Archive for the ‘Black Hen Records’ Tag

Kat Danser- Goin’ Gone review   1 comment

KatKat Danser Goin’ Gone Black Hen Music

“Jumpin’ on the IV and II, hanging on the voodoo groove,” Dr. Kat Danser sings just a few moments into Goin’ Gone, her fifth album and second in a row in partnership with Steve Dawson—and first for his Black Hen label.

With the declaration made within “Voodoo Groove,” Alberta’s undisputed Swamp Blues Queen puts forth her road hewn CV: she is grindin’ it smooth and castin’ a juju spell…whatever that exactly means. To me, it is an assurance of razor-sharp, unabashed southern-influenced blues.

Individual credits are not provided, but between Danser and Dawson, the pair float their guitars over and through deep grooves established by Jeremy Holmes (bass and mandolin) and Gary Craig (drums and percussion) with substantial accoutrement from Jim Hoke (saxophone and harmonica) and Matt Combs (fiddle and mandolin). One can lose oneself in this meaty gumbo, overcome with the variety of aural flavours spicing their collaborative concoction.

Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Train I Ride” is transformed, with Hoke’s brass notes playing off extended slide phrases and Danser’s sultry, yearning vocal. “Memphis, Tennessee” is a challenge, the city defending itself despite troubled history: “I made the blues on Beale Street when cowards covered their heads in sheets, and I do as I please because I am Memphis, Tennessee.”

I can’t figure out what the hell “Kansas City Blues” is about—a city ill-prepared for a snowstorm? Hattie McDaniel? A lover crushed by heartbreak? No matter, Danser’s voice is in top form on this crooning blues, as she is on the more straightforward title track and the light yet feisty “Chevrolet Car.”

Nothing is left to interpretation within “Hol’ Up Baby;” Danser ain’t done with her lover quite yet: “Maybe I ain’t always been true, but I ain’t over you.” Danser comes home on “My Town,” capturing the dichotomy of knowing (and loving) a place so well that it hurts to see its truths.

Reflecting the current political and social climate, “Light the Flame” is as close to rock ‘n’ roll as I think Danser comfortably ventures, and it is a compelling call to action —neither myopic nor ham-fisted. A coda of sorts, “Time For Me To Go” eases her listeners into the night, a farewell until we next hear from this northern master of the natch’l blues.

With Baptized By The Mud of 2013 establishing her bone fides to a more prominent degree, Kat Danser had a high mark to achieve with its follow-up recording. She has met and exceeded any expectations with Goin’ Gone, a testament to her maturity as a vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist. Teaming with the likes of Steve Dawson is seldom a regretful decision; together they have created a unified and convincing argument that further elevates Danser within the crowded blues field.



Matt Patershuk- Same As I Ever Have Been review   1 comment

Matt Patershuk Same As I Ever Have Been Black Hen Music

PatershukDon’t accuse Alberta’s Matt Patershuk of resting on laurels well-deserved.

While his previous album I Was So Fond of You was one of the finest country albums of 2016—regardless country of origin—this time out La Glace’s great hope has injected a whole lot of blues’ grit into his songs, especially early in the set. The David Lindley-esque guitar opening of the lead track “Sometimes You’ve Got to Do Bad Things to Do Good” is only the first hint that there’s something different this time out.

One suspects this was a mutual decision by Patershuk and producer Steve Dawson, and while I might prefer a more ‘straight-forward’ country approach, one cannot criticize the execution of this change of direction.

“Memory and the First Law of Thermodynamics” (there is a country title I never expected to type) starts out reminding us a little of “I’m Not Lisa,” but soon shifts deep into metamodern, esoteric Sturgill Simpson territory. “Boreal” makes a turn toward the type of songs this listener most appreciates, ones which remind us that there is beauty all around us, and no little bit of troublesome drama available if we make an effort. It and “Hot Knuckle Blues” reveal, perhaps—and I’m guessing here—a Hoyt Axton influence. “Sparrows” is an elegant and beautiful slice of country, a sentimental piece that slowly reveals a composition rich in emotional detail.

“Cheap Guitar” finds Paterchuk somewhere between the blues and Dave Alvin rock’n’roll (never a bad place to be), as do “Good Luck” and “Gypsy.” “Blank Pages and Lost Wages” cuts a little too close to home for anyone who has sat staring at their fifth cup of coffee going cold. While this might have been presented as a unabashed country song, robust blues flourishes offer a darker finish.

Patershuk experiments with an even deeper register on the title cut, and while it takes a moment to become familiar, by the time he hits the one-minute mark one has adjusted and eases into the comfort provided. The spoken-word recitation “Atlas” is another risk taken, and like the others Patershuk  takes across Same As I Ever Have Been, it works. These decisions serve as reminder of the greatness possible within country music: seldom did Waylon Jennings, Marty Robbins, or Johnny Cash ever record an album where all ten or twelve songs sound like they came from a Music Row algorithm. Patershuk demonstrates he isn’t fearful of taking chances, and if something rubs the listener a bit raw, he is confident enough in his material and presentation that the next song will bring ’em back.

