The Year in Music: 2009
For an average price of $20, for anything from eight tracks of epic electric guitar to ten total hits that deserve to be widely celebrated, I give you the poets and princes of music in the hills.
Do I look different? I feel different. Four years ago, the editor of this magazine asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing local music. I immediately visualized Brenda Starr, reporter – only blond, with glasses, and attitude – scoping out the talent in Orangeville.
For the first time this year, we’re pleased to be able to offer sound with our reviews.
Click on the samples below or visit the musicians’ websites.
At the time, age 48, my comic-strip reality seemed to be expanding rather than contracting as one might normally expect, but I digress.
I was really on the crest of a fabulous movement of art in the area, barely aware of its parameters. The ten or so years that I’ve been involved musically with the Headwaters Arts Festival left me little time to explore the actual art that was going on. Since I’ve leapt into this world with both feet, I’ve been swept into the momentum of irrepressible creativity.
Blessed be this place. It holds such beauty that my heart is in my throat a good deal of the time these days. I have met such gentle and passionate people, and the work of many of them is reviewed on these pages.
For an average price of $20, for anything from eight tracks of epic electric guitar to ten total hits that deserve to be widely celebrated, I give you the poets and princes of music in the hills. Their work is available at the music stores in the area.
(P.S. If you know of any other fine local recording talent, please consider dropping me a line at [email protected].)
Lily Frost, Cine-Magique
Recorded & produced by José Contreras, Aporia Records, Toronto 2006
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. This CD has been around awhile, but still hits home for this songstress with poetry, sweet vocals, fabulous arrangements and some sexy music. Lily is an original that’s for sure.
In a word: Enchantment – a song which, along with some of her other work, has been used to commercial purpose, and understandably, as she is a musical seductress.
There’s a lot of “Kill Bill” guitar on here – more commonly known as Spaghetti Western Reverb, which I happen to really like. Born in B.C., Lily and Chilean hubby Jose of By Divine Right fame make their home here with us in the hills.
Favourite tracks: without question Enchantment (which you must experience in video form on You Tube) and Raise the Veil – divine.
Lily’s more recent CD, called Lily Swings, on which she covers Billie Holiday is also available everywhere.
Sample tracks: Visit http://www.myspace.com/lilyfrost.
James DesRoches, Into the Wind
Recorded at Valleyview Studios, Ancaster 2008
He’s no Teenage Head like his bro, but his guitar work on this mix of easy styles certainly shows he’s been paying attention since those days.
There’s jazz, there’s Calypso – even some nicely executed Spanish-styled strumming, plus some yummy Dylan-esque harmonica to round out this Greenwich Village Bob Denver-ish collection of originals.
If you’re a harmonies freak like me, you’ll be singing along with much of his music.
There are a lot of love songs, though, sorry girls – he’s married thirty-odd years now, with a great big bouncing family of kiddies and dogs. Favourite tracks: If You Came to Me and What Can I Do?
James DesRoches – If You Came to Me
Devin & The Dark Light, Loud to Live With
Recorded at Batty Steer Studios, Mono and Orange Studios, Collingwood 2009
What a fabulous title! Leonard Cohen, Chuck Mangione and a hint of Italiano is as close as I can come to describing Devin’s music.
There’s a little bit of Joni in there, too, which likely adds to the appeal for me after the four years that Devin’s had an entry in these pages.
He definitely has my attention.
Cory Bruyea, Justin MacDonald, Justin Castator, Jae Marr, Jocelyn Burke, and other people whose names don’t start with ‘J’ represent the continued artistic support model of that loose collective of local musicians called the Harmony Rainbow Group.
Favourite tracks: Daughters of Lawyers and Margarita Green.
Devin and the Dark Light – Margarita Green
Sass Jordan, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn
Recorded at Backroom Studio, Toronto 2009
Vibrant Sass Jordan walks the walk and all. This gravelly-voiced goddess, who I count in my circle of inspiration, has her priorities straight and gives due regard to all aspects of her life – family, friends and her creativity.
