Archive for September 2010
The Kathy Kallick Band Between the Hollow and the High-Rise Live Oak Records www.KathyKallick.com
Kathy Kallick never disappoints. Her voice conveys such warmth that it fair melts even the most stridently traditional bluegrass purist. For more years than many of us have been listening to the music, Kallick has not only been blazing a trail for females wanting to sing harmony-rich bluegrass but has been leading some of the strongest outfits the west coast has experienced.
While she can and does feature songs that drip with the traditional and beloved trappings of bluegrass- ‘Where Is My Little Cabin Home” and “(Get Along Home) Cindy” (sung by Dan Booth) being just two on this set- she isn’t afraid to take the music elsewhere. “Monobrow” (written by Greg Booth) is a lively instrumental that features some playfulness within its strings; it isn’t by accident that almost all the letters in Monroe are in the title. “Whistle Stop Town” is simply a masterfully written song- and Kallick has written more than a few of these in the past- with each word and note resonating emotions, challenges, and insight. “New White House Blues” captures the frustrations of (much of) a nation and continent.
The current crew comprising KKB is certainly talented, as they demonstrated a year ago in Red Deer. Not featured when they visited us, fiddler Annie Staninec provides lovely back-up accompaniment and- like all members of the band- shines when she is provided space for a solo; she even sings a little on “The Snow.”
I didn’t think I needed to hear “Panhandle Rag” again anytime soon, but a listen to Greg’s adaptation made me reconsider- do some YouTube Googling for video. While Kathy does some solo singing on this album- most impressively on her own “My House”- when joined in harmony by Tom Bekeny and the Booths, things become a little more special.
A nod toward the visual team of photographer Anne Hamersky and designer Lisa Berman is also in order. The art work and layout is visually pleasing, is functional and flows with a nice balance of colours, fonts, and shapes.
Like substituting pork for beef in a familiar recipe, Kathy Kallick and her band play bluegrass with a distinctive and fresh flavour. There is a bit of blues in a couple places, a touch of swing in others, and a smidgeon of folk mixed throughout. Put some drive behind all that, and you’ve got a winning bluegrass album. At a generous 47-minutes and 14 songs, Between the Hollow and the High-Rise is a great place to be!
This review appeared in the recent issue of That High Lonesome Sound. It is a wonderful project celebrating the 35th anniversary of this band.
The Special Consensus 35 Compass Records www.specialc.com
When The Special Consensus visited Red Deer last spring, Greg Cahill brought news of his new relationship with Compass Records. The first product of this licensing agreement celebrates the 35th anniversary of this perennially entertaining bluegrass outfit.
Centered around Cahill’s considerable banjo skills, the material on this nicely packaged album is split evenly between recordings with the current lineup of the band- the one featured last March- and previously released selections from hard to find albums released in the 80s and 90s.
The new material and sound will be familiar to those who attended the concert earlier this year. Ryan Roberts, from Nova Scotia, sings lead on three of the tracks while David Thomas and Rick Faris each take a sole song. Robert’s talents as a writer and singer are obvious whether singing “That’s Tennessee” or “Working on a Railroad.” Thomas’s traditional-leaning voice is especially appealing tearing through his and Roberts’ composition “Used to These Old Blues.” “Land Up in the Air” is an a cappella gospel piece that is inspiring and enjoyable. The instrumental “Danny’s Dream,” like all the new songs, provides evidence of the strength of this current edition of The Special C.
The archival material provides a sampling of the sounds that the band has featured over the years. A phase that I wish I could hear more of features country singer Dallas Wayne on “Fourteen Carat Mind;” while his voice is most obviously ideally suited to his brand of honky tonk country, this track is a personal highlight of the disc. Chris Jones- who is bringing his own Night Drivers to Red Deer in late January- is featured on “I Cried Myself Awake,” from 1983. “Silver Dew on the Bluegrass Tonight” swings while “Have I Loved You Too Late” is mournful.
While the stylistic approach may change over the years, The Special Consensus has consistently presented high-quality bluegrass recordings. 35 is no exception and should become a treasured part of many collections. Don’t forget, The Special Consensus, by popular demand, return to The Elks Hall March 26, 2011.
Apologies for the lack of posts this month. Lots of excuses. The new issue of That High Lonesome Sound, the newsletter of the Waskasoo Bluegrass Music Society is posted at http://www.waskasoobluegrass.com/nl/waskasoo_aut10.pdf, for those of you who have interest in such things. Support the Society if you can- we’re good people who work pretty hard to bring bluegrass to Central Alberta.
