Reviews

Dan Livingstone & The Griffintown: Jug Addicts

Dan Livingstone & The Griffintown Jug Addicts.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

This is a delicious album full of traditional, acoustic blues music from an American picker now based in French Canada, Montreal. The music comes from a bellowing, billowing Jug Band of the old kind, full of whomping sound, style and love for the music.

The nine tracks cover the usual gamut of acoustic blues from Fred Mc Dowell's 'Write Me A Few Of Your Lines' -  a seldom heard number from one of blues musics true greats - through Blind Blakes 'Chump Man Blues' and 'Black Dog Blues' to the Rev Gary Davis classic 'Death Don't Have No Mercy'. There's even a neat take on John Fahey's wonderful 'Last Steam Engine Train' for lovers of slightly more modern material.

Produced as a studio 'live' take, like many these days, this album does indeed sound like a gang of buddies jamming, grooving and getting down and dirty with the blues music they clearly love. The now rare sound of a jug band backing gives the whole thing a delightfully different, captivating feel and sound.

Dan - aka Doc - Livingstone is a mighty fine guitar picker, with a seemingly natural affinity and empathy with that old-time country-blues. A recommended find, for sure.

www.danlivingstone.com

Iain Patience

Hot Chip: Why Make Sense

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

That this sixth album from these dance pop darlings references the Talking Heads flick Stop Making Sense is but one of its blatant retroisms. In laying bare the funk and vintage r'n'b that juices the album, Hot Chip impart a kind of freshness to the group's flawless brand of electro pop. In that regard the standout track is 'Easy to Get', whose minimalist production and love of slippery funk guitar and fatback bass, with lots of space for appreciation for each instrument. Top that with an anthemic chorus with the killer chant-along “Fear doesn’t live here anymore!” and you've got your chart toping single.

A strong period signpost, 'Love Is the Future' has a hip hop flavour somewhat referential of the Pharrell Williams and Snoop Dog 2003 hit 'Beautiful' and including an old school rap from De La Soul's Posdnuos. 'Started Right' is another, stripped down bass and backing vocals bringing da funkified groove.

Elsewhere, and in the best way, it's Hot Chip house dance bizniss as usual. As is Alexis Taylor's dance punk lyrics and subject matter. Opener 'Huarache Lights' gets all bro boy about a pair of limited edition Nike trainers, and the joy of going out, while 'Need You Now' is a spooky state of the world account from Taylor lamenting 'Never dreamed I could belong to a state that don’t see right from wrong,' as the synths go swirling along. Then there's the oddly soulful "White Wine and Fried Chicken", a wink at the band's high/low culture aesthetic.

Teresa Hart sky +air

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Award-winning Toronto musician Teresa Hart's fourth CD sky + air is a thematic follow up to 2014's breakthrough CD I Want Your Fire in its mix of  poprock, r'n'b and chillwave ballads. It's a little more experimental and wile that's to be applauded, it makes for an uneven listen.

Hart says the material is drawn from "rocky relationships and other life-altering experiences" and it shows in the intensity of the vocal delivery and the incisive lyrics. There's an overarching sense of yearning and sadness backed by a rhythm section of hope and fun.

The sweetly melodic 'Hypnotize' gets things off to a fine start, with Hart working the languid seductive end of her range. The jangly guitars and echo chamber vocals give 'California' a monster mash dance party with a sweet hook, while on 'Make Me Wanna Party' the band unleashes a solid rock'n'roll anthem.

'Spectacle' is a sultry slow burning highlight, driven by a pumping bass line with Hart going from smoky bottom end to cat in heat yowl. There's no justice if this doesn't become a strip club hit.

On the other hand, not sold on the remix of 'I Want Your Fire' and not sure that the overblown dirge of the title track was the best aftertaste to leave. On balance, there's more good than not here so go check it.

www.teresahart.ca

Black Patti: No Milk No Sugar

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Submitted by Iain Patience

This is an excellent 12 tracker from a quality German duo.  Oddly enough, Germany seems to be producing some truly interesting pre-war blues acts these days.  Anyone familiar with the work of The Delta Boys, another German duo with a genuine feel and engagement with the music, will have a fair idea of what to expect here. With Mando and acoustic guitar picking and slide work, together with fine Harp in the mix, No Milk No Sugar has a powerful, driving sound that easily belies the fact there are but two guys pouring out the mix onto analog equipment with ribbon mikes and period instruments.

