Dallas Green is someone who will always be kept close to the heart of St Catharines. As someone who has spent a good chunk of my life in this city, I can say with certainty his name is pretty hard to escape — it’s almost as if he himself never left. I know it’s sacrilege to live here and not be familiar with City and Colour or Alexisonfire, but frankly I’m glad I put off checking out what Dallas Green had to offer until now. If I hadn’t, his newest work, a 20 track live album Guide Me Back Home, wouldn’t have been my introduction to him. Collecting a mixture of City and Colour’s most recognised hits and hidden gems on showcase, the album offers a personal look into the world of Dallas Green. It’s thoughtful and familiar, with a lot of heart put into it. Encompassing a variety of the catalogue performed throughout his solo 2017 tour, Guide Me Back Home takes what fans love about Green’s music and strips it bare.
The album feels like a clear tribute to City and Colour’s fans, much like the tour from which these recordings are taken. The tour, titled ‘An Evening with City and Colour’, consisted of only one member of City and Colour’s backing band — multi-instrumentalist Matt Kelly — and Dallas himself. The intimacy to be expected of such a small show is mirrored on Guide Me Back Home. Many of the recordings feature Green alone, his guitar and vocal talent highlighting the raw lyrical content. It’s a combination that’s sure to stick with you, especially towards the end of the album, where most of the heavy hitters are placed. You feel like you’re right there with Green. Scattered throughout the 20 tracks are commentary from Dallas himself, making the album feel more personal than the overall serenity of the music and revealing lyrics already do. When introducing Casey’s Song, he discusses how he completely forgot to play the song years prior, but still goes on to give it a shot, making for a beautiful moment when it comes together much better than it did in 2005.
Tranquility isn’t something I usually look for in a song, but the simplicity of Green’s music is anything but boring. Take the rendition of his 2007 song ‘Sensible Heart’; the instrumental backing almost feels like an afterthought in this version of the song, which, strangely, is a good thing. Green’s vocals on this track are haunting and through the bare bones style it’s performed in, the lyrics hit even harder than the recorded version fans are used to. City and Colour’s poetic, often poignant lyrics become the star of the show through the minimalist arrangement they receive in this performance. When working in tandem with Dallas Green’s vocal performance, this makes for emotive and unforgettable music. Another example of this was my personal favourite of the album, ‘Hello, I’m in Delaware’. The instrumental is soft and subtle underneath simple yet delicate vocals.
Overall, Guide Me Back Home is a relaxing listen. It’s something to put on and allow to fully envelope you, making you feel as though you’re right there beside Dallas Green as he performs. This album was constructed to be a love letter to the fans and it proves itself to be such with ease. The passion that Dallas Green has clearly put into City and Colour for years now has come to a peak with this album — it’s hard to imagine how he’ll top it. If you’re looking for a way to get into City and Colour like I had been, Guide Me Back Home is a fantastic introduction, though I can’t promise you’ll be capable of loving the rest of Green’s catalogue as much as this album. That’s not to say anything bad about the rest of his music, but Guide Me Back Home is so comforting and powerful that it’s hard to imagine how it could be topped.