The Year in Music: 2007
It’s coming on winter and the weather is, to say the least, surprising. I’ve just spent the most luxurious time sitting on my front porch watching the world go by…
It’s coming on winter and the weather is, to say the least, surprising. I’ve just spent the most luxurious time sitting on my front porch watching the world go by and listening to some fabulous music. Lucky.
Being free to be creative has been my greatest gift in this, my fiftieth year (I hope you like my CD) and I have discovered many things about what it takes to be creative in this world. For one thing, creativity can’t be forced. You must allow it to flow through you. This is not always easy, it takes dedication and single-mindedness.
The local musicians represented in this year’s impressive crop of new CDs are some of the most creative in our community. Many of them are balancing other jobs with the delicate task they have as an artist. Some have aimed their arrow directly into the sun and live every moment of their lives as musicians.
So here it is – their fruit is spectacular from where I sit and I hope my words will give you some idea of what I’ve been listening to and enjoying this year. Most of this music you can’t get at Future Shop, so be sure to look for it in the music and art shops in the neighbourhood, and thank you for supporting local art. Enjoy.
Grande Fir – Grande Fir
Mostly recorded at Batty-Steer Studio, Mono Cliffs – 2006
If you like the Dylan thing, and you like the Redbone thing, and you like addictive rhythms, then you’ll love Grande Fir. I missed these guys in the sweep last year because they hadn’t quite finished their CD. It sure was worth the wait. Dedicated players all, these guys work well together, and with mandolin and several lesser-known instruments, they’ve even got a little Eagles thing going. Christmas, man, you won’t be sorry. Favourite track in the whole wide world: Windmill Under Water, but I loved the entire CD (find the reference to the biker chick and win a prize). Pick up a copy at Acoustic Traditions or check out myspace.
Sass Jordan – Get What You Give
Recorded in several places, including Nashville – 2006
I like Sass’s gravelly lounge styling with the Carolinian pull in her accent. Throw Colin Linden’s guitar, recording and production skills all over it and you’ve got some sexy listening. The technotronic lads were hard at it on this one. I love the spin put on the sound and many effects. The sleeve is beautifully designed. Of course Sass is very photogenic and I thought the antiqued/circus motif was beautiful. Favourite tracks: Have You Ever Seen The Rain and How Do I Get It Right. I happen to know you can get a copy at either Broadway Musical or Acoustic Traditions in Orangeville, or www.sassjordan.com.
Justin McDonald – Dufferin County Museum
Recorded at The Hayloft, Orangeville – 2007
You’re going to love this one. It’s catchy and clever and you’ll want to listen to it again and again. Justin McDonald is a powerful songwriter and I hear a sort of Abbey Road-ness to it. Yes, I’ll say John Lennon, but maybe that’s just me. There’s a friendly folksey sound (not necessarily folkie) and he’s addressed beautifully some powerful life situations. Very moving stuff. This CD was not quite out of the gate at time of printing, but it should be on independent shelves (specifically Acoustic Traditions) by mid-December. Favourite tracks: Old Mikey J and Mellow Fellow – wow. www.myspace.com/dufferinmuseum
Devin Hentsch and the Dark Light –
Recorded and mixed by Mitch Hall (with two exceptions)
More from the Mono Cliffs vortex of creativity, this is the second of Devin’s CDs I’ve had the privilege to review, and he has another in the works. Devin is a wordsmith who has a clever and amusing way of putting across a message. His arrangements are either impeccably thought out or randomly brilliant, or both – we’ll have to have a coffee sometime – he and I. There’s a little Roger Waters vs. Herman’s Hermits happening that I love and, of course, Devin is joined by several of the Rainbow Harmony group of musicians. Very catchy and , I’d say, easy to love. Favourite tracks: Catching Up on Vitals and Summer Vampires. Pick up a copy at Acoustic Traditions in Orangeville.
The Latest Casualties – Faux Real
Recorded on a 16-track portable studio – 2007
Jim Hanenberg, owner of the Village Music Shop in Erin, is a fixture around these parts – he’s taught a lot of our kiddies to play music. This CD is several years’ worth of music compiled by Blaine Barry and performed by Blaine and Jim and old friends Warren Campbell and Jim Mowat. These guys have a pretty slick sixties sound that recalls folk-rock band America with its harmonies and Blaine’s strong lead vocals. The well executed cover photo of reflected waters turned upside down had me fooled faux real. Favourite tracks: When it Arrives and Just a Dream. You can pick up a copy at the Village Music Shop.
Brubeck Braid – Twotet/deuxtet
Recorded at Lydian Sound and Orange Lounge in Toronto – 2007
Recently moved into the neighbourhood, Matt Brubeck is the son of virtuoso jazz pianist Dave Brubeck – and the genes show. I don’t mind telling you that he and David Braid are positively geniuses together. This stuff is pretty much over-the-top good. Matt plays an uncanny jazz/classical cello and with David’s intuitive piano, these guys are smokin’. Favourite tracks: Sniffin’ Around and It’s Not What It Was. Amazing composing. Perfect for Christmas giving. Look for a copy at Acoustic Traditions.
Erin McCallum and Roadtrip – 5 A.M. Blues
Engineered at Sound Investments Studio in Burlington – 2006
This classic-sounding blues CD made me itchy to dance. These guys performed at this year’s Blues and Jazz Festival gala and they were great. Erin sounds like a female version of Long John Baldry the way she manages to fit a lot of words into a small musical phrase. Great drumming and I like the “English” on the guitar, which just means the finesse or personality. Favourite tracks: Everyday and Listen What I Say. To purchase a copy go to www.roadtripblues.com and click the music link.
