Three Troubadours of Different Flavours- reviews

Andy Peake- Mood Swings Ric Robertson Carolina Child Brandon Isaak Modern Primitive

The new, independent roots releases have come at me too quickly this past spring and summer, not that I am complaining. But life circumstances and the impact of a government hell-bent on destroying my home province has prevented me from concentrating on writing the way I should; that’s my story, anyway.

To correct this, three quick (to read, always labourious to write) capsule reviews in the mode of the professionals who make a living at this endeavour. Three very different approaches to the roots world in which we exist.

Andy Peake- Mood Swings Biglittle Records

Whereas Andy Peake is primarily a drummer and Mose Allison was a pianist, it is Allison I am most reminded of when listening to this debut recording from the Nashville-based veteran.

Jazz-infused, blues-seasoned roots and soul offerings, several original with sparking interpretations of Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan; Peake’s “I Shall Be Released” (sung with John Cowan) is incredible, freshly re-imagined as a bluesy shuffle.

His “My Baby’s Got a Light On,” “Make Peace With the Blues,” “Mood Swings,” and “Untangle the Line” should find favour with independent-minded radio programmers, with the jammified “Bitter Pill” being attractive to the most adventurous. A new song from Dave Duncan and Karen Leipziger, “Another Day, Another Teardrop,” is a soon-to-be, modern rocking, R&B standard.

Having made a living playing behind Tanya Tucker, Nicolette Larson, Don Williams, Marshall Chapman, and others, there is no surprise that Peake understands how to put together a fine album; musicians joining him include bassists Paul Ossola and Bob Marinelli and guitarists John Prestia, James Pennebaker, Sam Broussard, Chris Leuzinger, and Will McFarlane, folks who know how to find a groove.

Very impressive, this. Search it out is my advice. Lovely cover art, too, via Janine LeBlanc, perhaps.

Ric Robertson Carolina

For fans of Daniel Romano, k d lang, Harry Nilsson, and especially Royal Wood, and I choose those artists deliberately. Like the mentioned, one listens to Ric Robertson without a clue where the next song is going to go, but one is well-assured to appreciate the journey and music encountered.

“Sycamore Hill” is singularly a stone masterpiece, it’s ‘spoken-sung’ lyrics a trip toward the unexpected. The phrase ‘multi-verse’ has been used to describe Robertson’s world view, and while I’m not suitably enlightened to be confident as to what that entails, it resonates as one listens to these ten songs.

A bit country (“Anna Rose” and “My Love Never Sleeps,” the latter from John Lilly of Fervor Coulee faves Blue Yonder,) solidly pop (“Getting Over Our Love” and “Julie,”) with New Orleans influence (“I Don’t Mind,”) and a lot psychedelic (every freakin’ song) Carolina Child is a well-appreciated trip into the unseen and previously unheard. Unique.

Don’t overthink it—I made that mistake. Just lay back and allow Robertson lead you to places you’ve not previously experienced.

Brandon Isaak Modern Primitive

Recorded on the brink of the pandemic, this one-day recording by Whitehorse’s Brandon Isaak, accompanied by Keith Picot (upright bass and backing vox) is exceptional.

Captured off-the-floor of the penthouse of Vancouver’s The Rosewood Hotel Georgia—a room that previously hosted folks with the surnames Armstrong, Sinatra, Cole, Crosby, and Presley—the ambiance of history is infused within the unembellished, blues gems, each an Isaak original.

A few songs are heavy in theme (“I Wish I Did What I Said I’d Do,” “One Too Many Blues,” and “Three Simple Questions”) with lighter fare mixed in (“Valentine Blues,” “Lost Love and Loose Women,” and “Back to New Orleans”) as Isaak plays all the guitar parts including lap steel and some banjo, piano, harp, and drums. “Six Little Letters” is my favourite blues song of the summer.

With an air of spontaneity (without screaming guitars and obtrusive drumming,) Brandon Isaak has delivered another exceptional blues recording, the kind that we at Fervor Coulee just can’t get too much of—personable and individual, polished performances that are more than a little greasy.

Lovely stuff, this. Beautifully packaged, too—Jackdaw did the lino cut and Sam Shoichet the layout.

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