Jim Bryson
Gig Seeker Pro

Jim Bryson


Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"No Depression (The North Side Benches)"

“The North Side Benches... is a cogent showcase for Bryson’s music, which could inadequately be summarized as the Replacements recording at Big Pink. A bruised emotional core of songwriting blends with gruff humour, set in uncluttered, inventive musical settings.”
No Depression
- No Depression

"Billboard (The North Side Benches)"

"#6 Album of the Year! If Kathleen Edwards has a "Mr. Miyagi," it's
this excellent singer/songwriter."
Jason MacNeil (BILLBOARD)
- Billboard

"Exclaim! (Where the Bungalows Roam)"

Jim Bryson says he’s sick of stamping his feet in the same old puddle. Hooray for that because his restless urge to stretch his musical limits has resulted in a third solo album that’s rootsier, mellower and more adult than anything we’ve heard from him before.

Not that there was anything wrong with the jangling rock on his first two discs but the restrained arrangements of Where The Bungalows Roam allow the subtler aspects of Bryson’s songwriting — his considered lyrics, delicate hooks and damned catchy choruses — to take centre stage for a change.

Quirky touches like sudden, theatrical bursts of organ and cello beckon you into this new batch of songs like a pair of bedroom eyes. This is a more tender side of Bryson, a side that was always present in his lyrical themes but one that was sometimes buried by his guitar-shredding solos.

This is a lovely evolution for one of Canada’s most underrated songwriters, and one that will hopefully help him finally transcend that unfortunate label.

How was the songwriting process different this time?

It was sort of an accidental record and a record of convenience, in that I was making it on stops home when I was on tour with Kathleen Edwards. I’d just poke away at demos and when I had slowly accumulated about eight songs, I thought, “I might as well try recording these.”

Why such a different sound on this album?

In my living arrangement I play songs really quietly because I play music quite late. And I wasn’t rehearsing with a band regularly so I wasn’t bringing anybody songs to bash out and sing loud. I realise there’s going to be people that’ll say, “where’s your guitar player and your ripping guitar solos and rock songs?” but I wanted to try something different. It doesn’t mean I won’t make a band record ever again, but I think records should reflect how you feel and I felt that “turn up the quiet” wasn’t a bad idea for me.

Does that allow some of the subtler features of your songwriting to stand out?

It definitely exposes things and makes you really self-conscious about what you’re singing and doing, which is a good balancer because you can’t get away with things that you just could have mumbled through if you had a band. I know it’s a cliché to say it’s the most honest I’ve felt making a record but really, it’s a record I made for myself.
- Exclaim!

"Herohill (Where the Bungalows Roam)"

Jim is a talent that Canadians should be aware of, but he tends to play the back instead of standing up demanding to be heard. He's been a part of Kathleen Edwards and Howie Gelb's bands (along with countless other projects), in addition to some fantastic solo records that never seem to get the attention they deserve. His latest, Where the Bungalows Roam, is an album I find myself listening to a lot as the season changes here in Vancouver.

This is a record I should have talked about before, as it has spent hours on repeat when I write and enjoy the morning quiet. The record is filled with beautiful sadness, the type that might overwhelm you on gray Vancouver mornings, but seems somewhat comforting when accompanied by the warming sun. The record opens with Flowers, a nostalgic tale of regret, and Jim uses only enough notes that are required to push the tune along. The arrangement is delicate and feels almost isolated (despite the harmonies, piano, and steel guitar), much like the lyrics.

The pace is hastened slightly on If By the Bridge, which is a more summery tune. It floats by like a gentle updraft, lifting your spirits, despite Jim lamenting that everyday is the same as the day before. That's probably what is so great about this record. Jim tells vivid stories of sadness, but never do the songs become drama filled and they are always paired nicely with light, pleasant sounds that draw you closer, like you are waiting to hear him tell you his most precious secrets (like the piano and finger picking on one of the best songs - Clear the Crowds). He transports you just as easily on the contradicting Blood on the Slacks. The guitar riff makes you want to move around, despite the fact he's praying for the end of a bad relationship.

The banjo laced Fire Watch is another treat. Honestly, I can't think of a better word to describe it than breathtaking. The slight electro current that runs through the channels casts a new tempo on the song, but the slow bowed strings helps it fit perfectly into the overall vibe of the record. Its such a good record, you can listen to it over and over again, and constantly change which song is your favorite.

Anyway, I've gushed enough. To any fans of great folk music, don't sleep on this great record. It is more than worth your while. - herohill.com

"Hour (Where the Bungalows Roam)"

Jim Bryson, hometown hero, has at long last released his third album and fans will not be disappointed. As the playfully jaunty title suggests, this is a decidedly mellower affair than Bryson's previous efforts, but it is certainly no less trenchant and affecting for it.

Pissing on Everything, a sharp and acerbic indictment of naysayers everywhere, is delivered with a studiedly muted and world-weary tone. Rather than being a song of bitterness and despair, it's elevated to one that aches with optimism, sanguinely reminding us that growth is impossible if we "never let the sun shine in."

