Archive for the ‘Canadiana’ Tag

Jesse Waldman- Mansion Full of Ghosts review   1 comment

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Jesse Waldman Mansion Full of Ghosts JesseWaldmanMusic.com

A music industry veteran with considerable soundtrack and live performance work behind him, Mansion Full of Ghosts is the debut album from Vancouver’s Jesse Waldman.

There was a time about 15 or so years back when a friend and acquaintance produced scores of house concerts and cafe shows in Red Deer, and no matter who was appearing—previously heard or more often not—you were ‘almost’ guaranteed a memorable evening of fresh roots music. Listening to this album reminds me of the first time Billy exposed me to Steve Coffey, Jack Harlan, Harry Manx, Old Reliable, John Wort Hannam, and a handful of other intense, focused, and supremely talented individuals, all plugging away making original music. Jesse Waldman would have been appreciated then.

Musically, Waldman reminds me of Joe Pug, a singer I happened upon a few years ago via eMusic and who I caught in a well-remembered show at Kansas City’s The Record Bar four springs ago. Like Pug, and I suppose all strong songwriters of their vein, Waldman weaves together apparently simple images and scenarios into songs of magic, creations that are so elegant, personable, and homey that one thinks they’ve encountered them before: the listener thinks, If I had the talent, that’s how I would have wroteit/sung it.

Waldman’s voice is at the fore of these songs, and nothing is lost within the atmospheric and near-lush instrumental and harmony accompaniment. “Wild Balloon” is as airy as it sounds, but the foreboding lyrics encourage restrained trepidation. “Hummingbird” is more gentle, but every bit as appealing: a fragile domestic scene we should all appreciate. Waldman is greatly influenced by his East Vancouver environ, but the appeal of his writing is universal. “EastVan Blues” and “Hope in Shadows” are likely as relevant to those in St. John’s, Asheville, or Dublin. Additional highlights include “Ashes,” a duet with Megan Alford, “Keep A Light On In The Dark,” and “The Rest of My Days,” perhaps Waldman’s strongest song included.

Comprised of 16 songs running over an hour, Mansion Full of Ghosts never labours, and our attention never drifts. With no two songs sounding too much alike, the individuality of his musicians are to be appreciated. Familiar names abound—Michael Simpsonelli, Michael Rush, Tom Hammel, Beth Southwell, Tom Heukendorff, Alford, Monte the harmonica player, and Marc L’Esperance, who also co-produced the album with Waldman—and they have come together to present as rich and diverse creation of voices and instrumentation as imaginable. Touches of country blend with Waldman’s folk outlook.

An incredible album with songs and sounds that would fit on any adventurous radio program beside the likes of Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Jenny Whiteley, and Ron Sexsmith. I’ve been listening to the album for a couple months now, and it moves me a little more each time I return. I suppose that is what great music does.

Beautiful.

Thank you for visiting Fervor Coulee. I hope you come back. Find me on the Twitter  @FervorCoulee

Lee Palmer- Bridge review   Leave a comment

album-cover-bridge-339m4egxkz8wv3wgz30g00Lee Palmer Bridge On The Fly Music www.LeePalmer.ca

Ontario’s Lee Palmer has made a string of satisfying albums in recent years, but with Bridge the prolific musician has raised the bar for himself and independently-produced, guitar-based roots music.

With a musical approach similar to that of Ray Materick a generation ago, Palmer explores a variety of topics within his mix of folk, country, and blues. Paying tribute to Glen Campbell on “That’s No way to Go” and J. J. Cale in “Tulsa Sound,” Palmer seamlessly bridges the variety of music that has influenced him, and allowed him the opportunity to explore the breadth of sounds he has over several recordings.

