Archive for the ‘2017 Releases’ Tag

Steve Sainas- Simple As This review   Leave a comment


Steve Sainas Simple As This Sainas Songs/

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.


Posted 2018 February 19 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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


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

Link to Thomm’s website.

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


Mare Wakefield & Nomad Time To Fly

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 Burgess Are We In Love?

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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Crystal Shawanda- Voodoo Woman review   Leave a comment

Crystal_Shawanda_Voodoo_Woman_Album_art (1)

Crystal Shawanda Voodoo Woman New Sun Records/

Since her debut on both the Canadian and American country charts, it has been obvious that Crystal Shawanda could sing.

Recording largely formulistic, and at times bombastic, country-pop, Shawanda found limited success as a mainstream country singer, touring in support of Brad Paisley across Canada, for example, and ‘almost’ hitting the Country Top Twenty a decade ago with the rather ‘over the top’ emotionally-rife “You Can Let Go.” Still, Dawn of a New Day showed promise and—looking back—“My Roots Are Showing” hinted at the direction Shawanda would eventually follow.

Going the route of independence has proven artistically significant for Shawanda, who released a more personal set of music with Just Like You, but the album’s singles didn’t get significant traction at country radio. The album did garner Shawanda a well-deserved Juno Award as Best Aboriginal Album in 2013.

More recently, she has redefined herself as a blues-rock singer, and this seems to be the genre where she is most comfortable. The Whole World’s Got the Blues was a more than impressive collection of blues standards and original material, including the steaming, self-penned title track and “I’m Not Your Baby.” Revealing herself as an honest blues belter, Shawanda also remained true to her roots. Included on the album was the evocative and powerful rocker “Pray Sister Pray” as a call-to-action for the Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women of Canada.

Fish Out of Water continued Shawanda’s foray into southern blues sounds, with both title track and “When You Rise” showcasing her ability to get to the gritty roots of the music while “Laid Back” showed a softer, more satisfied and companionable side.

Voodoo Woman was released late in 2017, but is only now hitting radio. It is a one hell of a blues album, loaded with memorable vocal performances.

Recording a set of covers for the first time, Shawanda revisits the music that inspired her as a child growing up on Manitoulin Island. Influenced by her brother’s listening habits, the blues spoke to Shawanda—as they do to many of us—as unvarnished reflections of troubled lives.

Somewhat playfully, a hybrid of “Wang Dang Doodle” and “Smokestack Lightning” opens the album, but Shawanda hits her mark from the start. “I’ll Always Love You” previously appeared on The Whole World’s Got the Blues, and in this new rendition is as powerful as a heartfelt, blues ballad can be. Janis Joplin’s, via Big Mama Thornton, “Ball and Chain” is given a fiery arrangement, with a much appreciated extended saxophone break.

Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind”—known to many as the melody for Chris Stapleton’s version of “Tennessee Whiskey”—is an undisputed showstopper, but so are most of these familiar numbers. Co-producer (with Shawanda) Dewayne Stobel, one believes, provides the lead guitar licks, and these are consistently impressive across the album, but maybe just a little more so on the rump-twitchin’ “Trouble” and closing “Blue Train/Smokestack Lightning Revisited.”

Personally, Shawanda’s version of “Misty Blue” is stellar. Written as a country song and a hit for both Wilma Burgess and Eddy Arnold (and later, again for Billie Jo Spears), Dorothy Moore’s 1976 version of the song was likely the first soul/R&B song I fell in love with: I’m discriminating in what I will accept when a singer comes back to this beautifully crafted song. Shawanda further demonstrates her vocal range on this number, pulling back the growl and grit to provide the song with the sensitivity and ‘wanting’ required. Truly masterful.

Voodoo Woman reveals Crystal Shawanda as a blues performer of significance. The musicianship is excellent, the production crisp. And, most importantly, Crystal Shawanda can sing. Give her another listen: you will be missing something important if you don’t.

The Stephen Stanley Band- Jimmy & The Moon review   Leave a comment


The Stephen Stanley Band Jimmy & The Moon Wolfe Island Records

With the Lowest of the Low again touring, their former guitarist Stephen Stanley has maintained his own path with his roots-rock Stephen Stanley Band.

Reminding me a bit of The Rainmakers Flirting With the Universe, The Stephen Stanley Band’s Jimmy & The Moon is a blast of Americana that mixes just enough rock to keep listeners invigorated without detraction. They are a terrific band, most obviously, with Chris Bennett joining Stanley on guitars, powerhouse drummer Gregor Beresford, and bassist Chris Rellinger. Producer Hugh Christopher Brown adds horns and keys including Hammond B3.

The album starts with a blast entitled “Talkin’ ‘Bout It,” a free-flowing sing-a-long that has one immediately reaching for the volume control. In short order, a paean to friendly live confines unfolds (“The Troubadour’s Song”) before the meat of the album blows back your hair. “Jimmy & The Moon” and “Under the Mynah Bird”—a testament to the ongoing legacy of Stanley’s grandfather, as well as Neil Young and Rick James—are two of the finest songs released in 2017, and the album doesn’t really sag through to its conclusion. “40 Endings” is gentler musically certainly, but its reflections are among the album’s finest.

Side Two is almost as good as the first, with “Things I Wish I’d Never Seen” and “Next To Me” (featuring Hadley McCall Thackston whom I want to hear more from) being particularly strong. Guitars abound, and did I mention the drumming? Holy—not that I would ever get out to see the band, but I would at least be tempted to do so! “Melinda” screams ‘power pop’ with shades of Dwight Twilley, Raspberries, and The Records. (Yes, I’m old!) An expansive “California” jam, featuring vocal highlights from Kate Fenner, is a final stunner, sending us quickly back to the ‘repeat’ icon.

A publicist sent this one to me unsolicited: I’m glad she did. The Stephen Stanley band is rooted in rock, but has a strong foundation in the roots music that brought them there. There are videos of some of the songs at the Wolfe Island Records site. (Scroll down.)

Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters- The Luckiest Man review   Leave a comment

Ronnie Earl

Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters The Luckiest Man Stony Plain Records

Bobby Bland’s (written by Don Robey) “Ain’t That Loving You” kicks off this latest blues missive from Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, and the sultry take paves the way toward 70 minutes of the finest, freshest, and grooviest electric blues we experienced in 2017.

The spectre of the inevitable hovers over the album when one considers that the album is dedicated to the memory of The Broadcasters’ bass player Jim Mouradian. Vocalist Diane Blue provides a haunting interpretation of “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” one of several notable performances contained on this most generous blues offering. David Limina shows off his B3 touch on “Heartbreak (It’s Hurtin’ Me)” and “Blues for Magic Slim” is a tasteful guitar-based tribute to the Mississippi-Chicago bluesman.

Heading into his 30th year leading The Broadcasters, Ronnie Earl brought back some of the group’s earliest members—now known as Sugar Ray and the Bluetones—to have a “Long Lost Conversation.” Clocking in at more than ten minutes, the ‘give and take’ of these old friends keeps the listener intrigued. Similarly and even more captivating, the even longer “So Many Roads” allows the current crop of Broadcasters to jam a bit on the number most often associated with John Mayall.

Another stellar release from Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters.