Concert Reviews

Winterfolk 2019 Roundup

The Guitar Boys of Alderon.jpg

Submitted by Sammy Jay Copeland
Photo Credits: Emily Wilson (Noir Basteast)
Photo: The Guitar Boys of Alderon

“And all the bars were filled to the rafters with tales of narrowly averted disasters and the whiskey was flowing... Like never before”... - Ani DiFranco

OPENING PARTY, MAGGIE AND MR. ROGERS, THE BLACK SWAN

The opening party of Winterfolk XXVII had packed the Black Swan (locally known by an older generation as The Dirty Duck) with a crowd of mostly middle-aged, white jazz folk and blues aficionados. There were a few exceptions to this demographic trend, as evidenced by the presence of a black jazz freak bobbing his head at the table in front of me when I arrived and sat in the side section which was still marked with a bygone era's segregated marker declaring it as exclusively for 'Women and Escorts.'

The staff appears to be mostly young people and on stage, the night's opening act (Maggie and Mr. Rogers) consisted of a very young petite woman and a very old looking bespectacled man playing music that seemed straight out of O Brother, Where Art Thou? As I gazed at the stage, Maggie seemed to make eye contact with me as she sang about a 'Truth In My Eyes' and her love for her sweet city. (maggieandmrrogers.com)

Miles Electric Band Koerner Hall Toronto

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

What with the Iranian cabbie banging South Indian bhangra on the way to the transformative music of the Miles Electric Band, crosspollination was in the air this Saturday night. Miles Electric Band focuses on entirely on interpreting the music of Davis’s electric period, when he released Bitches Brew, On the Corner and Jack Johnson. This however, ain't no tribute band. It does not faithfully replicate the songs; instead it holds to the spirit of the recordings, which was all about fusion and improvisations. The original recording sessions were convened with no music written down beyond basic song structures, the playing field that Davis required for what was to come. This is the jumping off point for the music of Miles Electric Band.

The lineup that filed quietly onstage before a buzzing audience was led by drummer/bandleader Vince Wilburn, Jr, followed by Davis alumnus Robert Irving 111 (keyboards), guitarist David Gilmore, Toronto tabla master Ravi Naimpally, bassist Dywane "MonoNeon" Thomas Jr , noted percussionist Munyungo Jackson, hip-hop turntablist DJ Logic, saxist Antoine Roney and fronting for Miles on trumpet, Etienne Charles.

Abby and Beamer What If They’re Wrong?

Abby Stewart and Beamer Wigley CNE 2017 Photo Credit Fiona Lawson Studio 22 Photography.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham
Photo Credit: Fiona Lawson Studio 22 Photography

Canadian Country music has a new emerging power couple, Abby and Beamer. Each artist had already began planting the seeds of solo careers from different sides of the country. Beamer Wigley a feature in a recent Cashbox profile, from Penticton, British Columbia and Kingston Ontario’s Abby Stewart have just released a new single to radio, “What If They’re Wrong” to radio. We were fortunate to catch up with the duo while in Toronto at a CNE concert where they opened for superstar Brett Kissel.

Dave Arcari Live at Memorial Hall

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Dave Arcari is one of those guys that is often out on the road touring, gigging and travelling around his native UK, Scottish homeland, much of Europe and more recently the USA. Known for his hard, driving and percussive style, Arcari favours steel-resonator guitars and banjos for his, at times pretty unique, take on blues and roots music, with a fine eye for Scottish traditional folk music which he attacks with absolute confidence and thundering acerbity.

In many ways it’s hard not to think of Arcari as a bit of a ‘wild man’, a blues rebel with a purpose and power that spills out with every song he works. Most of the 26 tracks on this live release are self-penned and all feature his distinctive blues take and gripping, grit and whiskey-fuelled vocals. I’ve been a fan of this guy’s music for some years now and have caught his live performance where he really does come into his own clearly enjoying the performance and his audience participation.

Sean Jones Casa Loma Toronto

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

On a gorgeous August eve, in the resplendent gardens of a Gothic Revival castle, Toronto's Crown Prince of soul Sean Jones came out to play. Used to seeing Jones testifying to the downtown soul set in enticingly lit clubs like Candyland, so odds were high the set list would be verry diff for the castle crowd. While Jones solo material can upon occasion go dark, the pre show vibe was tres partee and drinkee, hotly anticipating the sound track they came for. They would not be disappointed.

Jones arrived fronting a sextet of genre heavies with backing singer Miku and glided into the vibe enhancing original "This is Love." Great response, as was generated by all of the singles, mostly notably the current “Smoke”. Having ratcheted up the tension sufficiently, Jones got the party smoothly started with Bobby Hebb's 1966 hit "Sunny." The take was a template of what was to follow, an emotional meld of sinewy tenor and sweet falsetto. This from Jones about that: "We've coined the sound "soul over rock" because my delivery still has a strong Soul influence yet ... the tracks really move ... the feel is not urban but rather a fusion of soul and R&B vocals."

