Archive for November 2010
The Red Deer Advocate newspaper has a regular Saturday feature that has area residents responding to a question or topic- 5 favourite places to hear live music, 5 favourite places for a winter walk…
This week I was asked to contribute 5 albums I’ve recently added to my iPod. Being a Luddite, I don’t have an iPod, although I have a cheap mp3 player I use on plane trips a couple times annually. (BTW, if anyone can advise my of how to strip music off of my Coby, I would appreciate it- I can’t update the darn thing!)
I can’t locate the entire feature on the paper’s website, so I’ll simply paste my responses here. Some of the other participants chose to highlight music that isn’t entirely foreign to my tastes (Duane Steele, especially- Steve, Townes, Prine, Russell), as well- and one of them, the paper’s entertainment writer, mentioned an album I’m planning to review for this coming Friday’s paper.
So, here are 5 recent additions (all iTunes or eMusic purchases) to my computer- although I cheated with The Promise: I actually bought the hard copy of the double album:
Donald Teplyske- Five Things for Saturday November 27, 2010
The Wild Tchouptoulas- The Wild Tchouptoulas Released in 1976, an album bringing the vibrant colours of New Orleans’ Indians to life through the spirited music of Big Chief Jolly and The Neville Brothers. The Treme purrs!
Del McCoury- Del McCoury I’ve been devouring Del’s 1975 album, just reissued this week for download. Pure, unadulterated bluegrass- raw, powerful performances such as these will always stand.
Bruce Springsteen- The Promise 21 outtakes from the sessions that produced my favourite record, Darkness on the Edge of Town. While the archival tracks released this month don’t touch the cinematic breadth and focus of the original album, the sweeping sagas and rustic rockers provide glimpses at blueprints Springsteen would follow for the next decade.
Barbara Lynn- Voices of Americana A recent discovery through Robert Plant’s exceptional cover of You Can’t Buy My Love. Bluesy soul with just a smidgeon of country- think Clarence Carter meets Gladys Knight- good Gladys Knight.
Marshall Chapman- Big Lonesome Six-foot tall and bulletproof: 70s southern rock survivor Marshall Chapman comes back with a startling collection of country-tinged Americana. Until Lucinda Williams gets things back on track, this will suffice.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee,
This week I wanted to feature a few albums that got lost in the weeds. As it turned out, I only had room for two reviews, and I had to stretch my 500-word allowance to 150% to make that work; the third review is posted below: Danielle Doyle.
I advance the local happenings- including Wil and the sensational Leeroy Stagger at The Vat next weekend - and review the latest from The Cooper Brothers and Rodney DeCroo. The Cooper Brothers album came out several months ago and I bought it on impulse as a download; a few weeks back, Dick Cooper contacted me and then forwarded to me the hardcopy. A more than enjoyable album- my spouse and I listened to it all through on a drive to Edmonton last week- and the packaging is also well done. The DeCroo album really got lost- it was sent to me in mid-August but only made its way into my hands last week! Two fine albums for your cold weather enjoyment.
Roots music column, originally published November 19, 2010 in the Red Deer Advocate
The Cooper Brothers In From the Cold Self-released
Rock ‘n roll cowboys The Cooper Brothers- they of The Dream Never Dies- came back earlier this year with a powerful album of Canadian roots music replete with a stompin’ backbeat. In From the Cold is the southern Ontario group’s first album in almost 30 years.
Terry King, one of the voices of the band, passed away in 1998, but augmented by Jeff Rogers, Brian and Dick Cooper roar out of retirement with a very strong release produced by Colin Linden. The first five songs are standouts. Gunshy has the hook, Jukebox, with Delbert McClinton on harp, has the spirit (“I heard it on a jukebox, so its gotta be right!” goes the refrain), and ’62 Fairlane and Hard Luck Girl have the soul.
The Fats Kaplin fiddle touches to That’s What Makes Us Great are stellar. This ode to Canada wouldn’t be out of place beside Trooper’s Real Canadians and Mike Plume’s 8:30 Newfoundland.
Things get a little too soft mid-set before picking up again with the closers The Way She Shines and the memorable Little Blue Church; drop a five-string in that one and you are close to a bluegrass tune.
With just enough roots and country influences to keep it honest, In From the Cold is an enjoyable reintroduction to one of the most successful Canadian bands of the late 70s.
Rodney DeCroo Queen Mary Trash Northern Electric
Hats off to Vancouver’s Rodney DeCroo for firing off an impressive 24-track missive entitled Queen Mary Trash.