Bryson's most formidable asset has always been his lyrics, and that holds true on WTBR: His strained whisper on Flowers - "I gave you a hard time/ you gave me your heart" - is joined with the soft and quiet strumming of guitar, a felicitous coupling that juxtaposes feelings of loneliness with compassion, longing with despair, and forgiveness with hope.

"Hello, please listen," Bryson sings on Fire Watch, but unnecessarily so, as it turns out, for we already are - we already were - and we will continue to do so for a long time to come. - hour.ca

"Ottawa Xpress (Live at the First Baptist Church)"

Sideman to the stars, Jim Bryson continues to eke out a rather formidable solo discography with the requisite live album. A greatest hits package?

You betcha, with the added enticement of in between song quips, sneaky tweaking of past favourites, and a vivacious live recording, in a house of worship no less.

A thank you present to die hard followers, a great introduction to the Jim Bryson experience for newbies, and most importantly, one of the sweetest sounding records of the year. - ottawaxpress.ca

"Exclaim! (Live at the First Baptist Church)"

Making your fourth album a live effort isn't the most conventional decision, but much-praised troubadour/sideman to the stars (Kathleen Edwards, the Tragically Hip) Jim Bryson has never had an orthodox career. His charm and wit as a performer have endeared him to a loyal fan base that will find plenty to enjoy in Live At The First Baptist Church, recorded in his Ottawa hometown. The church's acoustics are an asset, as is Bryson's superb cast of sidemen. Songs from all three solo albums are featured, and some of the tunes from his last (and best) disc, Where The Bungalows Roam, are given a fuller sound here. Live captures the endearing ramshackle nature of a typical Bryson gig and his entertaining banter, though to these ears there's a bit too much crowd noise. One of his best songs, "Sleeping In Toronto" (recorded at an earlier bar gig), is ruined by an excessive clap- and sing-along section. But Bryson redeems himself with searing closing cut "Mean Streak," which proves he can rock out too. This generous 16-song collection validates Bryson's reputation as one of our very best songsmiths.

Why did you decide to put out a live album?
I wanted to have it because people asked for it. I'd often get people telling me, "Your shows don't sound anything like your records." I totally agree that we sound different. I wouldn't say dramatically but there is definitely a different energy about it. Live, you don't have the same kind of consequence or pressure that many people feel when they are recording, so records often feel a little tighter.

Many live records downplay the crowd noise and interaction but this one includes everything, warts and all
What are you going to do? The microphones are there. This was supposed to be the document of a show and that includes what a show is. Me screwing up! I'm okay. with getting the pie in my face for a good gag, as they say. I do long song introductions and we cut many of those out. I talk so much at a show someone said, "Are you going to release just the banter?" I mess up songs. There are mistakes but there are mistakes in shows.

Your career is split between solo work and touring with Kathleen Edwards and now the Hip. Are you pleased with that balance?
Yes. I get asked regularly how I feel about making a living where it's not my music I'm playing. I never thought I'd be making a living in music so I think it works. There are definitely times where I wish I had a little more time to do my own thing and get stuff done. At the same time, I accept the way it is and I enjoy all the other things I get to do. It has had a really positive effect on my music. I could sit and mope, "oh, poor me, I don't sell enough records," but I don't really see it that way. (Kelp) - exclaim.ca

"No Depression (Live at the First Baptist Church)"

In his novel The Fifth Business, Robertson Davies defined the title as a reference to the name given in old-fashioned opera and drama to characters who were neither hero nor villain, but played an essential role in completing the tale – not central to the piece, but essential nonetheless.

It would be no insult to describe Jim Bryson’s position in the Canadian music scene as fifth business – not central (and not for lack of trying), but certainly essential to those paying attention. I first became aware of Bryson in the early 90s in Ottawa when he played guitar in the power pop quartet Punchbuggy. I recall arranging to meet drummer Adam Luedicke for a lunch interview at Denny’s. The whole band – Bryson included – showed up; less, I suspected, for the pleasure of my company than for the prospect of a music critic’s free lunch. Even then, it was obvious Bryson was out of place in the group – more introverted and thoughtful and less exuberant than the other three, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when he later bailed on the band.

What was a surprise was his re-emergence as a singer-songwriter in 2000 with his album The Occasionals. Nothing in his Punchbuggy catalogue would have prepared the casual fan for the depth and quality of his solo work. His songs were dark and nakedly emotional but also colored with a mordant streak of humor that was easy to miss within the music’s morose setting. Two subsequent albums – The North Side Benches (2003) and Where The Bungalows Roam (2007) – built on his songwriting as Bryson developed his gruff voice into an increasingly expressive instrument. None of those records set the heather alight, commercially speaking. But Bryson remains a favorite of his fellow musicians, who’ve tapped Bryson to add his fifth business touch to their work. Howe Gelb, The Weakerthans, Sarah Harmer and Lynn Miles have all collaborated with Bryson. Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy duetted with Bryson in his video for the song "Somewhere Else."

