Reviews

The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer: A Real Fine Mess

A Real Fine Mess The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer.jpg

Indie
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

This act had me at the name and I’m real glad I went with that. From the high-stepping guitar riff which intros album opener ‘Black and Blue,’ this thing just yells summer album. And jumps, shouts and dances about it too, a soundtrack for sweet, sticky summer nights, whether you be jamming in a club or wheeling around town.

One that goes both ways on those counts is ‘Mama’s In the Backseat’, driven by a rockabilly guitar riff played with a meth-tempoed strum that just never lets up for it’s entire 2.48 length. Even when they play it summer languid, as on ‘My Paradise’, the springy bass and guitar lines put a snap in the song’s basic mid-tempo arrangement. The contrast between Halls’ gravel throat and the honeyed backing vocals work very effectively here, as do they in conjuring up the hot summer night soul of ‘Feel Me Now’.

The B.C. based blues-rooted duo dropped a self-titled debut in 2008, and almost immediately became festival faves. One listen to any track on this one and you get why.

Axeman/drummer (and producer) Matthew Rogers and singer/harpist Shawn Hall work from a gritty primal sound, beefed up here by female backing vocals, keyboards and four horn players. While they work from the wellworn delta cum electric blues template, Hall and Rogers have crafted enough solid originals to lay claim to a ‘sound’. What that is keeps mutating, this time around with more funky bass lines and arrangements and more room for the backing vocals.

Melissa Payne: High and Dry

Melissa Payne High and Dry.jpg

Seven Fire Records
Submitted by Sandy Graham

Like many artists before her, singer-songwriter Melissa Payne grew up in an area where musical talent ran deep and was never in short supply. That was Ennismore Ontario. Inspired by family and friends and fiddle lessons from the internationally acclaimed Leahy family, Melissa developed a love for playing and performing music at an early age.

By 18, she had taught herself to play guitar and began writing songs. With her fiddle and guitar and a batch of original songs she began building a fan base in the Peterborough On area performing wherever she could. She also managed to land a job as a tour hand on the road with world renowned fiddler Natalie McMaster. It was during that time she learned firsthand about the determination and dedication it takes to be a successful touring artist. The past couple of years have been busy with playing, touring and writing including appearances at Mariposa, the Boots & Hearts festival and the Peterborough Folk festival.

In 2009, Payne did a demo of her songs and garnered the attention from Seventh Fire Records. This resulted in the release of a 2012 self-titled CD. After making an indelible impression with her playing on Express & Company’s 2013 Ontario, Payne, accompanied by producer Greg Keelor (Blue Rodeo) and co-producer/engineer James McKenty, took that momentum into the studio to write and record the songs that would become the final product – ‘High and Dry’.

Tommy James Live at Casino Rama

Tommy James Live

Submitted by Sandy Graham

Watching Tommy James and The Shondells is like buying a personal ticket to your memories through music. With a crowd of close to 5,000 people filling the theatre venue at Casino Rama, TJ came out to a thunderous applause to ‘Draggin’ the Line’ and it only went up from there.

Taking you through a series of his hit records; ‘Hanky Panky’, ‘It’s Only Love’,’Getting Together’,’Crimson & Clover’,‘Sweet Cherry Wine’, ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’, and using ‘Mony, Mony’ as a huge crowd pleaser by coming down off stage and walking through the audience, stopping to sign autographs and let people take photos with him on their phones and cameras. I saw TJ do this last year at the CNE and it really works. Although security gets overwhelmed walking beside him, with everyone wanting to touch, hug and shake his hand. While TJ does the ‘walkaround’ his band vamps and waits for him to return to the stage. What is so refreshing to see is the current rendition of The Shondells enjoy singing and performing the hits as much as Tommy James does, and there is a great chemistry on stage as well as strong three part harmonies from  John Golden (lead guitar and music director) Owen Yost (bass guitar) and Jonathan Ashe (acoustic guitar). Keeping it all together are the rest of The Shondells; Glen Wyka on drums, Bennie Harrison on Hammond B3, and Mike De Maeo on synthesizer.

