Reviews

Dave Gunning: Lift

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Call it the silver lining in the cloud of a brutally cold Nova Scotia winter. When acclaimed folk singer/songwriter Dave Gunning decided it was time to make his 11th solo album, he found the bleak weather outside a blessing, not a curse. “We were literally snowed in, but the power was on and I was good to go,” he says of the making of that album, Lift.

In his well-appointed home studio in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Gunning went to work. The follow-up to 2012 album No More Pennies, Lift came together “very quickly and organically,” he explains. “I wanted to maintain an honest acoustic sound to reflect my live shows. I did what I could on my own then I brought in some guests to spread out the gene pool, so there was enough to keep the listeners interested.”

The record’s sparse and acoustic template proves to be the perfect vehicle for Dave’s neatly-crafted and poetic material and gently expressive vocals. There are no drums on the record, and Gunning handles much of the playing himself, contributing fluent acoustic guitar, upright bass (“the same one I used touring in Stompin’ Tom Connors’ band,” he notes with pride), highstring guitar, and banjo. Talented pals JP Cormier, Thom Swift, Jamie Robinson, Darren McMullen and Asa Brosius take effective cameos on different tracks.

Cold Flame: A Stitch In Time

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Cold Flame is an English band with a driving, pounding feel and a sound that is reminiscent of seventies rockers like Deep Purple and a load of others who carved a neat niche for themselves back in the day.

'A Stitch in Time' is an interesting album that has the band repeating more than a few of the fourteen tracks with slightly different reprises that mostly work pretty well. A hard thing to pull off, without becoming too repetitive, boring or jaded.

Led by bassist Pat Rowbottom, who also wrote all of the tracks here, this is a band with a sense of ambition, purpose and power at its heart. Each track opens with heavy rhythmic poise and power, drum-laden, screeching lead-guitar and solid bass and keyboards/organ work. The nod to the seventies may best be found in the use of synthesizer by clearly accomplished keys-man Joe Orban.

Cold Flame is probably an outfit best caught in live performance where their dynamic, hi-energy vibe must no doubt be spine-tingling at times. In the meantime, however, this album might just prove satisfying enough for most hard-rock lovers with its relentless, rolling rock inspired mix.

www.coldflame.com

Eric Bibb & JJ Milteau: Lead Belly’s Gold

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada with
CD Song Reviews by Sandy Graham

Stony Plain Records has announced a November 6th release date for Lead Belly’s Gold, the new album tribute to the legendary blues and folk musician from award-winning roots musician Eric Bibb and acclaimed French harmonica player JJ Milteau. Lead Belly’s Gold features 11 live tracks recorded at famed Paris jazz club, The Sunset, as well as five new studio recordings.

“It’s hard to remember when I first heard Lead Belly’s music because, somehow, he’s always been around,” writes Eric Bibb’s in the album’s liner notes. “Most likely, I heard recordings of others (The Weavers and Woody Guthrie) singing songs from his huge repertoire before hearing his actual voice. In any case, I have an early memory from the mid-1950s of listening to a recording of Lead Belly singing a children’s song, ‘Ha Ha This-a-Way’. At that time, my dad, Leon, was beginning to make his name known in New York City folk music circles. He recently told me he remembered hearing Lead Belly perform at The Village Vanguard in the late 1940s.

So, the soundtrack of my childhood included more than a few of the great bard’s songs. The sound of his 12-string guitar is part of my DNA.

Christine Vanderkooy: Piano Schubert and Schumann

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Praised for her “sensitive and passionate artistic interpretation”, Christine Vanderkooy performs extensively as a solo pianist and collaborative artist. She has completed the Young Artist tour as winner of the Ontario Registered Music Teacher’s Association Competition, a recital tour of Canada in 2007 as a SSHRC grant recipient, and a solo recital tour of Europe in 2008, also as a SSHRC grant recipient, performing in Ireland, England, and Spain. Christine has performed at the Eckhardt-Grammaté National Piano Competition, the Gaudeamus International Competition in the Netherlands, and was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in the Dietrich Fischer Dieskau Workshop (before he cancelled!). Recent performances include solo recitals atBishop’s University, the JS BachHaus in Ontario, SUNY Oswego in New York, and the Regina Musical Club.

