The Year in Music: 2011
Here are the highlights from this year’s local music scene. Listen up!
Hello! Haven’t we all been busy making happy music lately. I can barely keep up with it. All types are coming at me. Someone even sent me a CD of an unbelievably good bagpipe player, Michael Grey, called Nine Blasted Notes. Michael is out of this area, but I highly recommend his work. Other submissions are of such a high standard I sometimes feel I have no business writing about them except to “sing” their praises.
It is an arduous project to meet expectations when you’re recording music. Besides the expense (I have known some musicians to spend upwards of $10,000 to $20,000 to recreate what they hear in their head), there is a mountain of detail to manage in the studio, and later in the marketplace.
My own CD is overdue by six months, but I’m okay with that because it’s going to be everything I want it to be (and I will certainly let you know about it). My point is, in my evolution as a music-maker, I know whereof I speak about the mechanics of production. Sass Jordan’s new CD ran late for me to review and Hello Kelly didn’t make it to me either, but it wouldn’t hurt to look for both of them online. On my own “100 Day Challenge” I learned the following: you can neither hurry nor slow the tide, technology and I can be friends, and where to buy good dark chocolate in bulk.
Here are the highlights from this year’s local music scene. Listen up!
A New Day
Recorded at Valleyview Studio, Ancaster – 2010 On the other side of raising his family, James has successfully connected with life before kids to pursue his musical ambitions. A heart-on-his-sleeve romantic, his latest CD has a campfire feel with echoes of John Denver and Neil Young. With 14 original tunes, this second CD (I am late reviewing by a year) was created on the heels of his first, Into The Wind, in 2009. I am enjoying his enthusiastic harmonica and the 007 electric guitar styling. James appears to be well supported by his family – Charlotte DesRoches has done a splendid job photographing her dad for the sleeve. Favourite Tracks: I’m Waiting and Winter – a snowy meditation with some delicious percussion.
Listen on CBC
The Weather Station
All Of It Was Mine
Recorded by Daniel Romano – 2011 I think this is the most important new work, or at least artist, I have encountered in my gig as reviewer. Tamara Lindeman’s for-real poetry transcends Joni and Leonard – a fabulous new generation of music. And her vocals, well, we’ve got a little Beach House, a little Lucinda Williams, a dash of Feist and some McGarrigle overtones. Exquisite lyrics and phrasing on a bed of fabulously complicated rhythms and chording patterns. This is desert island material for me. Tamara’s mum is our Joan Hope of Dragonfly Arts on Broadway, who fairly gushes around the consummate artist she has raised. Favourite tracks: Everything I Saw (“was mine”) – took the words out of my mouth about my new house, and Know It to See It (“and I don’t see it in you”). I hear this girl.
Strangers No More
Rea Studios, Puslinch – 2010
Good old boys, these three fellows are real Canadiana with a Maritime-y sound and storytelling flair. This CD unravels like a tapestry from one coast to the other. Friendly lyrics paint mental images of moments in time and are a peek into Joe Canada’s house. Strains of Roger Whittaker over solid folk-style instrumentation (including bouzouki) are further coloured by enthusiastic guests on harmonica, fiddle, viola, drums and penny whistle. A céilidh in a CD, if you ask me, including 15 originals in this second full-on effort. (Old Country Store was reviewed here in winter ’08.) These guys play around (but don’t tell everyone, they’ll all want some), so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to catch their act. Dancing will happen, I’m sure.
Favourite tracks: Home from the War and Tunnel of Time, a busker’s requiem in a lively two-step.
The Darlings Oiseaux
Our Perfect Place
Recorded by Martin Davis Kinack at The Nest – 2011
Producer Marty Kinack has a brilliant nose for music (Broken Social Scene, Hayden, Sarah Harmer) and he has lent his considerable expertise to these three Darlings. Simple Beach Boys kind of patterning, along with some interesting rhythm set-ups with Mamas and Papas/Indigo Girls vocals that are subtly and purposefully discordant, create a resonant harmonic that permeates at a cellular level. (And I do consider myself a harmony connoisseur.) These young women also belong to the local Harmony Rainbow Group. When they say, “Let the girls play!” they do – and they do some more. Songstresses Jocelyn Claire, Jessi Leigh and Steph Saxton have only this five-song CD to their name so far, but it gets them gigs.
Favourite tracks: Hard to pick a favourite, but I’ll go with Watershed. My favourite line is “when a child is born so is the mother – ooo, baby, you slay me.” Bravo girls.
