Archive for the ‘CD reviews’ Tag

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.

 

 

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Posted 2017 December 1 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Winnie Brave- Cheap Gin review   Leave a comment

Winnie Brave

Winnie Brave Cheap Gin www.WinnieBrave.com

Alberta music duo Winnie Brave return with their second EP of acoustic-based (but not exclusively unplugged) original roots music. Unlike their largely acoustic 2014 debut, the presence of synthesizer and electric guitar pull Cheap Gin significantly from the realm of the Welch-Rawlings and the Romeros; still, the subject matter of their songs—relationships and folks—and their construction have more in common with the aforementioned than not.

Based in Holden, Alberta (on Highway 14 between Viking and Tofield, if that helps), the rambling husband and wife duo of Brad and Amy MacIsaac, one imagines, find inspiration for songs in the people, places, and circumstances encountered travelling North America in their Winnebego.

Winnie Brave’s music is delightful.

Amy MacIsaac—I would suggest—knows she has a voice that reminiscent of Maria McKee, before the long-ago Lone Justice vocalist was distracted by other sounds, and doesn’t shy away from stomping her way through “Moonshine” and “Spicey Waters.” Reigning herself in on “Lover On The Side” and the title track, MacIsaac also stretches herself vocally, demonstrating control while infusing passion. “Wear You Down,” smothered in biscuits, gravy, synthesized horns, and a “snug-huggin’ George Jones tee shirt,” is a definite keeper not soon forgotten.

Brad MacIsaac provides the keyboard effects and bass, and in various places but especially “New Mexico” he fleshes out their sound to near Giant Sand territory. Christine Bougie’s lap steel adds a welcome warmth to the arrangements, with Adam Cannon’s drumming providing propulsive energy. If Ann Vriend chose to meld country and soul, it would probably come out sounding similar to what Winnie Brave offer here: for those who don’t know, that’s a very good thing! Albert Carraro’s extended jam on “Digging For Fire” provides a different and aggressive flavour.

This seven song set comes in at 28 minutes, and together with their previous release, we now have an hour of Winnie Brave on record, ample opportunity to recognize that this duo possesses the skill and vision to be considered when discussing notable, emerging Americana talent.

Cheap Gin is an excellent mini-album.

Kim Beggs- Said Little Sparrow review   1 comment

Beggs

Kim Beggs Said Little Sparrow www.KimBeggs.com

Kim Beggs, perhaps Whitehorse’s strongest contribution to the contemporary Canadian folk circuit, has a voice and an outlook like no one else, and she reveals her path of experience at every turn.

That voice. Beggs has a timbre that is folksy, earthy, and woodsy all at once—natural-sounding, of course, but more than that: her voice is as her other gifts, quite simply pure. This comes through on each song of Said Little Sparrow, whether one notes the way she twists the end of lines—”Every second of every hour, planting and picking the prettiest flowers…”—or plainly reveals her heart in the most genuine of manner on “Hurts the Worst” and “Blister.”

The outlook. Listening to Said Little Sparrow, as one did with the previous Blue Bones and Beauty and Breaking, is to know Kim, her family—the Wooded Mix—and her extended circle of compatriots. Their stories are expanded upon within the honestly written notes and personal essays contained in this generously packaged release, but most assuredly are woven into the deeply personal songs. A child assisting her Gran in updating an address book (“They’re all dead and gone, she said, my little one”), common neighbourliness in a frozen community, or a beau presenting his beloved with a freshly dug outhouse hole: these are vignettes into which Beggs invites her listener.

As all great folksingers do, Beggs moves from the personal to the universal with ease. She connects British Columbia’s northern Highway of Tears and its innumerable victims with Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” and in doing so touches on her personal connection to the many women who took a final and fateful journey on Highway 16. A forest landscape is referenced when considering ones origin(s) and the meaning of family. In one song, teenaged adventure is viewed through the mirror of time passages, and in another the wise looks toward a future free of the remembered burdens of the past.

Beggs’ songwriting has never been more profound, simultaneously substantial and delicate. Producing herself this time out, she continues to surround herself with the finest of the Canadian roots community including folks like David Baxter (guitars) , Michelle Josef (drums), Brian Kobayakawa (bass, including atmospheric bow-work on the memorable lead track, “Vampire Love Song”), and Oh Susanna (vocals) further sweetened by selective touches of mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and organ.

