Album Reviews

Cecilia Monte Open Air

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Dedicated to the interpretation of bossa-nova, samba and jazz, Argentina-born Cecilia Monte is a young singer with distinct vocal expression, grace and subtlety. Throughout her career, she has touched audiences in Argentina, Canada and the USA with her soulful sound.

Born into a musical family, Cecilia began her music education at age four. She studied extensively in Argentina, both in conservatories and with private teachers, learning vocal technique, jazz and improvisation.

In 2009 - 2010, she furthered her jazz studies in Vancouver with vocal teachers Steve Maddock and Karin Plato. She also performed live with Karin Plato as a vocal duo.  In 2011, Cecilia continued her professional development in Toronto, ON as a member of the Toronto Jazz Chorus, directed by Howard Rees. In addition, she attended the Vocal Jazz Workshops he teaches.

Cecilia also participated in jazz master Barry Harris Vocal and Improvisation Jazz Workshops in New York City, took private voice lessons with Ranee Lee in Montréal, QC, and participated at Dominique Eade’s Vocal Jazz Workshop at Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival.

David Bryne & St.Vincent: Love This Giant



Here’s another ‘superstarry’effort from a Cancuk/American combination of talents, the godfather of modern artrock David Bryne and geek rock guitarist suprema Annie (St. Vincent) Clark. When superstars come together, the expectation is of something new from them, something ‘super’. Not this time. Wisely aware that their peculiar aesthetics are way too far apart for a comfortable meld, this album is a promising graft of the best bits from each one’s trick bag. So no reinventing the wheel then, just build a whole new vehicle.

Excellent news for artrock fans is that many of the rhythms and arrangements could have come right off a Talking Heads album, making this David’s liveliest output in some time. He did it without compromising his conceptualist cred by building the album around a brass band, an in yer face challenge to both these notoriously picky aesthetes and their fans.

So damn if the thing doesn’t sound fresh, confident and downright infectious in parts. As might be imagined, arrangements stop just this thrilling side of over the top, and the melodies the pair have come up with sound right every time.

A surprise is how well the voices both counterpoint and harmonies each other, with Mr. Avant Garde getting all accessible with some of the best licks of his career. The lady veers between quirky and a imposing haunted sound, conjuring shades of Chan Marshall, but unmistakably a product of the St. Vincent sensibility.

Divine Fits: A Thing Called Divine Fits


You’ve likely already heard of this trio’s ‘supergroupery’ and certainly the name check sorta justifies it. The lineups Spoon front man Britt Daniel, former mainspring of Montreal outfits Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs Dan Boeckner and Ohio punk stormers New Bomb Turks’ stickman Sam Brown.

A problem with the supergroup thing is it leads to heightened expectations, something more than just a sum of the parts. While the album doesn’t lack its unexpected, shivery moments, the bulk of the tunes and the way they’re put together leave too many references to the old pedigrees showing.

F’r instance, Daniels’ most consistent point of reference here is Spoon’s edgyest album, 2010's "Transference": with its loose guitar jams and psyche synth breaks. It’s also the intersection point where he and Boeckner could comfortably meld their respective strengths.

The result’s a garagey, Goth-dancey, indie rocky flow, signposted by a cover of Nick Cave’s "Shivers”. Picking up the Goth-rock torch, "Flaggin' a Ride" and the Boeckner-sung  "What Gets You Alone," hit the sweet spot.

There’s an interesting career dynamic hovering over this project. Britt Daniel’s taken Spoon to a level of creative and commercial success that it’s maintained for a decade. So you know you’re gonna hear the ‘side project’ and ‘hobby’ band knocks.

Whitehorse: The Fate Of The World depends On This Kiss


Six Shooter Records

Given the florid title and the fact Whitehorse is the Canuck alt rock version of Brangelina, this could easily have gone sideways from the get-go. ‘Nuff credit then to married couple Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland for keeping the music top of mind and skip out on the cutesy stuff.

Both with substantial music biz resumes behind them, what seemed like a sideline project at first, with this second album has yielded seemed some of the best material of either artist’s career. They work live without a backing band, using looping pedals and an arsenal of instruments to colour the songs. On The Fate…the approach is applied to the studio with impressive results. Apart from a variety of drummers, McClelland and Doucet make every sound you hear, plus totally wrapped around each other harmonies. Her cool, yearning voice suggests longing and restlessness, his warm tenor offers comfort and familiarity.

Within the Whitehorse parameters, they’ve come up with a surprisingly varied clutch of tunes, from the sultry blues of "Achilles Desire" to the Beatlesque "Out Like a Lion" to the noir-movie electro groove of "Jane.” and the album’s most perfect pop moment, “Devil’s got A Gun”.

Great soundtrack for a Labour Day weekend road trip to the country.

Lenny Stoute

Clayton Doley – Desperate Times

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Clayton Doley is Australia's finest Hammond organist and is quickly gaining international recognition as one of the top new players on the world stage. His fierily bluesy virtuosity has earned him spots on on some of the worlds biggest festivals including Montreal International Jazz Festival, Byron Bay Blues Festival, Toronto Jazz Festival and Tremblant International Blues Festival to name a few.

Drawn to the Hammond B3 organ from a very early age, he is a master of the instrument. He has dedicated his life to exploring the full potential of the B3 hammond organ and utilising it's dynamics, depth of tone and it's bass pedals. Not just an organist, Clayton has a deep and rich and soulful singing voice and his bluesy songwriting combines modern structure and harmony with thoughtful and sensitive lyrics.

In the summer of 2011 landed in Toronto at the invitation of Harry Manx and quickly immersed himself in the vibrant local music scene. He instantly met likeminded musicians who inspired him to form a group based on his first love – The Organ Trio.

