Archive for the ‘singer-songwriters’ Tag

Josh Hyde- The Call of the Night review   Leave a comment

JoshJosh Hyde The Call of the Night www.JoshHyde.com

I don’t know Josh Hyde, but within two minutes of listening to his “Mississippi Bridge,” I knew I had to know more. Written out of the experience of moving between the homes of his divorced parents every second weekend, Hyde has crafted a stark and relatable travelogue of a child spending his childhood on a Greyhound. It is a damned fine song.

Across this compact, 32-minute and nine song album, Hyde repeats this feat. He finds a way out of his personal experiences to communicate in a manner that is immediately universal. The title track is as sultry as a humid summer evening. A child of Louisiana, there is no surprise that Hyde seems to connect on a visceral level with the shadier sides of life, from the guy sneaking around the house when you’re “Offshore” and missed opportunities (“It’s Not Too Late.”) Both these songs feature Sonny Landreth on slide guitar.

Featuring all original material (“Offshore is a co-write with Brett Brunson), The Call of the Night has darkness running thought it (“Need a Lil More,” “Close”), but it is buoyed by Hyde’s melodically-rich approach to songwriting. And in what seems to be today’s theme, some lovely keyboard work (this time from John Gros) is apparent across the album.

Lesley Kernochan- A Calm Sun review   Leave a comment

lk-a-calm-sun-cover-webI received this album from the publicist a month or so back, listening to it a couple times right off, and knew I needed to write about it. I have since listened to A Calm Sun seven or eight more times- driving, while resting, and as I was writing- and could not be more impressed. It is a bold, mature recording, free of gimmick and insincerity. Give it a listen. My review is at LRR http://lonesomeroadreview.com/calm-sun-lesley-kernochan/

You can listen to “Country in the City” here.

 

The Gibson Brothers- In the Ground review   Leave a comment

gibson_2 The Gibson Brothers have been a Fervor Coulee favourite since their Sugar Hill debut Bona Fide was released in 2003. It was a very strong album, ticking off all the requirements of a bluegrass album of the day: a railroad song, a Tom T. Hall classic, a road song, a song about bluegrass, another about a favoured instrument, an instrumental standard, a metaphor-laden gospel piece…Despite this seemingly contrived set of requirements, it warranted notice, and still does.

Fourteen years and eight albums later (bringing their release total to thirteen, I believe) Eric and Leigh Gibson are at the top of the bluegrass world, a pinnacle at which they’ve resided for a decade. In The Ground may be their finest yet. An album of self-written songs, it isn’t like anything they’ve before accomplished. Still bluegrass, of course, but taking things to yet another level. My review has been published by Lonesome Road Review; I hope you will consider giving it a read.

Trevor Alguire- Perish in the Light review   Leave a comment

album-cover-2Trevor Alguire Perish in the Light

www.TrevorAlguire.com

For those who have been paying attention, and I have admittedly not paid enough, Trevor Alguire has carved out a little niche for himself on the Canadian singer-songwriter circuit. His song “Thirty Year Run” was a realistic portrayal of life, all the more impressive for its wisdom beyond years, “I’m Going Crazy (Out of Your Mind)” was a country hit waiting for radio, and “Cold Words” plumbed emotional depths as starkly as John Hiatt often does.

On Perish in the Light Alguire again looks into the darkness of relationships and the vitality of lives, exploring the inner-most thoughts of folks brave enough to ponder their circumstance. There is an echo of Billy Bragg in his voice (“The Ghost of Him,” “I’ll Be Who I Am,”) which is really strange as I also hear Corb Lund coming through in places (“Long Way Home,” “Flash Flood.”)

The cinematic “My Sweet Rosetta” sketches an everlasting love, and features the strong vocal presence of Catherine MacLellan and the wonderfully poetic image of “my bullet-proof sweater.” Like Mark Erelli, Alguire sketches life’s complexities of turmoil and wonder in just a few lines, coalescing a lifetime of challenge, doubt, and absurdity into a relatable couplet.

“I’d rather hold her memory tight than waste my days with you,” from “Out of Sight Out of Mind” doesn’t even require a second line to nail things down, placing punctuation on enduring love. Man, that is one excellent song. “Wasting My Time With You” explores the opposite, cutting a relationship to the quick. “Long Way Home” is a song of promise and assurance. “If I Had Stayed in School” is a songwriter’s manifesto.

Production choices deserve mention as instruments are placed to the front of the mix, emphasizing the collaborative nature of the recording. Beautifully balanced, Alguire’s vocals rise through and above in these brilliant little songs; give a listen to the first minute of “My Sweet Rosetta” to hear an audio visionary to full effect. Bob Egan contributes pedal steel with Miranda Mulholland’s fiddle serving as additional connection to the country sound.

Perish in the Light is a great album, one I will be nominating for the Polaris Prize. It won’t win, but it deserves a conversation.

Always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Support your local roots musicians.

 

Chicago Farmer- Midwest Side Stories review   2 comments

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Chicago Farmer

Midwest Side Stories

www.ChicagoFarmer.com

First impression: this guy can sing.