Billed as Songs for Regretful Brutes and Sentimental Drunkards, Matt Patershuk’s Same As I Ever Have Been takes the emerging artist in directions one hadn’t expected. Such is the artist’s journey, following his muse to places unexplored. With a one-hour running time, this is a rich passage with Patershuk guiding the way.

The Original Jenny Whiteley review   3 comments


Jenny Whiteley The Original Jenny Whiteley Black Hen Music

I first encountered Ontario’s Jenny Whiteley as a member of Heartbreak Hill, a bluegrass band featuring Dottie Cormier, Christopher Quinn, Victor Bateman, and Danny Whiteley. I don’t recall too much about their performance at that Blueberry Bluegrass fest appearance outside the impact of a single Whiteley song: “John Tyrone” remains one of the finest bluegrass songs that have come out of Canada, and from the first time I heard the song I knew Whiteley was someone I wanted to learn more about.

I didn’t get the opportunity at the time, but months later Whiteley found me at Wintergrass and offered me a copy of her debut self-titled album. That independently released disc displayed Whiteley’s remarkable ability for creating characters within a few well-crafted lines, and earned comparison to Emmylou Harris’ recent Red Dirt Girl. Whiteley was revealed as a major talent, and was rewarded with the first of two Juno Awards for best solo roots/traditional recording. With sultry vocal sophistication, Whiteley has previously released four albums (Hopetown, Dear, and Forgive or Forget followed the debut, with Hopetown also picking up a Juno) filled with love, loss, and regret.

In 2010, I wrote of Forgive or Forget that is was more universally palatable than her rootsy initial offering, but one missed the narrative intensity and youthful fragility of songs such as “Gloria” and “Train Goin’ West.” As one who frequently better enjoys musicians early, developing years than their fully-realized artistic selves (Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Jack Ingram, Dolly Parton, and many others fit into that frame) while still appreciating what they do, The Original Jenny Whiteley appears designed expressly for me.

On this recording, Whiteley seemingly satisfies a desire to more fully explore the music that provided the foundation for her development—old-time folk sounds that have existed and thrived for generations. She even goes back to a song previously recorded on Dear, “Banjo Girl.” A recognition of her rich and diverse Americana/Canadiana upbringing within the venerable Whiteley clan, this fifth recording is a rootsy masterpiece. In a lesser artist’s hands such a multi-dimensional homage might sound disjointed; The Original Jenny Whiteley is united in its eccentric melding of the rich traditional and roots tapestry—folk, jugband, bluegrass, early jazz and ragtime, Francophone, Dylan, and the blues.

Singing “Groundhog” accompanied by producer Sam Allison’s old-time banjo and Teillard Frost’s percussion (harp, bones, etc.,) Whiteley isn’t striving for cultural appropriation or cornpone authenticity. Rather, she is singing of rural experiences that are as genuine as the acoustic sounds comprising the song. For “Stealin’ Stealin'” Whiteley goes back to the Memphis Jug Band, but doesn’t stay there infusing the timeless tune with nine decades of patina via The Grateful Dead, Taj Mahal, and her own danged self.

Whiteley explores the school of hard knocks in “Higher Learning” while acknowledging (via Chris Coole) the thousands of fools on stools eking out a living (of sorts) playing for “$100” a night. “In the Pines” (Bill Monroe, not Huddie Ledbetter or Nirvana) provides a welcome old-time (not bluegrass) connection to Heartbreak Hill, while The Incredible String Band’s “Log Cabin in the Sky” (perhaps) serves as a connection to the generation of players surrounding father Chris and his brother Ken.

The Original Jenny Whiteley is beautiful. By going to her past and rooting around in her trunk of influences, Jenny Whiteley has found the inspiration to create an uncompromising, uncluttered representation of what (mostly) acoustic folk music is all about. In this case, you can judge an album by its cover, a lovely, unadorned sketch by Stewart Jones.

As she sings in “Things Are Coming My Way”—”O me, How good I feel.” After spending thirty minutes listening to this album, you will be singing the same. It is early, of course, but I can’t see a way this album doesn’t make my Polaris Music Prize ballot.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. I hope you are inspired to purchase the music of the artists featured because they deserve it!

