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Steven MacDougall 

Cruel & Unusual (Independent)

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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