Archive for the ‘Canadian’ Tag
Ralph Boyd Johnson 1723 9 St SW http://www.RalphBoydJohnson.com
For those unaware of its significance, 1723 9 St SW may be the worst album title since 461 Ocean Boulevard. Ralph Boyd Johnson most obviously believed that this Calgary address had to be the title of his sophomore album.
You see, and as most anyone with a passing familiarity with the lore of the Alberta roots music scene will tell you, 1723 9 St SW was the home for a period of time of Billy Cowsill. Until his death in 2006, Cowsill was the (mostly) undisputed prince of the Calgary alt.country community, and his influence on RBJ and others has been apparent and lasting.
A decade ago- back when all things seemed possible and No Depression unified disparate singers and songwriters under a semi-cohesive banner- Ralph Boyd Johnson emerged with Dyin’ to Go, still one of the strongest roots music albums the province has witnessed. For a while Johnson worked the circuit, playing the festivals and the occasional club date, chasing a dream that seemed elusive.
His dream wasn’t Son Volt (or even Hayseed)-level success. Johnson always appeared to simply want the next gig to be better than the last, the next song to resonate with another listener. While I’m not familiar with details of his life since Dyin’ to Go received widespread praise, I’ve kept my ears and eyes open.
In the middle of the last decade, Johnson was a driving force behind Rivers and Rails, A Tribute to Alberta, a strong and diverse collection of original material celebrating the province’s centennial. I would occasionally see his name mentioned in the various free Calgary street papers, and once was very pleasantly surprised to catch him opening a show at the Ironwood. Still, considering the quality of Dyin’ to Go, and the promise it revealed, it was disappointing that few outside southern Alberta heard his name, let alone his music. RBJ was surpassed, at least commercially and familiarity wise, by a slew sowing similar ground- Corb Lund, Tim Hus, JR Shore, Leeroy Stagger, and others.
This past winter saw the release of 1723 9 St SW, and what an appearance it was.
[Insert long-winded and only semi-coherent, but almost relevant diatribe.] Some time ago, I was beginning to feel increasingly disenchanted with the abundance of pointless covers being released. I probably have more albums of cover songs than most people do, and obviously enjoy an inspired interpretation of both a standard and unfamiliar tune. I’m not sure when it happened, but it may have been around the time Doc Watson passed away. I’m not sure why.
I do know this. A few years ago, Steve Earle released his album Townes. In one of the interviews I read at that time, Earle- and bless him for his honesty- stated words to the effect that, as he was writing the novel I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive he knew he needed an album on the marketplace and decided to record the Townes Van Zandt album. (From a New York Times Anthony DeCurtis article, 2009: ”…The urge to complete that book, which he has intermittently been working on for eight years,led indirectly to the Townes project. ‘I’ve talked about doing it for a long time,’ [Earle] said about recording an album of Van Zandt’s material, ‘and since I didn’t have to write the songs, I thought I could make this record, turn it in and then finish the book.”) While that album is a pretty good- if unnecessary- one, it doesn’t touch the emotional impact of Earle’s own “Ft. Worth Blues,” written following Van Zandt’s death. The mercenary-like execution of the album tarnished it a bit for me, leading, in some large way, to my increasing dissatisfaction with ‘the tribute album.’ Too often, they appear to be the commercial stop-gap that Earle at least is bold enough to acknowledge.
Make no mistake, there have been some good tribute albums- the Guy Clark This One’s For Him, for example. Far more often, I’ve found ‘tributes’ to be less than satisfying. The recording that brought this to a head was Ricky Skaggs’ ‘tribute’ to Doc Watson. Now, Skaggs can cover any song he likes, and his version of “Tennessee Stud” is no better or worse than any other version I’ve encountered- they all pale next to Doc’s. So, when Skaggs released “Tennessee Stud” soon after Watson’s death, as well-meaning as it may have been, its inclusion on Music to My Ears left me cold and a little bothered. (Contrast that with a video of Elizabeth Cook covering “Columbus Stockade Blues” at Kansas City’s Knuckleheads, a bar I hope to visit this coming week to catch Amy LaVere, but I ramble, yet again.)
And, as others died and the requisite recordings emerged, I started thinking that a true and meaningful tribute needs to be something more than a ‘by the numbers’ cover of a favourite song.
