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Steven MacDougall 

Cruel & Unusual (Independent)

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The lead singer from Slowcoaster steps forward with substantial Cape Breton support, with tunes designed to make you hum later at unexpected moments. On first listen, MacDougall sounds like a poppier version of Gordie Sampson, who co-wrote “Don’t Hold Your Breath.” Jamie Foulds (Remember Realworld?) produces and plays piano. JP Cormier also pitches in. The title number lets all those vowels ooze out of MacDougall over a bed of sweet backing vocals. Most of the songs’ structures would fit country radio, where Sampson has thrived, but the presentation eschews anything like pedal steel or fiddle. It’s a fine solo debut, so Slowcoaster’s status gets a boost even if MacDougall opts to keep his own place.

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