Another beautiful creation from Kim Beggs. No shortcuts taken in this journey.

 

Lynn Jackson Follow That Fire review   Leave a comment

Lynn Jackson

Lynn Jackson Follow That Fire Busted Flat Records

Every province, state, city, and area has them—the singer or guitar player that everyone loves and respects, but who strikes a collective shoulder-shrug outside their home range. Pay attention, then.

I had never heard of Lynn Jackson before encountering the previous Songs of Rain, Snow, and Remembering a couple autumns ago. The Ontario-based singer-guitarist is very good, and Follow That Fire is her ninth album over the course of two decades. In 2015, I compared her to the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Lynn Miles, and those remain fair, in my way of thinking. Like those songwriters, Jackson gets to the core of the heart fair quickly.

Produced this time by Michael Timmins (a new Cowboy Junkies album would be welcome any time, by the way) Jackson sounds subdued across that album’s three-quarters of an hour, holding her cards close as she shares these song.

Still, there is a hint of playfulness in the way she approaches “Mystery Novels, Short Stories, and Car Songs,” bringing to mind another Timmins sibling, an effect one suspects is deliberately repeated on the closing “No Regrets.” Obviously a narrative songwriter, Jackson’s “Alice” may be the saddest song I’ve heard all year, filled with hope and ache, betrayal and murder. Jayzus, it might not work as a bluegrass song, but I would love to hear Dale Ann Bradley give it a try. As it is, Jackson’s (sounds like) finger-picking gives the song all the atmosphere it needs.

Skydigger Josh Finlayson (bass) and Cowboy Junkie Peter Timmins (drums) form the rhythm section, and combined with Michael Timmins’ production choices, a most compelling and consistent ambiance is created. Andy Maize (The Skydiggers) joins Jackson on “Meet Me In The City,” in a better world a song that would be heard on every country, rock, and pop station across the country. “Meet me in the city for one last go ’round,” she sings. “We’ll take all the time you need” is revised to “I’ll take all the time I need” by song’s end. Another radio-friendly (in an alternate time, perhaps) number is “Tossing & Turning,” a soulful little song about a love that should know better.

Aaron Goldstein’s pedal steel works nicely in concert with Aaron Comeau’s keys (“Night Comes Down,” “Ghosts”) throughout the set. Inspired by the loss of a friend, one of the more introspective numbers is “Random Breakdowns, False Starts, & New Beginnings.” approach.

I know I meant to search out previous Lynn Jackson albums last time I reviewed her. Follow That Fire is a reminder that I need to get onto that project. The rest of the country needs to start paying more attention, too. Damn, she’s good. Great songs, great voice, inspired production: get this one. Fingers crossed: this is Lynn Jackson’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

Chris Hillman- Bidin’ My Time review   Leave a comment

HILLMAN_BIDIN_COVER_RGB

Chris Hillman Bidin’ My Time Rounder Records

Chris Hillman.

With those two words, Americana is defined.

The fact that he was once in a band called the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers should have told me he was going to be my Americana touchstone, but I didn’t discover that group’s sole recording until years after I fell under his spell. Trace a line through the most significant groups, albums, songs, and moments of Americana and roots music of the last 50 years, and as likely as not one encounters Hillman.

The Hillmen. The Byrds. Turn! Turn! Turn! Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Flying Burrito Brothers. Gilded Palace of Sin. “Sin City.” “Wheels.” Manassas. Souther-Hillman-Furay. McGuinn-Clark-Hillman. Hillman-Pedersen. The Desert Rose Band, maybe the best country band of the 1990s. “One Step Forward.” Rice, Rice, Hillman, Pedersen.

The Byrds were no more before I had heard of them. Ditto The Flying Burrito Brothers. How some feel about Roger McGuinn and more frequently Gram Parsons, that is the esteem in which I hold Chris Hillman.

Two stories: I once stalked Hillman for most of a Wintergrass festival, following him around from stage to workshop to lunch. I stopped myself before it got too creepy. I thought. I once set out to see Hillman and Pedersen at an Edmonton casino show, only to discover 125 kilometres into the drive that I had forgotten my wallet at work. By the time I had retraced 250 km, and added on another 75 to finish it off, it was too late to make the show. I was crushed, and ended up sitting in a hotel parking lot listening to the final 15-minutes of At Edwards Barn at journeys end.

