By Joe Hartfeil
EDMONTON – There’s a palpable live feeling at the heart of Edmonton’s Altameda second release which is at odds with their more tailored debut, 2016’s Dirty Rain. The genesis of Time Hasn’t Changed You took shape in a manner that might please legendary Big Pink denizens The Band (a long-time fixture in the Altameda van’s disc changer), in that the new songs were first laid down in somewhat primitive fashion at keyboardist Matt Kraus’s cabin. While the group considered putting out the recordings in this barebones form, the tracks went through a transformation under the guidance of Toronto producer Aaron Goldstein (known for his work with City & Colour, Daniel Romano and Kathleen Edwards).
Upon arriving in TO, Goldstein invited the musicians to Thanksgiving dinner then sent them off for a good night’s rest before rolling tape the next morning. According to bassist Todd Andrews, there was “a lot of togetherness with this record compared to the last one.” Opposed to the usual routine where band members worked their respective day jobs then got together when they all found the time, the group would “get up and walk to the studio from where we were staying, work for the whole day, get some dinner, walk home, repeat.”
The organic atmosphere Goldstein fostered meant the band would record basic tracks as a group (with perfection sometimes sacrificed in favour of feel), while overdubs often involved surprise guests as they happened by. One such instance saw John Prine’s fiddler Kendel Carson popping in to borrow a cable from Goldstein. She subsequently laid down a gorgeous part for the plaintive “Fire,” which, as drummer Erik Grice tells it, had everyone “weeping in the control room.” Additional ornamentations such as Goldstein’s tasteful pedal steel touches and the Last Waltz-esque horns courtesy of Joseph Shabason and Vince Spilchuk underline Altameda now playing with a relaxed, swinging confidence beyond the best moments on its first album. In listening to Dirty Rain and Time Hasn’t Changed Me back to back, the former now feels like a promising warmup.
Time hasn’t changed the essence of a band whose members take genuine pleasure in playing and spending time with one another. Rather, it’s allowed the individual parts to stand out more in the context of a cohesive whole. Guitarist/singer Troy Snaterse sounds every bit the plainspoken alt-country troubadour, and his layers of acoustic and swirling electric textures on “Good Will Surely Come” lend an intelligent groove to the proceedings. Keyboardist Kraus is capable of resembling Garth Hudson or Richard Manuel one moment and Ian McLagan at his boozy Faces’ best the next, while the rhythm team of Erik Grice and Todd Andrews (who have played together from the age of fourteen) put enough power in the pop to break Tom Petty’s heart. A well-crafted album ready to flourish alongside Altameda’s upcoming trek through the Canadian prairies.
AB dates for Altameda’s Western Canadian tour include Jan. 18 at Arden Theatre (St. Albert), Jan. 30 and 31 at Starlite Room (Edmonton), Feb. 1 at the Palace Theatre (Calgary), Feb. 3 at the Esplanade (Medicine Hat), Feb. 4 at Bo’s Bar & Grill (Red Deer) and Feb. 5 at Average Joe’s (Lethbridge).Altameda, Arden Theatre, Average joes, Bo’s Bar & Grill, Esplanade, Palace Theatre, Starlite Room