DeCroo recorded this double album set in less than a week, and the intense nature of such a pace is obvious. Songs are captured here at their most organic level. Unlike his previous Mockingbird Bible, nothing is polished or even adorned. Select tracks (River Boat and Loser and the Tennessee Girl) have a Neil Young & Crazy Horse vibe, complete with shredded riffs and feedback. Elsewhere, as in Out of this World, fragmented and nearly indecipherable lyrics make references to Bob Dylan inevitable.
DeCroo turns his words toward himself on the (hopefully) exaggerated self-evisceration You Ain’t No One, singing “You ain’t Steve Earle, you ain’t Neil Young, you ain’t Bob Dylan, you ain’t no one.”
Not everything is heavy. The second disc swirls to a start thanks to Jon Wood’s retro organ flourishes introducing Paris Spleen; I’m not sure what it is about, but it sounds wonderful. The beautifully titled Mist in the Valley is a sparse, atmospheric interlude of calm amidst volleys of rock ‘n roll bombast; Borderline similarly cleanses the palate.
The rhythm of aggression is much of DeCroo’s attraction, but when one focuses more closely on the words, nuggets of brilliance become obvious.
Queen Mary Trash isn’t an easy listen- much like the artist who created this sprawling opus, it is challenging, brutal, and at times terrifyingly poetic. There is much to digest across the nearly two hours of music, and DeCroo may have been wiser to have held back some of these tunes for his next project.
But for a writer this prolific and proficient, it is most likely we’ll have as equally impressive a set to consider in another 18 months.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee- Donald
Danielle Doyle The Cartographer’s Wife Self-released
Too many months ago, I received a very polite e-mail enquiring of my interest in receiving a download of an album from a singer whom I had never before heard.
The sender was Danielle Doyle, and her debut album is altogether stunning.
Why, then, take five months to write a review?
Very occasionally an album is so appealing, so entirely attractive that one doesn’t want to write about it for fear of over analyzing something that should simply be enjoyed; one risks listening to the music too often, too intently and having what once sounded other-worldly become common or routine.
Quite simply, however, I’ve listened to The Cartographer’s Wife is so many situations- as background music, while listening intensely and taking notes, while driving, working, and writing, and while falling asleep- and so often that I am only now confident that my words may be able to accurately capture the majesty of Danielle Doyle’s first recording. This is a masterful creation.
Unlike me, Doyle is a quick study once she sets her mind to something. These songs took years to develop, but were recorded in a three-day blitz. There is nothing about the recording that sounds rushed or undeveloped. Sonically, The Cartographer’s Wife sounds every bit as creative and expansive as Robert Plant’s recent tour de force Band of Joy.
Sure to appeal to fans of The Wailin’ Jennys, Doyle’s voice bears considerable similarity to Be Good Tanya Frazey Ford and especially the Jenny’s Ruth Moody; phrases and verses burst forth from Doyle’s lips like so many ripe, flavour-laden berries.
This is a successful and smooth blending of jazz-inspired roots music full of brushed percussion, beautiful guitar work, and original songs that breathe as living entities.
The subject matter isn’t all love and longing, although there is more than a fair measure of Doyle’s heart revealed amongst the ten tracks; relationships- their absence, their fruition, their complexities- is Doyle’s primary focus. Every song stands independently as a highlight, but “Salome” remains a personal favourite after all these weeks; a tale of murderous payback punctuated by simply fabulous musicianship, Doyle’s anti-hero buries her lover deep in the garden.
Woven together, the songs of The Cartographer’s Wife are a wonderful listening experience. It reveals its appeal immediately and its mysteries continually.
, and listen. Then, head off to CD Baby, iTunes, or Amazon, and buy the album.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee- Donald
Several weeks ago, I was assigned to review the fifth album from Chatham County Line, Wildwood. Having previously purchased the album via download, I semi-forgot about the review. I listened to the album several times and somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I was supposed to write about it, but couldn’t determine if I had ‘really’ been assigned the album or had dreamed the job. A not-so-subtle hint from my editor got me back on track, and the review was published today at
. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
In this ever changing world in which we live in…
As some of you know, I’ve been writing semi-professionally about bluegrass and roots music for almost ten years- in fact, I do believe my first cheque came through a decade ago this month. Over the years I’ve received more wonderful music from labels than I’ll ever be able to fully appreciate although I’ve done my best to ‘keep up’ with the listening and give fair treatment to the albums I am fortunate enough to write about.
But, the world is changing- while some labels continue to see value in servicing me with product to review- and I’ve been able to maintain and build some contact for outlets for my writing- things have certainly slowed down the last couple years. No Bluegrass Now, for one.
Anyway, because some labels and reps don’t service me- funny what one negative review will do!- some very fine music has passed me by, I’m sure. Over the past several months, I’ve listened to the ‘puppy in the sky’ a bit, and heard some really strong music…and some I hope never to hear again. So, thinking about some of the fine music I heard on Sirius 65, I decided last month to download only bluegrass from eMusic Canada with the stipulation that I would venture a bit afield and explore albums that I wasn’t entirely positive I would enjoy.
