Slaid Cleaves pulled into Red Deer this evening for a gig at The Matchbox, making his area debut. Currently at the tail end of a brief Alberta tour, which finds him in Calgary on Saturday night, Cleaves was in excellent voice accompanied by guitarist Michael O’Conner.
Cleaves’ first set passed in a blink although I trust it was close to 40-minutes. Largely exploring Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away, Cleaves and O’Connor ran through seven or eight tunes including “Hard to Believe,” “Tumblewood Stew,” and “Dreams.” Familiar favourites like “Horse Shoe Lounge” and “Drinkin’ Days” were also featured.
Not being familiar with O’Connor, both my father-in-law and I were impressed by his stringbending; he made the production of exquisite sounds appear effortless. We both found it was difficult at times to hear Cleaves during the first set as O’Connor’s touches overwhelmed Cleaves’ voice. This difficulty was remedied by the time the second set kicked off.
Kicking off the second set with “Wishbones” and “Broke Down,” Cleaves notched things up a bit for several minutes. He fulfilled a request for “Everette,” Steve Brooks’ word-perfect song from Unsung, definitely a highlight of the evening and “Borderline.” Don Walser’s “Rolling Stone From Texas” was equally impressive for different reasons; while I truly feel yodeling is no part of nuthin’, Cleaves demonstrated that he can nail it when called upon and made the performance enjoyable. “Horses” was another high point.
Cleaves sprinkled into the show a couple songs I hadn’t heard before, although their titles have slipped my mind. O’Connor performed one of his songs as well, the well-received “Bernadine.” Cleaves and O’Connor closed the performance with a performance of a gospel tune, perhaps called “Go for the Gold.” Referencing the Snuffy Smith/Sneezy Waters movie Hank Williams, The Show He Never Gave as inspiration, the song truly had the feeling of one of those songs one might have heard during a Mother’sBest broadcast.
A really nice, if brief, evening of music. With a 7:30 start scheduled, we were on the way home by 9:40; with that much evening left ahead of us, I know we both would have enjoyed more music from Cleaves’ timeless Broke Down album; “Breakfast in Hell” would have done it, although it was a treat to hear “One Good Year.”
Slaid hits the east coast next; with a keen wit, humourous, informative but not overly long song introductions, an easy going manner, and a terrific way with a song, a Slaid Cleaves show is highly recommended.
And I’ll note, posted here within an hour of the show’s finish! I may not be good, but I am fast. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee- Donald
I love when things just come together. Looking for a very impressive debut album that isn’t perfect? Look no further. While many albums now come near-perfect in every respect- and as such, become less than ideal- Ben de la Cour’s first offering is not flawless. What a great collection! The album touched me, and not just for the inclusion of a song written about my home province. Good stuff. Read about it here: http://lonesomeroadreview.com/
Over at The Lonesome Road Review, http://lonesomeroadreview.com/, I’ve written reviews of the most recent releases from Robert Plant, Sweet Sunny South, and Honey Don’t. Given more space than the newspaper column allows, I’ve expanded my Band of Joy review considerably. Hope all is well with you- go listen to something good. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Has it been two weeks already? Work has been so busy I’ve pushed Fervor Coulee toward the backburner. I’ll try to find some extra time to review a few projects that have piled up, but in all honesty not that much has been coming my way lately. In today’s Red Deer Advocate I review two recent releases by David Vest and Robert Plant.
I take back all youthful and disparaging words spoken about Plant and his caterwauling with Led Zeppelin.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.
Roots music column, originally published October 15, 2010 in the Red Deer Advocate
David Vest Rock a While Criminal Records
With Alabama roots deeper than a southern swamp, David Vest has been playing the blues and its associated sounds for almost as long as rock and roll has been around.
Billed the Boogie Woogie Starchild, Vest’s piano-based blues are sure to keep toes a-tappin’ and heads a-bobbin’. While a few tracks slide comfortably into jazz territory- check out the brief interlude “Monklife in Vermont” for a sample of such- most of the tunes on this impressive release explore the rockin’ and reelin’ sides of the blues.