Bob Mould Beauty & Ruin

Bob Mould Beauty & Ruin

Merge
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

This is Bob doing Bob’s Greatest Bits and that ain’t no small thing. This is album 11 from Mould solo and it’s been one long, intriguing struggle to create a musical indentity distinct from the one that inhabited his iconic bands Husker Du and Sugar. This one though, refers directly back to previous outing Silver Age, a career standout and consequently sets itself up for direct comparisons.

Backed by the killer rhythm section of bassist Jason Narducy and Superchunk/Mountain Goats stickman Jon Wurster, Mould gets to work with vigour on the retropunk rippers  “Kid With Crooked Face” and “Hey Mr. Grey”, echoes from early Husker Du highspeed wonders, as is “Hey Mr. Grey”, which has some definite melodic similarities to early works. Not a bad thing and inevitable really, as Mould balances moving on with retaining that part of his fanbase invested in vintage Mould.

Even closer to that mood is the brilliant “I Don’t Know Anymore”, on which Bob drops with both feet on fire into the fuzzed-out, scuzzpunk love letter to a dubious amour, an album highlight. Ditto the menacing slow churn and hammer of “Low Season”; on floor stomper “The War”, he shouts “Listen to my voice/ It’s the only weapon I kept from the war.”, a war which doesn’t sound like it’s ending anytime soon.

Hercules & Love Affair The Feast Of the Broken Heart

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Moshi Moshi
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Seeing as how the act’s essentially concept mastermind Andy Butler working with a completely different group for each of his three albums of reconstructed dance music, it’s hard to do comparisons between the albums. He’s kinda put himself in a place where the songs are only as good as the singers but having set that up as his thing, it’s probably too late to stop now.

Which counts as a factor in the way The Feast…pushes past the line-up at the rope to jump into the house disco. Album opener  "Hercules Theme 2014" lets you know from the get go how it’s going to be, with sparkling production and layered, tricky rhythms to keep the bouncing interesting.

After that, if anything the pace picks up and it gets hot, hot, hot and also more retro as it goes along, employing vintage drum machine and synth effects, and famed Euro house-and-techno revivalists Haze Factory. And yet, Butler manges to bring a litle somethng at once idosyncratic and contempo to the party which speaks to the heart in the beats.

Chromeo White Women

Chromeo White Women.jpg

Big Beat/WEA
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Here’s an act that’s not only survived without that monster, career-defining album but thrived by sticking to their quirky electrobeat thang in a genre eternally on the hustle for the next new thing.

This album isn’t that monster hit but it’s a damn fine romp around the block inna Chromeo style. The Canuck electrofunk duo of Dave 1 and P-Thugg have once again crafted a hooky collectioin of real songs built on their mutual love of the vintage elements frameworking modern electrofunk and lyrically taking the stance of the playa as Pranksta. That requires a tricky balance between the heartfelt and the ironic and achieveing that balance is at the core of most of their best songs.

To that list can be added album opener "Jealous (I Ain't With It)", a song driven by funkified guitar chording and a classic Chromeo hook with an full-bodied anthemic chorus hanging from it. powered by chunky, ringing guitar chords. The hook’s courtesy of production duo Oliver, and another collab, with Toro y Moi results in another killer tune replete with classic Chromeo touches, the instant earworm "Come Alive".

Julian Taylor: Tech Noir

Julian Taylor Tech Noir Cover.jpg

Independent
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

On which this sharp-dressed soul rockin’ man comes up with a new sound and underlines  the distance he’s come since his Staggered Crossing days. Always a fluid and inventive guitarist and an attention-grabbing showman, Tech Noir is a high-water mark in the songwriting department.

Taylor has a distinct delivery that’s raw and emotional, drawing on blues-rock and island rhythms for the backbone of his sound. Word is that Tech Noir is a culmination of every musical genre that has influenced him throughout his life.

The end result’s inspired by the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers, which has loads of room for Taylor’s inspired riffing. No flies on the vocals either, which manage to come over sounding both classic and fresh.  You’ve likely already heard his soulman’s shout on the blazing single "Zero to Eleven", punched up by a tight horn section, or his smootn  r’n’b crooning on "Never Gonna Give You Up”.