Therefore, this brief discussion of this month’s eMusic, bluegrass-ish downloads-
1. The Boxcars- The Boxcars (Mountain Home) Enjoyable, but not life changing. Nice vocal variety, but on initial listening the song selection/variety left me a-wanting a little, although I appreciate the bravery of recording an album so highly slanted toward originals. The lead cut is really impressive, and the collective force of the album has grown on me over the weeks. Tunes like “I Went Back Home” and “Never Played the Opry” could sound overly maudlin in the wrong hands, but The Boxcars find the right balance between honesty and sentimentality. John Bowman’s fiddle (I presume it is he- I hate not having liner notes) and Ron Steward’s banjo are impressive throughout. The entire band lets loose on a few cut, including “Take Me on a Midnight Train.” Recommended.
2. Darren Beachley & the Legends of the Potomac- Take Off (Patuxent Music) I love his voice- classic, to my ears; one of the most attractive qualities of recent Doyle Lawson discs was Beachley’s lead and tenor vocals- and who can argue with the band- Mike Auldridge, Tom Gray, Norman Wright, and Mark Delaney. A darn solid bluegrass album, with lots of changes in tempo and sound. Highly recommended.
3. Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen- Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen (Fiddlemon) I listened to this one driving to and from work this week. Very nice, and I stayed interested even though the songs kinda blur together. I had read a fairly middlin’ review of the album, so I wasn’t sure if I should invest in the album. But anyone who records a John Stewart song- and makes a fine bg song out of it- deserves my bit of support; so after listening to “July, You’re a Woman” for a couple weeks, I took the plunge and downloaded the entire album. Some hard driving stuff, some softer pieces, too. A good set. Recommended.
4. Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford- Dogwood Winter (Rural Rhythm) An impressive outing that includes full-blown bluegrass sounds as well as explorations of related roots sounds. This one will get many plays this winter, I do believe. Dale Ann Bradley jumps in with harmony in select places, and the album is comprised of entirely original tunes, several which stand out from the pack including “Snow,” “Nebraska Sky,” and “Just Along for the Ride.” Two standout writers, two great voices, a selection of musical friends the envy of most- a great combination that works for the entirety of its 44 minutes.
5. Jeff & Vida- Selma Chalk (Rosebank) I love this duo, the way Vida’s voice just cuts to the core. Nothing artificial about them. Not exactly bluegrass, of course, but close enough for me to round out my downloads with it. They get compared to Welch and Rawlings, but I don’t really hear that- more sultry and southern to my ears. Some of the songs have real pep, lively stuff but others are more atmospheric and moody, if I may. You’ll sit up and take notice if you take a chance. Highly recommended.
6. East of Monroe- East of Monroe I was tempted to downloaded this one simply because the album art was so attractive, and after listening to the snippets I was confident that I would likely enjoy all five tracks of this EP. Didn’t hurt to learn that Gary Ferguson is in the band. Based in Virginia, the band has a sound that wouldn’t be out of place sharing a stage with bands including Crooked Still, Ollabelle, Bearfoot, and the like. They swing, they root around at the edge of the grass. Not sure which of the lady singers is which, but they both have terrific voices that make listening easy. “Goodbye Letter” is a fine offering. Like Jeff & Vida, not exactly bluegrass but will likely appeal to those so inclined.
Depending on tastes, all should appeal- not a stinker in the bunch, which isn’t surprising. Most of the music I run across has something to recommend it.
To be entirely transparent, I also downloaded a Quicksilver Messenger live set…not too many bluegrass albums with just 6 tracks.
I’ve also continued to listen to Trisha Gagnon’s debut album quite a bit this month, and have a link to the review below in my most recent Roots Music column. Catch her live in Red Deer on Sunday with John Reischman & the Jaybirds. Details at www.waskasoobluegrass.com.
By the way, I know how fortunate I have been to receive albums for review- I just wish the music world hadn’t changed so dramatically to force labels and publicity reps to hold back albums for review from folks like me. In the past, I could expect to have received most of these albums for review- value was seen in people thoughtfully writing about music. I’m not sure that holds true today. Anyhow, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee- Donald
My review of the new Charlie Louvin album was posted today at Country Standard Time (
). I had expected to find little of interest on the album, and my initial listen made me wish I didn’t have to listen more. What little voice Charlie has had on recent recordings is pretty much gone- there is little left. But, I kept listening and with time Charlie’s ‘new’ voice wove itself into my favour. I’m not crazy about all the song choices and would really have liked to have seen some stretching on the material. Overall, however, I think it is a pretty good album, one I wouldn’t have minded purchasing. See what you think- Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
In this week’s Roots Music column in the Red Deer Advocate I advance the coming area events and feature a review of the brand new album from Jaybird bassist Trisha Gagnon- it is an impressive album with strong songs, great instrumentation, and spectacular harmonies and vocals.
