Archive for the ‘Americana’ Tag

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

marewakefieldnomad_large

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.

 

 

Advertisements

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

Tagged with , , , ,

Caroline Cotter- Home On The River review   Leave a comment

Cotter

Caroline Cotter Home On The River CarolineCotter.com

Bridging the English folk music tradition with a contemporary Americana perspective, Caroline Cotter’s album, Home On the River, is a delightful surprise.

Blessed with a beautiful ‘honeyed soprano’ voice, Cotter is a world traveller finding inspiration for her songs close to home.  Backed by Danish band The Sentimentals (last heard backing Ana Egge) on half the numbers, Cotter has crafted an engaging, compact set of songs searching for truth and comfort.

Notably, the lead song “Peace of Mind” opens with a declaration of “I don’t want to keep up with fashion, I don’t want to pick a fight. I don’t want to say I love you, just to make this feel alright. I don’t want to make a buck, just to spend it to feel fine.” No, she isn’t one for the superficial and artificial. This country-folk song continues with a challenge to set aside our preoccupation with all that is negative in this world—and there is no shortage of that, certainly—and seek something closer to, perhaps, an inner peace.

Having recorded several albums while exploring the world, Cotter’s perspective is informed. She understands what is important to her, and is confident in her vision. There is an appealing assuredness in her writing and singing.

The title track, seemingly inspired by a foundation of love and acceptance, and “1 4 3” (‘I Love You’) are comfortable, warm, and inspiring visions of family legacy. Elsewhere, darkness creeps into “Hey Mama” and “Can’t Stop the Waves,” but they also contain comfort. Not so “My Washroom” which is troubling and stark. Reminiscent of Meg Hutchinson in mood and tone, Cotter’s songs are obviously personal with nothing contrived: she reveals herself throughout the album. “I don’t tell lies,” she sings within “Eternal Light,” and this honesty is apparent and appreciated.

Musically, the album is relatively unadorned. No one goes off with extended solos or breaks, and the collective of musicians provide Cotter with exactly the support her gentle songs require.

Listen to Caroline Cotter’s Home On the River and let its songs take you away to a better place.

 

Posted 2018 January 27 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

The LYNNes- Heartbreak Song for the Radio review   Leave a comment

lynnes

The LYNNes Heartbreak Song for the Radio www.TheLynnes.com

Lynne Hanson and Lynn Miles, the two well-established Ottawa singers and songwriters who meld their names as The LYNNes, need no introduction to those familiar with the Canadian folk scene. For the rest:

  • Lynn Miles has been a force within the Canadian music industry, recording more than a dozen albums
  • She received a Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album for Unravel, a recording that has stood the test of time to be regarded in some circles as essential listening, and has been recognized with Canadian Folk Music Awards
  • Nominated for additional Juno Awards, Miles has produced albums for Lynne Hanson, and has toured the country on numerous occasions including with Keith Glass
  • Her “Black Flowers” was a highlight of Claire Lynch’s North By South
  • Lynne Hanson has recorded six albums, including a pair produced by Miles
  • Recognized with nominations at both the Canadian Folk Music Awards and the Kerrville Folk Festival, she received the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award in 2010
  • Her albums Uneven Ground, River of Sand, and Once the Sun Goes Down are among the finest country-folk/Americana albums one can hope to encounter

Heartbreak Song for the Radio is stellar. The pairing of Miles and Hanson is natural, their harmonies clean and tight (but not staid) and as they take turns in the lead position, their songs have vibrant energy compelling the listener to lean in and absorb each note, word, and phrase.

The title track is an elegy for a broken, impossible relationship, and a better title for the album is hard to imagine: each of the ten tracks captures folks in places best left to the songwriter, as others would crumble under the intensity of the emotions explored.

While some of the experiences may explore emotional darkness, the album isn’t burdensome. Most of the songs maintain that which would be categorized as ‘mid-tempo,’ but there is nothing about Heartbreak Song for the Radio that drags. Like early albums from Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lucinda Williams, and even Guy Clark, the songs are sufficiently balanced to maintain buoyancy.