You wouldn’t think such a statement should warrant significant mention in a review of a new album, and maybe it doesn’t. Given my experiences the last (many) years listening to independent artists of the Americana roots variety, I feel it does because I hear a lot of emerging (and established) artists and damn it, some of them can’t.

They can mumble. They can emote. They can speak melodically with some rhythm, even. And many pull it off even with less of a voice than I might have.

Chicago Farmer, despite the moniker, can flippin’ sing. He has a style that reminds me of the country/folk pop singers of the early 70s—the R. Dean Taylors, John Denvers, and Ray Matericks of the day. Earnest. Bold. Honest.

Cody Diekhoff (nothing wrong with that name—wish he used it! For those who don’t know, I have a bit of an aversion to [the increasing number of] singers/duos who go under a name other than that which their mother gave ’em…fully realizing my mom never called me Fervor Coulee) has been releasing music for more than a decade, and by my count I have six albums to ‘catch up on’ having now been exposed to his straightforward, insightful, and darned groovy interpretation of modern life and vision. Not as cleverly obvious as John Prine, Diekhoff most reminds me of the former postman who happens to share similar small(er) town Illinois roots.

Diekhoff—okay, Chicago Farmer doesn’t set out to do anything fancy on Midwest Side Stories. He has insight into the experiences and internal dialogues of contemporary working class folks, and has the artistic ability to convert these into songs of substance and interest. “Skateboard Song” touches on a whole lot of stuff—youthful disenchantment, small-mindedness, finger-pointing, and police harassment, just to start—over a hard-beaten melody that would do both Weezer and Dan Bern proud.

“Two Sides of the Story” similarly looks at community, the push/pull pride/hate we have with our small town upbringings—we may not like ourselves, but you damn well better not put us down, especially if you live on the other side of town! “Umbrella” delves into the troubadour’s lot, “these songs and stories began unfolding like an umbrella in the rain” balancing melancholy and attempts toward local fame with a compulsion to connect with a single person while remaining true.

Chicago Farmer’s mid-western insights do not limit these songs: they appeal whether you are rural or urban, upstate or down, blue- or white- collar, Canadian or American. “Rocco N’ Susie” are our neighbours, the ones we don’t really know, but are more like us than we care to admit—a couple pay cheques away from foreclosure, a few months from desolation, several bad decisions from remand. The gradual journey from independence to dependence is identified in “Farms & Factories,” suspicion thrives in “Revolving Door,” and the night shift margins are explored on “9 pm to 5.”

Brian Henneman’s approach to songwriting comes to mind mid-set. Only late in the album deos Chicago Farmer rock as much as do The Bottle Rockets, but there are more commonalities in subject manner and tone than not. One can imagine Chicago Farmer finding inspiration through a cracked windshield, identifying vigour where others might encounter pathos.  The full band of folks I’ve never heard of—Ernie Hendrickson, Darren Garvey, Matt Ulery, and many more—create a substantial background for Chicago Farmer, never infringing on his words while providing a weighty dynamic for these songs.

The set closes with an up tempo—almost bombastic—interpretation of John Hartford’s anthem to survival, “I’m Still Here.” It is an ideal song to close a set that has at its heart the theme of the daily grind: get up, work your ass off, enjoy a bit of the benefit of your labour, and repeat tomorrow, next month, and for the next forty years.

Chicago Farmer comes with a Todd Snider seal of approval. That’s cool. But you’ll like him just for being himself and delivering music that resonates no matter the circumstance.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. I appreciate it, and hope you will support roots music in all its forms.

The Original Jenny Whiteley review   3 comments

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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!

Tomato Tomato- I Go Where You Go review   Leave a comment

Still catching up on summer.

Tomato

Tomato Tomato I Go Where You Go www.TomatoTomato.com

Washboard-infused, old-timey roots duo (that’s a band) Tomato Tomato (incorporating both pronunciations of the word) released their second album early this summer, and it’s a corker. The debut album from Saint John, New Brunswick husband-wife duo John and Lisa McLaggan was just a tad too ‘all over the place’ for this listener while offering enthusiastic stomp & holler in the form of “Toss It All Away” and “Gotta Get Out of This Town” as well as more moody pieces including “Breakin’ Down.”

I Go Where You Go offers a more refined, focused portrait of energetic, acoustic roots music. Lively, “Ain’t Dead Yet” offers standout vocals further propelled by the fiddling of eastern Canadian legend Ray Legere.  “Lemon Pie” reveals the duo’s jazzy roots whereas “Runnin’ Like Hell” is an instrumental workout accompanied by a lyrical thread that provides the vaguest outline of an escape from the mundane. “Rabbit In The Log” is done in a mountain-style bluegrass manner, while “The Best We’ll Ever Know” provides a family history set to a homespun rhythm.

Genuine, Tomato Tomato make music that reflects the authenticity of their experience. They aren’t ‘trying’ to be quaint and artisanal in their approach to modern folk music: I Go Where You Go is simply what the McLaggans are. And, I like it. I’d buy them a beer. (Okay, I’d let them buy me one!)