Do Make Say Think Danforth Music Hall Toronto

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Submitted by Sam Jay Copeland
Photo Credits : Ryland Tomlinson

If you were looking for a mosh pit last Saturday, you probably didn't find it at the Danforth Music Hall. But the self-described 'old farts' of Toronto's own Do Make Say Think definitely delivered excitement for the crowd, even if it was more in the form of a mesmerized audience swaying back and forth, bathed in purple light.

Originally an art project which practised in the basement of the CIUT radio building, Do Make Say Think is now over 20 years deep into a career that is as innovative as it is referential. Their music lacks lyrics, but is packed with emotion and energy. The average track length is maybe 9 minutes, and when I first heard it long ago as an artsy 14 year old, it reminded me of Godspeed You! Black Emperor complete with emotional rollercoaster, the jazz drum beat which is reminiscent of a train chugging forward into eternity but without the despair or obvious political messaging of Godspeed.

Do Make Say Think seems to let the audience draw their own conclusions, but each song has a distinct mood to it. But what genre are they anyway? Long-time front man Ohad Benchetrit explained between songs:

Kim Doolittle Hugh's Room Live Toronto

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Last winter I walked into a Kim Doolittle show just as she was wrapping up a song called "Snowballs Day In Hell." It's a droll little narrative about why she no longer takes requests at shows and I wished I'd heard more. Got my wish on a muggy summer's eve when I entered HRL just as the lady was getting started on, yeah, "Snowballs Day In Hell." so finally heard the whole thing and it was worth it.

Also, very much in the spirit of the event because Kim Doolittle showed up at Hugh's Room Live to do a celebratory concert for the release of album number 9, Into The Blue, and a good ol' East Coast kitchen party broke out. Backed by the stellar combo of guitaristsKen Whiteley and Rob Quail, Tom Leighton on piano and accordion and one of town's best backlines, drummer Bucky Berger and bassist Victor Bateman on bass, Doolittle went to work on Into The Blue and its infusions of blues, folk, roots rock, country and roof raisin' Gospel. Hair-raising actually, as her close to 7 minute take on "Amazing Grace" was a mesmerising and transporting experience that went from acacpella to the joyous foot stompin' end of Gospel, leaving not a soul in the house unmoved.

Linda Carone - The Jazz Bistro Toronto - Live

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

The chestnut haired jazz singer finished Kitty White's "So Many Beautiful Men" with a knowing grin and a vocal swagger and as the place erupted in applause murmured, "Story of my life in my younger days. Now I'm focused on my big bad handsome man," beaming at the lucky gent in a scrum of well wishers as she launched into Imelda Mays "Big Bad Handsome Man."

So yeah, Linda Carone is a damn fine singer but she also brings da show. Abetted by a stellar crew of George Koller ( upright bass) Johnny Johnson (saxes, bass clarinet) Michael Shand ( piano) and Mark Kelso( drums), LC did that thing where she sets up a time trip by telling a little bit about the origin of a tune, applies her own vocal interpretation, then hands it over to the personna who takes it all the way home to the Thirties or so with a sense she fits the period like a kidskin glove and with nary a break in character.

On another hand, it was a lovingly curated shoutot to the huge contributions made to the blues by female artists, with Carone introducing the likes of Une Mae Carlisle (Oh I'm Evil), Lane Leighton(The Spring Don't Mean A Thing To Me) and Helen Humes ( Livin' My Life My Way) with such rapport that she surely made fans for herself as well as the artists she drew from.

Matt Andersen Live and Spellbinding

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Submitted by Don Graham
Photo Credit: Fiona Lawson Studio 22 Photography

Listening to a Matt Andersen CD is an exciting audio experience, seeing Matt Andersen with a full band is awesome, but seeing Matt Andersen solo takes it to a whole other level. 

The man and his guitar is something I wasn’t really prepared for. Andersen was over the top on all levels, his hold on the audience, his powerful and controlled vocals with acres of dynamics and guitar mastery that made his acoustic guitar sound like an entire band.

King Wizard and the Lizard Gizzard Danforth Music Hall (Toronto)

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

"Please don't be smoking anything in the entrance. Please move away from the entrance." The security was addressing a large fogbank of high-grade resin hanging over the sidewalk directly in front of the venue as fans of the Aussie septet got their weed on. The vibe out front was all love and brotherly hugs as the fans of the neopsychedelic outfit adhere strongly to the hippie ethic and inside, it was thus also with the addition of genre touches like wizard hats and an excellent Lizard Gizzard mask.

Opener Orb stormed through the bottom half of their set to a two-thirds full room. When the left the stage it was full and by the time King Wizard and the Lizard Gizzard came on we were jammed up against the walls and the bars and if the woman in front of me stepped back just another millimeter I was gonna have to buy her dinner. Not bad for an act that gets zero airplay, whose albums are hard to find and whose music fits no genre. Someone noted that this was their third time in Toronto and each time, they play a larger venue, then turned to cheer for the roadies moving stuff around. That was how pumped the crowd was and the band did not disappoint.

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