Bidin’ My Time, Hillman’s first album in the dozen years since The Other Side, is a significant return if for no other reason that it features so many of the folks—McGuinn, David Crosby, John Jorgenson, Pedersen, Jay Dee Maness—with whom he in no small way created what we now call Americana. That the album was produced by Tom Petty, and features Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench is icing. It is perfection across 33-minutes.

[I delayed publishing this review as I was waiting for the official release, with full credits, to make its way to me. It hasn’t, so I am unsure of who played exactly where as I am relying on an advance copy lacking notes. In the meantime, of course, Las Vegas was rocked and Petty passed.]

The album’s first track, familiar from Mr. Tambourine Man, is “The Bells of Rhymney,” which quickly swells to an explosion of harmony (courtesy of Crosby and Pedersen) that is unforgettable. Additional numbers from The Byrds are revisited, including the bluegrass-flavoured “The New John Robertson” (“The Old John Robertson,” The Notorious Byrd Brothers) and Gene Clark’s “She Don’t Care About Time.” The classic pop sounding “Here She Comes Again” is a four-decade old McGuinn-Hillman composition that sounds immediately familiar.

“Restless,” “Different Rivers,” “Given All I Can See,” and the title track are all Hillman-Steve Hill co-writes testifying to Hillman’s enduring mastery of song and performance. At 72 years, Hillman remains full-voiced, fully in control as he presides over these songs. The arrangements are full and even lush, ideally suited to complement each other as an album. Closing with “Wildflowers,” Hillman sings familiar words with a gravity magnified by this week’s events:

You belong among the wild flowers,
You belong somewhere close to me,
Far away from your trouble and worry-
You belong somewhere you feel free,
You belong somewhere you feel free.

Bidin’ My Time. The song hints at what Hillman is looking toward, but this album—the seventh released under his name since 1976—allows hope that gig is a-ways in the future.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

 

John Reischman & the Jaybirds- On That Other Green Shore review   Leave a comment

Jaybirds

John Reischman & the Jaybirds
On That Other Green Shore
Corvus Records
http://www.thejaybirds.com/

It has long been known that John Reischman & the Jaybirds are one of my favourite bluegrass combos. To my ears, they have everything I expect from a band—vocal complexity and diversity, exceptional instrumentation and harmonic interplay, rock solid material with a curiosity  for the past and the ingenuity of creative originality.

When I was booking bands for the local association, The Jaybirds were the first non-locals I pursued. In subsequent appearances they never disappointed. I have seen them live about as many times as any bluegrass band I have witnessed, and even briefly used their “Jaybird Ramble” as my radio show theme song.

So, I’m a fan. But I am also a critic, and understand perhaps why they have never ‘broke through’ within the bluegrass world. Being based in western Canada has possibly been an impediment. I’ve heard some say that can appear a bit too polished, and maybe have at times appeared a bit ‘stiff’ on stage, especially early on. Still, the quality of their five previous full-fledged albums (and a seasonal EP) are without question—one of the strongest catalogues any bluegrass band can present since their debut of 2001. Why they are still not as recognized as other bluegrass bands—the Balsam Ranges, the Gibsons, the IIIrd Tyme Outs, and others—remains a mystery to my way of thinking.

John Reischman—having played with the Good Ol’ Persons, Tony Rice, John Miller, Kathy Kallick, and more—has long been one of bluegrass music’s most impressive and versatile mandolinists. Deeply influenced by Bill Monroe, Reischman has had the added benefit of being able to not only follow the inspiration of the instrument’s traditional Master, but to hear and work with others to provide guidance as well as the dedication to shape the instrument and its musical presentation in his own image.

Reischman’s bandmates Nick Hornbuckle (a more than impressive 5-stringer playing in an adapted 2-finger style), Trisha Gagnon (a tasteful bassist with an incredible voice in both lead and harmony positions),  Greg Spatz (an immensely sensitive and versatile fiddler and, as an aside, a formidable writer of prose), and Jim Nunally (a man of many hats including producer, absolutely devastating guitarist, and a singer rivaling Del McCoury, in my opinion) are unparalleled on the Canadian bluegrass scene (the fact that two-members of the group are naturalized Canadian citizens and only Gagnon is Canadian by birth doesn’t escape me) and—should this be a competition—could stand mic-to-mic with any of the most prominent bluegrass bands. [Someone will need to be the referee here, but I believe I may have just written a 113-word sentence that is almost grammatically justified.]

