Sue Foley- The Ice Queen review   Leave a comment

sue foley

Sue Foley The Ice Queen Stony Plain Records SueFoley.com

When one considers contemporary blues guitarists, naturally several come to mind, and being a bit northern-centric, Sue Foley immediately jumps to the fore. That paisley-bejeweled pink Telecaster wouldn’t be nearly as impressive in lesser hands, and over the course of nearly three decades as a touring bandleader, the Ottawa-native has certainly established a niche all her own.

Finger-picking his Foley’s forte, and the title track is an ideal example of her inimitable style; clocking in at six-plus minutes, the playful and self-deprecating number provides the album with a rock-solid foundation. But, as she has with various international sounds over the years, Foley also extends herself acoustically late in the set when she plays “The Dance,” this time utilizing the flamenco style.

As significant as the guitar playing is throughout the album—from Foley, of course, but also her guests including Charlie Sexton, Billy Gibbons, Jimmie Vaughan, to name the three most familiar—what is even more impressive is the depth she goes to give voice to these songs.

She gets low and bluesy a la Lucinda singing the many and diverse qualities of cruel ol’ “81” (“She’s a two-headed snake, and she winds her tail, from the mighty Appalachians to the gates of Hell”) while roaring above a lively ruckus on “Run,” a free-spirited jam featuring thick bass-notes from Austin’s Johnny Bradley and drumming from George Rains from Vaughan’s Tilt a Whirl band. This trio propels a pair of additional numbers—with help from others—Bessie Smith’s “Send Me To the ‘Lectric Chair” and “If I Have Forsaken You.”

Throughout, Foley’s singing is engaged as she brilliantly slips from one style to the next, each authentic within her blues experience. Foley’s haunting acoustic country-blues treatment of her own “Death of A Dream” is quite simply stunning, while  a lively (and apparently near-elusive) “Cannonball Blues” serves as an ideal conclusion to a collection set in tradition.

Featuring a bevy of Texas heat, The Ice Queen allows several of Foley’s musical friends an opportunity to make significant appearances. Charlie Sexton’s initial contributions—on the opening “Come To Me” and its follow-up “81”—are impressive, and set the theme for the album with masters collaborating in expected ways to yield extraordinary results. I’ve never been a particular fan of Vaughan’s, but he and Foley slip into “The Lucky Ones” with companionable ease. Producer Mike Flanigin’s Hammond B3 punctuates several songs, most effectively on the ramblin’ “Gaslight,” while Billy Gibbons gets fair gritty with Foley on “Fool’s Gold,” another number on which Flanigin is prominently featured.

The Ice Queen is Sue Foley’s first album in six years, and a more welcome, forceful, and confident return couldn’t be imagined. I imagine it is everything fans have been waiting for, and more. Now, to finesse an early-April road trip to Red Deer…

 

 

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Steve Sainas- Simple As This review   Leave a comment

Simple-As-This-cover

Steve Sainas Simple As This Sainas Songs/SteveSainas.ca

Steve Sainas has been playing the blues throughout British Columbia’s lower mainland for years, with his band Mud Dog releasing three albums of straight-ahead, contemporary acoustic blues/rock.

Wielding an aggressive approach to resophonic and flat-top guitars, Sainas’ first release under his own name is an appealing slice of blues with a noticeable singer-songwriter bent. Emphasizing descriptive songwriting, Sainas provides listeners a guitar-rich journey through original creations.

A self-produced, self-released project, Simple As This is elevated by the cohesion of Sainas’ songs. Optimistic where the blues is frequently pessimistic, Sainas has elected to (largely) emphasize positive aspects of a society increasingly destructive through upbeat, engaging, and lively songs.

“Ruby Jo” benefits from a breezy approach befitting a tale of strength and freedom, with the apocalyptic “Cities On Fire” featuring forceful drumming from Kelly Stodola. “Why Do We Fall” and the title track are softer in their approach, and “Got Your Love” features nimble picking in the Doc Watson style. The searching quality of “So Alone” is buoyed by the throaty “My Darkest Days Are Done,” with “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” sending us off into the good night.