Boogie woogie is indeed well-represented throughout the album’s 53 minutes. Several interesting instrumentals are included of which “Magic City Shuffle”, inspired by the furtive, after hours jams Vest participated in while developing his chops in racially-segregated Birmingham, stands out.
Now based on the west coast, Vest’s music reminds one of the spirited music produced by Paul Reddick. With its origins in the past, Vest and his musicians are living in the present and produce lively tunes that keep the house jumping. They can enliven an old John Lee Hooker number like “Whiskey and Women”, making it sound all their own and they can give a fresh song like “Little Big-Eyes” an old-school New Orleans groove that is timeless.
Vest tosses props Fats Domino’s way with a stellar take of “Natural Born Lover” that slides into “Every Night About this Time” and playfully works some of Bill Monroe’s “Rocky Road Blues” into Gene Vincent’s “I Got a Baby.”
Not normally my thing, Rock a While provides ample proof that David Vest is the real deal.
David Vest’s All Star Blues Band plays a Hallowe’en Dance and Costume Party at The Elks Lodge October 29.
Robert Plant Band of Joy Rounder
Even with a band centered about the twin forces that are Buddy Miller and Darrell Scott, one may not have anticipated that Robert Plant’s second foray into the roots-country-Americana field would be as entirely successful as Band of Joy most obviously is.
As on his previous, award-winning collaboration with Alison Krauss, Plant surrounds himself with the finest talent and songs that money, influence, and friendship can solicit. This time out Bekka Bramlett and Patty Griffin serve as Plant’s female foils.
Vibrant and full, the instrumentation on this album swirls into dirges that are almost trance- inducing. Reworking songs from key writers- Los Lobos, Richard Thompson, Townes Van Zandt- as well some less familiar and those whose names are lost within traditions, Plant and album co-producer Miller have created a sonically challenging and sturdy interpretation of modern roots music.
“Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday” and “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down”, while familiar to all who embrace traditional folk music, have never likely sounded quite like they do here. Plant gives “Cindy” an erotic overtone absent on previously heard recordings.
What a joyful thing it is to hear afresh songs long familiar.
Welcome to Fervor Coulee- I appreciate you dropping in for a visit. In this week’s Roots Music column in the Red Deer Advocate I advance the area roots shows and feature the new album from Hey Mavis. Silly name aside, this trio has produced- with the assistance of knob twirler and all-around good ear Don Dixon- a palatable platter of modern Americana string-band music. Go explore. Best, Donald
Roots Music Column, originally published October 1, 2010 in the Red Deer Advocate
Hey Mavis Red Wine Self-released
The trio calling themselves Hey Mavis have struck upon a pleasing and adventurous blending of sound and influence.
Performing original music steeped in approaches of the past, with its two-woman, one-man alignment Hey Mavis immediately recall the simple josy of The Carter Family. The significant difference being the Hey Mavis songwriters are the females. Laurie Michelle Caner is the primary tunesmith while Sarah Benn contributes a pair of songs.
Without the context of this album, one could likely be convinced “Tell Me Lover True” is one of those treasures song-catchers scoured hills and hollers to discover almost a century ago. Within a sparse but keen framework, the words wring of another age: “Sing me lover true; come sing, sing to my bones.” “Sister Mary” is brighter than other songs contained on Red Wine, but its lightness betrays the song’s theme of sin and deception. Hit shuffle and a spirited and engaging song is sure to appear- whether “Second Chance” with its allusions to Texas dust and opportunity, the realization the memories and a leather jacket aren’t enough in “I Ain’t Gonna Cry”, or the title track’s strength revealed in both voice and instrumentation.
As do Crooked Still and Bearfoot, Hey Mavis provides sonic twists to what one expects from stringband-based roots music. Yes, there is banjo, fiddle, and double bass, but there is also viola prominently featured, providing songs with an entirely different atmosphere than one might anticipate.
Lacking the drive of bluegrass, this album is a lyrically rich and musically soothing collection of old-timey, acoustic soundscapes. The vocal harmony of Caner and Benn is a highlight of their natural presentation. Don Dixon’s (REM, Marti Jones, The Smithereens) production is clean and uncluttered, retaining the purity of the instruments and voices.
If Gillian Welch is a favourite, one should give serious consideration to the debut album from Ohio’s Hey Mavis.