Thematically, for Taylor the revolution’s all about the love, most appropriate for a new daddy, and consequently is awash in good vibes and positivity which occasionally teeters but never quite falls into the chasm of the warm fuzzies. On that front, the highlight is  "Be Good To Your Woman". The clever changeup of “No Guns,” on which Taylor sings “I don’t need no gun for protection…” telling us this is so because the love in his life is all the protection he needs, has just the right amount of guitar edge to give it authority.

Mike Trudell

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Indie Star North Records
Submitted by Don Graham

Mike Trudell’s self titled full length CD, featuring the first single ‘Do Ya Wanna’, is finally available on the Star North Records label, in digital and hard copy formats. Produced by Canadian transplant to Nashville, Gil Grand, the 11 song outing features solid tracks, well performed musically and vocally. The production is clean and crisp with good separation and is sonically in line with the current trend in country music.

The opening track, ‘Do Ya Wanna’, fits the bill for summer time top down, sitting on the beach or sitting around the bonfire type music.  ‘Blue Jean Girl’ and ‘Boom Box’ are more of the same,  summertime, goodtime “young love “songs.  ‘Get Your Honky Tonk On’  is a Saturday night shine your boots, go to town type anthem.

‘She Wasn’t Always This Way’ is a welcome departure from the drinking, partying  songs, a true heartfelt song about aging and how the old folks you see weren’t always that way, they were once young and vibrant like the singer in the song.

‘Runaway Highway’ is a tale of heading down the road to a new and hopefully better life.  ‘How Do You Stop a Train’ slows things down a tad and let’s Mike exercise his country chops, while ‘I’m Gonna Love Her’ tells of the power of love as the story teller will do whatever it takes to win and keep the heart of the woman he loves. ‘Love On’ is next in line followed by ‘Overdrive’.

Michael Jackson: Xscape

Michael Jackson Xscape.jpg

Submitted by Michael Williams

The destruction of Michael Jackson’s musical legacy. First let a bunch of DJ’s remix the tracks and release them as new or finished tracks…hell with Melodyne you don’t even need the master tracks, the remixed have been awful  no matter who has them, the original tracks are always better ,which among them can do better work than Quincy Jones. None leave the masters alone, comes off like a hologram of a dead man reanimated for some bizarre ancient ritual of rebirth ala Frankenstein. The music sounds equally like, lifeless electronic production trying to be worthy of a timeless voice. It is not all the remixes that do not work is only because the people doing it were not old enough to remember the original versions or the life of the performer.

Shame on anyone remixing the musical legacy of Michael Jackson, it just is not needed if they were finished complete recordings. The only remix I ever loved was done by Quincy Jones when he added the hand claps to “Rock With You” from the Off the Wall album.

Burn all remixes of Michael Jackson, since his death. Funny when you die  there is a whole industry to keep you alive and your art right down to creating a reanimated hologram of you to sell your virtual productions and tour.

The new record is entitled “XScape”:

XScape features ‘contemporized’ versions of Michael’s original recordings by high-profile producers include Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins, JRoc, Stargate and John McClain.

Are the new tracks, unfinished B sides or what?

Fernande McNabb

FM.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

This nine song CD was sent to me by the artist herself, Fernande McNabb with a short not attached thanking me for taking the time to listen. With a request like that I couldn’t ignore the CD and I’m real glad I didn’t.  A little blues, a little country with a shade of pop make this an interesting collection. “I went to Ranch Recording Studio with the intent of recording a two song demo and the result is my new CD released this year! The record was produced by John Donald with one song Sisters in Arms produced by John Donald and Allen Hunnie.”

The Calgary born singer/songwriter is currently living in beautiful Manitoba and is working on a follow up CD to this self title debut project. The opening track Little One is a smooth mid tempo blues, well sung and well played, while Sisters in Arms is a little rockier and poppier, again well done. Nothing on My Back could be a radio track with a good feel and nicely sung lyric. Very Bonnie Raitt.

Be The Woman has a little more bite and grit, showing a rougher side of Fernande’s vocals. Can’t Predict is a pop song through and through, and ‘This One’s For Me’ is a fifties type pop/blues showing a little of the slide in Fernande’s vocals.

Shoes is a country tune, could be a radio hit while Thank You seems like a perfect way to end this CD. Fernande is thanking you for listening and we thank her for the tunes.

We predict you’ll be hearing a lot more of Fernande McNabb in the days to come.

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