have, is not overstating the impact of their music and they way they serve it up. It's handsomely crafted material, beautifully played and sung, with what can only be described as gorgeous vocal harmonies.

That's the order of the day on this Borealis release, which was produced by Ulrich's daughter Julia Graff, a gifted multi-instrumentalist in her own right, her partner James Parella and the members of BTU.

With three strong writers in the band, each of whom brings a little something different to the party, there's a really nice of mix of things here. Some songs just drive 'er. Some songs cause you to pause and reflect on life's emotional journey. Some just take you for a good ride.

The subject matter ranges from love and relationships and the fragile nature of some relationships to love and loss, horses and humans, innocence lost and the Great War.

While the majority of the material will be new to you, there's one track I'm happy to say I've heard before and am pleased to see here, Disappearing, a beautiful little piece Bentall co-wrote with Murray McLauchlan, which McLauchlan often performs.

Harmonies to die for.

Bentall, Taylor and Ulrich first played together in November 2007 at a songwriter concert on Bowen Island. They liked what they heard. You will too.

Choice offerings here include Chased By The Devil, You Got Lost, Disappearing, Vancouver 1914, The Wind Don't Lie and The Cowboy and The Horse.

 (Rating 4 out of 5 stars)

Doug Gallant On Track Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at dgallant@theguardian.pe.ca or 629-6000, ext. 6057.

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