“It’s only walking through the fire, you learn just who you are,” they sing on “Blame It On the Devil,” just one of many songs that seem to have more than a little duo-ography within it. And Miles and Hanson are certainly self-aware. They play to their strengths—keenly revealed portraits of those gaining forbearance and wisdom from introspection and realization.

“I can’t make a door if you’re only building walls,” Hanson sings in “Blue Tattoo,” perhaps the album’s finest track, embracing the pain of the needle to counteract the numbness of absence. Individual credits aren’t provided, but one guesses it is Kevin Breit’s guitar providing the melancholy lead notes punctuating the number.

“Heavy Lifting,” “Halfway to Happy,” and “Cost So Much” bring additional energy, while “Recipe For Disaster” and “Cost So Much” are unadulterated country. The album is replete with intelligent but never too clever lines, ones that provide uncontrived insight. “Wouldn’t have gone and paid my dues, if I knew it was gonna cost so much” being just one example.

These songs are real, ones that if they haven’t been lived by Miles and Hanson have been experienced by others sitting at lonely tables, contemplating choices made.

Beautiful stuff, this. Seek it.

Rodney DeCroo- Old Tenement Man review   Leave a comment

rodney

Rodney DeCroo New Tenement Man www.RodneyDeCroo.com

Vancouver’s Rodney DeCroo is likely Canada’s most consistent neo-folk, rock ‘n’ roll singer. Over the course of six wide-ranging albums, the impressive wordsmith has never taken a significant ill-conceived turn.

The early Rodney DeCroo and the Killers and War Torn Man seethed with aggressive and poetic interpretations of his surroundings, while later releases including the imaginative Campfires on the Moon revealed songs of great intensity bound by the darkness of isolation, pain, and creativity.

I once wrote that DeCroo is a “product of his environment—for good and bad—a raven seeking salvation in the detritus of emotional upheaval, both his own and in those he has impacted,” and one listen to Old Tenement Man reveals that not a lot has changed in that regard. For example, the lead track, “Jack Taylor,” is a Crazy Horse-fueled first-person account of patricide and self-justification.

DeCroo no longer falls back on Dylaneque habits, charmingly apparent on early recordings. Having established some time ago an approach uniquely his own, DeCroo reveals that he can run with the big dogs, be they Jason Isbell, Chuck Prophet, or Neil friggin’ Young himself. On the radio-friendly (in an alternate universe) “Ten Thousand Feet Tall,” DeCroo’s ‘hero’ waits for his city to be burned down by “an acid dawn,” confident in his own invincibility. Surrounded by this impending cataclysm, recounting disparate memories and hallucinations, the tension magnifies with each disturbing image shared.

Produced by Lorrie Matheson, Old Tenement Man isn’t necessarily a ‘roots’ album, but it certainly fits into the rockier side of Americana. With DeCroo (guitar) and Matheson (guitar, bass, keyboards) providing the bulk of the instrumentation, along with drummer Chris Dadge, the album has a full-bodied sound. The arrangements are appealing, providing the contrast needed for a completely satisfying album experience. “Radio” is full of possibilities, “Little Hunger” aches, and “Lou Reed on the Radio” is much more than a convenient name-check, and full credit for the sly, vocal bridge allusion. “The Barrel Has A Dark Eye” is nothing short of brilliant, cleverly structured with a nod to the ubiquitous classic rock performances we grew up on.

DeCroo’s creations—his songs, his narratives, his arrangements, and his characters—are seldom one-dimensional, and I am sure more than a little slips past me as I nod to the groove. That’s what I appreciate about songwriters and performers like DeCroo: there is always something new to discover.

How many years ago did I first hear “Tudor House Hotel,” “Dead Man’s Town,” and “Ginger Goodwin?” A dozen? Yet, listening to them again this week, I was newly impressed by elements previously missed or under-appreciated. I am confident that I will be similarly reinvigorated when I hear “Like Jacob When He Felt the Angel’s Touch” and “In The Backrooms of Romance” in a decade.