Matt Patershuk review   1 comment

untitledMan, Matt Patershuk is good. I’m not sure exactly when I first heard of Patershuk, but I’m guessing it was during an episode of CKUA’s Wide Cut Country a couple years back. Back in January or so of this year, I was listening to the radio and a four song set was played-some combination of Corb Lund, Guy Clark, John Fulbright, and Patershuk, and I recall realizing that I couldn’t tell from that listening which of those guys was from La Glace, Alberta making his living in construction. Put his songs on WDVX, and Patershuk would sound as comfortable alongside Darrell Scott, Fred Eaglesmith, and Chris Stapleton. Patershuk is the real deal, folks. If you are missing the country, the kind of country music recorded in the days when their was more grease and a little less gloss, check out his new album I Was So Fond of You. My review has been published at Country Standard Time:

As always, thank you for visiting Fervor Coulee. More reviews and roots music opinion are in the pipeline.

Jim Byrnes and Jeff Morris reviews   Leave a comment

Jim Byrnes's Juno Award-winnning album- Blues Album of the Year

238 columns, somewhere around 500 albums and even more live shows, with today’s column Roots Music has been promoting my kind of music in Central Alberta for 10 years.

I’ve made mistakes, I’ve made a couple enemies, and I’ve fostered connections I would never have experienced otherwise. Some labels have disappeared while others remain viable. The landscape of the music business has changed greatly in a decade. What has remained solid is the core of devoted musicians and artists, publisists and label owners, and local promoters who see the importance of supporting and advancing the cause of roots music. I’ve been glad to be part of it, in my small way, for a decade. Let’s keep it going!

In today’s column I advance a few December shows and feature albums from Jim Byrnes and Jeff Morris, an Alberta musician and songwriter. I still remember the day in 1983 when I almost cracked Jim Byrnes’ debut album Burning, an album I only finally heard this past week. I was at Climax Records in Leduc, a store that gave me my first volunteer record store job. The store’s owner had fallen behind in payments to his distributor and the company had come in and taken over the shop. For some reason, they hired me to assist in running the shop and for a few staggering months of independence, I had my run of the place, not really having any clue as to what I was doing but having a heck of a time doing it.

For some reason, Burning drew my attention one day as I was unpacking a shipment and I almost slit it open to give it a listen, but got distracted by something else- How might the course of my music listening changed had I succumbed to the temptation to open that Polydor album years ago. Hopefully you’ll find something of interest.

Roots music column, originally published December 3, 2010 in the Red Deer Advocate

With this column, Roots Music marks 10 years on these pages. The area roots music scene has ebbed and flowed during the past decade, with local venues for live music coming and going in equal measure. The environment remains quite healthy with touring musicians and locals alike finding outlets for their sounds.

Jeff Morris Original Songs on a Borrowed Guitar Self-released

Hailing from Sherwood Park, Jeff Morris’s debut album is a pleasant, unexpected surprise.

An intimate recording with unobtrusive, vibrant support, comparisons to Jack Johnson are a bit too apparent- Morris’s voice has an inflective catch that is similar to the surfing guitarist, and he favours gentle introspective pieces that examine feelings and relationships. Okay, sometimes the obvious tract is entirely justified.

Morris’s guitar playing isn’t primitive but neither is it overly elaborate. Sparse strumming and delicately picked notes provide the canvas against which Morris constructs his uncomplicated rhymes and reflections. Especially appealing is the percussive element of his playing, obvious on tracks including the standout Hold On.

Blue Sky Falls is another song that captures the imagination: one is drawn into the impassioned possibilities suggested.

This recording captures not only listeners’ attention but their intellect and soul. Coffeehouse music that doesn’t slink into the background as much as it enfolds with comfort and warmth-think Dan Mangan crossed with Brett Dennam, perhaps.

2010 has been a very good year for Alberta roots recording artists. Add Original Songs on a Borrowed Guitar to the list of standouts.

Jim Byrnes Everywhere West Black Hen Music

British Columbia-based for thirty-plus years, Missouri native Jim Byrnes sings the blues with relaxed confidence, leaving no room for over-emoting or grandiose showmanship. Simply put, Byrnes is the real deal, bridging the distance of decades and space between childhood heroes like Big Joe Turner and his west coast home.

I’ve listened to Byrnes’ most recent recordings with growing admiration, and his performance at August’s Central Music Festival- where many of the tracks included here were previewed- was exceptional.

Amongst Everywhere West’s dozen tracks are a handful of fresh, original tunes from Byrnes and compatriot-producer Steve Dawson. The majority of the material comes from a previous time and place: Bootlegger Blues from the Mississippi Sheiks, Take Out Some Insurance On Me from Jimmy Reed, and He Was A Friend of Mine and No Mail Blues from the folk tradition.

Purists may not appreciate the New Orleans overtones inserted into the lively reimagining of Robert Johnson’s From Four Until Late, but one can’t argue that the tune positively shimmies. Obvious is the reverence Byrnes has for his material, as well as the enjoyment he takes from playing and singing these songs.

The four fresh tunes are all impressive with Dawson’s Walk On providing a showcase for the album’s resident band. Byrnes’s Me and Piney Brown takes us back to the 30s to explore a world that existed before his youthful excursions scouting the nightclubs of Missouri.

