Album Reviews

Louis Janelle Dance Everybody

Louis Janelle Dance Everybody.jpg

Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Born in Terrebonne Quebec, Louis Janelle’s musical beginnings were rather peculiar! For instance, at eight years old, he started on a drum set that he put together using old ice cream cans, cardboard boxes and pie plates. He also built his first electric guitar from a discarded entrance stair! And it kept on. He received his first real electric guitar at 10, a gift from his sister. He played it for almost 4 years with HIS tuning, as musical knowledge was lacking at the time! Indeed, Louis Janelle is one of those self-thaught people who persevered to major levels of skill in their art.In the course of his career, he has worked with more than 10 of the best known Blues groups. Since 10 years now, he is working on his solo projects , one of which was nominated for «Album of the Year» at the 2006 Lys Blues Awards.

Hans Theessink & Terry Evans: True & Blue

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Another wonderful release from Europe's finest acoustic blues-roots picker Hans Theessink here partnered by his long-time buddy from Mississippi, Terry Evans.

The pair have now released three joint efforts following their chance meeting at Winnipeg Folk Festival a few years ago. Evans, of course, is probably best-known for his sideman vocal work with one of the USA's legendary acoustic/music greats, Ry Cooder, and Cooder himself has previously guested on this couple's previous recordings.
True & Blue is a full 14-track cracker with all of Theessink's superb fretwork and vocals on display topped and tailed by Evans and his own soulful vocal delivery and quality guitar play. The result is an extremely poised, polished and powerful album of classic, traditional blues and roots music, a release that could well be one of the finest you're likely to hear this year.

Recorded live in Dutch-born Theessink's hometown Vienna,, tracks include Bill Broonzy's 'Glory of Love' featuring some truly sparkling fretwork; Chuck Berry's rip-roaring 'Maybellene'; 'Talk to your Daughter', and Leadbelly's 'Bourgeois Blues'. This is a typically smooth offering from two of the finest current bluesmen at the top of their game.

Definitely an album to relish.

Mitch Mann: Blackwater Creek

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Submitted by Iain Patience

This is simply an excellent album. Fourteen tracks of perfectly pitched, Muscle Shoals produced blues and Americana mixed to near perfection. From the opening 'Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad', an old standard on any Americana musician's set-list with strong blues credentials, through solid, distinct takes on classic blues numbers like "St Louis Blues' to 'Tom Clark' and beyond, this release is a true gem.

Mann is a highly respected singer-songwriter/guitarist in the Alabama area and with this album he has returned to his acoustic-guitar roots. The result is a genuinely top-quality bit of work that has more than enough interesting material to cater for most lovers of roots in a general sense and blues and Americana in the more particular. The blend is seamless and on the button at all times. Sax and Trumpet/horns feature on a few tracks - as might be expected from a Muscle Shoals recording - but never dominates, detracts or distracts from Mann's own picking and powerful vocals.

Overall Blackwater Creek is a great album, highly recommended and worth searching out.

Michael Falzarano: i got blues for ya

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Falzarano is one of those largely overlooked US guitarists with a pedigree that should give him a strong profile and following. Probably best known for his work with Hot Tuna frontman Jorma Kaukonen, he also played with the near -legendary New Riders Of The Purple Sage and is little short of a master of US roots music. This is a major blues/roots American sideman with an effortless touch and an astonishing ability and background.

'I Got Blues For Ya' was first released over a year ago but is only now being actively pushed and promoted across the Pond. It's a twelve-track treat, featuring Falzarano's unfaltering fretwork, soulful guitar chops and sly, absorbing vocals.

With a background and grounding as a sideman to Jorma Kaukonen it comes as no surprise to find some Rev Gary Davis included in the mix and Falzarano's cover of one his most commonly covered and haunting numbers 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' is a standout track here, together with the attention grabbing, rolling boogie of 'Snake Box Boogie.'

This album clearly shows why Falzarano has remained at the top of the blues-roots sideman tree in his native USA but leaves me wondering why he still, somehow or other, manages to maintain a low, below the radar profile elsewhere.

Iain Patience

Glen Hornblast: Once In A Blue Moon

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Submitted by Don Graham

If you like your songs to be real, vocals to be honest and production clean and crisp the you need to have Glen Hornblast’s Once In A blue Moon in your collection.

The CD is a mix of Glen's best songs that he’s written over the last three decades. The mood and subject of the songs come from the folk music background of Glen from gritty  blues to to heartbreakin’ country songs. Glen’s voice sits comfortably in the tracks and his effortless delivery is full of the depth and emotion of the tunes. “Mary” is a personal favourite. The story of a homeless woman who’s “only crime was being poor.” Great song. "Freedom Train" gets down to it in a tale of the Underground Railroad that was created after a trip to the Memphis Martin Luther King Museum.“True Blue Forever”, “River” and “Loretta” are a few other  picks on this 12 song offering.

Leeroy Stagger Dream It All Away

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Submitted by Don Graham

A little Steve Earle, a little John Prine, a little Bruce Springsteen and whole lot of his own heart and soul make up Canadian alt/country/folk/rock minstrel Leeroy Stagger’s music.

His new album, Dream It All Away, on Rebeltone Records, is an up close and personal look at the struggles, triumphs and soul of Leeroy Stagger. The 10 song CD, his 10th in a 12 year career, is the best work Stagger has done to date and he has an extensive body of work to compare it to.

