Empire Roots Band Music From the film Harlem Street Singer

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Fabulous album of raw roots music with strong, driving guitar-led punch from New York master, Woody Mann, this release is a first - hopefully not a last - from a marvellous ad-hoc outfit who come together to re-interpret the music of legendary New York acoustic blues-gospel man, the Rev Gary Davis. There is also a scattering of originals in the stew.

Mann is largely responsible, as co-producer, for the recent/current documentary film based on the life of Davis, and the film and album title comes from one of the late Rev's finest albums, 'Harlem Street Singer.' Woody Mann is a former guitar student of Davis's from the 1960s, a guy who certainly knows the man and his music better than most. He has also played and recorded with other huge former blues-men including Son House and Bukka White back in the day.

On this excellent release he is supported by Dave Keyes on piano (ex-Bo Diddley, Odetta, Gladys Knight, Lou Rawls, etc); Brian Glassman, Bass (ex-Kenny Burrell, Lionel Hampton etc); and Bill Sims Jr, vocals. The overall result here sparkles with the very essence of Gary Davis and his positively enormous, undiminished contribution to blues and gospel music worldwide.

Marty Siltanen A Long Way To Roam

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Submitted by Don Graham

Do you ever want to listen to some fine acoustic music with well crafted clever and emotional songs in the troubadour style?  Do you go searching for your old Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, Eric Anderson records? Well here’s a better solution. Northern Ontario’s Marty Siltanen is keeping that music current and alive.

Siltanen, his wife and musical partner Lil are enjoying life in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario after years of living and working in Edmonton, Alberta. “We were living out West and had this bunch of songs that I wanted to record so I figured I would go in the studio and commit them to tape. I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I hope folks enjoy listening to them as much as I enjoyed recording them.”

The title track "Long Way To Roam" is very Lightfoot-inspired featuring some fine pickin', rolling rhythm and picture perfect lyrics. The Celtic flavoured Northern Coast is Siltanen’s ode to Northern B.C. and you can almost taste the salt air during this song.

The next track "Sagebrush and Pine" is a classic Alberta cowboy song in the style of Ian Tyson, in fact I can hear Ian singing this tune and believing every word. One of the highlights of this 10 track CD.

Andy Fairweather Low & The Low Riders

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Andy Fairweather Low is a Welsh superstar, without doubt. Think Wales and Tom Jones probably comes to mind. But think again: AFL is the guy who brought the 1960s hits 'Paradise', ‘Bend Me, Shape Me' etc to the musical table as frontman of Amen Corner.

In the 70s he again hit the UK charts with the wonderfully colourful and wittily emotional, 'Wide Eyed And Legless', before going on to help Clapton put together the arrangements for the multi-million selling, 'Clapton Unplugged' release. Indeed, for the past couple of decades, Low has been a permanent annual touring fixture, as guitarist, with Clapton's own band.

In addition, he tours regularly with ex-Pink Floyd Roger Waters, and former Rolling Stone bassman, Bill Wyman. He has also played with a veritable who's who of rock and modern music royalty: Bob Dylan, Elton John, Dave Crosby, BB King, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt, The Who, Jimmy Page, Van Morrison, Phil Collins, The Bee Gees. The list is virtually endless, impressive and illustrates the importance and high esteem with which this guy is held among his critical contemporaries. A major figure who, despite the astonishing credentials and CV, somehow always seems to ride and roll just below the radar.

A Tribe Called Red

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Bursting forth from Canada’s capital, native Producer/DJ crew A Tribe Called Red is producing a truly unique sound that’s impacting the global electronic scene and urban club culture. Since 2010 the group – currently made up DJ NDN, Bear Witness and 2oolman – has been mixing traditional pow wow vocals and drumming with cutting-edge electronic music. Their self-titled album, released in March 2012, was long-listed for Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize and included in the Washington Post’s top 10 albums of the year.

If I Was a River: Willie Nile

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Submitted Courtesy of David Bowling
Cashbox Magazine

For close to the last 40 years, Willie Nile has been an American rocker, pure and simple. That’s what makes his latest studio album so unique and ultimately interesting. He has traveled in a different direction as his new studio release is an album of original piano tunes.

During the course of his career he has been one of the more passionate rock and rollers on the music scene but now his emphasis shifts to a gentle and melodic sound that keeps the focus directly on his lyrics.

His approach is sitting at the piano, with minimal accompaniment and presenting his songs in a laid back and intimate fashion. It is basically keeping it as simple as possible, which benefits the material. His chief contributors are guitarist/keyboardist Stuart Smith and mandolin/acoustic guitarist/violinist David Mansfield. They are experienced enough to provide support, yet at the same time wise enough not intrude upon the subtle nature of his performances.

While most people probably picture Nile with a guitar in his hands, he proves to be a more than capable pianist. The lyrics are strong as he explores love, loss, joy, hope, and peace but the music is softer than what he usually produces.

The use of the word river in the album title is appropriate as songs such as “Song of A Soldier,” “The Ones You Used To Love,” “Let Me Be The River,” “Lullaby Loon,” and the poignant title track meander along. The music does not overwhelm the listener but rather ebbs and flows.

The Barr Brothers: Sleeping Operator

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

The Barr Brothers have been around since 2011, and have been getting better every year with great harmonies, strong production and well crafted songs. They put out the one album then after three years they are back and better than ever.

‘Sleeping Operator’ is as good as if not better than the first CD, and is sure to please fans and new listeners as well.