She and husband Derek Sharp are a magical, musical combination. Sass told much of how she approaches life in a recent article in Chatelaine, offering no excuse for living large and passionately.
With connections forged over expansive careers, Sass and Derek are readily able to find supporting and talented musicianship to bolster any musical endeavour.
This CD exhibits consideration for a diverse appetite of musical genres and has an easy and warm overall tone.
Favourite tracks: Sass and Derek wrote all but a Tom Waits’ remake of Ol’ 55, which I love, and the killer track for me is Awake.
Recorded in-home and at Singing Water Ministries, Hockley Valley 2009
The recording loses nothing for its simplicity and it is all very smoothly executed.
God loves jazz, and I daresay he loves a beautiful songstress singing his praises even more.
There’s some David Foster/Dionne Warwick largess here that is certainly appropriate to the Christian content.
Favourite tracks: Jumanah Samba is a fabulous jazz instrumental with a great and complex rhythm count; and an arrangement based on Psalm 23, called Shine Your Glory, is indeed glorious.
Sideways – Jumanah Samba
Justin Castator, The Glow
Recorded in-house 2009
His poetry works on many levels: music and word, imagery and mysticism, creating a lovely, flowing tapestry of layered sound. If MC Escher had a musical counterpart it might be Justin Castator.
They call him The Glow.
There’s some great distance and tin on Justin’s naive vocals with hypnotizing (sometimes discordant) synthetic harmonies, and some Glen Campbell/Mark Knopfler Tequila Sunrise electric guitar.
Favourite Tracks: A Break in the Clouds and Pendulum, a lovely prayer.
Justin Castator – Pendulum
Sab, Flyin’ High and Livin’ Free
Recorded at Metalworks 2009
Front (and back) man Sab goes back in the music business and the inside cover shows him with Alice (Cooper) and with Kris (Kristofferson) and Young Sab and Old Sab and Sab and the beer-bellied Family Band. Oh dear.
Proficient musicians all, the priority seems to be fun, stayin’ in the groove and making sure the cooler’s full of red wigglers.
Guest musicians include David Rotundo (be still my heart), Johnny P and Gino Scarpelli.
And we all have to thank Erin’s own Dana Mundell for drumming in more good times.
Favourite tracks: That’s What I Call the Blues (Sab’s Dr. Hook vocal hook) and Northern Boys 2, sounds like they’ve just returned from the war, but I’ll bet not.
Sab – Northern Boys 2
Ryan Barwick & The Small Town Band
Recorded at Erinwood Studios, Erin 2008
The CD cover has a fifties-retro look, with fabulous old cars and a flashback image of a neon-bejewelled drive-in theatre and period Ferris wheel.
Ryan has created a step back in time to pop shops and puppy love.
You’ll want to sing (and maybe even dance) along with many of these fourteen original tunes, each with its own attributes: great arrangement, familiar Dylan-styled harmonica, compelling Clarence Clemons-flavoured saxophone, and the drama of Bob Seger-like vocals.
Favourite tracks: Won’t Hurt You Anymore and Drive – straight to Ann Arbor with my girl and twenty bucks worth of gas. You’ll feel it.
Yogalaya, The Space to Be
Guided Relaxation with Natasha Boldireff
Recorded in Orangeville 2009
It’s not music in the usual sense, but a good part of the ‘listening’ I do is guided meditation – just for my head, cleansing the palate, if you will. Natasha is my yoga instructor and, in my experience, an expert at inducing deep relaxation.
To have fifty-three minutes of her nurturing Savasana is like throwing a warm, heavy blanket over my soul. By the time you’ve finished listening to this, all of your 73 trillion cells will be blissed out – trust me.
It’s what the world needs now.
TJ Whitelaw, Electric Echoes
Recorded at Vivace and vWave Studios, Toronto 2009
This smacks of past-life memory. His mom just shakes her head and drives. TJ screams up and down the neck of his guitar and he and his buddies ‘wank’ out like they were born under a table that was nailed to the floor.