Concentrating his efforts to the vocals on Bridge, Palmer has elected to leave the guitar work to Alec Fraser, Jr. and Kevin Breit. Along with additional members of the “One-Take Players”—Al Cross (drums) and Mark Lalama (various keys and accordion)— as well as co-producer Elmer Ferrer (more guitars and such) this duo craft an unstoppable foundation on which Palmer builds his homespun truths and heartfelt observances. Among the standout tracks are mid-set triumphs “My Town” and “My Old Man.”

Mary McKay provides background vocals throughout, and duets with Palmer on “Did It Feel Like This,” one of the album’s most memorable numbers. Of note are Lori-An Smith and Patricia Shirley’s complementary vocals on “Tulsa Sound.” Radio-friendly (in a different, more open time) and mature, Palmer’s approach to roots music is welcome. A song such as “Well, Well, Well, Well” or even “Back to Lonely” might have expected consideration at radio back in the time when David Wilcox, Downchild, and Powder Blues received FM exposure.

But, those days are far and gone. Left to his own devices at independent and university radio outlets, Palmer likely doesn’t expect a grand break-through any time soon. He appears to be making music because he must, and we can be thankful for that. Fresh and flavourful, Lee Palmer’s Bridge is an album that should provide listeners with hours of pleasure.

Brock Zeman- The Carnival Is Back In Town review   Leave a comment

brock zemanBrock Zeman is an artist I’ve reviewed a few times now, (I could only find one on-line; if I can locate the previous review, and it is readable, I may add it in down below) and he has always impressed me. Like the best roots artists, he has grown with time, and his latest is the most complete album I’ve yet encountered- realizing I haven’t heard all of his discs. The Carnival Is Back In Town may be groundbreaking, and there certainly won’t be another album like it this year. I wouldn’t want to live within Zeman’s carnival atmosphere, but I sure am enjoying listening to the music has allowed it to create. Here’s the thing: I’ve been listening to it regularly for a couple months, and after ten or twelve complete listens, I am more than ready to put most albums on the shelf and leave it for the next ten years…or until I have to review the latest release. I am still listening to The Carnival Is Back In Town, and I don’t believe I am going to be putting it away any time soon. My review has been published at Lonesome Road Review.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

 

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings- Kings and Kings review   Leave a comment

barkA while back, Country Standard Time asked me to review Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ latest, Kings and Kings. I had previously bought the download of the album for my own enjoyment, so I was more familiar with it than I normally am with an album by the time came to write about it. It holds up. My review can be accessed here.

Fred Eaglesmith- Standard review   Leave a comment

Fred

Fred Eaglesmith has been around the Americana/roots/Canadiana music world for almost 40 years. His first album was released in 1980, and since then he has unleashed more than 20 albums (including live sets) to a devoted following, but hasn’t ‘quite’ broke through to the threshold of household name; for perspective, Lucinda Williams’ folk/blues cover set Ramblin’ was released the previous year, Guitar Town was six years away, and No Depression was part of a Carter Family title.

I don’t pretend I have been listening to Fred since 1980. I believe I first heard the Ontario renegade at a mid-90s edition of the Calgary Folk Music Festival. I have no recollection who Eaglesmith was sharing Stage 4 that afternoon, but I recall my wonder at hearing his songs that weekend for the first time, “I Like Trains,” “White Trash,” “Wilder Than Her,” and “49 Tons,” I believe.

In the years since, across many albums and several live sets, my admiration has not waned despite his once cutting short an interview before I even finished my first question. His latest is called Standard, and while it doesn’t include a “White Rose” or “Spookin’ the Horses,” it does contain songs that-given a chance-may just become as fondly held.

My review of Standard is published at Country Standard Time. Best, Donald

Richard Laviolette- Taking the Long Way Home review   Leave a comment

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Richard Laviolette Taking the Long Way Home You’ve Changed Records

Earnest country records are few and far between. Ignoring the trappings of modern country recording, Ontario’s Richard Laviolette has created a natural-sounding album, balancing the beauty and fidelity of old-time country and folk music (think Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson recordings with the refinement of original songs and expanded instrumentation) with the gravity of personal exploration and experience. “The house that I grew up in, has long been forgotten,” he sings in the lead track “Grey Rain,” over a sprightly shuffle rhythm. “But these memories are calling me home.”

