Archive for the ‘Suzie Vinnick’ Tag

Favourite Blues Albums of 2018   1 comment


I don’t listen to a lot of blues, and almost all that does come my way is via a small handful of supportive PR houses. To their credit, they are discriminating. Still, a lot of the (mostly) electric blues that I encounter leaves me cold. My preferred style of blues is (usually) of the acoustic-based, singer-songwriter type. That and blues that comes with a heavy dose of rhythm ‘n’ soul. These are the finest of the forty or fifty blues (and blues-ish) albums that came my way during 2018.

Take it for what it is:

1. Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar- Run To Me reviewed here

2. Rory Block- A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith reviewed here

3. Sue Foley- The Ice Queen reviewed here

4. Joyann Parker- Hard to Love reviewed here

 5. John Akapo- Paradise Blues reviewed here

6. Brandon Isaak- Rise ‘n’ Shine Gritty and groovy folk-blues with just a touch of grease. Atmospheric and engaging, Brandon Isaak is a terrific songwriter and performer. Enjoyed this one immensely.

7. Emily Burgess- Are We In Love? reviewed here

8. Trudy Lynn- Blues Keep Knockin’ reviewed here

9. Kat Danser- Goin’ Gone reviewed here

10. Suzie Vinnick- Shake The Love Around reviewed here

Ed. Note: I only purchased Shemekia Copeland’s America’s Child in the final days of 2018, and couldn’t include it on this list which was prepared at the beginning of December. A lot of good things have been said about the album, and I will add to it: smart, blistering takes of the country to our south- Copeland goes deeper than most blues artists, and not just one a select song or two. I need to listen to her more, and to this album, of course, but Copeland reminds me of Rosanne Cash- unafraid to take on the world that is darkening around her. God, can she sing! Of course, produced by Will Kimbrough, further strengthening my argument that he is involved in just about every album worth listening to- he is also all over Mary Gauthier’s Rifles and Rosary Beads. Had I listened earlier, Copeland’s album would easily be in my Blues top 5, and likely in my Singer-Songwriter/Roots Top 20. Brilliant album.

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Canadian Blues- three reviews   3 comments

Over the last eight weeks, more than a dozen blues albums have made their way through the system to land in the wee metal box down the road.

Lots of electric blues, some with a Chicago feel, others more southern, many guitar-based and a couple pianocentric albums, quite a few featuring female frontpersons, even more with too many wankering guitar solos, a small number featuring fusion attempts, and one more with a ‘trad.’ acoustic blues foundation. All have been listened to, several only once because that is all they seemed to deserve (sorry!) while others have created my personal soundtrack over the past several weeks.

I enjoy blues music, although not as much as some other forms of roots music, but I don’t actively seek it out on a day-to-day basis. I have favourite contemporary artists—Rory Block, Eric Bibb, Paul Reddick, Sue Foley, Watermelon Slim, Colin James, Crystal Shawanda, Maria Muldaur, to name a few—and the likes of John Lee Hooker, Lead Belly, and Alberta Hunter have been a part of my listening since I was a teenager: I recall one summer (I think— after all, when else would I be watching it?) morning becoming transfixed by Alberta Hunter on Good Morning America. Still, it would take a lot to get me off the couch to attend a blues performance.

Here are my thoughts on three really strong blues albums that have recently come my way.

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Suzie Vinnick Shake The Love Around SuzieVinnick.com

From Western Canada, Suzie Vinnick is well-familiar to Alberta blues listeners. Now based in the Niagara area of Ontario, Vinnick continues to make her way to the prairies almost annually. Early in the album opening “Happy As Hell,” Vinnick sings,  “I may complain but I know, I am living a charmed life…I got no reason to ever bitch and moan, but I do sometimes…” It appears life is agreeing with the vibrant singer, songwriter, and bandleader, because across the album’s dozen tracks the positive receives greater emphasis than its opposite.