Recorded in Big Sur, California – 2011
Ooo…look at me! Reviewing Feist again. I’ve swiped mags from offices all over Orangeville with references to her latest offering. Metals features more of what we love about her, including the usual impeccable backup and ornate arrangements. There’s a nice, mellow mix of horns, all manner of strings and keys, as well as classy application of synthesizer. And then there are the vocals. Ah, what a lovely voice she has. And how interesting I find her harmonies. So many of them have this strange “funny bone” effect on me (there has to be a little english engineered on them). Between that and her heartfelt lyrics, it “hertz” so good.
Favourite tracks: The first track hooked me right away, The Bad in Each Other, and The Circle Married the Line: “It’s as much what it is as what it is not.” And no, Leslie, it certainly is not wrong to want more.
Recorded at VWave Productions, Toronto – 2010
I don’t pretend to be a rock guitar expert, but TJ’s first CD a couple of years back pretty much blew me away – him being only 16 at the time. Since then his work has developed even more subtlety and maturity. He has the voice of an old soul, intuitively discovering the nuances of the newly invented electric guitar. Again, I’m no expert, but I hear George Benson, Jimi Hendrix, Don Ross and John Mayall. This parti-cular work has more fabulous guests and a David Foster opulence.
Favourite Tracks: Mountain Blue and Divinus Lunem. Aside: I don’t know how one names a tune as opposed to a song, but imagery is everything. Well done.
Recorded by Daryl Neudorf
at Operation Northwoods,
Mono – 2010
This here’s the real McCoy, folks. Bluegrass in the tradition you remember and imagine. Fabulous playing, boys. Yes, I love bluegrass as well. Simple and authentic lyrics with rippin’ fiddle, banjo and mandolin, and wow-full harmonies totally in keeping with old-timey bluegrass. This is barn dance material. Some spot-on originals and some clever redos of tunes by Bill Munroe, Tim Massey/Rick Pardue and Wayne Barnett.
Favourite tracks: Hobo Blues, a poignant original, and The Ballad of Cassie Chadwick – naughty girl.
Warner Music Canada Co. – 2011
Oh, Jim, my ladies all still think you are super cute (so thanks for the fabulous sleeve photos). Better yet, you continue to deliver the inspired rhythms and sophisticated lyrics we’ve always counted on. These songs are highly intimate musings on love, loss and longing, set on the big landscape of the crazy times we live in (“Everyone watched the wedding… all the royal fuss … Monday we were back upon the bus / Driving through the neighbourhoods and factories that are us”). Jim is a quiet and avid community advocate (most recently lending his talents to Foodstock). He also continues to collect outstanding talent to work with him, including our own fiddle diva Anne Lindsay. The CD comes with a Jim Cuddy Band tour guide, so I put it on my fridge.
Favourite tracks: How in the World and Everyone Watched The Wedding.
Hurry On Home
Engineered by Tim Vesely at The Woodshed – 2010
This is nice, reviewing Anne Lindsay again. She’s a very shiny lady. I enjoy knowing her and, of course, adore her music. She has a lot of original pieces on this offering, with a variety of Eastern-European-roots juice. Anne has a playful style built on a serious and studied foundation. In other words, she knows what she’s doing so she can afford to have fun, with confidence in every note. She has happy company and fabulous backup by friends and family (her three sons seem to be very supportive). There’s a Romanian traditional, some jigging and reeling going on, and some outstanding accordion by Joe Macerollo on a piece called Waltz for Annie, written by Oliver Schroer.
Favourite tracks: Downwind in an Updraft, with David Woodhead slapping the electric bass, and I love hearing her pal Jim Cuddy helping out with the vocals on the title track Hurry On Home.
Produced by Gord Kellie – 2011
Dark lyrics – great kids. I saw this family-based band play at Shanktoberfest. They were incredible, and although this is not a type of music I gravitate to (they call themselves a ska punk band), they are clearly maturing with the new addition of sister Sara Kellie wankin’ out on violin. Talented all, the band’s membership is influenced by the Misfits, Choking Victim, Leftover Crack and, hmm, The Beatles. I hope that forms a picture for you. Gravelly, screaming vocals and lyrics that push shock value leave me feeling quite unsettled. Young people burning off some steam to be sure, but they have vibrant energy and the foundations for a very fine band. I won’t pick a favourite out of the five on the CD, but I invite feedback on this one, and hope they get the peer support to keep on making music.