Given that instrumental parts of the album—guitar, bass, and drums—were captured in isolation at three separate studios and—one supposes—melded together, Simple As This is a surprisingly unified recording.

With little fanfare, Steve Sainas has delivered a satisfying and appealing trio album with lyrics receiving prominence not usually encountered in modern blues.

Thomm Jutz- Crazy If You Let It review   Leave a comment

Thomm

I missed posting this review that was published at Country Standard Time late in 2017. So, here it is.

Link to Thomm’s website.

Milan Miller- Timepiece review   Leave a comment

timepiece-itunes-art

Milan Miller Timepiece MilanMillerMusic.com

Milan Miller is one of contemporary bluegrass music’s most recorded songwriters, with chartbusters Balsam Range having recorded more than fifteen of his songs across their albums. Others who have co-written and/or recorded his songs include Irene Kelley, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, and Terry Baucom. While he hasn’t yet been named IBMA’s Bluegrass Songwriter of the Year, he certainly can’t be overlooked for very much longer.

Raised in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Miller put out a well-received album entitled Poison Cove in 2013 and followed that up with an album with Balsam Range’s Buddy Melton. Timepiece is a 6-song EP intended to get a set of songs out in a way Miller desired without interfering with his many other obligations. Terry Baucom plays banjo on three tracks as does Justin Moses, who also contributes Dobro. Aubrey Haynie (fiddle), Jim Lindsey (bass), and Darren Nicholson (mandolin) accompany Miller (acoustic guitar) throughout the recording, with Buddy Melton and Adam Wright contributing harmony.

With such a concise format, it quickly becomes apparent that there is no filler on Timepiece. Three songs co-written with Beth Husband—”Timepiece,” “Isabel Gray,” and “Baby Don’t Bake”—are entirely unlike in structure, theme, and execution, and yet all sound like they could have been written thirty or seventy years ago, and—even with such variety—are decidedly bluegrass.

Within a loping melody, ill-fated bandit Charlie Price meets his comeuppance in “Timepiece,” with the band keeping better time than his pocket watch did. “Isabel Gray,” a melancholic, fiddle-rich number about an seafaring wanderer, couldn’t be more different from the light-hearted, Texas-swing, ‘kissed-off’ homage, “Baby Don’t Bake.” With these three songs, any bluegrass band worth their weight would be off to a good start song-mining.

Co-written with Thomm Jutz, “Coon Dog Cemetery” takes a gentle, slightly eerie approach to man’s best friends’ final resting place. With Jutz and Glenn Simmons, Miller finishes his EP with “I Wish,” a bluegrass ballad that doesn’t get overly sappy: still, it is a bit sappy, and one can’t argue about that since this type of song seems universally popular within the modern bluegrass field.

Rising above these five strong songs is “Brody White,” co-written with Jeff McClellan. With the first verse put to bed, one knows that a father’s retribution will be swift and final. With an attention to detail reminiscent of Chris Knight (think “Down The River” meets “Rita’s Only Fault,” but with a stand-up dad), this song is stellar, and has immediately become my new favourite.

Timepiece is a strong showcase of Milan Miller’s songwriting. Moreover, it serves as evidence of his capabilities as a bluegrass singer. I don’t know if Miller aspires to being a bandleader—I suspect he doesn’t—but based on Timepiece, I’d step up to buy a ticket.

 

Mare Wakefield & Nomad- Time To Fly review   Leave a comment

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Mare Wakefield & Nomad Time To Fly MareWakefield.com

Not all songs need be short stories, narratives replete with finely crafted characters and motivations, secrets revealed, and veiled, within and between the lines. But listening to Mare Wakefield’s most recent compositions comprising Time to Fly, I am reminded that I am glad when they occasionally are.