Blessed with a gorgeous voice, throughout Shake The Love Around Vinnick leads her band through terrific songs filled with rich lyrical insights, smooth arrangements, and stunning and near-overwhelming performances. One example would be “Golden Rule” (“It costs nothing to be kind,” she sings) featuring an almost Laurel Canyon vibe with Vinnick handling all guitars—acoustic, electric, bass, and lap steel—to excellent effect. Truly an indie artist, Vinnick has again released an album without label support, produced herself (with Mark Lalama), and done the bulk of the instrumental heavy lifting.

Unlike the previous favourite Me ‘n’ Mabel, the album that made me a fan, which was largely a solo album, Shake The Love Around is a band album. Still naturally tasteful, this time out the approach is a bit more aggressive (“Watch Me,” and “Lean Into The Light.”) An ideal summer listen, the album is abounding with songs that make this listener think of Bobbie Gentry (all evidence to the contrary, not everything I listen to runs through my Gentry filter) including a sweltering cover of John Fogerty’s “A Hundred and Ten In The Shade” and “Crying A River For You,” featuring Colin Linden; to Linden’s and Vinnick’s collaborative credit, each of their guitar parts are discernible and distinctive.

“Beautiful Little Fool” has a playful vibe and Percy Mayfield’s “Danger Zone” allows Vinnick to carry a song—typically performed with horns and all manner of accompaniment—very ably with just her voice and bass: it may be my favourite performance on the album, and is an ideal selection given the album’s theme of spreading positivity while surrounded by darkness. However, the very next song—”Creaking Pines”—is also a favourite, a wisp of a song equally effective—a little seductive, a lot haunting—bringing to mind the legendary Alberta Hunter.

Shake The Love Around is an excellent blues and roots album from Suzie Vinnick. She never disappoints.

Angel

Angel Forrest Electric Love AngelForrest.ca

If Suzie Vinnick is great—and she is—and well-regarded within the Canadian blues industry—and she is, having been crowned as Female Vocalist of the Year six times by the Maple Blues Awards—Angel Forrest is held in similar high esteem.

Forrest is the reigning and five time Maple Blues Female Vocalist of the Year, and on this double live set, she shows why. The Quebec veteran focuses on vocals, and does with considerable gravelly panache, while leading her four-piece band through a set of standards and I presume, originals—at least songs I am not familiar with (songwriting credits must always be provided within an album package)—from a single concert captured last October in St-Hyacinthe, Quebec.

The show opening “All The Way” (a co-write with guitarist Denis Coulombe, I believe) sets the stage for almost an hour and a half of blues-rock. Forrest is at her strongest belting out her own songs including “Hold On Tight, Mr. I’m Alright” “Spoil Me Up,” and “Mother Tongue Blues.” Not much is held back—or left to interpretation—on the brassy “Move On.”

Realizing she has long sung Janis Joplin songs, I find her versions of “Piece Of My Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee” a little too on the nose—imitation rather than inspiration—although I am confident there are others who will strongly disagree, and I appreciate the guitar work: it isn’t that I didn’t like Forrest’s versions, it is just I feel I have heard these vocal approaches often enough. Her take of “Turtle Blues” is more impressive, and stronger still are her takes of “House of the Rising Sun” and the extended, set-closing jam “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean”/”Hound Dog”/”Whole Lotta Love” which are full of energy and passion.

Angel Forrest has released a number of albums—and I believe this is her third live release—but this is the first to come to my attention: I’ll be keeping my ears open for more. I’m intrigued.

CALLING_ALL_BLUES_FRONT

Sugar Brown It’s A Blues World: Calling All Blues SugarBrownMusic.com

Speaking of intrigued.

When was the last time a Ph. D. released a blues album? Not intriguing enough? Okay, when was the last time a University of Toronto associate professor of East Asian Studies, born in Bowling Green, Ohio into a Japanese-Korean family released a blues album?

That’s what I thought.

Proving that the blues is a force of nurture as much as nature, Sugar Brown has unleashed a powerful blues missive upon an unsuspecting populace.

Man, Sugar Brown plays my kind of blues. Influenced by the Chicago blues, a sound well familiar to Ken Kawashima as that is where he got his start blowing harp in blues bands. Now fronting a band on both guitar and harmonica, Sugar Brown has created thirteen new songs—some of them based around and reinventing familiar songs of various extract—that kept this listener rapt for the entirety of their 48-minute run. Some of his lyrics are hopeful, some are rather darka balance I can certainly appreciate.