A nice story in the Red Deer Advocate today advancing our (Waskasoo Bluegrass) Will White performance this weekend; thanks Lana. Read the piece here http://tinyurl.com/2daucge and we’ll see you at the show!
http://lonesomeroadreview.com/ including the video to the only song on the album I didn’t enjoy! Maybe I missed something~
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee
Apologies for ignoring the blog for most of the past two weeks; things just keep piling up. I really need to start knocking out some of the jobs as they aren’t going away. My problem, of course- not yours. In today’s Red Deer Advocate Roots Music column, I advance several coming shows- including Sarah Harmer this weekend and a double bill of Rodney DeCroo and Carolyn Mark (The Vat) Monday and Tuesday. I also review Will White’s new album Rise Above, a very strong debut release with powerful songs steeped in the traditions of the south. It is lovely and quite without fault, a very rare occurance in my opinion. Make a point of listening to some new roots music this weekend- even better if you pay for it!
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Roots music column, originally published September 17, 2010 in the Red Deer Advocate
Will White Rise Above Self-released
Based in Calgary, Will White hasn’t been a prominent member of the Alberta roots community for very long. Proving himself adept on a number of instruments throughout this debut recording – National steel, banjo, and guitar- readers may recall White as a notable and shining presence on Widow Maker’s sole recording, The Awful Truth.
Born in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains, White’s southern influences permeate his songs, ensuring authenticity. Self-described as performing ‘Acoustic Americana Fusion,’ White blends mountain sounds with a folksinger’s lyrical acumen. Will is a wonderful singer and musician, but making him even more impressive is the depth of his songwriting.
Generously compiled, this hour-long album serves as a survey of the very best elements of modern, acoustic roots music. “Firelight Waltz: is a mournful tale thick with the fundamentals of classic ballads- timeless love, anticipated death, and oaths taken to heart. “Baby You Put the Hurt on Me” swings amidst infidelity and murder with “Climbin’” and “I Wanna Meet Jesus” explore the gospel tradition in unexpected ways.
“June Bug” and “Mournin’ Dove” will appeal to those who favour Stanley-style bluegrass with “Run Chicken Run” proving a lighthearted bluegrass romp.
The album’s central track is the epic “Fredericksburg 1862″. With Byron Myhre providing deft fiddle accompaniment, White relates the true tale of a Civil War soldier and humanitarian lending comfort to injured and dying foes on a battlefield of frozen mud. With cinematic accuracy, White communicates gentle heroics in the midst of a one-sided conflict.
Like the finest of those who choose to explore their art within bluegrass-friendly confines, White bridges the distance between the past and the present and reveals himself as a continually developing artist. The Will White Trio appears at The Matchbox October 2.
Let’s let the music do the talking this week- here is what I was listening to while driving, thinking, reading, and yes, listening.
The album I most enjoyed this week.
Marty Stuart- Ghost Train Marty seldom disappoints me. Another masterful set. Words aren’t necessary; just listen.
Joe Whyte- When the Day Breaks Enjoyed working to this one this past week.
Kim Beggs Streetcar Heart and Blue Bones I just love her voice, her phrasing.
Will White- Rise Above I’ve been returning to this one regularly, partly because we’re (Waskasoo Bluegrass) presenting Will and his trio October 2 at the Matchbox in Red Deer but mostly because it is such a good, solid listen. The writing works as Will doesn’t force anything. Similarly, his voice seems born to sing songs of the past- even when the song is only reflecting on a person’s past.
Dave Carter with Tracy Grammer- When I Go
Eric Bogle- The Dreamer If only for “Bringing Buddy Home,” this is a must have disc. I discovered Bogle late, about 10 years ago at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. I haven’t stopped listening- or been disappointed- since.
Danny Barnes- Daytrotter Session I hear some “Walk this Way” in there.
John Anderson- Nobody’s Got It All Heard “Atlantic City” on Sirius this past week, and dug this one out when I got home. The album is full of good songs, like most Anderson albums.
The Acorn- No Ghost There is a lot of modern music that I can’t be bothered to think too much about- mostly because I don’t understand the music in the way I understand most roots music- but always enjoy. This is one of those bands.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings- Let’s Frolic Again Dang, I like this album. “Something on my Mind,” indeed. Gifted this album to a friend this week.
Kevin Welch- A Patch of Blue Sky
Jason & the Scorchers- Halcyon Times
Eilen Jewell- Butcher Holler and Heartache Boulevard Butcher Holler makes Loretta Lynn songs sound like I wished they did when I play my L.L. compilations.
John Stewart- Blondes and The Piano Album These ones just popped up on eMusic. Blondes is stronger than I remember it being on vinyl- the cover always turned me away from the album, I think.
Mary Kastle- Beneath the Folds
Uncut August 2010 We Shall Shine On I seldom listen to the CDs that arrive with the British mags, at least all the way through and simply because I never make them a priority. This one was the exception that kept my attention all the way through. A guy from Edmonton Eamon McGrath is featured, but the music of Pete Molinari, Ganglians, Los Lobos, and Thee Oh Sees- three of whom I had never heard of before- really grabbed me.
Almost through the Bs on the floor:
Big Star- Columbia, Live at Missouri University 4/25/93
Broken Social Scene- Forgiveness Rock Record
The Besnard Lakes- Are the Dark Horse and Are the Roaring Night While listening to these while sitting in the sun room reading and watching the trees sway in the breeze, I heard things I hadn’t noticed before. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what I wanted to share. I’ll need to listen again, but I sure enjoy these albums.