A cover is a cover, and more often than not, I can find something appealing in covers of even my favourite songs; Hollie Cook’s interpretation of Rachel Sweet’s “It’s So Different Here” being a not so recent example. What I have tired of is the ‘tribute’ cover where someone or several someones pay ‘tribute’ to an artist by covering their music; I love Nick Lowe’s music, but Lowe Country mostly left me wanting. It wasn’t terribly interesting to hear others interpret Lowe’s music, simply because most of them couldn’t hold a candle to the original (not to mention, but I will, that I already own a couple different Lowe tribute albums.)
If an artist is going to ‘pay tribute’ to someone they admire, why don’t they take the time to actually write, to create, a true tribute to that artist? Ralph Boyd Johnson’s album (and you thought I had forgotten what I was supposed to be writing about today) is a perfect example of this. RBJ wanted to pay tribute to his friend and mentor Billy Cowsill. Rather than just covering a few of his songs- which he could easily have done- he took the time to craft something memorable, including the title track to his new album.
I’d love it if more artists went to the effort of pouring their admiration and appreciation for those who influenced them into an original creation, songs like Eric Burton’s “Guy Clark,” Jill Sobule’s “Whatever Happened to Bobbie Gentry,” The Steel Town Project’s “Leather and Bass (The Night Suzi Quatro Rocked Out ‘Can the Can’)” and Steve Forbert’s heartfelt ode to Rick Danko, “Wild As the Wind.”
Even songs that serve as indirect homage to artists, “John R and Me” (Radney Foster) or “Willie’s Guitar” from John Anderson, and “White Cadillac” by The Band, raise the ‘tribute’ bar. This is the reason Tom Russell’s “The Death of Jimmy Martin” resonates more than the many covers of his music (and some of them were great, including A Tribute to Jimmy Martin, The King of Bluegrass with Audie Blaylock, JD Crowe, Paul Williams, and Kenny Ingram) that were released following his passing.
Again, I love cover songs. To belabour my point, I’m just tired of them being labeled as ‘tributes.’ A tribute should be more, and I think a good place to start would be to create a song that captures the emotional and artistic impact the work of another has had on an individual. Take it to the next level, and then call it a ‘tribute’ as Old Man Luedecke does with “Song for Ian Tyson” and Mike Plume recently did with his ode “So Long Stompin’ Tom.”
Which is a long way around to stating, Ralph Boyd Johnson gets it right with his homage to Billy Cowsill.
Within the album, no fewer than four songs contain reference to Billy Cowsill. (And if you don’t know who Billy Cowsill was, Google him and purchase a Blue Shadows album. While you’re at it, consider Dustin Bentall’s “Ballad of Billy Cowsill.”)
Cowsill, who co-produced Dyin to Go and with whom Johnson wrote “The Fool Is the Last One to Know” from The Blue Shadows’ On The Floor of Heaven, was flawed: his troubles got the best of him. The genuine affection and honest regard Johnson held for him is apparent in every note and clever phrase contained within the fictional narrative “The Legend of Wild Billy C” and the reflective, more realistic “1723 9th St SW.” “Bill’s Pills,” despite its plea of “O, darlin’ don’t cry,” is simply sad.
Elsewhere, the themes are universal. “Holes in His Shoes” captures the intensity of a challenging friendship. Johnson displays his ability to drop gems worthy of Guy Clark singing, “I’ve got a friend threadbare button loose, through the eye of a needle found a hole in the noose…makes Keith Richards look like he just joined the band…” “Free of the flesh, and scared of our deeds, at the foot of the throne, we shall all be received,” Johnson sings in a song written with Cowsill (“Foot of the Throne”), in which they also manage to recognize TVZ.
The snappy “Cleaning House” has all the elements one looks for in a classic country-blues: an action-oriented woman and a no account fella; the clarinet fill is unexpected. While the Cowsill-oriented tracks are each meaningful, heartfelt and more than memorable, Johnson is at his best on “Adios Santa Rosa,” another song co-written with Cowsill, as well as ubiquitous Tim Leacock (whose The Wandering V’s I need to explore.) I never thought I would type ‘calypso’ in a RBJ review, but the lively “Blue Bird” fits that bill. Continuing the ‘feather’ theme, Johnson revisits “Ol’ Black Crow,” reworking and likely improving upon the spoken word, rap-influenced tale from his debut.
