Woodland Telegraph & Mendelson Joe reviews

This morning, I was pleased to feature in my Red Deer Advocate Roots Music column reviews of the latest albums from Woodland Telegraph and Mendelson Joe; lovely albums both. http://tinyurl.com/6yhqwus will get you there. You’ll also see a full listing of coming area roots concerts.

Originally published in my Roots Music column in the Red Deer Advocate, March 18, 2011

Woodland Telegraph From the Fields Northern Folklore

A labour of love for Matthew Lovegrove and friends, From the Fields is the second volume of the Canadian Landscape trilogy, following 2009’s beautiful, mountain-inspired Sings Revival Hymns. That album topped year-end lists as well as CBC Galaxie’s folk/roots annual chart, ahead of folks named Cockburn and Tyson.

Using the western prairies as a backdrop, Lovegrove and his cohort have crafted a brilliant tribute to those who have forged a life within a harsh landscape, and give fair measure to the land itself.

The title track features a vocal trio capturing the expansive majesty and loneliness of the prairies. Other songs take us to the Oldman River and rural churches- with a side trip to the Niagara Escarpment- while select pieces take a more political turn as farmers and ranchers face arrogant corporate authority.

With a funky interlude ripped from Earth, Wind, & Fire, the lyrics of “White Pelicans” provide some of the album’s most vivid images: “I remember sun-bleached bones on the coulee” pulls the listener into knee-deep grasses rippled by fragrant summer winds.

Most of the instrumentation is of an acoustic and gentle-electric nature with banjo, guitar, and strings conveying the melodies. When “Move to Town” fades, the journey concludes as naturally as it began.

Mendelson Joe Original Old Bold Records

Mendelson Joe, the Ontario songwriter-singer-artist-philosopher best known for his odd-ball late-80s Much Music hit “Dance with Joe”, collects here 21-tracks recorded intermittently over 40 years (largely 1984-1991) with familiar friends including Bob Wiseman, Willie P. Bennett, Gwen Swick, and Ben Mink.

Things are kept humble throughout. No high-minded, melodrama here; unassuming lyrics provide perspective at every turn including in “You and Me”: “I woke up today- well, isn’t that good news.” Joe’s conversational- and observational- bluesy folk is backed-up with a bite, drifting toward the sardonic only on the most recent tunes including “Deemo Crassy”; given our political climate, who can blame the guy?

Twisted love songs (“Shepherd’s Pie”) are mixed with commentaries (“Canary in the Coalmine”) and social hypotheses (“Women are the Only Hope”). Joe contributes some beautiful guitar sounds throughout the collection, providing evidence that there is much more to him than clever and challenging lyrical dogma.

Spring is around the corner- see something live. And buy some music, y’all. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee, Donald

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