Like the proverbial dark horse, singer-songwriter Todd Sterling charges from the shadows with the follow up to his 2014 Road Songs album. Sterling, once again working with Nashville producer Scott Neubert, raises the stakes on Pawnshop Guitar: A Poet’s Prayer. Always the underdog throughout his formative years and in his music career, Sterling kicks up a cloud of dust as he prepares to make his mark on the Canadian music scene and beyond.

On Road Songs, Sterling – who has built a name for himself live as a solo country-rocker in the vein of Copperhead Road-era Steve Earle – leaned more toward the twangy side. This time, however, the Canadian troubadour turns out a muscular collection that exposes his earlier rock influences. Sterling channels the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Jackson Browne and the Eagles without betraying his country roots.

From the first single, the Seger-esque “69 Chevy,” a coming of age tale about a guy a girl and a car, to the set-closing “Sideshow Act,” a stripped down composition that is one of the most personal songs Sterling has written to date, Pawnshop Guitar: A Poet’s Prayer is dust-on-your-dashboard honest. The characters in the songs live and breathe in the real world, a world where life isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the scars.

Whether he’s wearing the battered skin of a man shaking off the past (and city life) on the chunking “Gravel Roads & Ghost Towns,” or warning would-be-lovers not to fall too hard for him, on the blistering “A Guy Like Me,” Sterling holds nothing back on Pawnshop Guitar: A Poet’s Prayer. The latter is a soul-seething number that rages like a coastal hurricane. With the sultry “Stones Record,” Sterling manages to find a new way to sing about an old subject, love.

Sterling heads to the lake on “Sunshine Good Time Summer Time.” The elastic track, the disc’s second radio single, will stir memories in the hearts of music lovers of hot days and spirited summer nights. “She Looks Better In My Truck” is a meat and potatoes country-rocker about a guy who has had enough of a rival’s antics. “We can talk guy to guy, have a couple drinks or step outside,” Sterling growls.

“Bad For Me” finds the Ontario-born, Alberta-raised singer-songwriter digging deep as he comes to the realization that sometimes the things we want the most in life can destroy us. “It’s always about the songs,” says Sterling. “If a track like ‘Bad For Me’ doesn’t come across as authentic, I’m wasting mine and the listener’s time.”

Pawnshop Guitar: A Poet’s Prayer is available now at all digital retailers. Hardcopies of the CD available at select retailers and can be purchased through or during the Pawnshop Guitar Tour 2018/2019.