Other recent recital invitations have included three concerts on the prestigious Gustin House series in Saskatoon, the Ravna House series in Manitoba, the Marysburg Festival in Saskatchewan, and multiple performances at the CUMS (Canadian University Music Society) 2010 national conference. Appearances at the 2011 CFMTA national convention included multiple performances, both solo and collaborative. Collaborative performances include piano trio and piano quartet concerts on the Regina Symphony Orchestra chamber music series, and appearances as a member of the U of R New Music Ensemble, a professional ensemble performing contemporary repertoire and premiering new works.

Frank Fotusky: Meet Me In The Bottom

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Submitted by Iain Patience

'Meet Me In The Bottom' is the first release for some years from New Jersey acoustic picker Fotusky. With echoes of his first album, 'Teasin' The Frets', Fotusky positively rips along here with simply stunning guitar mastery and an eclectic mix of material opening with Bo Carter's 'Who's Been Here', moving through Jelly Roll's classic 'Windin' Boy Blues', some Robert Johnson, Leroy Carr, Willie McTell, Gary Davis, among others, and the album title track from Bumble Bee Slim. Fotusky also includes a handful of self-written originals to good effect.

This is without doubt a top-dollar album, bursting at the 13-track seams with superb old-style acoustic ragtime-blues fretwork on both six and twelve-string guitars, and fine vocal accompaniment. Make no mistake, this guy is one Helluva guitar picker and this is an album that works really well in every way and at every level.

Fotusky, sadly, seldom if ever appears to range outside of the USA. Hopefully, this offering will bring him and his music to a wider audience and maybe push him into taking to the European road some time soon. This is a guy well worth catching and this release is a rewarding bit of traditional acoustic blues picking of absolutely the highest order. Highly recommended, for sure.

http://frankfotusky.tripod.com/

Bad News Barnes & The Brethern Of Blues Band: 90 Proof Truth

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Submitted by Iain Patience

A dozen tracks of complete hokum, as it clearly says on the album cover, from one of the USA's finest hoaxers and hoary frontmen. This guy is not just a comic with a challenging sense of humor, he's also one helluva singer/songwriter with an at times decidedly jaundiced eye on the skewed social and political world of modern America. I have to declare an interest from the very off with this offering: I absolutely love it. It makes me laugh out loud and the sheer inescapable mastery of the full-tilt, Stax-like horny (pun intended, as Barnes would expect) musical backing makes for totally irresistible stuff.

Barnes crosses genres as easily as he reaches out to cross-dressers, straights and gays with a full-hand of delicious songs. From the opening track, "America Needs A Queen", with its sublimely comic lyrics demanding a gay leader on top, you know where this collection is likely to take you - a rolling ride of excellent music packed to bursting with wit and wisdom, sure-fired soul and super sounds. Religion also comes into the firing line with a marvellous number, "Westboro Baptist Blues," that should carry a health warning along the lines of 'Do Not Listen While Eating or Drinking' - for fear of spraying your near neighbors with half-chomped, slurped debris.

Steve Strongman: Let Me Prove It To You

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Hamilton, Ontario based bluesman and JUNO Winner Steve Strongman is making waves internationally and at home in Canada.

This artist has played major blues festivals the world over including Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City & Memphis,TN, as well three appearances at The Montreal International Jazz Festival, multiple appearances at Mont Tremblant International Blues Festival and Cisco Ottawa Blues Festival. He is a hometown hero in his adopted home of Hamilton,Ontario. In 2010 he was chosen by the Hamilton Spectator as one of Hamilton's "Top 40 under 40", was featured on the cover of Hamilton Magazine, and had a total of 8 nominations for Hamilton Music Awards in ’09-10 winning Blues Recording Of The Year in ’09. He also won the Mel Brown Blues Award in 2009 in his hometown of Kitchener.

His latest offering, ‘Let Me Prove It To You, is an eclectic collection, showcasing the versatility of this artist.

“There’s Something Goin’ On” is a rockabilly flavoured tune, with great guitar licks, and a vocal delivery that matches this energetic tune, while “What I Believe” is a heavy rock feel reminiscent of Bad to the Bone.

“Get Used To It” has a new country rock feel, with clean vocals and strong harmonies, “We’re Going Out Tonight” is a shuffle song that shows off the style of this guy, while “Let Me Prove It To You” has a Hendrix arrangement going on.

