Gordie Tentrees has released his third studio album and is planning to celebrate with a tour of northern communities. More of that later, for now let’s get to the CD, Mercy or Sin.

For those familiar with his last two releases you will immediately hear two big differences, namely the production and the performance.

The production is much more atmospheric than past albums.

Bob Hamilton produces Mercy or Sin with great subtly and, in my humble opinion, it is a real credit to his skill. The instruments and vocals are mixed well and there is great stereo action happening on each track. The blend of gritty lead guitar with the cleaner Dobro guitar on Devil Talks really accentuates the completely dark bluesy grind of the thing.

There is special emphasis on the recording of the slide guitar on many of the tracks that give it its own tasty space that, to my ear, is a sonic listening pleasure. The slide guitar on Hey Mama is downright spacial.

I really like the treatment on Rambling and is that a Mellotron in there somewhere or merely a clever mix of strings? If you listen with the right kind of ears, you might hear a shade of Nights in White Satin in passing.

You would think that Tentrees constant touring over the last few years would have worn him down somewhat. On the contrary, the road has served him well.

His songs and song writing, while keeping a familiar flavour, express a strength that only a rigorous schedule of performance would provide.

In the same way an athlete might use exercise, Tentrees seems to have toned his craft and buffed up his playing and vocals in the process.

Tentrees exudes a new confidence on this album manifesting in a tighter band and lyrics that are more reflective. He seems to be more comfortable with his singing also: It may be subtle, but it is there.

A prime example would be his vocals on Devil Talks. On this track, we hear Tentrees going deep and giving a performance that is both gritty and more expressive than on his past albums.

Traveling Song Man, Rambling’s Gonna be the Death of Me and Ross River, among others, are reflections from the road.

“Write what you know” is the first rule a writer uses to fill a cold empty page and in Mercy or Sin, Tentrees uses this honest axiom to great effect.

Mercy or Sin is a powerful title for songs that delve deep into the psychology of the road. In that moment, standing at the crossroads, which path would you choose?

May 14 sees Tentrees at the Yukon Arts Centre for a CD release show with Fred Eaglesmith and, on the 15th, they are at the Odd Fellows Hall in Dawson.

You can check out his website at www.tentrees.ca and www.myspace.com/gordietentrees to hear some of the tunes from the new album.

And, on Page 14 of this paper, you will see a story on Gordie Tentrees and Fred Eaglesmith and their northern shows this week.