In an unexplained twist, a live rendition of Cowsill presenting his classic “Vagabond”- the first song of his I recall hearing, back in ’84 as he opened for John Anderson at the Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton- is appended to the disc. Culled from The Co-Dependents’ initial album, the track seems a fitting way to conclude an album over which his (blue) shadow is so prevalent: with Cowsill himself.
Ralph Boyd Johnson is his own man. Yes, he was fortunate to be ‘schooled’ by Billy Cowsill, but the path he has followed has always been his own. 1723 9 St SW is an album of which I am certain Cowsill would approve, and of which Johnson can be proud.
If you read all of that…I apologize. I worked on this piece for a long time, and I don’t know if I near got it right. I do know it is long, and I’m plumb certain it isn’t perfect. But, it’s done and I mean it all. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Stephen Fearing Between Hurricanes Lowden Proud
Getting most of his notice as a third of Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, Stephen Fearing has been slowly (very slowly) increasing his profile on the Canadian folk scene for the past twenty-five years. While BARK has brought regular attention to Fearing since the release of High & Hurtin’ in 1996, Fearing has remained more under-the-populist-radar than his partners Colin Linden (who has become familiar to some with his sideman appearances on Nashville) and Tom Wilson (Lee Harvey Osmond).
When it comes to making music, Fearing has consistently, if infrequently, released albums of substance and growing appeal; Between Hurricanes, like Yellowjacket and That’s How I Walk before it, simply becomes more interesting and enthralling the more one listens.
Opening with clean picking and an immediately appealing groove, “As the Crow Flies” sets the course for an album of constant delight. “Rising from the ash and the dust, you turn the key from hope to trust…look ahead,” signals that Fearing has perhaps turned to a new chapter. “As my car flew off the road, images and memories were running through my head; promises I never kept, lies and pretty faces in my bed…” he sings in “Don’t You Wish Your Bread Was Dough,” touching on those regrets we all own.
“Cold Dawn” is staggering, as are “These Golden Days” and his reading of “Early Morning Rain,” and each in different ways and for a variety of reasons.”Keep Your Mouth Shut” is a raucously BARKy, while “The Fool” is as acute as the finest ballads ever sung by Marty Robbins or written by Kris Kristofferson. In many ways, Between Hurricanes reminds one most frequently of an album The Band (whom I have been listening to quite steadily recently) might have made had they been born and raised thirty years later.
I suggest that from my perspective, Fearing has never sounded in better voice, but that seems a bit much as he has always had a pleasing one; still, things seem a bit more focused, more mature even, if such makes any sense. Let it stand, then, that he sounds wonderful throughout the album.
Inhabiting a space somewhere between John Hiatt’s muddy Americana waters and Bruce Cockburn’s warm, comfort folk, Between Hurricanes is a bit minimalist in places, but never feels unduly spare. Co-producer with Fearing, John Whynot, serves as Fearing’s musical foil, contributing everything from piano and organ to percussion, bass, and autoharp.
Stephen Fearing is on a western swing, appearing in Saskatchewan and Alberta this week and next including at Red Deer’s Elks Lodge on March 7; all details at his website.
The Juno Award nominees were announced today and there was little joy for the roots folks this year. In the ‘big’ categories, not a wiff of roots amongst the populist material that keeps the industry afloat.
Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Solo- the nominees are
Amelia Curran- Spectators
Annabelle Chvostek- Rise
Corb Lund- Cabin Fever
Old Man Luedecke- Tender is the Night
Rose Cousins- We Have Made A Spark
Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Group- the nominees are
Elliott Brood- Days Into Years
Great Lake Swimmers- New Wild Everywhere
Le Vent du Nord- Tromper le temps
The Strumbellas- My Father and the Hunter
The Wooden Sky- Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon A Sun
I haven’t heard all of these albums, and will endeavor to correct that, but as it stands today, if I had a Juno ballot- and I don’t- I would put a ticky tick beside Corb Lund’s name and the Great Lake Swimmers. New Wild Everywhere was prominent on my Polaris 2012 ballot- as was The Wooden Sky and Rose Cousins, for that matter- but I give the edge to Great Lake Swimmers as it is a more listenable, more engaging and far-reaching album, I believe. At the same time, I sure wouldn’t be upset to see The Wooden Sky walk away with the prize.