Dierks Bentley- Up on the Ridge Until Marty Stuart’s Ghost Train, possibly my favourite country album of the year.
I’ve listened to Mary Kastle’s album several time this summer but only truly appreciated it this past week. One of the reasons music is so important to me is that it is so attached- to me- to where I am when I hear it: mentally, physically, socially… Sometimes music has to find you where you are- no matter how hard one seeks to undestand the music, it has to find a way to get within the listener. This album does that- heartily recommended.
Mary Kastle Beneath the Folds Black Hen Music
Mary Kastle, I’ve learned, is a respected fixture within the Vancouver jazz community, and Beneath the Folds is her first, full-length album. An album that ebbs and flows comfortably between generously-defined genres, the constant is the bridled joy that is Kastle’s voice.
Beneath the Folds is honest- an album that unabashedly embraces Kastle’s many and varied musical interests. With a full-album’s worth of original, creatively polished music, it is a surprisingly fluid and defined mix of soul, jazz, and roots sounds. A diverse listen, the album hangs together remarkably well. Whether this is due to Kastle’s vision or producer Steve Dawson’s acumen is moot; it works. While it may be of interest to jazz types, to these ears Beneath the Folds fits comfortably in the roots world.
In addition to Kastle’s appealing, powerful, and lively vocals, the saxophones of Karen Graves and trumpet of Kent Wallace make their presence known with regularity, providing the album with an even richer dimension.
Tracks move from sultry jazz-pop (“Julia” and “Beneath the Folds”) to light shivers of soul (“False Alarm” and “Do It For A Day”)and even more impressive brushes of Memphis-shaded country R & B (“Little Bird,” “Beggin’,” and “Underwater”). Dusty in Memphis meets I Am Shelby Lynne, perhaps. But while comparison to albums that themselves served as tributes to a style of music may suggest limitation, within Kastle’s hands- and voice- such association doesn’t imply that the sound is watered down. From retro 2-Tone dub effects on the album’s up-tempo revisiting of “Drop Your Cover,” to drops of blues elsewhere, Beneath the Folds is a project that reveals additional textures and appealing sounds with every listen.
Comprised of introspective, challenging lyrics exploring personal themes of universal appeal, Kastle and Dawson don’t allow things to get bogged down by heaviness. As is implied by the fabric fluttering in the breeze within the gatefold jacket, Beneath the Folds has a lightness that contains delicate beauty.
In today’s Red Deer Advocate Roots Music column, I advance the coming shows and review three very different (from each other, I mean) recent releases from Les Copeland, Putumayo, and Sara Hickman. As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee and I hope you find something of interest. Best, Donald
Roots Music Column, originally published September 3, 2010 in the Red Deer Advocate
This week I’m going to try to catch up on summer releases that may be of interest to fans of roots music:
Les Copeland Don’t Let the Devil In (Earwig) With minimal accompaniment, Western Canadian bluesman Les Copeland has crafted an engaging and memorable collection of original music. He is an accomplished but not polished vocalist and his guitar playing- including bottleneck touches- is impressive. A deft touch with finger-picking blues allows him to explore the music of the rural south as ably as he does more sophisticated styles. Some of his songs could predate Charlie Patton, while others are of today. With a generous 15 numbers, listeners have much to absorb. Brings to mind Jim Byrnes’ recent appearance at the Central Music Festival.
Various Artists- Tribute to a Reggae Legend (Putumayo) While I usually want my reggae to have a bit more bite, this smooth assemblage of mostly recent cuts is of interest. While several of the compiled tunes are straight forward renditions of Bob Marley classics, others have a twist. Hawaii is represented by Three Plus performing a rich interpretation of “Is This Love”; also from Hawaii, Robi Kahakalau’s “Do It Twice” has more of a pop-jazz feel. Montreal’s Caracol contributes “Could You Be Loved”, one of several tracks especially recorded for this set, while Julie Crochetière’s “Mellow Mood” is breathtaking. Blues, folk, and bossa nova influence other selections, providing an intriguing, multi-dimensional listening experience.
Sara Hickman- Absence of Blame Having recorded in Texas for more than twenty years, Sara Hickman is a celebrated writer and singer; most recently, she was named the Official State Musician of Texas for 2010. Having flirted with the mainstream, Hickman is every inch the independent artist.
Her new album is one that becomes more appealing with each exposure. Folky, a little bit country, and frequently straight-up rock & roll, Hickman’s music has inspirational substance that is balanced by the lightness of her presentation and the power of her voice; another reviewer compared her to Christine Lavin, a connection I had intended to make until, well…I guess I just did. For me though, Hickman is a more universal talent- she has the poignancy of Lavin and, like Cheryl Wheeler, bridges the clever observance- durable song divide effectively. After a festival summer listening to many wannabes, Absence of Blame is a refreshing testament of what is possible within the folk roots world.