In Leeroy’s words “The birth of my son unexpectedly dredged up childhood stuff I hadn’t dealt with. I was in the middle of a record deal that was supposed to be a dream come true but wasn’t. I started to dismantle my music career. I fell down the rabbit hole into a major depression. When I started to come out of my fog I found my story; faith and struggle, birth and rebirth, love and darkness. And the result is this album, “Dream It All Away.”

The album was produced by Russell Broom in Calgary and Lethbridge, and features drummer Pat Seward who has worked with Bryan Adams and Odds and bassist Mike Lent who has backed up k.d.lang and Jann Arden.

Tia McGraff: Crazy Beautiful

Tia McGrath Crazy Beautiful.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Every time I get to review a Tia McGraff album it’s always the same feeling. ‘this is the best one yet” and Crazy Beautiful is no different. This album IS the best yet from Tia and her musical and life partner Tommy Parnham. There is no doubt that Tia is one of Americana’s gifted singer songwriters and Tommy is a gifted musician and producer. . Crazy Beautiful was recorded in Austin, Texas Nashville, Tennessee, and Southern Ontario in Canada. The album features Grammy Award winning  musicians Cindy Cashdollar, Dave Sanger,  from Asleep At The Wheel ,Tommy Harden who played with Reba, Dave Labruyere from  John Mayer’s band  and also involved were  Juno and Grammy award winning engineers Nick Blagona and Rick DeLellis. Crazy Beautiful was  mixed and master by Nick Blagona and produced by Tommy Parham, with all songs written by  Tia McGraff and Tommy Parham.

Crazy Beautiful is the title of the album as well as a track on the CD but could be referring to the quality of the songs, the clean production, the “ voice like liquid honey” vocals or just the lead singer. All are applicable.

This is the album Tia and Tommy were born to make should be a major breakthrough for them.  The opening track “What a Heart Must Do is pop/.country tune, radio friendly in sound and lyric. Well done.

The Darkness: Last of Our Kind

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

It was easy to make fun of The Darkness when they debuted in 2003, with Justin Hawkins' over the top semi-operatic vocals drawing all kinds of outlandish comparisons, one fave being 'John Cleese doing Freddy Mercury ' and 'the reincarnation of Spinal Tap.'  The chuckles died down when Permission to Land, went straight up to number two in the UK charts upon its release on 7 July 2003, before going to number one and staying there for four weeks, eventually going on to sell 1.5 million copies in the UK. What followed was the classic rock'n'roll path to fame and then down the other side, with albums two and three not hitting with as much impact, and Justin Hawkins departure for a stint in rehab after which he left the band.

That was then and this is 2015 and even though they recently went through three drummers in a year, Last of Our Kind brims with the swagger, confidence and clever songwriting which marked their early music. The Darkness were never shy about wearing their influences on their sleeves so consequently you get yer AC/DC power riffage, (“Open Fire”, “Mudslide”), Queen-ly anthems (“Mighty Wings”, “Roaring Waters”), some Metallica flavor (“Barbarian”), some woozy Stones-y blues rock (“Wheels Of The Machine”, “Hammer & Tongs”) and Aerosmith would be proud to call the stomping 'Mudslide' their own.

Ron Korb Asia Beauty

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Submitted by Don Graham

Canadian flutist Ron Korb has travelled around the world collecting bamboo and various ethnic indigenous flutes. Reflecting Celtic, Asian, classical, jazz and Latin influences, his music embodies the diverse cultures, traditions and experiences of his travels.

Korb has kept his reputation as the master of Asian flutes in good standing with his latest effort “Asia Beauty”.  This new offering is confirmation on every level, beginning with the packaging, a digi-book CD cover filled  with incredible photography and  stunning music to soothe and seduce the spirit.

The album contains nineteen tracks and three bonus tracks, about  twenty  performers, and an array of different  of instruments flutes, erhu, guqin, guzheng, harp, piano, violin, African kalimba, drums and accordion.

“Asia Beauty” starts with the alluring Hanoi Café, which alerts the listener into knowing that this album will provide an interesting and moving journey.

The following tracks 2 right through to 8 are based on Korb’s own Jade Dragon Flute and The House of Five Beauties tales with The Journey Begins starting things off featuring a duet with Korb on flute and long-time friend and collaborator Donald Quan on piano introducing us to the House of Five Beauties.

Alabama Shakes Sound & Color

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

They don't get more cranked up than Brittany Howard, a comfortably built former postal worker who brings major muscle to her intense vocalising. When the   lady and her Athens, Alabama band Alabama Shakes turned out debut album Boys & Girls in 2012, the world went 'Whoa' for the front-porch geetar slinging , casual confidence of players at home in a lot of styles and the instant appeal of familiar-sounding songs such as Hold On, a creature of soulful swamp rock, with a craw full of garage gravel and voodoo blues.

Three years later they're still muchly that in the aesthetics but on Sound & Color there's so much, much more to work with. F'r instance, while Howard's been previously compared to such as Etta James and Janis Joplin, Howard's shift here is towards  Curtis Mayfield, Prince, Marvin Gaye and Erykah Badu.

The song , Future People, encapsulates many of the changes defining the current state of Alabama Shakes. It rides on two very different  guitar lines from Howard and Heath Fogg  and when Howard breaks out the vocals, it isn't the usual powerhouse belt but a falsetto croon which takes us through this tale of meeting dearly departed friends and family as spirit guides. Then its chorus time and a chest thumping funky bass line arrives for one more changeup.

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