To be fair, Corb Lund’s Cabin Fever is every bit a group album as anything in the other category. Still, it is placed where it is and would be a deserving winner. I’ll be advocating Cabin Fever for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize.
All nominees are listed at the Juno Page and the ceremony is April 21 in Regina.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
http://lonesomeroadreview.com/2012/10/14/rough-edge-ragged-hearts-by-linda-mcrae/ will get you to my review of Linda McRae’s latest. After all these years, still one of my favourite singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists. You may know of her work from a long time ago with Spirit of the West or more recently with Audrey Auld. However you come to Linda, it is good that you do.
Rough Edges & Ragged Hearts was just nominated as Contemporary Album of the Year by the Canadian Folk Music Awards, a group that has previously recognized Bruce Cockburn, John Wort Hannam, Joel Plaskett, Luke Doucet, The Duhks, Penny Lang, and Nathan in this category. Also nominated this year are Whitehorse, The Deep Dark Woods, Old Man Luedecke, and Rose Cousins.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Gordie Tentrees North Country Heart www.tentrees.ca
Writing about his Yukon surroundings- the natural land as well as the people- has taken Gordie Tentrees to the next level.
Firmly entrenched in the same singer-songwriter mode as Corb Lund- especially on the talking blues of “Sideman Blues” and “Hill Country News”- Tentrees’s forthcoming album North Country Heart is his strongest yet. And that is a fairly high bar as his previous efforts Mercy or Sin and Bottleneck to Wire were fairly marvelous.
Recorded in Whitehorse with Bob Hamilton, start to finish North Country Heart is likely the finest collection of songs that Tentrees has recorded. While individual lyrical pieces capture the attention of listeners (“Blessed and bestowed bitten from the start, there’s nothing out there like a North Country heart” and “This is not another tune for you, wrote enough of them to see me through” from “Last Word”), the melodies capture the moods as accurately as his words.
On “Lone Sparrow,” the melody holds the lyrics close. The instrumentation- including lonesome pedal steel- punctuates the melancholy. The sagely worded “Black Seeds” is another standout track, as is the album’s lead number “Gypsy Wind.”
Tentrees has created a cohesive collection of images and sounds that hits emotional marks without resorting to manipulation. Heard without advance warning, one could be convinced that this is the new Corb Lund or Hayes Carll album and not be a bit disappointed. Tentrees has learned from the best: Fred Eaglesmith, John Wort Hannam, Ray Wylie Hubbard.
North Country Heart is evidence that he hasn’t just learned the tricks of the trade: Tentrees has become a stellar songwriter and roots vocalist.
Announced ealier today, and I am pretty excited. If memory serves, I’ve never before helped three albums make the list.
From the Polaris site http://www.polarismusicprize.ca/article/416/the-2012-polaris-music-prize-long-list-is-here/
“The 2012 Polaris Music Prize Long List is (in alphabetical order):
A Tribe Called Red – A Tribe Called Red
Marie-Pierre Arthur – Aux alentours
Rich Aucoin – We’re All Dying To Live
Avec pas d’casque – Astronomie
Azari & III – Azari & III
Bahamas – Barchords
The Barr Brothers – The Barr Brothers
Blackie And The Rodeo Kings – Kings And Queens
Cadence Weapon – Hope In Dirt City
Kathryn Calder – Bright And Vivid
Cannon Bros – Firecracker / Cloudglow
Coeur de pirate – Blonde
Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
Cold Specks – I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
Rose Cousins – We Have Made A Spark
Mark Davis – Eliminate The Toxins
Drake – Take Care
Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur
Feist – Metals
Fucked Up – David Comes To Life
Great Lake Swimmers – New Wild Everywhere
Grimes – Visions
Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Dan Mangan – Oh Fortune
Mares Of Thrace – The Pilgrimage
Ariane Moffatt – MA
Lindi Ortega – Little Red Boots
Parlovr – Kook Soul
Sandro Perri – Impossible Spaces
Joel Plaskett Emergency – Scrappy Happiness
PS I Love You – Death Dreams
John K. Samson – Provincial
Shooting Guns – Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976
The Slakadeliqs – The Other Side of Tomorrow
Patrick Watson – Adventures In Your Own Backyard
Bry Webb – Provider
The Weeknd – Echoes of Silence
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – YT//ST
Yukon Blonde – Tiger Talk
The 200+ writers, editors, producers and media figures who make up the Polaris Music Prize jury pool will now go back to the ballot boxes again and submit their Top 5 albums, selecting only from what’s on the Long List.
