Compact DISCovery

Carolyn Fe.jpg

Original Sin

Blues music, like country music, comes in two flavours – traditional and evolutionary. Singer Carolyn Fe and her blues collective offers  up the former with two solid, straight-up “I, IV, V” blues numbers - on the title track and “Broken String” - right out of the gate on this, their second, release. 

But just as the listener starts to get a feel for the band’s sound and original songs (featuring outstanding performances by Dan Legault, Oisin Little, Tim Alleyne and George Papafilys) they do a bait and switch. With the exception of the lengthy “You And Me And The Blues”, the Clapton/Colin James-esque “Manual Overdrive” and the Downchild-ish “Bow Wow”, the band becomes evolutionary with its blues fingerprint applied to several other styles.

“Baby Bye Bye” takes a Patsy Cline rockabilly turn while “Let’s Soar” carves into a tribal Ted Nugent “Stranglehold” married to an Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” groove. Meanwhile, “Devil’s Food” offers up a fun TexiCali party blast. It’s only a horn section short of a Tijuana joy ride!
 Listeners will do a double take, however, with the inclusion of “Adji Wali” which can only be described as a long lost Everything But The Girl, Swedish Fish or Cranberries song. It plays like a 1990s Adult Alternative feel-good pop song that shows how Fe can handle pop as well as the blues. Great song, but probably better suited for a different type of album.

Where the band excels, and Fe’s vocals shine, is with the three variations on Swamp Boogie blues. “Some More” answers the question ‘What if Bif Naked let her blues flag fly?’ while “Don’t Be So Sad” recalls the kings of Canadian dirty blues: McKenna-Mendelson Mainline.
The true outstanding track on the entire album is “Rant” which slows down ZZTop’s excesses and ads a diatribe of Fe’s personal dislikes (a la Tom Petty’s “Jammin’ Me”). It’s directed at someone or something – it’s never spelled out exactly – but features one of the best catchphrases this listener has heard in a song in ages: “You’re just one of Satan’s Army brats”.

 Check these guys out in Montreal if you get a chance. They offer a refreshing twist on a worn out old musical trope.


Oracles & Ice Cream

Rarely does an independent album grab my attention on first listen. Many are fraught with production issues and performance anxiety and a general inability to cohesively convey an artist’s vision on such low budgets. It takes awhile to get inside the artist’s unfiltered mind and multiple listens are required to accurately critique what might very well be, arguably, an artist’s greatest (or only) work.

Ed Roman’s “Oracles & Ice Cream” is the exception. Nailing down a style is impossible over the breadth of 21 songs – and one intermission. I can only point out that what the listener experiences over this brave DOUBLE CD set is the equivalent to an evening with jazz, jam, folk and fusion masters. But that doesn’t accurately describe the sheer variety of the material for which Roman and his co-conspirators (Kevin Breit, Dave Patel, Tobias Tinker, Gord Barry, Jim Bish, Michael Jack, who co-produces, Joanna Mackie, Rob Krause, Teddy Forbes) throw onto the wall in this audio Power-Point presentation.

Vocally Roman juxtaposes bits of the best of Dave Matthews, Bruce Cockburn, Ed Robertson (Barenaked Ladies) and Dave Bidini/Martin Tielli (Rheostatics).  “Solitaire” and “Arco Animal” – the first video from the album on YouTube – could have easily been on Cockburn’s earliest folk encounters.
“So I Breathe” opens Disc 1 with not only a lilting Matthews-esque sensuality, but one of the most draw dropping single-note vocal tags since Sheriff’s “When I’m With You”: Roman holds a 21 second note in the second half of the song.

Meanwhile, there are Django Rheinhardt workouts (“Edouardo Carochio”, “Deish Padda”, “12/28/13”) and Steely Dan freakouts (“Waltz for Tesla”, “Slovak Gypsy 89”) and irreverent odes to one’s collection of felines (“16 Cats”). But do yourself a favour and save song #9 on Disc 1 until the very end. You can’t explain on paper what Rush’s “Spirit of Radio” might sound like if it were done by The Barenaked Ladies.

There’s something here for everyone and if you like well executed and produced music then “Oracles & Ice Cream” is a menu ripe for the listening.

Speaking of Django Rheinhardt , SONNY DAVIS (aka Alex Davidson) has six CDs worth of songs inspired by the likes of Rheinhardt, Tchan Tchou Vidal, Bireli Lagrene and other jazz guitar greats and rising stars. Davis’s latest is called “Jazz Manouche”.  Contact him on Facebook or email

Torch/jazz vocalist SOPHIE MILMAN has a masterful new 14 song album entitled “In The Moonlight” on Entertainment One featuring standards and showtunes including “‘Til There Was You”, “Prelude To A Kiss” and “Ces petits reins”.