“It Ain’t the First Time” is an infectious, positive love song, that has a Huey Lewis and the News spin off while “Lookin’ For Trouble” is rock all the way.

Wily Bo Walker: Moon Over Indigo

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Submitted by Iain Patience

This ten-track wonder marks the finale of a trio of top-quality, rocky-blues releases from London-based Scot, Wily Bo Walker. And it's an absolute beauty, full of pace, variety, gritty blues and bountiful, explosive material. Walker is a guy who not only can produce the goods, but who consistently does produce the goods and more.

'Moon Over Indigo' positively roars along from start to finish, featuring Walker's mostly self-penned songs, rasping vocal delivery and strong fretwork. In truth, Walker's voice is an essential ingredient in the mix, a roaring, rattling load of grit and guts that propel the entire package along. Walker is well-known for his gripping stage presence and live performance. With this latest album, he clearly demonstrates his ability to take listeners on a roiling blues ride that simply never slows, slips or falters.

Walker includes a great take on Willie Dixon's old number 'Same Thing' here, and a cover of 'Who Do You Love' from Elias McDaniel. Apart from these intruders, all of the tracks featured were written by the guy himself.

Walker is to be congratulated for this work. He's a guy that deserves a greater following and general recognition internationally in the blues world. 'Moon Over Indigo' is an album that really is worth catching and showcases his evident talent to great effect. Wily Bo is that rare thing - a true original. Get your hands on a copy of this if you can.

www.wilybo.com

Half Deaf Clatch: The Life & Death of AJ Rail

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Submitted by Iain Patience

First thing to say about this release is it's a truly remarkable overall package, full to bursting with spare, slippery acoustic fretwork on both guitar and banjo. The dozen tracks are all self-written with an evident understanding of the old-time, blues tradition and a touch of modernity that never swamps the originality.

Back in the day, of course, banjo was often the only instrument of choice available to share-cropping, blistered and bruised old bluesmen in the Deep South. Nowadays it tends to be overplayed, full of sparkling notes without a heartbeat or, seemingly on occasion, any real subtlety, feeling or passion. Clatch to his credit avoids this perilous pitfall with a notably spare, deceptively basic picking style reminiscent of the old claw-hammer pioneers from the turn of the twentieth century. The result is an album that has an unusually effective added ingredient mostly lacking in blues releases these days.

The songs themselves chart the story of a life lived with more than a touch of sin and scandal, debauchery, and defiance of the only certainty in life - old man Death itself.  If anything, this really is the Devil's Music, writ large. The Grim Reaper seems to be more than welcome here.

In addition, Clatch is always sure-footed with his fretwork and slide mastery. Pace and tempo both vary alongside lyrics that grab the attention to produce a near-effortless triumph. In many ways, 'The Life & Death of AJ Rail' could well prove to be the most original blues release of the year.



Dirty Dishes And Stay Out !

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Every now and then you get a CD on the desk for review that blows you away and Dirty Dishes new offering did just that. Refreshing vocals, great delivery, strong harmonies and great song choices. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Paying tribute to many beloved acts like classic artists like Hank Williams and Dolly Parton to more current Canadian favourites like Joel Plaskett and Fred Eaglesmith, Dirty Dishes play both covers and shiny new originals in this tasty blend of country, folk, bluegrass, roots and gospel.

The opening track ‘Midnight Fire’ sets the pace of this great CD, with bluegrass at its best and proverbial banjo, it’s hard to believe this is a Toronto band.  A great song of spousal abuse with revenge and a permanent solution, with an escape to get away from the bully of a husband.

‘Won’t Come Back’ has sultry, sexy vocals, letting it be known you won’t find another girl quite like the vocalist, while accompanied by great fiddle and sassy production.

‘Evangeline’ is a waltz tune, telling the tale of the riverboat gambler and better times, while ‘For the Last Time’ has sultry, growling vocals, driving home that there is no more last times.

The traditional tune of ‘Rocky Top’ is presented as an acappella track, showing of the strength of Dirty Dishes vocals and harmonies.

‘Where Do We Go?’ is a folksy, haunting tune, followed by another trad ‘Your Bucket’s Got a Hole In It’ that gets you tapping your foot and singing along.

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