Reviews

Roy Roberts Strange Love

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Submitted by Iain Patience
Cashbox Europe

Roy Roberts is one of those old-timers, a guy who's been around the East Coast US music scene most of his seventy-year plus life. In that time, he's remained below the radar yet been sideman and guitarist with many influential giants of US  popular music. This is a guy who was a soulmate of Otis Redding in the 60s;  he shimmied with Solomon Burke and Eddie Floyd; worked with Stevie Wonder (when he was still 'Little Stevie') and many of the soul music dynasty while developing his own sound, reflected in this excellent ten track album.

'Strange Love' has that full-on Stax sound: rounded Horns; crisp guitar work seamlessly merged with soulful, rocking vocals. Roberts wrote all of the material here, and it is a tribute to his ability and undoubted talent.  With 'Strange Love', Roy Roberts shows he is still firmly rooted in the Deep South but has shaken himself free of his long passed and more successful musical buddies to emerge triumphantly from the shadows. Recommended for sure.

Railroad Steele Back On Track

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Railroad Steele was born out of the need to feed the musical soul. Created in 1989 by lead guitar player Laurence Massicotte and lead vocalist/keyboardist Glenda Massicotte  it has become a vehicle for many players to hone their skills. Located mid way between Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie Ontario, the members are spread amongst the treasured little communities (Iron Bridge to Massey) we call the Walford Station. Many players from the region had got their start with us and will always be remembered as part of the group. The band has changed its genre several times playing everything from classic country to classic rock with their own original tunes which makes for a crowd pleasing experience. Railroad Steele has opened for recording artist April Wine, The Stampeders, The Bright Brothers, and has shared the stage with the likes of Kim Mitchell, Honeymoon Suite, Prism, Glass Tiger, Colin James, Coney Hatch, Carol Baker, Graham Townsend and many incredible artist along the way.

‘On the Verge of A Good Day’ has a great clear vocal, with a repetitive guitar lick that sticks in your head, with a feeling we all embrace of being on the verge of a good day.

The second track rocks it out with ‘Looking Back at You and Me’, a reflective song with survival and love while ‘Life After Love’ could be the follow-up to this track, with Jenny Massicotte delivering a tasteful vocal.

‘Dreaming’ rounds out the vocals with steady harmonies and reminds you of the same feel of ‘No Time Left for You’ with a Guess Who flavor while ‘Do You Believe in UFO’s’ is a playful tune talking about aliens and the reality that they might just be among us.

‘Back on Track’ has a bluesy feel with Allman Brothers style guitar sounds, and Gracie Slick vocals.

Once again Railroad Steele addresses the love gone bad song with ‘Did What I Had to Do’ and

The Slim City Pickers

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13th Avenue Records
Submitted by Sandy Graham

The Slim City Pickers, also known by their friends and fans as “The Pickers” who deliver a sound that can cut like a knife or soothe like a nice glass of whiskey.

A most recent addition to 13th Ave Records, they have been creating quite the buzz in and around the Queen City for the past year. The band draws influence from early Country & Western music, and by combining that influence with a passion for Rock & Roll, The Pickers deliver a sound true to themselves that can cut like a knife, or soothe like a nice glass of whiskey.

The band started in 2012 when singer/songwriter Orin Paquette came into the company of long time friends, Ian Cameron and Andy Beisel. The 3 three met at a concert, which immediately sparked talk of their mutual interests in playing good music. After a long jam, the three realized there was potential for something special. Not long after, Tristan Helgason was added to the line-up bringing his tight, hard hitting drumming style. Helgason, combined with the rich and organic bass playing of Dick Yeates lay the framework for the punchy dueling lead guitars and sweltering steel guitar. Add to the mix some 3 part vocal harmonies and what you have is The Slim City Pickers.

When it comes to songwriting, the band is influenced by early country music artists particularly those of the Bakersfield Sound, such as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. They also draw their influence from The Band, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, as well as songwriters like Neil Young and Gram Parsons. Stylistically, they draw heavy inspiration from southern bands such as The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The opening track “You Belong to Me” is a beautiful, poignant ballad, and pedal steel linking it all together by the talented Ian Cameron.

Sofie Reed Simplicity Chased Trouble Away & Red Hen: Autoproduction

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Submitted by Iain Patience
(Cashbox Europe)

Simplicity Chased Trouble Away is Sofie Reed’s second album, featuring her fine, strong Harp playing alongside some solid Steel slide work.  Perhaps the most surprising element of this artist’s music is that she also majors in Dulcimer, an instrument not normally heard in blues saloons, juke joints and bars but which here is successfully pitched with an unexpectedly strong and successful blues groove.  Certainly a first for me and, refreshingly different, it works remarkably and surprisingly well.