Old Tenement Man slipped past me when it was released in early summer, 2017. My loss as it is a compelling, attractive rock album that pushes the boundaries of roots music while maintaining and enhancing its foundations: experiences and stories that communicate elemental truths in a literary manner.

Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots & Bluegrass Albums of 2017   1 comment

Mac WisemanWhat is roots music?

I frequently have to remind myself that not everything I seek out is ‘roots.’ When I start considering Little Steven or Danko Jones (Wild Cat might have been my favourite album of 2017) albums as ‘roots’ music, I may be starting to lose the plot. So I pull myself back.

However, looking over the many lists of ‘the best of Americana, roots, folk, and bluegrass albums of 2017’ I wonder if many of us need to go back to the blackboard, and reconsider the definition of roots music. Right, there is no definition.

I started my ‘favourite roots albums of 2017’ with a list of 60 or so albums, and slowly started winnowing them to a manageable twenty. In the process most of the albums I’ve seen on other published lists fell aside (Willie Nelson’s God’s Problem Child and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s The Nashville Sound among them.)

It was an excellent year for roots music, in my opinion. I know that when I mull over who else didn’t make the cut: Steve Earle, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Scott Miller, Sharon Jones, Slaid Cleaves, Rhiannon Giddens, Matt Patershuk, Doc & Merle Watson (the truncated version of the live Bear’s Sonic Journals set), Chris bleeding Hillman and Northern Cree (my final cuts), David Rawlings, Mark Erelli, Josh Ritter, Jeb Loy Nichols, Kim Beggs, Radney Foster, Dustbowl Revival, Amy Black…each album removed from consideration was naturally more difficult than the one before.

I’ve been sitting on this final version of Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots Albums of 2017 for a few days now, and I know I will cry out with frustration about an hour after it is published: chances are I’ve missed something special, an album of significance that fell behind a cupboard. I only discovered the latest from Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, and Thomm Jutz this week, and while I am loving it, in no way could it be fairly placed ahead of albums I’ve been appreciating for months. (Also discovered this week: this.)

As always, I have not heard every roots album released in 2017 and that is why I always refer to the list as ‘favourites,’ not best. As well, since I refuse to stream (beyond WDVX and CKUA) I can only consider that which I’ve either purchased or been serviced with from labels, artists, and PR types. I’ve chosen to roll bluegrass into the roots albums this year, eschewing a separate lists this year: that may or may not be indicative of how I’m feeling about most bluegrass releases.

Here we go: as always, no wagering.