Roots Music Column, originally published November 5, 2010 in the Red Deer Advocate
Trisha Gagnon A Story About You and Me Jam ‘n Music
Long a member of the western Canadian bluegrass scene, Trisha Gagnon came to prominence as a member of Tumbleweed, for many years a band of significant repute on the British Columbia landscape. For the past decade she has been a vital presence within John Reischman and the Jaybirds, laying down creative bass touches while providing clean harmonies and impressive lead vocals.
After more than a half-dozen group recordings with Tumbleweed and the Jaybirds, Gagnon steps to the front of the stage with her debut effort, A Story About You and Me. Backed by her Jaybird compatriots, Gagnon maintains a folk and country balance with her bluegrass roots.
Drawn from the threads of her experiences, the dozen performances are consistently impressive and interesting. The overall impact is one of gentle intensity, with an impressive flavouring of the bluegrass sounds one normally associates with Gagnon and the Jaybirds.
A few of the songs are quite soft sounding, and wouldn’t normally appeal to one who enjoys the harder side of life reflected in song. However, Gagnon’s appeal is that she carries upon her vibrant vocal personality the intimacy and introspection of her songs.
She sings of nature and family, adventure, faith, and challenge, and the relationships that connect us as Canadians and westerners. With the finest acoustic outfit providing the instrumentation, augmented by guests including Rob Ickes and Tony Furtado and vocal visitors Peter Rowan, Kathy Kallick, and Shaun Cromwell, Gagnon keeps things moving along with songs that convey true emotion and impact.
Highlights include a duet with lonesome-singing Jim Nunally on Deeper in Love, the bluegrass gospel tune All I Want to Do, and a classic-sounding country duet with Vince Gill, On My Way to You.
We’ve waited many years for this album, and the strength of this polished and attuned recording reveals that the wait has been justified; mature, acoustic roots music doesn’t get much better than A Story About You and Me.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee- Donald
Bluegrass returns to Red Deer with the appearance of John Reischman & the Jaybirds Sunday, November 14 at the Elks Hall. Retails at www.waskasoobluegrass.com There is also a complimentary article published in the Red Deer Advocate
The concert is presented by the Waskasoo Bluegrass Music Society.
Ron Hynes Stealing Genius (Borealis Records)
Considered by many to be Canada’s finest living songwriter, Ron Hynes returns with a collection of songs that will appeal both to long-time admirers and newly found friends.
With a rich voice, the Newfoundland-born and based songwriter continues to find impressive ways to investigate not only his home province, but the experiences of common people in special ways. Borrowing from the writings of several poets and writers, the stealing genius element one presumes, Hynes has woven his own perspective to create memorable songs that breathe new life into the folk tradition.
Hynes extends his reach far with these 13 songs, burnished as they are by the stories of his people. Lullabies are presented alongside a ballad celebrating Terry Sawchuk, and a tale of historical resettlement is found alongside minor key ancestral balladry.
Is there a “Sonny’s Dream” or “Cryer’s Paradise” here? Perhaps not, but that isn’t to suggest that his latest collection doesn’t have memorable tunes. “My Father’s Ghost” perhaps comes closest to being hyped as an instant classic, with a spectral visitor making regular appearances in the homestead near the sea. In a similar vein, “Le Coeur de la Mer” laments what the ocean doesn’t always return. Each word is a treasure to be savoured.
The coward who shot Mr. Howard gets a song of his own in “Judgment;” justifying his actions with “Still it’s better to be famous for the wrong I done tonight, than to be nobody all my life,” Robert Ford isn’t portrayed in a positive light haunted though he may be by his actions. Paul Mills, who also produced the album, contributes spunky banjo to the song.
“All for the USA” and “Home from the USA/Yanks” highlight an aspect of Newfoundland economic migrations I hadn’t previously known, while “House” gives the family home, broken down as it may be, its due.
Hynes is less successful when he wears his heart on his sleeve, although “What If I Stayed” is more memorable than other similarly-styled songs.
Beyond all of this, “Sawchuk” may be the finest hockey-themed song I’ve heard. From the opening line (“His father was Ukrainian, he was born Canadian”) Hynes and poet Randall Maggs capture the mystery of an era of hockey I know largely from the backs of dog-eared O-Pee-Chee cards. The near-mythical status of a Sawchuk is elevated in every word and note. Only Hynes ever done that, if I may.
Stealing Genius strengthens the rich recorded legacy of Ron Hynes.