When those votes are in, the Short List comprised of 10 albums will be announced in Toronto on July 17.
Once that’s done it’s on to the big show, the Polaris Gala, being held in Toronto on September 24, where one of the 10 Short List albums will be declared the best Canadian album of 2012 in a secret jury Hunger Games-style argument to the death.”
My Top 5 ballot had a roots focus, as it should, and was published earlier this month in the Red Deer Advocate. I’m pleased that my number 1, 3, and 4 picks made the Long List, as well as two other albums I championed- Rose Cousins’ and John K. Samson’s. I am surprised that the Mark Davis album made it simply because it is one of those ‘under the radar’ releases. As well, I’m surprised BARK made it as the album didn’t seem to generate much buzz amongst the jury members online. I really thought the Cowboy Junkies would have made it, but…such is democracy.
Mark Davis- Eliminate the Toxins Capturing a selection of sounds even more adventurous than created within his previous releases, Davis retains the intense focus and introspection one has come to expect from the Edmonton singer-songwriter. Eliminate the Toxins stands with his best work, and as such can be appreciated on a poetic level while also serving as impetus to slowly dance. Multi-layered, Eliminate the Toxins is so all-encompassing that listeners will find themselves sinking into its warmth. It will take top spot on my ballot.
Cowboy Junkies- The Wilderness Having celebrated 25 years as one of Canada’s most dynamic recording groups, Cowboy Junkies embarked on an ambitious campaign 18 months ago: release four distinct albums within a year and a half. The Wilderness is certainly the strongest of the four. Closest to the ‘classic’ Cowboy Junkies sound, Margo Timmins’ languid vocals and delicately complex, occasionally trippy backing tracks are immediately recognizable. One tranquil song effortlessly slips into the next with little but contributions of visiting musicians distinguishing one from another. This consistency in sound makes The Wilderness appealing: nothing jars the listener out of the inviting, profound sound-space the band has created.
Blackie & the Rodeo Kings- Kings & Queens As far-reaching as Kings & Queens is, producer Colin Linden and his cohorts never lose perspective while singing with fourteen different ladies, among them Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Serena Ryder, and Rosanne Cash. Their contributions bring even greater focus to Lindsn’s, Tom Wilson’s and Stephen Fearing’s singing, and it is this ability to maintain balance that serves as Blackie & the Rodeo Kings’ greatest accomplishment.
Great Lake Swimmers- New Wild Everywhere That rare album that is comprised of thirteen songs with each as strong as those surrounding it: every song stands on its own as a memorable and engaging composition while being all the better because of its place within the greater album. New Wild Everywhere is elaborate. Tony Dekker and Great Lake Swimmers have created an album that is lush and rich. Miranda Mulholland’s background vocal contributions are astounding, adding a depth to the songs that is impressive. Similarly, Erik Arnesen’s guitar and banjo sounds create a lovely and complementary backdrop for Dekker’s words and vocals.
Skydiggers- Northern Shore Lovely songs that are fully realized with beautiful production, gorgeous, uplifting vocals, and a seemingly random mix of sounds that keeps one listening, Especially on shuffle, you can’t be sure what is coming next: a stark aching ballad, a mishmash of strangely musical beats and electronic burps, something piano based that slowly evolves,
a bit of bombast, a choice Mickey Newbury cover, or a sweeping piece that- for three or four minutes- makes the darkness that surrounds us disappear. I’m no expert on the Skydiggers- I only have the The Truth About Us compilation on the shelf- but this recently released album sneaks into my top 5, at the expense of John K. Samson’s Provincial, Fred Eaglesmith’s 6 Volts, or Rose Cousins’ We Have Made a Spark, three albums I also really loved.