  1. Mac Wiseman- I Sang the Song (Mountain Fever Records) While #2 came close, it couldn’t overtake this early favourite. Produced and written with care and consideration, Mac Wiseman’s story is told through carefully crafted songs performed by some of Americana, roots, and bluegrass music’s finest performers. Kudos to Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz for fully involving ‘the voice with a heart’ in this production. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  2. OtisOtis Gibbs- Mount Renraw (Wanamaker) East Nashville sage Otis Gibbs is perhaps America’s coolest working folk musician. Mount Renraw has held up over countless listenings. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  3. K and CKacy & Clayton- The Siren’s Song (New West) Seldom have I been so wrong about an artist. These Saskatchewan cousins’ previous album didn’t impress me when it was released. Thankfully, I listened to both Strange Country and this most recent album with fresh ears this summer. The Siren’s Song is masterful. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  4. gibson_2The Gibson Brothers- In the Ground (Rounder) The group’s finest album yet, and that is saying a lot. That it contains an entirely original set of songs makes the feat even more impressive. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  5. DABDale Ann Bradley- Dale Ann Bradley (Pinecastle Records) When a Dale Ann Bradley album isn’t in my ‘top two’ of the year, you know either she has slipped or the year is particularly strong. No slip on the part of Bradley here: another masterful album of bluegrass music. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  6. CrowellRodney Crowell- Close Ties (New West) Somewhere along the line, Rodney Crowell went from a compelling Americana singer and damn terrific songwriter to a walking legend: it may have happened with Close Ties, an album that saw him dig even deeper to find the heart of ten masterfully crafted songs that are more than enough for him to assume Guy Clark’s abandoned mantle. It goes beyond “It Ain’t Over Yet” and “Life Without Susanna,” as masterful as those tracks are. Every moment resonates, especially live, and the anguish with which he sings is genuine. Purchased
  7. TyminskiDan Tyminski- Southern Gothic (UMG) Along with Buffy Ste. Marie’s album, this is the one that sounds best loud. “We have a church on every corner, so why does heaven feel so far away?” Union Station’s ‘other’ main singer asks on the title track, and it just keeps going. Certainly more “Hey Brother” than “O Brother,” with Southern Gothic the bluegrass stalwart steps away from the traditional sounds he has long favoured to head toward a full-bodied rock and roll country approach that is wholly effective. The album is deep, no filler—song after song of surprisingly strong vocal and instrumental performances. Other standout tracks include “Perfect Poison,” “Temporary Love” and “Breathing Fire.” Southern Gothic has spent a solid day in my CD player on repeat on more than one occasion. Purchased
  8. ronsexsmith_3Ron Sexsmith- The Last Rider Continuing a streak of excellence, Sexsmith’s 16th (!) album may just be his finest. Excellent songs, catchy melodies, accessible production…I’ve seldom been so proud to have shown support for a musician. A very strong album, just the latest in a series of memorable, standout recordings. The songs alternate between playful and introspective, catchy and maudlin. Layered, but not flamboyant. I am really glad that I bought the album, and even more glad that I took the time to make the trek to see Ron and the band in Edmonton. Surprised and disappointed that this one didn’t receive deserving Polaris Music Prize attention. “Radio” is my favourite song of the year. Purchased
  9. Murder MurderMurder Murder- Wicked Lines and Veins (self-released) Canadian bluegrass with a side of grievous bodily harm. One of my Polaris Music Prize suggestions for this year. Full review here. (Provided by band)
  10. JaybirdsJohn Reischman & the Jaybirds- On That Other Green Shore (Corvus) Long Canada’s finest and most entertaining bluegrass band, the west coast-based band has again delivered a superior recording. Full review here. (Provided by band)
  11. JMJohn Mellencamp with Carlene Carter- Sad Clowns and Hillbillies (Republic) Full review here. (Purchased)
  12. Chris-stapleton-from-a-room-volume-1Chris-stapleton-from-a-room-volume-2Chris Stapleton- From A Room, Volumes 1 and 2 Country music’s last hope? Maybe. Not sure how he is doing it without radio support, but glad he is. Like no one else, of course, Stapleton doesn’t limit himself, reaching out to Kevin Welch (“Millionaire”), the music’s past (“Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning,” “Friendship”) and his own (“Broken Halos,” “Drunkard’s Prayer,” “Midnight Train to Memphis”) to make his new albums even stronger. (Purchased)
  13. made_to_moveChris Jones & the Night Drivers- Made to Move (Mountain Home) Full review here. (Provided by artist/label)
  14. Ann VriendAnn Vriend- Anybody’s Different EP (Aporia Records) Building on the immense power of her Love and Other Messes and For the People in the Mean Time albums, this six-track treat is on all my devices, and continues to get played regularly. A lively combination of soul, rock, and roots from a voice all should hear. (Purchased)
  15. Stax_Country_COVER_RGBVarious Artists- Stax Country (Craft Recordings/Concord Music) A deep dive into Stax’s associated country labels. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  16. Akinny DyckSkinny Dyck & Friends- Twenty One-Night Stands Alberta country music is alive and well. Just not on the radio. Full review here. (Provided by Skinny Dyck)
  17. Lynn JacksonLynn Jackson- Follow That Fire (Busted Flat) My second 2018 Polaris Music Prize recommendation. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  18. steve_forbert_flying_at_nightSteve Forbert- Flying at Night (Rolling Tide) I once wanted to be Steve Forbert. It didn’t happen. Forty years later, he continues to impress with each album. A bit brief for my liking, but better that than too long. Purchased
  19. buffy_3Buffy Sainte-Marie- Medicine Songs (High Romance) On which one of the most transformative Canadian artist re-imagines her catalogue, coming off her (perhaps) surprising Polaris Prize winning Power In The Blood. Collaborating with Tanya Tagaq on the powerful and catchy “You Got To Run (Spirit of the Wind,)” Sainte-Marie helps the uninitiated play catch up to 50 years of influential music. Play loud. Purchased
  20. becky warrenBecky Warren- War Surplus (Deluxe Edition) (self-released) War Surplus came out in 2016, but didn’t come to my attention until the Deluxe Edition was released this summer. A concept album (war veteran and the woman he loves), Warren has made a record to be remembered; the narrative is apparent, the instrumental and vocal changes keep us engaged, and it holds up over time. With an approach not dissimilar to Lucinda Williams although with better annunciation than we’ve experienced from LW this past decade, Warren allows listeners to become invested in her creations; the characters become real, without any of the bravado or self-satisfaction that sometimes hamstrings this type of recording. (Provided by label/PR)

