The Year in Music: 2010
Lisa Watson’s annual review of local music.
Our annual review of local music
By Lisa Watson
Success grows. I love that sentiment because it reminds us that it’s the journey not the destination that counts. With everything evolving so quickly, it seems that one day an idea is innovative and the next it’s obsolete, so you really do have to live and work in the moment. Perhaps we artists are better suited for this economic climate than we think.
At the opening of the Alton Mill last year, Martha Durdin, chair for the Ontario Arts Council, recited the astounding statistic that the Ontario arts and culture sector accounts for 6.6 per cent ($19.1 billion) of Ontario’s GDP. The number is no doubt primped to look its best, but I was still very impressed, considering most of the musicians I know have a hard time finding two coins to rub together. Still, it’s nice to know they like us – they really like us.
Technology now allows us to do our own recording, but it has long been my opinion that we should do one thing at a time and do it well. And if we’re not particularly good at something, we should pass it on to an expert. And we’re in luck in that department, a few new sound technologists have parked their wagons in the neighbourhood.
And there’s more good news: LPs are making a comeback. Didn’t we always totally dig the cover artwork for our favourite bands? CDs shrank that space to barely visible, and the Internet completely negated it. Of course, we do have on-line videos now – art will find a way to present itself.
Christmas approaches and it’s a great time buy local by dropping into your neighbourhood music stores to pick up CDs, instruments, or sign up for lessons. And don’t complain to me if you’ve got nothing to do on a Saturday night. Get off your heiniekins, go out and hear some fabulous live music.
Recorded at the Woodshed, Toronto – 2009
I’m not the only one that’s trying to act casual when I’m standing beside Jim Cuddy in the health food store in Orangeville. He looked smaller at the concert. He’s definitely way cuter, but there’s no question that he and his band rock the world my ladies and I live in. Recently transplanted to the area, engineer Darryl Neudorf is obviously on their creative wavelength with some innovative new instrumentation and world beat rhythms. But don’t worry, their sound on this double CD is still dynamically their own. Local fiddler Anne Lindsay burns up the strings on several tracks. What hasn’t been said about Blue Rodeo? Lose the tables and chairs.
Favourite tracks: One More Night and Waiting for the World.
Listen to Blue Rodeo on MySpace.
Recorded by Tim McIntosh – 2010
Clever Tim McIntosh did most every-thing on this CD himself, recording and all, with a couple of talented guest musicians to add further texture to this sweet-sounding offering. Tim is another hardworking local musician who totally surprised me, but also re-minded me what musicians can do when they have the opportunity (and cash) to produce the masterpieces they’ve had floating around in their heads – quite likely for some time. This would be a great stocking stuffer. Tim has a real knack for harmonies and arrangements. Each of the original tunes has a warm and appealing East-Coast feel.
Favourite tracks: Without a doubt the first track, Just Let It Go, and Residents.
Recorded at Stewart Gunn Music Studio – Orangeville 2010
Oblio is at it again. Stewart Gunn is now “radiating” from his new studio on Broadway here in O’ville and he hasn’t skipped a beat producing some of the most creative and whimsical music I’ve heard. This beautifully layered CD is no exception. Stewart is joined by a troupe of Harmony Rainbow Group favourites: Cory McCallum, Cory Bruyea, Justin MCDonald, Lyndsay Wright, Gordon Shawcross, Stephanie MCDonald and Chris Mullen. It’s all about music and friendship for these guys. Stewart’s lyrics reflect a wide spectrum of emotions. I laughed, I cried. It’s sweet stuff. A rocking good meditation.
Favourite track: Hands down this year’s favourite song is Boxing Day.
Visit the Stew Gunn band on MySpace.
A Harmony Rainbow Group Production – 2010
Christopher Mullen’s five-song CD is just a taste of what this guy can do, I’m sure. Crossing over the Alan Parsons Project and Dire Straits, the imagery evoked by his lyrics is both romantic and eclectic. His sexy cowboy voice and warm melody lines are supported by HRG players Justin Castator on keyboards, Mr. and Mrs. Justin MCDonald vox and electric guitar, and David Joseph on sax – oh, yes, I hear you Stew Gunn – and mastered masterfully by Martin Davis Kinack of Broken Social Scene fame. The fun never ends.
Favourite tracks: Marinara and You Are Princess.
Hand Drawn Dracula, Toronto – 2009
Check YouTube for Divine Right and you’ll see some really fun videos. Their music is upbeat and life affirming with a definitively English pop feel. José Contreras has been front man for By Divine Right since its high-school conception. How wonderful that he and his wife Lily Frost have dropped their musical net over these hills. Hand Drawn Dracula is another artists’ support model from Toronto. Similar in character to the Harmony Rainbow Group I refer to often, the mandate of the label is to help each other achieve quality artistic goals.
Favourite tracks: I Loved a Girl and I Will Hook You Up. I adore great music you can dance to.