Brothers Brad and Andrew Barr, harpist Sarah Page, and multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial have carefully created a transcendental album that sets them aside in the usual stack we get here in the office at Cashbox Canada. “Love Ain’t Enough”, hits you right in the chest from the opening notes, and eases you into the other tracks that take on different genres as you progress.  “Half Crazy” has handclaps and interesting production, while “The Bear at the Window” is a bit more whimsical and softer. Sometimes the vocals remind me of early Springsteen, while the lyrics are very Dylan-esque.

The Barr Brothers have cool orchestration that involves angelic harp as well as strange and unusual instruments, which make this recording so unique. The African stringed instrument the ngoni is a lovely compliment to the bongos and then a fan-made instrument called a “cardboardium” is just one of the many sounds you will hear in this amazing CD.

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Mimi O'Bonsawin at Legendary Gladstone - Legend in The Making

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Submitted by Don Graham
Photo at right: Photo Credit Paul Brown

With her new self titled album hitting the streets officially last week with a CD release attended by friends, family, fans and music industry A Listers, Mimi O'Bonsawin seized the moment.

The 20 year old singer/songwriter owned the stage from  the downbeat until the last note rung in the room and hung in the air at the legendary Gladstone Hotel Ballroom in the Queen West area of Toronto. Producer and co-writer Thomas Wade, who this night doubled as guitar player and musical director, assembled some the area's finest musicians and background singers to insure the live sound was as close to the record as possible. And that they did.

Mimi O'Bonsawin CD ReleasePhoto Credit Paul BrownMimi O'Bonsawin CD Release
Photo Credit Paul Brown
The set started with the lead single “Stone Gaze” with Mimi’s trademark dreadlocks piled on hear head in a loose bun and high heels to go with her beautiful stage dress. The band rocked the tune with the first two words "Shiver, Shiver" setting the musical tone for the set. The confidence in Mimi’s voice and her delivery  belied her age and stage experience. The lady is a natural and commands attention. The relative newcomer owned the audience and the song; you knew her time had come and she had arrived. The enthusiastic  applause after the opening number only strengthened her mood as she shook her ginger dreads loose and kicked the grown up high heels off and became the free spirited Mimi, barefoot and uninhibited.

Jack Roberts Harvey Band Devil On A Dirt Road

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Superlatives simply prevail here. Stunning debut album of great blues with strong Americana and gutsy down and dirty Rock tinges from the JRHB. From LA, this hugely talented Californian trio - only a trio, seems unbelievable with this sound - comprises only Tony Jack Grigsby on Bass - the Jack of the band - Jim Roberts on guitar and vocals, and Mike Harvey on Drums.

Material ranges from the old traditional US standard, 'Amazing Grace', here cooked in a refreshingly different slippery, slide sauce, to another nine self-written songs with a great groove going throughout. This is a band that clearly knows its way around the music with a capacity to produce material of enormous quality.

If anything, the most surprising thing about this outfit is probably - why haven't we heard of them before now?! Genuinely amazing debut from a truly talented US band.  Can't wait to hear their next effort. Onward and upwards, I reckon.

Devil On A Dirt Road
Tears In The Dust
Soul Worth Saving
New Day
Alligator Shoe
Hurricane Road
Amazing Grace

Iain Patience

Trond Olsen Band Mercy

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Submitted by Iain Patience

An absolutely fabulous second album here from the northern reaches of Europe. 'Mercy' is an eleven-track bit of great blues with ten tracks written by band leader-frontman, Trond Olson, and including a cracking cover of Robert Johnston's old classic, 'Come On In My Kitchen', - a hard cut to give a fresh feel - featuring former John Mayall Bluesbreaker sideman Buddy Whittington on guitar.

This is a Norwegian outfit, who clearly know their way around the blues; a follow-up release to Olsen's 2009 debut, 'A New Day Comin', 'Mercy' should win the band blues fans aplenty; full of strong, sensitive, soulful guitar from Olson himself, and always alongside perfect percussion from Morten Bergstrom, Lars Hammerlsand on Keys and Frank Hovland on booming Bass. Vocal credits again lie with Olsen.

Mostly electrically-driven blues in the mix, the album closes with a haunting, nicely pitched acoustic piece from Olsen, 'You'll Be Around'. This is a wonderful discovery, a truly excellent album full of gritty northern blues. Positively rcommended.

Bottleneck John All Around Man

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Bottleneck John, aka Johan Eliasson, is a big guy in every way. With a big voice that stretches from his home in the North of Sweden to the Delta and all points in between. he's also a true master of resonator/slide guitar, as this latest release clearly illustrates.

With a few albums already under his belt, Eliasson/Bottlenck John's  'All Around Man' comes from Sweden's highly respected blues label, Opus 3, a recording company often associated with US bluesman Eric Bibb's efforts in recent years.

The fourteen tracks featured here range across the full traditional blues cannon from 'Lonesome Valley', through gospel classic, 'Wade In The Water', to the eponymous title track from the pen of the late Bo Carter, the undisputed master of the 'single entendre'.

Throw in a couple of Tony Joe White and Tom Waits covers and you have an excellent album of traditional acoustic blues played by a stunning Scandinavian guitarist  who really knows how to get down and dirty and boogie.

These days, Scandinavia appears to have a thriving blues sub-culture, with many very fine musicians and artistes playing the bars and clubs of their native lands. Maybe there's something in the water up there, or possibly it's simply the Vodka and Aquavit!

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