That’s pretty much it for 2017 here at Fervor Coulee. I still have a couple projects sitting on my desk requiring my attention, and I will get to them next week…I hope.

It has been a great year- let’s see what the future brings.

D. B. Rielly- Live from Long Island City: Live at the RaR Bar review   Leave a comment

D B Rielly

D. B. Rielly Live from Long Island City: Live at the RaR Bar https://www.dbrielly.com/

When D. B. Rielly contacted me about his new 7-song live EP, I immediately expressed interest: a new live set from one of my favourite singer-songwriters, of course I want to hear it! Later it occurred to me, “How will this one be packaged?”

Previous Rielly albums had come housed in tin and wood boxes. When this postcard-encased release arrived, I had my answer. There is much to appreciate about D. B. Rielly beyond his aptitude for creative packaging.

With spoken-word witticism reminiscent of John Prine and an Arlo Guthrie-inspired penchant for the absurd, D. B. Rielly is truly a master, a remarkable person doing remarkable things.

Stripped to the essentials—a man, his guitar, and his words— Live from Long Island City: Live at the RaR Bar is a document of a songwriter at the peak of his craft, playing his songs for ‘non-imaginary people.”

These seven songs (and three tracks of between song setup and insight) are focused entirely on relationships free of the sucky-ass stuff that makes us uncomfortable. “Look at You” (“looking at me”) and “Nothing Like You” are the most straight-forward loves songs, the latter lead track featuring more heart-encasing, protective humour than the former.

“I Believe, Angeline” and “Don’t Give Up on Me” are the yearning numbers, ones where love is sought but not necessarily achieved. “Let It Ring” challenges the phone that has come between a couple, a clever, understated piece.

Two distinct slices of romance are presented in “Prenup” and “I’ll Remind You Every Day.” “Lawrence Welk” leads into “Prenup,” a song where one gives freely of his heart, but not his Stuff. “My Ma,” detailing a family coming to grips—replete with requisite dark humour—with dementia, leads into the heartfelt devotional “I’ll Remind You Every Day.”

The brevity (24.5 minutes) of Live from Long Island City: Live at the RaR Bar is its only fault. While our appreciation for the concept is true—seven new compositions presented without ceremony—the inclusion of live takes of previous Rielly chestnuts (maybe “Roadrunner,” “I’ve Got a Girlfriend,” “It’s Gonna Be Me,” or “Moving Mountains?) as bonus tracks would not have been out-of-place. They would, however, result in a different recording, and we’ll trust the artist to know what he wanted to present.

As an introduction to the best songwriter you’ve never heard, Live from Long Island City: Live at the RaR Bar serves as an exceptional appetizer . For those of us already fans of the troubadour, it refreshes our appreciation.

 

 

Posted 2017 December 1 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,