Featuring songs that bring to mind the Americana songbook and its most revered vocalists, Taking the Long Way Home bridges the chasm between the familiar and the obscure. Seldom does a song cause this writer to pull-over off the highway, but “Two Guitars”, a stark paean to songs and their performance did just that the other day. “Someone To Tell My Story When I’m Gone” brings to mind the artfulness of a Guy Clark composition sung by John Prine, while “The Rock and the Moss” is an obvious (at least, to these tired ears) nod to Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman.

The album’s strongest song is the title track, with a vibrant Willie Dunn—groove propelling this road song above its neighbours. Elsewhere, as on “Red-Winged Blackbird,” an easy-going Dave Edmunds beat disguises the intensity of an ode to a developing relationship; Julia Narveson’s fiddle and Aaron Goldstein’s pedal steel are key to this terrific song.

Less impressive is the admittedly great title “My Grandma’s More Punk (Than Most Punks I Know;)” unfortunately, the song goes on for almost five-minutes without making its case. The melody itself is very appealing, but a more robust premise and refrain would have improved it greatly; it is almost as if Laviolette had the title in one pile of unfinished ideas, and the song in a second and attempted to bring them together.

With additional songs revealing the family connections made through music (“Yesterday’s Gospel,” “Old Country Music”) and a coda for the ages (“You’ve Really Got Me On the Run”) Richard Lviolette and producer Andy Magoffin have crafted an album that is rich and deep. Like the floor and shoes gracing the cover, these songs have age to them— and they have a lot more to give; we’ll be listening to them twenty years from now.

 

 

 

 

Lynn Jackson- Songs of Rain, Snow, and Remembering review   Leave a comment

untitledLynn Jackson

Songs of Rain, Snow, & Remembering

Busted Flat Records

Dang.

I hate coming late to the game, but such is the situation as I first encountered Lynn Jackson this past month.

The Kitchener, ON singer and songwriter is on album number eight with Songs of Rain, Snow, & Remembering and I don’t think I’ve previously heard of her. Given the clarity of her voice and the strength of her material, one would hope I would have remembered had I encountered her music.

Dang.

She’s good.

Songs of Rain, Snow, & Remembering is (largely) an acoustic album, produced by Norman Blake. Admittedly, I got quite excited when I saw Blake’s name in the album notes, having long been an appreciator of the old-time folk instrumentalist. Who knew Norman Blake is also a Scottish-transplant to Canada most famous as part of Teenage Fanclub, a band I may have heard of without ever having heard?

Well, other than most of the world excepting me?

Dang.

Lynn Jackson reminds me a lot of Mary-Chapin Carpenter, and yes the hyphen is purposely included as, long ago, that is how I came to know MCC, before the stadiums and theatres, back when she was recording Hometown Girl and State of the Heart and still had a hyphen in her given name. That is the MCC of which Jackson reminds me, along with Cheryl Wheeler, Lynn Miles, and Shari Ulrich.

Jackson writes songs that sound very personal while embracing universal appeal and circumstance. That I am a 50+ white male that can’t play the same chord twice in a row matters not—I can relate to the stories Jackson tells, the emotions she conveys, the longing she communicates. Confessional without discomfort. “Riding Out the Storm” and “Water & Glass” are quite remarkable performances. The autumnal nature of the album is apparent—change, passing our prime, closing of chapters—and are brought to the fore on songs including “Winter Sun,” “Next Best Thing,” and “Long Winter.” Townes Van Zandt’s “Rake” is another highlight.

I don’t like the fret noise apparent on “Ribbons”; to me, such scrapes sound messy and irritating, distracting from the song’s moment. A shame that, as the songwriting apparent here is quite striking.

Folk? Perhaps that is the best label. File under: Good.

Dang.