I love me an Alice Munro story, and more than once—on the multi-dimensional “Time To Fly” and certainly during “Bernice & Bernadette”—Munro’s exquisite style came to mind, an economy of words magnifying precious rhythms of daily minutiae. So too did folks like Dar Williams (“With Your Heartbeat” and even more so on “The Day We Buried Mama (& Cousin Bobby Joe Got Wed”))  and Tracy Grammer (“Breathe.”)

The light-hearted opener “Real Big Love” and it’s more (it would seem) rural cousin “Henry” are appropriately boppy bits of wordplay, and appeal greatly to my 60s and 70s AM rock ‘n’ roll/country radio roots.  Nomad Ovunc drops in all matter of audio ancillaries including keys and accordion (and on “Closer to God,” melodica,) while Will Kimbrough supplies the electric guitar leads and Brian Allen (not that Brian Allen, Toronto fans) bass.  On the closing “Falling,” Wes Little’s drumming encourages images of long-ago shuffles, while it goes in an entirely different direction on the jazzy (and duplicitous) “The Boxer & the Beauty Queen.”

“Bernice & Bernadette” celebrates the love of a lifetime, bonds of childhood innocence coalescing into a unconsummated romance. It is a tale of not-so-much unrequited attraction and love as it is of one which remained unstated, and coming as it does from Wakefield’s grandmother’s letters, all the more authentic and candid.

“Bernice & Bernadette” communicates a poignant melancholy—although lovely—through sepia-toned images, and “The Day We Buried Mama (& Cousin Bobby Joe Got Wed)” paints a lighter but no less significant depiction of family ties. Jubilantly, Wakefield proclaims, “Raise a glass for those who pass and those who are on the way,” as fine an epitaph as one might hope to have ascribed to them.

Mare Wakefield has been making albums for twenty years, and this is the second on which Nomad has billing. However, it is my first exposure to these Nashville-residents, and as such, proves—once again—that there is way too much ‘good stuff’ out there for any one person to hear. Take the time, then, to check out Time To Fly: it will be worth it.

 

 

Emily Burgess- Are We In Love? review   Leave a comment

Emily

Emily Burgess Are We In Love? www.EmilyBurgessMusic.com

I don’t get too excited about too many things these days. Thank goodness I still get a bit of a jump when I hear fresh, exciting music: the day that stops happening it the day I’ll be ready to pack it all in.

Still, I don’t get worked up by a lot of the music being produced by younger musicians and singers. Give me a new album by Rodney Crowell, The Gibson Brothers, or David and Gillian over something by Shakey Graves, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin, or Molly Tuttle most any day and I’ll be more than content.

It isn’t that folks twenty and thirty years my junior have nothing to contribute—far from it, they keep the roots growing—I am just not into what many of them are doing. And that is fine, I suppose, as long as I recognize that while their music may not necessarily fully connect with me, it does impact others in the same way Guy Clark, Emmylou Harris, Wilma Burgess, and Steve Forbert once—long agoknocked me back on my arse.

Ahh, but there is always an exception. Emily Burgess (I guess Wilma Burgess didn’t come to mind a sentence ago serendipitously) is the latest ‘youngster’ to capture my ears.

Not sure when my recent fascination with soulful female vocalists began, but I know Bobbie Gentry laid a solid foundation over the past twenty years. Discovering her catalogue beyond “Ode to Billie Joe” did more than a little to push me in this direction. I know I fell hard for the singing of Linda Clifford, Gladys Knight, Marlena Shaw, Candi Staton, and Dorothy Moore (and a hundred and fifty-six others) when I encountered them on soundtracks, compilations, and radio, and became enamoured with the thrill of discovering even more when I started digging. Over time, Amy Black came to my attention, and a couple years ago I fell hard for Edmonton’s Ann Vriend’s recent albums. Lately, Erin Costelo and Crystal Shawanda have came onto my radar. Now, Emily Burgess.

Out of Ontario, Emily Burgess is a guitar-wielding firebrand who has played with various outfits, most recently The Weber Brothers. From what I can gather browsing the links, many of her previous appearances feature harder blues stylings. Not so Are We In Love? And these softer, soulful songs are right up my alley, and I would suggest ideally suit Burgess.

