Archive for the ‘Canadian’ Tag

Sue Foley- The Ice Queen review   Leave a comment

sue foley

Sue Foley The Ice Queen Stony Plain Records

When one considers contemporary blues guitarists, naturally several come to mind, and being a bit northern-centric, Sue Foley immediately jumps to the fore. That paisley-bejeweled pink Telecaster wouldn’t be nearly as impressive in lesser hands, and over the course of nearly three decades as a touring bandleader, the Ottawa-native has certainly established a niche all her own.

Finger-picking his Foley’s forte, and the title track is an ideal example of her inimitable style; clocking in at six-plus minutes, the playful and self-deprecating number provides the album with a rock-solid foundation. But, as she has with various international sounds over the years, Foley also extends herself acoustically late in the set when she plays “The Dance,” this time utilizing the flamenco style.

As significant as the guitar playing is throughout the album—from Foley, of course, but also her guests including Charlie Sexton, Billy Gibbons, Jimmie Vaughan, to name the three most familiar—what is even more impressive is the depth she goes to give voice to these songs.

She gets low and bluesy a la Lucinda singing the many and diverse qualities of cruel ol’ “81” (“She’s a two-headed snake, and she winds her tail, from the mighty Appalachians to the gates of Hell”) while roaring above a lively ruckus on “Run,” a free-spirited jam featuring thick bass-notes from Austin’s Johnny Bradley and drumming from George Rains from Vaughan’s Tilt a Whirl band. This trio propels a pair of additional numbers—with help from others—Bessie Smith’s “Send Me To the ‘Lectric Chair” and “If I Have Forsaken You.”

Throughout, Foley’s singing is engaged as she brilliantly slips from one style to the next, each authentic within her blues experience. Foley’s haunting acoustic country-blues treatment of her own “Death of A Dream” is quite simply stunning, while  a lively (and apparently near-elusive) “Cannonball Blues” serves as an ideal conclusion to a collection set in tradition.

Featuring a bevy of Texas heat, The Ice Queen allows several of Foley’s musical friends an opportunity to make significant appearances. Charlie Sexton’s initial contributions—on the opening “Come To Me” and its follow-up “81”—are impressive, and set the theme for the album with masters collaborating in expected ways to yield extraordinary results. I’ve never been a particular fan of Vaughan’s, but he and Foley slip into “The Lucky Ones” with companionable ease. Producer Mike Flanigin’s Hammond B3 punctuates several songs, most effectively on the ramblin’ “Gaslight,” while Billy Gibbons gets fair gritty with Foley on “Fool’s Gold,” another number on which Flanigin is prominently featured.

The Ice Queen is Sue Foley’s first album in six years, and a more welcome, forceful, and confident return couldn’t be imagined. I imagine it is everything fans have been waiting for, and more. Now, to finesse an early-April road trip to Red Deer…




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 LYNNes- Heartbreak Song for the Radio review   Leave a comment


The LYNNes Heartbreak Song for the Radio

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.

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.)

Gabrielle Papillon- Keep The Fire review   Leave a comment


Gabrielle Papillon Keep The Fire The state51 Conspiracy

When Keep The Fire was released several months ago, I listened to it several times—enjoyed it completely—and then set it aside as it didn’t fit my definition of ‘roots’ as featured here at Fervor Coulee. However, I came back to it over the Christmas break, and was again taken under its spell. Little about this album whispers ‘this is roots music,’ but that’s okay. I still feel I should take a few minutes and share my thoughts: maybe someone will read and be inspired to explore.

Kate Bush is too easy, but that is who Papillon brings to mind with her swooping, orchestral pop music, especially on tracks like “Hold On, I Will.” Tamara Lindeman’s (The Weather Station) latest would similarly serve as a starting point, but it is likely best to just listen to the darned album. The closest Papillon comes to folk music would be on songs like “The Damage” (on which she reveals a bit of Joni Mitchell in her voice) and “No Paradise.” “Keep The Fire” is a standout song, memorable and well-produced: the song just leaps out of the speakers. Several other tracks have more than a bit of an EDM vibe (a little like the Dan Tyminski album mentioned here) that is vaguely appealing, but doesn’t do a lot for this codger.

Follow the links if you haven’t previously heard Keep The Fire. There is a good chance that if you are looking for the ‘rootsiest of the roots’, it won’t appeal to you. But, there is just a good a chance that you may surprise yourself and find yourself purchasing the album. It is very impressive—raucous in places, meditative elsewhere, superbly assembled. And “Heart Beat” features a bit of that classic “Walk on the Wild Side” bass groove, something that will attract me every time.

Posted 2018 January 4 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Rodney DeCroo- Old Tenement Man review   Leave a comment


Rodney DeCroo New Tenement Man

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.