Consisting of drums, guitar and Doley himself on the Hammond B3 and its bass pedals, it’s hard to believe that just three musicians can put out such a big sound.
The CD was recorded at the famous Canterbury Sound in the funky west side of Toronto on a cold December night. All these songs were either first or second takes captured live in the room using vintage microphones and instruments.

The Jimmy Zee Band – Ride

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The Jimmy Zee Band is back on the road with ‘Ride’, another funky, smoking roadhouse blues recording. ‘Ride’ features a collection of new and original songs, plus a stellar version of Rush’s ‘Working Man, done like you have never heard before.

Nominated for Blues Recording of the Year by the Western Canadian Music Awards for 2010’s ‘Devil Take Me Down’, Jimmy Zee’s single from that recording ‘Roxy Roller’ was named one of the Top Ten Remakes of All Time by The Toronto Star.

The sound is funky and soulful, while maintaining the balance between smooth jazz and new blues with special feature solos reminiscent of great classic rock. The vocals are smoky, gravely and the music features some of Canada’s best.

Jimmy Zee is known through his writing and production credits, having placed songs with John Michael Montgomery, Aaron Tippin, Diamond Rio and Neil McCoy to name a few. His singles ‘Sante Fe’, ‘Diamonds’ and the remake of Sweeney Todd’s ‘Roxy Roller’ have garnered international attention with adds and chart positions on radio playlists in the US, Europe, Japan and Canada.

If you are a fan of the blues, this is a must have for your collection. If you are new to lovin’ the blues, this is a great CD to show you the way.

Music at it’s finest – Truly ‘Zee’ best.

Sandy Graham

Young Guv & The Scuzz: A Love Too Strong



Guitarist Ben Cook’s job with prog-punk stars Fucked Up is to bring the melodies to Damian Abraham’s hard-hitting extravaganzas. In the process he’s evolved a shimmering, sparkling, incredibly fluid and exuberant style of lead guitar and this action-packed throwdown is all about that.

In six songs under 22 minutes, Cooks makes a strong case for cleverly constructed, forceful, squeaky clean and loud power pop, ably assisted by top-flight production work. At certain points influences come through loud and clear but at no point do they ever overwhelm a track or obscure Cook’s signature sound. Or his way with a flurry of hooks, as on “Heal In Time” and “I Am The Rogue”.

There’s not a dog in the lot nor a single wasted or stepped on note and at the end, one of few albums recently heard that genuinely left a body wanting for more. Oh yeah, responsible for that in a big way, the amazing work of sound engineer Steve Chahley, a name we’ll be hearing more of sooner rather than later.

Lenny Stoute

Andrea England Hope & Other Sins

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Canada’s Andrea England has a unique ability to work successfully in two different music worlds, placing her pop co-writes such as “Casualty” on Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger’s solo debut album, Killer Love, and recording and performing as a solo artist herself in a folk/roots/country vein. Her sophomore album, Hope & Other Sins, is the long-awaited follow-up to 2005’s Lemonade, the debut that enabled her to work behind the scenes as a professional songwriter.

“The fact I wrote on a song as pop as pop can be boggles the mind of people in the folk genre,” Andrea laughs.

Her new album, Hope & Other Sins — produced in Nashville by Colin Linden (Bruce Cockburn, Colin James, Stephen Fearing), and featuring such special guest musicians as Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Liz Rodrigues, Gordie Sampson and Damhnait Doyle — is about resilience, much like Lemonade was, how life can knock you down, but nothing good can come from staying down for the count. “A lot of the songs on this album have, at the seed, some kind of conflict or struggle, but in the end they are hopeful.” And that’s just who Andrea is — a glass half-full kind of person.

Ruthless Ones: Ruthless Ones

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Powerful stuff from this young ska/punk outfit with loads of energy and promise. Ruthless Ones are Ian Robertson (gtr, vcls), Evgeni Varakin (gtr, vcls), Elliot Siebert (bass, vcls) and Nik Robe (drms), and all those voices are very necessary for the group’s shout along choruses.

Stylistically, they draw from ‘White Riot’ era Clash for the socio-political stance and West Indian rhythms and from Stiff Little Fingers for the teen energy and the scalding guitar breaks. Within those parameters, Ruthless Ones manage to find space to experiment with nuance and texture.

While “Natty Treble” is a classic slice of old school Oi punk, “Walls” is completely in the punk now, with its nods to metal and garage influences. Given that this isn’t a genre known for intricate arrangements, the band’s ability to flip the script saves the album from sounding too much all the same.

While the musicianship is just fine, Robertson’s up from the guts lyrics sets Ruthless Ones apart. Loosely themed around a young man’s coming of age struggles in the urban world; “Long Run” goes down the bleak road of teen angst, “Nobody Knows” checks on communities within the communities we think we all know and “Big Eye” is a clever breakdown on how Big Brother has become just another commodity on the greed market, which Robertson implies, is a much scarier prospect than ol’ Big Brother hisself.

The River’s Edge Steve Rivers

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Submitted by Don Graham

Steve Rivers is part of the new breed of young country artists emerging on the scene today. It’s country music, but with an edge. That doesn’t mean it’s pop or mainstream, it’s more like a cross between Creedence Clearwater, Bruce Springsteen, The Allman Brothers and Hank Sr.

Splitting his time between Nashville and Ontario, the Canadian native is working hard to carve out a place for himself in the ultra competitive country market. When asked what sets him apart Rivers says ” Hopefully my songs and my stage show. We try every night to give the folks their money’s worth and try and write what’s in my heart, and in the show we try and make the crowd  feel like they are a part of the show.”

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