As he sings in the old Louis Jordan tune, You Can’t Get that Stuff No More. But for 50-plus minutes, Byrnes makes a solid argument that he is willing to bring blues songs to a contemporary audience without sacrificing the soul rooted within each number.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee- Donald

Mary Kastle- Beneath the Folds   Leave a comment

I’ve listened to Mary Kastle’s album several time this summer but only truly appreciated it this past week. One of the reasons music is so important to me is that it is so attached- to me- to where I am when I hear it: mentally, physically, socially… Sometimes music has to find you where you are- no matter how hard one seeks to undestand the music, it has to find a way to get within the listener. This album does that- heartily recommended.

Mary Kastle Beneath the Folds Black Hen Music

Mary Kastle, I’ve learned, is a respected fixture within the Vancouver jazz community, and Beneath the Folds is her first, full-length album. An album that ebbs and flows comfortably between generously-defined genres, the constant is the bridled joy that is Kastle’s voice.

Beneath the Folds is honest- an album that unabashedly embraces Kastle’s many and varied musical interests. With a full-album’s worth of original, creatively polished music, it is a surprisingly fluid and defined mix of soul, jazz, and roots sounds. A diverse listen, the album hangs together remarkably well. Whether this is due to Kastle’s vision or producer Steve Dawson’s acumen is moot; it works. While it may be of interest to jazz types, to these ears Beneath the Folds fits comfortably in the roots world.

In addition to Kastle’s appealing, powerful, and lively vocals, the saxophones of Karen Graves and trumpet of Kent Wallace make their presence known with regularity, providing the album with an even richer dimension.

Tracks move from sultry jazz-pop (“Julia” and “Beneath the Folds”) to light shivers of soul (“False Alarm” and “Do It For A Day”)and even more impressive brushes of Memphis-shaded country R & B (“Little Bird,” “Beggin’,” and “Underwater”). Dusty in Memphis meets I Am Shelby Lynne, perhaps. But while comparison to albums that themselves served as tributes to a style of music may suggest limitation, within Kastle’s hands- and voice- such association doesn’t imply that the sound is watered down. From retro 2-Tone dub effects on the album’s up-tempo revisiting of “Drop Your Cover,” to drops of blues elsewhere, Beneath the Folds is a project that reveals additional textures and appealing sounds with every listen.

Comprised of introspective, challenging lyrics exploring personal themes of universal appeal, Kastle and Dawson don’t allow things to get bogged down by heaviness. As is implied by the fabric fluttering in the breeze within the gatefold jacket, Beneath the Folds has a lightness that contains delicate beauty.

Kim Beggs- Blue Bones   Leave a comment


In this week’s column I review the excellent new album- out this coming Tuesday- from Yukon-based singer-songwriter Kim Beggs. It’s a corker; spend some money on a singer who is well deserving of the support. Albums only occassionally impact me the way this one did; from first listen, I knew Beggs was a singer I want to hear more from. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Roots music column, originally published July 16, 2010  in the Red Deer Advocate

Kim Beggs Blue Bones Black Hen Music

Based in Whitehorse, Kim Beggs has lived across our country and her music captures the influences that have contributed to her development as a singer and writer.

Apparent from the opening track, the organ-fueled road warrior lament “Honey and Crumbs”, is that Beggs has more homespun charm in her voice than many Appalachian-born singers. Not only does her voice contain attractive, easy warmth, but it has strength and depth lending Beggs the power to authentically convey intense emotions.

Based in folk traditions, Beggs’ third release defies easy categorization. The instrumentation is roots rock with country overtones. Lyrically, lively wordplay reminiscent of Loretta Lynn is customary. Has anyone attempted the following in a country song, as Beggs does within “Terrible Valentine”?: “Huck-tuu to you for making me blue, I wanna spit in your shoe!”

Beggs and producer Steve Dawson have structured this collection wisely. The original songs blast out of the gate, establishing Beggs’ voice and perspective. It is only midway that covers are sprinkled in, beginning with Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”; it is difficult to imagine a finer interpretation of the John Wesley Harding classic.

There is a spry loneliness filling these songs. The bitterness, however, doesn’t overwhelm either Beggs or the listener; in the finest country tradition, she sounds plum pleased to be singing these occasionally mournful tales. She hits the mark throughout the collection, perhaps never more accurately as when singing of her lost brother in “Firewater Bones.”

Available Tuesday, Blue Bones maintains the new standard for western Canadian folk music established by John Wort Hannam, Maria Dunn, and Rae Spoon.

Also in rotation: Jimmy Webb- Just Across the River; The Wilderness of Manitoba- When You Left the Fire; Mississippi Live- Mississippi Live ; Various Artists- Putumayo Presents Tribute to a Reggae Legend; Great American Taxi- Reckless Habits