Album Reviews

Connie Saulnier Impressions


Submitted by Cashbox Canada

As a singer-songwriter, Connie has thrilled audiences in Canada nationwide, carving “her place” into each province’s music scene. Performances and interviews on local TV, numerous nightspots including Vancouver’s musical launch pad ‘the Railway Club’ as well as being a staple in many hotspots, festivals, & community events. She has had the opportunity to partner on stage with many artists in singer-songwriter circles including Ryan Cook for Minor Music 2009 and performed during the 2009 NS Music Week in Yarmouth. Most recently, she performed at the 2010 Harmony Bazaar Festival of Women & Song in Lockeport where she participated in the Home Grown Stage & jammed in “Irish’s Invitational” with the likes of Irish Mythen & Coco Love Alcorn.

Born & raised in a small fishing community near Yarmouth NS, Connie has filled her life with a love for music. The sounds of an Acadian heritage; choirs, musical gatherings, celebrations & the ‘rock & roll’ sounds of the surf have fueled & fed her. From her first guitar (purchased with money raised from rolling coin for her school cafeteria; still used to write most her music on), to picking up unique instruments & musical teachings from travels around the globe you will hear in her music an explosion of passion, heart, soul & honesty. An Acadian soul, a worldly spirit.

Jim Byrnes: I Hear The Wind In The Wires


Black Hen

Big advantage in being an older musician fronting a solid, Juno-winning rep like Jim Byrnes is you can release an album like this and still keep your record deal. Known for the rich textures, emotional depths and narrative originality of his own songs, Byrnes goes all music geek by offering his highly subjective interpretations of select tunes from the Golden age of country music.

That said, there are tunes here that aren’t strictly country (“Ribbon Of Darkness”) from artists who aren’t really country either (Tom Waits), which gets us into that hair-splitting country between an album about country songs and a country album.

Teamed again with multi-instrumentalist/producer Steve Dawson and backed by area luminaries Geoff Hicks (drums), Chris Gestrin (organ, piano), Mike Sanyshyn (fiddle), Rob Becker (bass) and John Resichman (mandolin), Byrnes delivers just the best having-the-time-of-his life album.

With a set list drawn from artists including Hank Snow, Marty Robbins, Hank Williams, Nick Lowe, Buck Owens, and Dolly Parton, delivered with love and kickass swagger, this is probably Byrnes’ most immediately accessible and lovable album.

Extra high-fives to the man for a tres cool and most applicable album title, evoking those other Canuck icons Ian ‘Four Strong Winds’ Tyson and Leonard ‘Bird On a Wire’ Cohen.

Lenny Stoute

Snowblink: Inner Classics


Arts & Crafts

Here’s the second coming from slow-burning T.Dot duo Snowblink. If you loved the lush trance-folk sound and precision harmonies of debut album Long Live, then you’re gonna get wet all over again with this ‘un.

Inner Classics marks the first music from Daniela Gusundheit and Dan Goldman since the pair relocated Snowblink from SoCal to Toronto. Full marks to the lady for keeping her sunny-side-up world view and warm as worn cutoffs vocals intact. Good thing, these being elements central to the Snowblink charm.

What’s most noticably new is a willingness to deploy fresh musical shades and get messy with more involved arrangements. Opener “Pray For Surf” offers a new meld of Gusundheit’s stained glass gossamer vocals with Goldman’s manly, and this time around, more assertive voice. Propelling the track, smart indie-pop guitar licks from Goldman.

Next up is “Unsurfed Waves” a loping little surf-pop number oblique enough to qualify as a love child of Brian Wilson and Joni Mitchell. Simply framed, instantly acessible and a jewel box for the act’s unique charms and warmth, this one has solid earworm potential.If “Unsurfed Waves” is the rocker, then “Safety Stories” is the chiller, slow, sedate, taking its time to reveal its subtle charms. Just when you think it’s going to stay a sweet-natured plodder, Bruce Peninsula’s Misha Bower checks in with a cool, full-bodied vocal correctly contrasting Gusundheit’s sweetness, in one of the album’s standout moments.

Cecilia Monte Open Air

Cecilia Monte Open Air.jpg

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

Clayton Doley Desperate Times.jpg

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

Jimmy Zee Band Ride.jpg

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

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