Blissful amateurism can produce calamity or genius. Quite often, it does both. Kevin House is a British/Canadian songwriter equally adept at carnival freakishness and tender (if morose) acoustic folk. His Gutter Pastoral offers a genuine connection between Nick Drake and Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous. Weird and unnerving, the 11 cuts are incisive narratives complete with directions: "Listen to late at night, or in a small boat, or maybe don't listen at all." Such directness only occurs out of major-label earshot. Despite the less than optimistic nature (highlights include "Waltzing With the Hellhound" and "The Fun Side of Death"), House has created a rural folk masterpiece: a sparse, lonely collection of dreams and fears.