Peter J. Slack – The Cat Continuum
Recorded and produced by Peter J. Slack
This creation is reminiscent of progressive rock. Emerson, Lake and Palmer and King Crimson come to mind. Lovely guitar and keyboard and imaginative production has me quite hypnotized. I love the flow – it has a very celestial feel. Overall this CD has an adorable homey-ness to it (lots of love here). Credits include friends and family. Peter is a sound master as well and has done a great job. Favourite tracks: Love Walks In and Raccoon Requiem (I’m sure there’s a story.) Find it at www.pjslack.com.
Stewart Gunn – Moonlight/Sunshine
Recorded by Stewart Gunn at The Hayloft, Orangeville – 2007
Stewart’s work recollects Nick Drake (deceased English folk legend). I love the homey piano and magical arrangements. Having his own studio has allowed him to experiment, and there’s plenty of sweet and subtle work here. His lyrics are pensive and pretty (okay – he wanks out the odd time). Stewart has help from the Harmony Rainbow Group in Mono Cliffs and his wife, Yvette, has created a colourful package. Favourite track: Every Hour, Every Day. Pick up a copy at Acoustic Traditions in Orangeville.
Could You Wait – Original cast recording starring Louise Pitre and W.J. Matheson
Recorded by Wayne Deering at MCCT – 2006
This is a beautifully executed collection of WWII songs strung together by a romantic story line for the Broadway-style musical that debuted at Theatre Orangeville last year. My employer, Mr. J., who is a senior and a connoisseur, definitely enjoyed singing along with the old familiar tunes. With her husband, Joe Matheson, Louise Pitre sings the music of the forties with the same gusto she brought to the music of the seventies in her sensational turn in Mamma Mia. Favourite tracks: Mr. J. loved them all. Mom used to sing I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now. And I like to listen to Steppin’ Out with My Baby when I’m swabbing the deck. Pick up a copy at Theatre Orangeville, or go on-line to same.
Marcia Barnes – My Latin Roots
Recorded at Escarpment Sound, Acton – 2006
My niece is crazy about this one. Marcia is a young lady from the area with a genuine and haunting voice. She has great energy on and off the stage. She gave up university and a tennis scholarship to pursue a career in music and is already almost finished a second CD. This one speaks to her mother’s Columbian heritage. It’s sexy sounding with some beautifully spoken Spanish and French and a vibrant Latin feel. Emily’s favourite tracks: Nothing I Like More and My Mother. Pick up a copy at the Village Music Shop in Erin or Broadway Musical in Orangeville. www.marciabarnes.com
Joe Matheson – Long Gone Lonesome,
Songs of Hank Williams
Recorded in Nashville – Yahoo!
Joe Matheson wears any hat well – he was also star and creator of the musical, Could You Wait? (with his wife, Louise Pitre), that played at Theatre Orangeville last year. I asked my mother-in-law for an assessment on this one, because she grew up with Hank’s music in the background of her life. Although she found Joe did not exactly emulate the persona, she said she loved his versions of the country music icon’s songs – especially with the slick backup musicians and production. Marie’s picks: I Can’t Help It if I’m Still in Love with You, Your Cheatin’ Heart, and we both agree on Jambalaya (On the Bayou). Available at Orangeville Theatre or www.paquinentertainment.com.
Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival –
The First Five
A compilation – 2007
Conceived as a fundraiser, this CD rocks. For $15, it gives me some of the best memories of five years of our very own Blues and Jazz Festival. Jack de Keyser, Paul James, Fathead and the Toronto Mass Choir make my skirt fly. Alan Gerber is the greatest one-man band I know. Local heroes Trouble and Strife and heroine Heather Katz are represented, and there’s colourful Danny Marks with an older instrumental piece he recorded in ’98. Favourite tracks: Unquestionably, Give Me One Dollar by the Jane Bunnett band and Harrison Kennedy’s One Time Affair. Support the festival by purchasing a copy at Orangeville music stores, BookLore, Harmony Whole Foods or Dragonfly Arts, or go to www.orangevillebluesandjazz.ca.
Lorraine Rousseau and Robert Carlton – Visionary World
Recorded at Inception Sound in Toronto – 2004
There’s a lovely, comfortable flow to this easy-listening instrumental offering. Exquisitely performed flute and guitar are accompanied by equally sumptuous cello and sax. There’s a real Kenny G feel to this. Makes you want to kick off your shoes and pour a toddy. I’ve always wondered how you come up with a title to a song with no words, but each of these original tunes seems quite aptly titled to give an overall warm impression. We are fortunate to be able to enjoy this perfect musical partnership. Favourite tracks: Remember When, What You Believe and Someday. www.arrowrecords.com
Lisa Watson – Watsongs and Other Gems
Recorded by Nik Cherry – 2007
This magazine’s musical scribe, Lisa Watson, is more than just a good listener, as anyone who has heard her perform well knows. With her first CD, the heart-tugging purity of her voice is now happily available for home listening. Describing the recording experience as the most fun she’s ever had, Lisa laid down her own complex harmonies to haunting effect, supported by Russell Scott’s soulful guitar. These tender date songs for grown-up lovers include three of Lisa’s own compositions, as well as Affections of May by fellow traveller Laura Bird. Favourite tracks: a particularly lovely rendition of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now and Love My Love.