With the release of On That Other Green Shore this summer also comes news that Jim Nunally has left the group, the first personnel changeover the group has experienced. As I’ve already noted, Nunally has been one of the five pillars of the group, and his departure is significant. His playing and singing, as well as personality and songwriting, will be missed. For the unfamiliar, sample the two-song burst mid-set on Field Guide: “Arrowhead,” a Hornbuckle composition, features stunning flat-picking from Nunally while “Shackled and Chained,” one of his songs, is one of Nunally’s many fine vocal performances as a Jaybird.

One That Other Green Shore is not terribly different from previous JR&JB releases, and that is no criticism. The group has established an appealing and winning formula. The group boasts five song- and tune-writers, four vocalists, three-part harmonies, an untouchable duo of lead singers in Gagnon and Nunally, and a singular focus on making bluegrass music that is dynamic and memorable. As they typically do, the Jaybirds here refresh under-appreciated (or at least, under-known) songs from the Americana-roots-old time traditions, mix in some gospels and cracking instrumentals, and a handful of instrumentals as well as (this time) a song from The Beatles to create a unified representation of modern bluegrass.

Gagnon’s “I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye,” written upon her father’s passing, is not only emotional but also soothing. Two numbers feature the Jaybirds’ four-part vocal harmony ‘wall of sound.’ “You’ve Got To Righten That Wrong” and “Don’t You Hear The Lambs A-Crying” come from previous times but seem entirely apropos to current world circumstance, perhaps in ways the originators never intended. Spatz doesn’t contribute an original fiddle tune this time out, but brings to the group Caridwen Irvine Spatz’s “Thistletown,” a mournful and introspective piece well-placed within the 13-song set.

Nanually’s “Gonna Walk” features strong guitar lines, and I suppose serves as a fitting farewell nod to the group of which he has been integral the better part of two decades. “Today Has Been a Lonesome Day” is a song we’ve long heard at Jaybird shows, but makes its recorded debut here: interestingly, for a number that the group first worked up long ago, Patrick Sauber (who is the newest Jaybird) joins the group here on baritone.

 

new jaybirds

The ‘new’ Jaybirds: Image borrowed from the internet: no credit apparent, but will correct/remove if requested

 

Reischman has written dozens of memorable instrumentals, and “Daylighting the Creek” (listen to Spatz’s fiddle here—dang!) and “Red Diamond” join the list. His lead take on Paul McCartney’s “Two of Us,” in duet and close harmony with Gagnon, is a highlight of this recording. As they have done before (think “Shady Grove” from Vintage & Unique and “The House Carpenter” on Stellar Jays) the Jaybirds inject new shades to a familiar piece with the closing “Katie Bar the Door.”

As all John Reischman & the Jaybirds albums have been, On That Other Green Shore is beautifully packaged, and for those who still believe such matters, is well-deserving of purchase as a physical CD. Sneaking up on twenty years, John Reischman & the Jaybirds remain a vibrant part of contemporary bluegrass. Search them out.

 

Steve Martin & Steep Canyon Rangers- The Long-Awaited Album review   Leave a comment

SMSCRI apologize to all readers, groups, and promo folks/labels who have been expecting more from me the past few weeks. Work is busy, and I don’t have time to write although I try- I have (in my head) written much of a John Reischman & the Jaybirds review, know I need to get to the Chris Hillman album (how tired am I? It just took me a good ten seconds to come up with Chris Hillman’s name- an original icon of roots and Americana [before those labels were imagined] and a Fervor Coulee favourite, I can’t think of his name!) Anyway, I did- for better or worse- write a review of the new Steve Martin & Steep Canyon Rangers album for Country Standard Time. Find it at http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=6477 if you are so moved. There is much (80%?) to appreciate with just a handful of minutes falling short. As always, your opinion may very well vary from mine- here’s the deal: I won’t tell you what to think when you’re wrong, you don’t tell me what to think when I am right.