Produced & engineered at Orange Barn Productions by Arthur Sadowski with the Shanks – 2011
I always take the Shanks very seriously. Kidding! I love these guys. They’re so much fun. A must-see in concert, Ian Starkey and the Shanks are full-tilt rockers with a dash of Leonard Nimoy. With great lyrics and phrasing, they’re a treat for timing and dramatics. A kind of musical brain gym. There’s a lot of that going on here in the hills – music by intellectuals. Ian’s (sorry, Pistolwhip von Shankenstein’s) vocals lean heavily toward discord, which is always intriguing – it’s a talent, believe me. Crazy, energetic bass and percussion makes for some serious head banging.
Favourite tracks: Bent Rose (“She was a candle in the shithouse.” Love it) and I Light Stars, a devotional. Ian is a father of four and a churchgoing man: “There are times when I would send my only son to be with you.” Wow, that’s some line.
Hannah has gracefully stepped into the next phase of her career, recording this CD in New York and hiring musicians here to perform. All of this treatment has uncovered a larger sound for Hannah’s conversations around love. A female James Blunt, Hannah is a captivating beauty with ornate vocal stylings and phrasing. She and I were both scrambling to get this review ready as she put the finishing touches on this family-supported project that will be on the shelves for the Christmas run. My daughter Jessica has already bought two advance copies.
Favourite tracks: From Here – there’s hope for the broken-hearted, and Hello My Name is Time, a poppy assertion of girl power.
Oracles & Ice Cream
Recorded at Area 51 Recording Studio, Melancthon – 2010
Where did this guy come from? I don’t care. It’s been really fun getting to know his work. He’s seriously imaginative, creative and an all-round talent. Okay, this is what I hear in this two-CD set: The Beatles, The Dead, Queen, Pink Floyd and, hmm, Perth County Conspiracy. Ed plays some hot licks, writes some inspired lyrics, and has a whacked out sense of arrangement peppered with what might be a university major in politics and sarcasm. He’s got a masterful sense of humour and irony. Ed recently played at the Headwaters Arts Festival Gala and had us all jazzed Django Reinhardt-style, with friend Ansgar Schroer on harmonica. Special mention: the CD cover art by Yuliya Kostyuk.
Favourite tracks: The Roses and 12/28/13. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
James Woodstock and the Vegan Piranhas
Hope and Desperation
Recorded at Batty Steer Studios, Mono – 2009
James Woodstock is a lovely man here in the neighbourhood. His gentle, gracious character is reflected in his CD, a compilation of original songs with lyrics that are succinct and thoughtful – like the man. Lucky Mrs. James – a number of tracks are dedicated to their love, others to their happy life and friends, many of whom are represented among the musicians and production team. Valdy-like vocals with a hint of America’s Sister Golden Hair, James and his pals have produced a polished package and appear to have had fun in the process. I particularly enjoyed the western twang of the slide guitar.
Favourite Tracks: The title track, Hope and Desperation, and Lives Entwined – a celebration.
Listen Too Slow
Executive Producer, Casey Cole – 2011
That was a fun day. The first time I listened to Casey Cole’s CD, I scrambled to turn down the volume to avoid blowing the speakers in my car. I should be listening to it on a 1oo,ooo watt system. Casey, there should be a warning on your next one, okay? He likes to call his work “conscious rap,” and what I can hear of the lyrics is about being good to each other, standing tall, and change in general. Casey has had a challenging life and his music speaks to his triumphant recovery. His taste for rap was born when he first encountered “jungle.” Jungle is music mixed on vinyl and played at about 174 beats per minute. Is that good for you? He’d like to be a junglist MC. Casey’s music is influenced by Talib Kweli, Common and Kanye West, to give you a picture.
Favourite tracks: Time To Change Your Tune and Rainy Sunday.
Written, recorded and produced
by Rick Mauti – 2011
A powerful and exquisite CD of contemporary piano concertos/cantatas, or should I say, epics. Each piece is passionately written and eloquently executed. I hope Rick is selling some of this commercially for movie soundtracks because it’s perfect for that. Obviously classically trained, Rick’s writing has Gershwin overtones and Beethoven grandeur.
Favourite tracks: Seeing You Again has a real feel of The Homecoming, and A Mystical Moment – you know when that feather is falling in the Forrest Gump movie?