This has me excited. If I were to attend, which I likely won’t for several reasons, I would make sure that I tried to catch: Kim Beggs and T Nile, Blue Highway, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Johnny Clegg Band, Rose Cousins, Rodney Crowell, Steve Forbert, Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family Reunion, Emmylou Harris, Hills to Hollars featuring Laurie Lewis, Linda Tillery, and Barbara Higbie, Martyn Joseph, Jimmy LaFave, Jim Lauderdale, David Lindley, Dougie MacLean, The Parachute Club, and J. R. Shore. Lots of country-based roots there, y’all.
Cowboy Junkies The Wilderness: The Nomad Series Volume 4 Latent
Having celebrated 25 years as one of the country’s most dynamic recording groups, Cowboy Junkies embarked on an ambitious campaign 18 months ago: release four distinct albums within a year and a half. Starting with the exquisite Renmin Park in late 2010, the seminal Canadian outfit have since released a tribute to Vince Chesnutt (Demons) to rave reviews and a set of dark, heavy sounds (Sing in My Meadow) that was remarkably diverse.
The Wilderness may be the strongest album of the four. Certainly it is closest to the ‘classic’ Cowboy Junkies sound: languid vocals from Margo Timmins and delicately complex, occasionally trippy backing tracks that are immediately recognizable as coming from the Ontario-based collective.
The liner notes tell us- if the album title wasn’t enough of a clue- that these songs are about those elements that bind us within their isolation: loneliness, loss, chance, desperation, fragile hopes and elusive beauty. The basic stuff of singer-songwriter efforts since the days of traveling troubadours, then.
One tranquil song effortlessly slips into the next with little but the contribution of visiting guests such as Jeff Bird (mandolins), Joby Baker and Jesse O’Brien (keyboards), and Miranda Mulholland (violin) distinguishing one from another. This consistency in sound is what makes The Wilderness so appealing: nothing jars the listener out of the inviting and profound sound-space the band has created.
By my count, The Wilderness is Cowboy Junkies 15th album of new material. It easily ranks with their greatest recordings such as Lay It Down, Black Eyed Man, and Open.
Originally published in the Red Deer Advocate March 16, 2012
Rose Cousins We Have Made a Spark Outside Music
This coming week sees the release of Halifax-based Rose Cousin’s third album We Have Made a Spark. While exploring similar sounds to her previous releases, this outstanding recording serves as a considerable forward step for the dual 2011 East Coast music Award winner (Songwriter and Solo Female Recording).
Produced by Massachusetts’ Zackariah Hickman (Josh Ritter, Barnstar!), Cousins and her team have negotiated the difficult waters of independence to create a well-paced album of lyrical and musical depth. Similar in some ways to more overtly commercial artists including Kathleen Edwards and Serena Ryder, Cousins piano- and guitar-based music has smoky depth that lends itself to considerable contemplation.
With darkness- loneliness, vulnerability, depression, frustration, and other challenges- as a unifying theme, this set could have become bogged down in self-recrimination and anger. Rather, and while the mood is certainly is not boisterous, the disc isn’t without considerable light charm in no small part because of the environment in which it was created. We Have Made A Spark was recorded in and inspired by the inclusive and collaborative music community of Boston: Kris Delmhorst, Jennifer Kimball, Charlie Rose, and Mark Erelli are among the better known names who gathered in-studio with Cousins to work up this collection of songs.
A multi-layered set, the album has a seemingly infinite bottom-end with drummer Billy Beard and bassist Hickman running herd on the studio collective. The relationship that ends in The Shell is as delicate as the sentiment of Go First. Each of the eight new Cousins originals are songs you can just crawl into and wrap around yourself. As a bonus, Cousins revisits two songs from her previous album The Send Off, All the Time It Takes to Wait and White Daisies.
The first song received what I thought was an ideal performance on The Send Off, but Cousins manages to outdo herself here. With a more hollow sound than on the previous recording, and with the addition of her choir of Boston ladies adding harmony, All the Time It Takes to Wait is given a performance that is all the more impactful. Charlie Rose’s steel elevates White Daisies to some strange- but effective- amalgam of downbeat jazz and classic country.