Fronting the likes of Michelle Josef (mostly) and Chuck Bucket (three tracks) (drums), Russ Boswell (basses), Minnie Heart and Nichol Robertson (various string instruments), and Julian Fauth (piano and organ), Sugar Brown has captured his blues in a warm and inviting atmosphere utilizing some vintage equipment and a knack for a variety of blues structures. As stated in the accompanying press material, here Brown “mines the various strata of the blues genre.” Taking full advantage of the broad blues palate, no two songs sound too much alike even as they may explore a common thematic spectrum.

Highlights include the finger-picking grounded “Hard to Love” and “Lousy Dine,” a song built around the adroit lyric “everybody’s scrambling for the same lousy dime.” “It’s A Blues World” is a song for the times, an old-timey sounding lamentation with a bit of “The House of the Rising Sun” in its foundation.

For an album rich in reflection, Sugar Brown doesn’t let the listener soak in misery for too long. Numbers including “Dew On The Grass,” “Out Of The Frying Pan”, and “Those Things You Said” are lighter and livelier. “Sure As The Stars” is a sassy, kiss-off piece, while “Tide Blues” reminds me of something Doc Watson might have played around with on the porch with Merle or grandson Richard. By the time we reach the closing “Brothers,” we have been fully immersed in a fully satisfying blues session.

From its striking, etched cover art through to the clarity of the recording itself and the strength of the songs, Sugar Brown has created a memorable album. When he wants to, he puts a fine growl in his voice, while elsewhere his approach is pure, natural, and clear (“Love Me Twice.”)

It’s A Blues World: Calling All Blues is my introduction to Sugar Brown. I’ll be hearing more.

 

 

Ten Roots Songs for Canada Day, 2011   Leave a comment

To quote Stompin’ Tom Connors, it’s Canada Day up Canada
way, and in honour of our great Canadian celebration- marked traditionally by hailstorms, watching the NHL Free Agent Frenzy on TSN, and mega-sleep-ins to recover from a school year (6 PM last evening until 7:45 this morning, a personal best perhaps)- I thought I would offer up 10 Roots Songs for Canada Day.

Not a list of the 10 greatest Canadian songs, or my favourites even- just 10 songs to consider pulling off the shelf or downloading (legally, dagnabit) this DFKADD (day formerly known as Dominion Day).