Watch Divine Right on YouTube:
Four Feet Under Records, Orangeville
Further proof that there is some delicious music right under our noses. This is so fabulously Moody Blues. Takes me back to the days when we… well, never mind. But I always dug them. Patrick is director of operations for this new recording company and he is in good musical company with co-writer and guitarist Kelly Klein and other talented friends. They seem to be managing a healthy virtual career in a time when business is conducted so iniquitously. That’s what I love about musicians – they’re incredibly brave. Great original tunes all. Simple, elegant instrumentation and recording plus a tidy video (Stand) you’ll love that will air at all the major music stations. The CD is available everywhere on-line.
Favourite tracks: Stand and Looking For an End – Simon and Garfunkel do Comfortably Numb.
Listen to “The Stand”:[audio:https://www.inthehills.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Stand2.mp3|titles=Stand2]
For more information visit:
Recorded at Blue Box Studios – Barrie 2010
I was thrilled to hear these guys, completely out of left field, at a recent triple-header in the Wellington Room at Rebekha Sushi. I thought – omigod, I’ve discovered something here. I must tell everyone. So here I am telling you these young men are smooth and spot-on with their playing. An epic rock sound. Big and full and powerful. Great poetry, effects…I can’t say enough. Excellent show, excellent CD. Someone else might be able to do it, but I can’t pin a label on them. Okay, best guess is Supertramp.
Favourite tracks: Sleeping Giants and Last Fight. I love intricate rhythms. Oh, and maybe Dented Fingers. I dunno – fabulous.
Visit the Breaking Lakes web site.
Produced by Kirk Starkey – 2010
Here come the Shanks! Yes indeedee. Once again I find myself somewhat at a loss for words. Ian Starkey has a wonderful flair for theatrics and a great sense of humour. Last year’s offering from The Shanks sounded like Alice Cooper. This one sounds more like Electric Light Orchestra and Jim Morrison, with a dash of Kevin Ayers over a bed of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Only in Mono you say. Putting somewhat cryptic lyrics to catchy rhythms is an interesting twist that translates into what I consider some very good music. Give it a spin.
Favourite tracks: Bastion of Sebastian and Killing Tune, a love song.
Listen to the following tracks:
1. Christmas Star[audio:https://www.inthehills.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Shanks-08-Christmas-Star.mp3|titles=Shanks 08 Christmas Star]
2. Killing Tune[audio:https://www.inthehills.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/03-Killing-Tune.mp3|titles=03 Killing Tune]
Recorded by Stewart Gunn – 2007
Fresh from the benefit concert for Matthew Fleming, I am once again aware of how complex a task it is to co-ordinate a choir. The Orangeville Sweet Adelines are a household name hereabouts and most everyone knows at least one of the eighty or so singers who belong to the local chorus of this international organization. We innately know what’s good for us, and that’s why this a cappella choir is so chock full of songbirds. Never mind the sometimes unwieldy arrangements, imagine recording and doing justice to this massive angel chorus. Well done, Stew Gunn. Smooth as silk deliveries, with nary a stray voice, All Fired Up is most certainly an appropriate title. If you like ABBA, there’s a tidy collection, as well as some popular Canadiana.
Favourite tracks: Land of the Silver Birch and I Never Meant to Fall in Love, a taste of Hollywood gone by. How on earth did they manage to hold that last note for so long?
Visit the Sweet Adelines/Orangeville Chorus web site.
Sara May has an honest, fairy-like style of writing. What do I mean by that? Sara is a stream-of-consciousness poet/songstress with a no-rules attitude. These two CDs have a similar feel to the sound track of the movie Juno. Hope you get the idea. Oh, to be young and Bohemian again. Reckless phrasing overlaps sweet melodies with imagery inspired at bus stops and in bedrooms. Sara May is currently at Ryerson studying film arts. She is the creative force personified and I look forward to seeing some of her port-folio.
Favourite tracks: Mary, Mary, Mary – you’ve got to hear this one, it’s a classic! – and Lucy’s Kitchen.
Aporia Records – 2010
A cottage is special. If you have one in your bones, you have an incredible bond with the sights, smells and experience of it. Inspired by childhood memories on Georgian Bay, Lily Frost has an incredibly romantic heart and a talent for turning every one of her authentic and original pieces into a soundtrack for a movie. This Casa Blanca throw-back performs with passionate, musical abandon. Here is the flavour of today’s independent music. Layers of this musical mélange include glockenspiel, harpsichord, wine glasses and theremin. Believe me – you do not want to miss seeing Lily perform.
Favourite tracks: Thompson Pines, a symphony indeed, and Lullaby, for the wee-uns…best lullaby ever.
Visit the Lily Frost web site.
Produced by Ben Riddell – 2010
This charming young lady writes a sweet song. All of the tunes on this lovely bit of Grace are enchanting. I’ve seen Hannah perform on several occasions and she is quickly developing a distinctive sound. Hannah’s sister sings with her from time to time and they make a virtuous duet with Hannah playing a tidy acoustic guitar. Don’t miss an opportunity to catch her act. For the record, she is also a talented photographer and her dad, Bud, was also in the music business at one time.
Favourite tracks: The Lullaby and 10,000 Years.
Listen to Hannah Chapplain:
1. This Song[audio:https://www.inthehills.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Chapplain-02.mp3|titles=Chapplain-02-This-Song]
2. Ten Thousand Years[audio:https://www.inthehills.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Chapplain-05.mp3|titles=Chapplain-05-Ten-Thousand-Years]