An inspired performance of Springsteen’s oft-covered If I Should Fall Behind is included. Sung with should-be-folk-superstar Mark Erelli and a chorus of voices, the emotional threads of the song are again revealed, this time in a new way with the melancholy romantic shades of the original replaced by a gentle assuredness of faith in a wider community.
A brilliant album that gently unfolds as it plays, Rose Cousins’ We Have Made a Spark is available February 28 and has worked its way into my Polaris Music Prize Top 5.
A free download of Darkness is available at www.RoseCousins.com and a 20 minute video that takes viewers into the sessions is also posted at her site.
The (brief) version of my review of Fred Eaglesmith’s new album 6 Volts has been posted at Country Standard Time. For those of you who are not familiar with Ontarian Fred Eaglesmith, it is high time you become so; in my opinion, no one- not Buddy Miller, not Jim Lauderdale, not Alejandro Escovedo- has produced as solid a string of roots music over the past twenty years. http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=4822 will get you to the review.
Question? Why do American editors/writers so often refer to Canada as if it is one big ol’ mass o’ land without differentiation between our various provinces and territories? A review of any group’s latest album would never be identified as being from an “America-based” band; the descriptor would be localized as Texas-, California-, or Arkansas-based. When I’m writing for a Canadian audience, I will always refer to the outfit’s state, never simply as “an American band.” But for articles published in American publications, Canadian bands, often have their province specific description- such as Fred as an “Ontarian,” that is a person from Ontario- revised to “Canadian.”
I ask all American-based editors to consider beginning to identify Canadian acts with reference to their province or territory of origin. It isn’t really that big of a deal- I think most Americans can understand that a “Saskatchewan-based” band is indeed Canadian. We can trust that, right? It won’t horribly confuse most American readers, will it?
And heck- if it really confuses someone, they can always Google Nova Scotian.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
O, forgot- here is the ‘long’ version of my 6 Volts review:
Fred Eaglesmith 6 Volts A Major Label
From the opening notes of “Cemetery Road” it is obvious that the classic Fred Eaglesmith sound we fell for in the mid-90s is back. Absent this time out are the experimental revelations of recent albums, and as enjoyable and appreciated as those were it seems high time that the Fred of lonely gravel roads, lonelier women, frustrated Saturday evenings, roadside artistry and junkyard Americana paid a return visit.
In Ontarian Eaglesmith’s dark world, the “Dangerous” man, living on the corner of Stupidity and Recklessness has as much appeal as the broken hearted, drugged-out long hauler of “Trucker Speed.” Eaglesmith doesn’t attempt to provide answers; he is an observer, a writer of domestic history- through his acute writer’s eye, he captures the stories of the people we pass without notice.
Within his character studies, the details of Eaglesmith’s brilliance is revealed. Describing a multi-faceted breakdown within the title cut, Eaglesmith sings, “My clutches are slipping, the carbon gets in my throat. You get out on the passenger side, I swallow my pride. The radiators raging like a murderer, only God can bend tempered steel.” Is Eaglesmith describing the death of a relationship or a vehicle? Really, it doesn’t matter- those images work no matter the interpretation.
Eaglesmith’s characters are seldom obviously heroic; they are flawed, often lost. One example can be found within the wrong-eyed, farmer justice of “Katie,” in which a landowner holds out under pressure of residential expansion because he buried his unfaithful wife under the hickory tree…and there’s another grave down by the creek. A new classic is born, one waiting for a bluegrass interpretation from James King, James Reams, or Junior Sisk.
Elsewhere, Eaglesmith eviscerates those who ignored Johnny Cash prior to his Rick Rubin-driven comeback. Perhaps most poignant is “Stars” in which Eaglesmith reflects on his own legacy, the one in which “Willie played the mandolin, he jumped around the stage; we thought that it would never end.” Of course, everything fades and now Eaglesmith finds himself admitting, “My hands hurt from playing my guitar. Every night in all those bars, we played like we were stars.”
With a less elaborate sound than his previous Cha Cha Cha- mostly guitars and drums with pedal steel, banjo, and organ mixed in- Eaglesmith is more focused this time out but no less fierce in his determination to capture the sounds of the past within modern songs that will be as relevant in twenty years as they are today.
If Fred Eaglesmith lost you in recent years, it is time to get back on board. 6 Volts is a welcome return for Canada’s premier roots road warrior.