The twelve tracks that make up this album are mostly self-written. The album romps along at a fair lick with some sensible and interesting changes of tempo from the excellent and upbeat opening track, ‘Glitter Girl’ through the near-Afro-vibe of ‘Human Every Day’ to the soulful vocals and pounding underlying guitar and Harp –work evident on ‘Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen’.

Sofie Reed LiveSofie Reed LiveReed’s latest, third release, 'Red Hen', is equally strong on song-writing and instrumental skill and style.  She has a whomping sound, varied by virtue of the at times unusual instruments she prefers, rhythmic foot-stomping and the southern influences under-pinning the material. Her blues-base is more than clear here to the ear.  Her confidence is clear here with a take on the old, oft overworked standard 'When The Saints Go Marrching In'. A difficult track to reinvent and rejig.

Half Deaf Clatch The Blues Continuum

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Autoprod/Redpromotions
Submitted by Iain Patience
(Cashbox Europe)

This is the third release from a mighty fine slide blues picker from England, a wonderful album that could all too easily be overlooked. Which would be a tragic mistake, because this CD has many excellent qualities and deserves widespread exposure and recognition.

HDC, a British Blues Award 2014 finalist, wrote most of the material here, together with Red Burley. Who features on backing vocals. The album has been gaining airplay with blues shows across the UK since pre-release promo copies were made available a few weeks ago.

There are clear shades of Son House in the mix but this album is not just another of those old music replayed affairs; far from it. It's a finely crafted work of traditional sounding musical reinvention and much more.  From the gripping, jangling slide work on the intro to the  first track,  'Bury My Bones', to the close,  ten tracks later, 'The Blues Continuum' serves as an engaging showcase for Half Deaf Clatch's gravel vocals,  soulful picking and strong song-writing skills.

This is one of those all too rare things: a simply cracking, crackling bit of originality. With roots firmly in the Deep South but produced in England,  'The Blues Continuum' brings a flavor of new blues with new songs and sounds to a wider audience.  Track five, entitled 'Good Thing', says it all and fittingly hints at what to expect here. Positively recommended.

Website: www.halfdeafclatch.com

Cold Specks: Neuroplasticity

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Arts & Crafts
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

This muchly-anticipated follow-up from the diva of doom soul does not disappoint. It scarifies, mystifies and is naked of anything radio friendly. Also absent is the stripped down deep-rooted gospel folk of Juno nommed debut I Predict a Graceful Expulsion. Going the completely opposite way with the follow-up is a bold move aimed at dodging the sophomore boogieman. It succeeds more often than not and misses the mark less in comparisons with its predecessor and more in reaching the bar CS sets for herself at various places in the album.

While the dark tones of the Deep South remain and there’s music aplenty, Specks indulges her experimental side at many points. There are woozy, slack-tuned guitar lines, shrieking trumpets drop in and out, bringing a menacing whimsy, the deep, deep brooding vocals of the Swans' Michael Gira on “Exit Plan” and “Season of Doubt” and permeating the whole enterprise, a sense of unease.

Not so far around the corner from prime Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, except for the lack of strong melodies. This is after all doom soul, so there’s no expectation of killer hooks but still  too often the ornamentation outshines the melody.

The standout songs stand way out. Opener “A Broken Memory” nails the tone firmly in place: synths and drums of a creeping menace supporting a solid melody most suitable for lyrics like “All is calm / Nothing is right”, delivered in a semi-sung chant which Specks employs on a number of songs. “Old Knives” and “Absisto” are cut from similar bloodstained black flags, the latter being released as the album’s first single, despite the plodding tempo.

Too often, CS seems to be content to let songs meander along, any dynamics which appear seem like pleasant happenstance. Check “Bodies at Bay” and “Exit Plan”

Suzy Bogguss At Hugh’s Room Lucky Us

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Submitted by Don Graham

Hugh’s Room, Toronto’s acoustically superb listening room venue, and American sweetheart songstress Suzy Bogguss, are a perfect fit. Both are unique and tops in their field so it was fitting that Bogguss  graced Hugh’s Room stage on Saturday night (August 16) to a capacity crowd.

