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Reviewed by Gregory Robson
The Karpinka Brothers – You Can Count On Me
Release Date: Sept. 3, 2015
Record Label: Self-released

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is not exactly a musical hotbed, but one band is doing everything to change that. The Karpinka Brothers, fronted by Shawn and Aaron Karpinka, perform a sterling form of old-school Americana that demands wider audiences. You Can Count On Me, the third album from the Canadian outfit is easily their best to date and looks to position the band as one of Americana’s beacons in the months and years to come. Very little of You Can Count On Me sounds modern, that is to say the album mines the same sonic terrain as that of Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers, and hot damn, is it something.

The album opens with the inviting and amiable “Careful What You Wish For,” a warm and rollicking slice of hook-laden 60s pop. That vibe carries over to the buoyant title track, a cheery and hopeful kernel that is ridiculously catchy. The same playful guitar lines that welcomed “Careful What You Wish For” return on the hip-shaking and beer-swilling “One Of These Days,” a breezy and effortless pop song that is as magnetic as it is concise. One of only two down moments arrives next in the form of “Lost and Found” a song that builds on the momentum of “One Of Those Days” but ultimately falls very short. The same sense of precision, polish and crispness that marked the previous three songs is definitely missing on “Lost and Found.” Thankfully the band recovers on lead single “Tetherball,” a sunny and bright rollick that belies a darker subject matter.

One of the strongest of the lot is the dusty, western cut “Who Says Dreams Don’t Come True,” a winsome valentine to a significant other that possesses some of the strongest vocals on the album and easily one of the strongest hooks. On an album that has many keepers, few shine brighter than “Who Says Dreams Don’t Come True.” You Can Count On Me rounds towards the finish line with “Far Away,” a cocktail of sha-la-la-la’s that unfortunately wades in the tepid waters of “Lost and Found.”

Not content to mire in mediocrity, The Karpinka Brothers close out You Can Count On Me with two of their strongest songs to date. “You Don’t Scare Me” opens with jovial guitars and a veneer that is equal parts rustic, vernal and witty. You Can Count On Me concludes with “Heaven Help Me Through The Hard Times,” a song that is easily the band’s apex composition. Arguably the only ballad on the nine song album, “Heaven Help Me,” is lingering, potent and deeply rewarding. In short, it’s the kind of song that bands can spend years trying to craft and never once achieve. The fact that Shawn and Aaron Karpinka have written such a song on only their third release points at exactly why they have won over Canada.

Perhaps the best part about You Can Count On Me is how simple and unadorned it is. There’s nothing superfluous or synthetic about any of these nine songs. Just two guitars, a bass and a drum kit. Not only that the songs are immediate and accessible, with only one lasting longer than three minutes (“Heaven Help Me Through the Hard Times”) and one not even two minutes in length (“Tetherball”). That commitment to simplicity is exactly why The Karpinka Brothers are poised to win America over in the months and years to come.