But his best-known champion and collaborator is Kathleen Edwards. Edwards has readily credited Bryson as one of the most important influences on her songwriting, and she’s brought him along as a member of her touring band, where he serves as keyboardist, guitarist harmony vocalist and onstage foil for Edwards. The fact that Edwards’ early success has by far eclipsed her influential pal was the subject of Edwards’ song "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory” (“You’re cool and cred like Fogerty/I’m Elvis Presley in the 70s”). That's Bryson in the glasses skating and scrimmaging with Edwards and company in the video for the song.

All of which is a long way of introducing Bryson’s new album, Live At The First Baptist Church. Beautifully recorded at an eponymous house of worship in Ottawa in February 2008 (with two tracks from a set at the Black Sheep Inn near Ottawa) before an attentive audience, the set could serve latecomers as a catch up tour through Bryson’s catalogue. All the best bits are here. At the same time, it documents an admirable desire by Bryson to toy with the treatment of his songs.

“All The Fallen Leaves” (reminiscent musically of Television’s “Prove It”) sees the singer eschewing the familiar understated delivery and pushing his voice hard. After flubbing the lyrics to “The Last Occasional,” Bryson redeems himself by biting down even harder on the later verses. “Impaler,” frequently a rousing show-closer, is presented in bare bones form, a neat trick – the hushed treatment renders the poisoned pen lyric even more venomous. “Firewatch,” one of Bryson’s finest compositions and one of several that employ his penchant for repurposing idiomatic language (in this case, radio operator-speak) for his lyrics, is wrung out for even more drama with an unexpected a capella interlude. And throughout the record, Bryson’s piano takes a more central role in dressing these songs in gorgeous ways.

What’s missing? Bryson’s penchant for offbeat solo covers (ex-Husker Du drummer Grant Hart’s “2541” and New Order’s “Love Vigilantes” have figured into his sets as encore numbers) doesn’t get an airing here. But with almost 70 minutes of the best of Bryson, recorded in peak form, any reservations would be quibbling.

Live At The First Baptist Church can be downloaded at Kelp Records. Very highly recommended. - nodepression.com

"Birmingham Sunday Mercury (The Occasionals)"

TAKE a dash of Steve Earle, throw in a little REM and season with Neil Young -- and you're still only halfway to savouring the roots rock and alt. country of Canadian troubadour Bryson and his band. From the semi-plugged and spiky-guitared 26 Miles By Car to the take-no-prisoners rock riff of Impaler, this is a debut set to treasure -- no more so than on the closing One Cigarette where an insistent guitar figure builds into a moody exercise in controlled feedback. A polished gem yet still a rough diamond. - Birmingham Sunday Mercury


The Occasionals (2000, independent)
The North Side Benches (2003, Orange Label)
Where the Bungalows Roam (2007, Kelp Records)
Live at the First Baptist Church (2009, Kelp Records)



Oh autumn, I feel you creeping in, finding the gaps in the caulking, stirring the leaves outside the window. It is a feeling that suggests soup, and I put a pot on, melt butter, chop onions, try not to cry. On the turntable, Jim Bryson’s "Where the Bungalows Roam." This is music perfect for such a day, and as the warmth of the opening strains of “Flowers” filters through the house and as Bryson sings, “When you run from the city and run to the country, are you running from me?” my roommate peaks her head out from her room and asks “Who is this?!”

It is the response Bryson’s music so often provokes. There is something different here. Is it the voice, the words, the melodies? At first glimpse, the components are familiar: an acoustic guitar, piano, a voice worn around the edges. Yet we hear it and know this is something we haven’t heard before. There is a “grain in the voice,” a story in the words, a humour in the sadness, a musical touch that makes you feel human, alive, here. As one writer at Q put it, Bryson has “acres of old fashioned heart and soul.”

That heart and soul finds its way into every Bryson song and performance. It is why Bryson has garnered so much critical acclaim for his solo work, prompting, for example, No Depression to call him “one of Canadian music’s best kept secrets.” It is why fans hang on every word at legendary performances such as that captured in the live recording "Live at the First Baptist Church." And it is certainly why acts from the Weakerthans to the Tragically Hip call on this understated songwriter from small-town Ottawa to add his unique sound to their live shows (Bryson is currently a full-time touring member of the Tragically Hip and Kathleen Edwards bands).

In a grainy video clip from the First Baptist Church performance, we see Bryson handing out shakers and tambourines to 5 or 6 members of the audience who stand on the stage with the band. A joke is made. The crowd laughs. Bryson starts to sing, “I got tired of sleeping in Toronto” and one boy with a shaker can’t help but sing along “I got tired of telling my friends I want to go home.” The cue arrives and with a little hesitation the shaker choir starts. A person in the crowd gives an excited ‘whoo!’ and we are away. Here is everything we have come to expect from Bryson: an unforgettable melody, a lyric that cuts to the bone, an easy way with an audience, a moving musical experience.