Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer are a Canadian duo who have been steadily building up their profile over the course of six albums. Their 2012 release Let It Go was awarded a Western Canadian Music Award for Roots Recording Of The Year while they seem to have cracked that financial lifeline that is TV exposure with several of their songs appearing on adverts. Recorded in a rural studio close to the band’s base in Victoria on Vancouver Island The Road Ahead Is Golden is a relatively simple affair with Middleton on guitar and vocals and Vizer on drums ably supported by bass and keyboards; the songs relaxed and easy flowing with Middleton’s attractively wearied voice the main hook.
The album ambles along nicely, a relaxed effort that’s just the right side of MOR music, not too demanding as the guitars ripple over Vizer’s supple percussion. Middleton at times recalls Will Oldham in the vocal department but the mood is more reminiscent of Oldham’s revisiting of his songs on his album Bonnie Prince Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music. The opening song, Runner, sets the pace with brisk scrubbed guitar pushing the song along as a subdued keyboard adds some colour. Breakdown skiffles along with some fine key changes and The Better Life posits the rural life as an antidote to the information highway that many of us are locked into these days.
Clever One slows the momentum with delicate finger picking and electric piano to the fore while How the story Goes is short and sweet with female harmonies added to the mix but the band’s dependence on Middleton’s voice is laid bare on the instrumental Silent Lou which just kind of noodles along. Overall, the album rests squarely on the vocals although there are some nice touches such as the guitar break on the title song and the late night groove of Nothing But Everything. It’s a disc to spin on a lazy afternoon with Middleton’s voice wafting over a cooling breeze.