Backed by The Weber Brothers Band, Burgess strolls down the soulful side of the street on this debut set of ten songs. With the recording coming in at just over 30 minutes, no time is wasted, no filler dropped in. “Til I Get To Call You My Only” comes with a confident strut to kick-off the album, each and every performance is concise, and the album’s brevity magnifies the intensity of the music.

Burgess and Sam Weber (no individual credits are provided) drop in tasteful guitar fills throughout the set (“I Want To Make You Mine,” for example) and the rhythm section of Marcus Browne (drums) and Ryan Weber (bass) keep the backbeat deep. Ryan “Rico” Browne contributes a bevy of keys. With everyone focused on maintaining a discerning groove, the album maintains cohesion that never blurs into monotony.

Burgess’s softer side comes through on “Ain’t That A Woman?” and the title track, but these songs avoid mushy sentimentality. “Is this a phantom I’m chasing,” she sings on “Are We In Love?” and the answer is most obviously, No. Emily Burgess knows what she is going after, revealing no hesitation. “All I Wanna Do Is Love You” rocks like a Danko Jones’ outtake, and “Stand Up For Your Love” is just a terrific song.

Still, despite all of these highlights, the late set “Arrested” may just be the strongest performance on Are We In Love? Embracing shifting tempos, Burgess sings of falling under a spell, “arrested by the love of a man,” over a percolating and percussive rhythm with a signature hook that is significantly catchy.

Released late last year, Emily Burgess’s Are We In Love? is a captivating album, one that will get your soulful, bottom-end moving.

 

Posted 2018 February 4 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Raven and Red- We Rise Up review   Leave a comment

raven-and-red-we-rise-up-album

Raven and Red We Rise Up Line Crossing Records www.RavenandRed.com

Youthful, Raven and Red is a polished Nashville-based acoustic Americana trio. Featuring a pair of classically-trained, recent North Carolina university graduates, Brittany Lynn Jones (vocals, violin, and more) and Mitchell Lane (vocals and guitars), alongside a still-teenaged and high school attending mandolinist/vocalist in Cole King, the group shows great interest in the history and foundations of folk and country music while bridging the past with pop and rock influences and conventions: energetic, sensitive, andmost importantly—interesting.

Without doubt, Lane (the ‘Red’) can flat out sing. With a strong tenor, the Georgia native propels these songs (mostly) co-written with Lynn Jones (the ‘Raven.’) “It Could Have Been You,” “Living and Loving You” and “Lead Me Back to You” may not be lyrically groundbreaking, but they are not obviously formulistic, and their performances are impressive with Justin Collins’ percussion providing a touch of flamboyance to “Lead Me Back to You” not often revealed in similar settings. The affirming “We Rise Up” will provide inspiration, while the New Christy Minstrels’ “Today” is an appropriate throwback to the gentrification of mid-century folk music. Lynn Jones’ powerful, substantial harmonies give Raven and Red’s songs supplementary heft.

Jeffrey Shore and Jonathan Quintero’s “Grandpa’s Beer,” is a strong ‘generation-passing’ song given a fairly homey arrangement with lots of fiddle; Lane’s performance here reminds me of a one-song (“Guy Clark”) favourite of mine, Eric Burton (who, it appears, has disappeared from the Webiverse). “Moonshine and Makeup” and “Another Empty Bottle” (sensing a theme here) are additional superior tracks that work well within Raven and Red’s modern country/folk approach. “Wild Roses” is—arguably—a little wordy, but is works as a tribute to an early love lost to the lure of music. Later, “Wild Roses Reprise: Winter Raven World Traveler” provides Lynn Jones with a violin showcase augmented by her companions.

We Will Rise is a fine debut recording for the trio Raven and Red. It doesn’t have enough gravel to become a Fervor Coulee favourite, but I acknowledge the group’s talents and the quality of their performances. There is something here, and I’ll be keeping these gnarled ears open.

Posted 2018 February 3 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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