It was a magical evening and the attentive crowd got what they came for and more. Suzy, bass player extraordinaire Charlie Chadwick and Chris (If It Has Strings I Can Play It) Scruggs  grabbed the crowd immediately with Suzy’s big hit ‘Outbound Plane’ and held them for the entire night with their musicality, humour and warmth.

Suzy Bogguss has platinum and gold records in her collection and a Grammy award but on stage she gives you the impression that she has come to your house to sing, entertain you and make sure you have a good time. No diva syndrome here. It probably helped that Suzy, who went to college in Illinois, had her college roommate from back then in the audience. They got together for a chat before the show and Suzy said laughing, “One of us went north and one of us went south. She told me I had a southern accent and I said you have said “eh” five times It was sure great to see her again.”

Bahamas Is Afie

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Afie Jurvanen known by his stage name Bahamas, is a Canadian musician born in Toronto, and raised in Barrie, Ontario.  Jurvanen is self-taught on guitar and has worked with such musicians as Feist, Howie Beck, Jason Collett, Jack Johnson, The Weather Station, and Zeus.

Jurvanen recorded his debut album, Pink Strat, in a cabin in rural Ontario in 2008. It was released under the name Bahamas in 2009 and subsequently nominated for a 2010 Juno Award for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year – Solo.

Bahamas' second album, Barchords, was released on February 7, 2012.  At the 2013 Juno Awards, it was nominated for the Adult Alternative Album of the Year and Jurvanen was nominated for Songwriter of the Year for the tracks "Be My Witness", "Caught Me Thinking", and "Lost in the Light".

His third album, Bahamas Is Afie, is truly that. Jurvanen has always been the key element to Bahamas, and this time he has basically made this new offering all about himself. Don Kerr assisted in the recording and drums, while others from the Bahamas band were there to lend musical helping hands.

Weakerthan Jason Tait and background vocalist Felicity Williams, both of whom play in the four-piece Bahamas touring ensemble) but it is the sound of Jurvanen playing all parts himself that makes this so refreshing.

While the new offering drops in stores on August 19, a solid tour schedule that starts in California and zigzags across the US until October 16 (there is one gig in at the Shivering Songs Festival in Frederiction, New Brunswick on September 10) Afie won’t be back in Canada until October 16, starting on the West coast, then Ontario and Quebec, the schedule is solidly booked.

Arkells: High Noon

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Universal/Dine Alone
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

For this third cookie, Hamilton indie rockers Arkells bust out a big, shiny version of the retooled classic rock sound that’s won them a pair of Junos. Indicative of the album’s ambitions is the presence of L.A. producer Tony Hoffer (Phoenix, M83) but that nouveau worthy doesn’t meddle all that much with the sound already in place.

That front guy Max Kerman owned up to listening to a lot of The Clash during the writing of High Noon, might account for some of the Arcade Firey wide screen sensibility suffusing the project. That this is not all that far off shows up on the very first track, “Fake Money.” Think Arcade Fire bombast and anti-indie rock welded to organic gritty Clashisms, replete with fist-pumping shout out lyrics like ‘preying on the weak and those who don’t believe’. This one’s the wild card, with the bulk of the material staying with what the band does very, very well: mining late Seventies-Eighties radio rock. Case in point, “Cynical Bastards,” a solid dance floor banger whose earworminess derives from its sounding like a vintage album track you swear you’ve heard before but just can’t place.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Hypnotic Eye

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Warner
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

On this thirteenth studio outing, Tom Petty may not have much new to say but it’s a fine reminder of why the man got as far and as high as he did. Bottom line, this un’ does a fast backwards stylistically to the earliest days, namely the 1976 self-titled debut album and its immediate follow-up 1978’s You’re Gonna Get It.

This happens not just musically, with many of the songs alluding to Petty’s rebel rocker side, which tends to live in the shadows of the chart topping tuneage. ‘All You Can Carry’ is a fine example, building on a Mike Campbell guitar riff and studded with pointed lyrics such as “No one can say I didn’t have your side / No one can say I left without a fight.”

Petty’s gone many rounds with the corporate music world, from protesting album price increases to giving away free downloads to fans at concerts and battling to put a cap on concert tickets. So the fact ‘Hypnotic Eye’ is full of standing strong songs (‘American Dream Plan B’, “Power Drunk”) gives the thing the heft of authenticity.

Nor is the boy shy about dropping the hammer and going way loud more often than not, the centerpiece in that regard being the scathing look at society’s marginalized that’s “Forgotten Man.” But this crew didn’t get large on volume alone and there are plenty of moments reflective of the musical artistry and clever bits of business that come from playing together for so long.

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