There’s some fabulous backup instrumentation in the form of electric violin and what I’d call synth-funk, and the CD overall has a pretty mature flavour. There’s even a little Spanish flamenco on it.
I mean – how does he know this stuff – he’s only sixteen.
Favourite tracks: Dream Suite – classically hard rock guitar, and Spanish Interlude – espagn-eeessshhh!
TJ Whitelaw – Dream Suite
Bruce Laing, A Dream
Recorded in Aberfoyle 2009
Bruce has a talent for ‘catchy country’ and has girls a-swoon at every event he plays. His ‘Dream’ boasts ten original tunes recorded and gently mixed and miked with a delicate turn on the reverb – light and not fancy, but full.
Bruce is one of the hardworking musicians that keeps live music alive here in the hills and he has a huge cast of friend and fan as he strums familiar rhythms to our lives here in the big O.
Favourite tracks: Edge of the Bed – hit potential for sure, and My Angel – another hit!
I think I’ve found my travelling buddy to Nashville.
Bruce Laing – Edge Of The Bed
The Muir Family
Recorded at Bruce Ley’s Studio, Mulmur 2009
Donna Muir sang with her uncle’s band, and she and her two sons, Brandon and Aaron, and the rest of the band bring country comfort to fairs, barbecues and the like in the neighbourhood.
Aaron sings your favourites with Dwight Yoakam panache and I’ll bet there’s some honky-tonk times wherever these folks play.
Favourite tracks: Ring of Fire (gotta love JC) and Neon Moon.
The Muir Family – Ring of Fire
Julian Petti, The Echo Bay Sessions
Recorded in Algonquin Park 2009
Julian packed his tent, his canoe and a Tascam 4-track field recorder and two Neumann U87s and lost himself (or should I say found himself) in the tranquility of Echo Bay. (See videos from his trip on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/julianpetti.)
His introspective lyrics and passionate guitar are the obvious influence of John Lee Hooker and Neil Young. I think I even picked up a bit of Ravi Shankar in there somewhere.
I occasionally hear crickets and babbling water in the background – nice.
At the time of writing Julian was unsure what form distribution would take, but you can listen to him on MySpace. Favourite tracks: Versing to the Wall and All My Praying. UPDATE: Julian’s music is now available on iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/the-echo-bay-sessions/id338401109.
Julian Petti – All My Praying
(norman) Shanks, Welcome to the Camp of the Dark Meat Fantasy
Recorded at The Meat Freezer, Mono 2009
This is some pretty dark stuff in my opinion, but I think Ian Starkey, the creator of Shanks, has found an interesting way to take leave of the everyday.
An architect and father of four by day and musical wizard by night, he brings an epic quality to each tune, along with some surprising instrumentation, including glockenspiel, French horn, Shinto tea bell and flashlight(!), in addition to the usual electric guitar, bass and drums.
The theme of the CD is graphically captured on the cover reproduction of a Passerotti painting called The Butcher’s Shop 1580s.
Ian’s upcoming CD will have a cake theme.
Favourite tracks: Ass-End of Town (really, it’s not just fun to say) and Norman Mailer (rings of King Crimson).
(norman) SHANKS – Ass-End of Town
The Johnny Lane Band
Recorded at Orchard Studios 2007
He and his band (Mike Rennie on bass and Dan Mills on drums) have been working on their rock and roll hoochie-coo for six years now and this CD of original tunes has a ZZ Top/Don Henley flavour that old rockers will love.
Johnny worked and toured as a guitar/backline technician and had the opportunity to work with Glass Tiger and Honeymoon Suite, as well as The Tea Party’s Jeff Martin, whose influence produced a new world of guitar tunings and a more expansive writing style that is reflected here.
There is also some unclaimed (as of writing) harmonica that is to die for.
Favourite tracks: Moola and Sidewalk.
Johnny Lane Band – Moola
Singer-songwriter Lisa Watson lives in Orangeville. She recorded her first cd, Watsongs and Other Gems, last year.
Lisa Watson – I’m Easily Swayed