  1. “8:30 Newfoundland” Mike Plume Band- Okay, maybe
    this is the best roots song itemizing the charms and challenges of our fine
    country. As a proud Canadian- one who doesn’t usually agree with our governments’
    decisions- this song is 4:08 of joy. I haven’t been to all the places mentioned, but that doesn’t make it less appealing- we’re all tied together, especially those of us who watched lots of CBC in the 60s and 70s, by the fact that we know what ‘8:30 Newfoundland’ means. Originally released on 8:30 Newfoundland 2009
  2. “Acadian Driftwood” The Band- Maybe the band’s finest moments this side of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” A stylized account of the forced exodus of the Acadians from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and their eventual settlement in Louisiana. I took my Canadian history courses in university, but I never really understood the expulsion of the Acadians until I started to understand the meaning behind and context of “Acadian Driftwood.” Unfortunately, that didn’t happen until I was well out of university. A great listen:  a solid groove, a story clearly told, and wonderful vocal performances from the triad of Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Richard Manuel. Originally released on Northern Lights-Southern Cross 1975
  3. “O Saskatchewan” Matt Masters- As a reluctant Saskatchewanian for a few years, I came to appreciate the province in ways that others- like me, once upon a time- simply can’t because of our stereotypes and our willingness to go for the easy joke. Saskatchewan has always been viewed by Albertans as the poor cousin to the east, but it really isn’t that different from us, save the mountains. Yes, you can see your dog run away for three days out on the prairie, but the same can be said for most of Alberta. The real Saskatchewan is pretty magnificent and I got to explore a bit of it living in
    the north country for a few years: you don’t know Saskatchewan until you’ve
    walked the Methye Portage three different times and been left breathless each
    time at the view of the Clearwater River as you break through the bush at that
    final ridge. Matt Masters doesn’t get much off the Trans-Canada in his view of
    the province, but we’ll forgive that as his appreciation for Saskatchewan
    appears genuine, and the album gets its release today. Originally released on All-Western Winners TODAY, July 1, 2011!
  4. “Do You Know Slim Evans?” Maria Dunn- As we see labour and worker rights eroded weekly in our country- ask the postal workers and Air Canada workers about that- it is good to reflect on the sacrifices of those who came in previous generations and made the choices necessary to allow others- including those workers who today benefit greatly from their efforts while speaking negatively of unions- to lead more satisfying and fair lives. Maria Dunn’s We Were Good People is a wonderful collection of songs telling the stories of those who really founded our province. In short, Slim Evans was a labour organizer who was accused and convicted of misusing union money; he had diverted funds to feed the families of miners on strike during the winter of 1921-22. Every story tells a picture, and this album does more than that- it allows the seldom heard stories of Albertan pioneering labour organizers, political rabble-rousers, and ordinary people to be shared. Originally released on We Were Good People 2004
  5. “Out on the Weekend” Doug Paisley- A list of Canadian roots songs without Neil Young would be akin to an issue of enRoute without Neil Young being represented on the in-flight audio program. I chose to go with this cover by Doug Paisley rather than Neil himself because, well frankly Neil isn’t too dang Canadian these days, is he. As part of Mojo magazine’s never-ending quest to recreate every single album released between 1965 and 1975, Harvest received the honour last fall and this track is one of the standout performances. Whether we head toward L.A. or not, what Canadian hasn’t had the urge to “pack it in and buy a pickup”?  Originally released on Harvest Revisited 2010
  6. “Prairie Town” T. Buckley- From an Albertan I’m convinced will become a household name in roots circles, “Prairie Town” is songwriting perfection in under four and a half minutes. This one has the lonesome qualities of the finest songs, crafted with an eye for detailed images that resonate with anyone who was raised on or near the prairie, built upon decisions of love and home. Do you stay or do you follow? Originally released on Roll On 2010
  7. “Love Shines” Ron Sexsmith- A power pop masterpiece. Everyone knows Ron Sexsmith doesn’t have the most commercially accessible voice, but it does have its appeal. The recent documentary about Sexsmith and his journey to find himself- not to mention album sales- shares a title with this number, and much like the movie this song has a slow build that sucks you right in until you’re hanging on every phrase and sound. Beautiful. Originally released on Long Player, Late Bloomer 2011.
  8. “I Like Trains” Fred Eaglesmith- As a farm kid, I can still remember the thrill of waiting at the crossing at Duffield as the train passed through town. Sitting in the red Ford pickup, counting the cars, waving at the engineer and the crew in the caboose…those are memories as fresh today as they were when they happened forty years ago. All kids like trains. Only folks like Fred get to write about them. I love the phrase “shake the gravel loose”- it captures the trembling that you felt as a kid as the train
    roared by. Originally released on Drive-In Movie 1995.
  9. “Sometimes I Think I Can Fly” Suzie Vinnick- Sparse blues. If I could play music, it wouldn’t sound anything like this. But I wish it would. Originally released on Me
    ‘N’ Mabel
    2011.
  10. “Pier 21” John Wort Hannam- This is where the journey started for many Canadians of previous generations. Like Maria Dunn and I suppose Robbie Robertson, John Wort Hannam gives life to Canadian history, and any one of a dozen of his songs could have had a place on this list. With the exception of its Native people, Canada is a country of immigrant stock and JWH captured that experience in this song from his debut:

“He said Go Laddie Go, Go Laddie Go, Find your dreams over on Pier 21, He said Go Laddie Go, Go Laddie Go, But don’t you ever forget where you’re from.” Originally released on Pocket Full of Holes 2003

And that sums up Canada Day for me- “Don’t forget where you’re from!” We or our ancestors might have come from Scotland, Germany, Ukraine, India, and anyone of twenty-four dozen other countries, but we’re Canadian. And let’s not forget it.

Now, go play some Trooper.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

BTW- I posted a similarly-themed but different posting of 10 Canadian Bluegrass songs over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=770