Material ranges from old-style ragtimey pieces and instrumentals to spirituals/gospel numbers and deep South, delta blues. All of it delivered with a sparkling, comfortable ease and style. This is an album that pulses with deep blues emotion and grit. The vocals of the pair, Peter Crow C and Ferdinand Kraemer - aka Mr Jelly Roll, in Germany - combine well and the fretwork of both is always pretty well spot-on. Overall, this album is a great discovery for lovers of traditional acoustic pre-war US blues in general and modern-edge acoustic blues of gripping traditional quality coupled with more than a dash of originality.

I reckon and hope to hear much more of this pair in the near future. A highly recommended bit of cool blues.

http:/black-patti.de/

 

Charlie Parr: Stumpjumper

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Leo Kotkke-esque barrelling twelve-string acoustic guitar picking rips this odd mix of modern Americana-cum-blues release to a rocking start. Parr spent much of his youth in one of the USA's lesser-known rural areas, the home of the great post-war menu filler - Spam - Austin, Minnesota, never a noted musical centre, unlike its big Texan brother. Despite - or perhaps because of - this seemingly inauspicious background, he manages to capture the essence and thriving, driving power of modern country roots music, coupled with striking Americana influences to great effect. Strangely enough, Parr also appears from this offering to have clearly swallowed the music menu from the Lone Star State as right from the off, the eleven tracks wash into each other with a marvelous, rolling rhythmic quality that captures the full range of modern country, Appalachian tradition and roots music.

HEIN COOPER Plays May 7th CMW Showcase

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Submitted by Glenda Fordham

In 2014, Aussie indie artist Hein Cooper recorded his debut self-titled EP in Montreal with producer Marcus Paquin (Arcade Fire, The National, The Local Natives, Hey Rosetta). His blend of indie/pop emotive lyrics are woven together by his delicately desperate vocal performance.

Cashbox Canada: Your voice has been likened to that of Jeff Buckley - how did you find your own voice/style?
HC: I’ve listened to Radiohead and love how Thom Yorke uses his voice. I’ve been told that he was inspired by Jeff Buckley, so I think I’ve second-hand smoked him! I spent 5 years playing covers in bars around Sydney, learning all of my favourite songs and taking the best things from them and mixing it up into my own style.

Hein CooperHein CooperCashbox Canada:  Your music has a very other-worldly quality and the video for The Art of Escape is truly a work of art. Did you conceptualize the visuals as well?
HC: Director Ed Triglone came to me with the concept and I immediately said yes. We worked together on the project for a month or so; it was a matter of bouncing ideas off each other until it was finished.

TOM WEST Plays May 7, 8 & 9 CMW Showcases

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Submitted by Glenda Fordham

Aussie songwriter Tom West sings about lost love and getting lost, ranging from very simple folk tunes to grand and moody soundscapes. He learned how to play in Adelaide pubs, eventually recording an album called 'A Spark in the Dark' in a shed in the Adelaide hills. After spending the summer of 2013 composing, West returned to the studio to work with acclaimed producer John Castle. 

Cashbox Canada: Your music has arrived when folk/roots artists like Ed Sheeran are hitting the top of the charts. How encouraging is that?
TW: It certainly is an exciting time when acts like Sheeran can pull off stadium tours, so yes, I do find it encouraging.

Tom WestTom WestCashbox Canada: What first inspired you to pick up a guitar and start pickin’ and singing?
TW: I started writing songs in about grade 9 or 10 of high school, at a time when I really idolized musicians like Ben Harper and John Butler. What they had to say resonated with me and I guess I wanted to be like them, so I think that’s where it all began.

Big Tobacco & the Pickers: The King Is Gone

The King Is Gone

Submitted by Lee Fraser

If you or someone you love mourns the evolution of country music into the commercialized product it has become today, Big Tobacco &the Pickers are your saviours.  This Toronto-based group has a repertoire of 60s and early 70s classic country hits, as well as a healthy buffet of originals that blend perfectly with the old time songs.

Big Tobacco & the Pickers play songs about divorce and prison, putting on energetic shows at the Cameron House and the Dakota Tavern.Five years since they first committed their art to permanence, they are releasing their second album, entitled “The King Is Gone”.  The title track, the only cover on the record, is the band’s tribute to one of their heroes, George Jones, who sadly passed away in the midst of this record coming into being.   In the vein of Jones, as well as Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, the tunes on this CD are songs about the trials and tribulations in life, sung with warmth and ache.  The album has been recorded with incredible attention to detail, with plenty of focus on each musician and meticulous finishing touches on each song.

John Cowan Sixty

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Submitted by Iain Patience


Bassman Cowan hits three score years and celebrates with this fine release from Compass Records.  Jam packed with Nashville slick and Cowan's crystal, soaring vocals, the guy who virtually singlehandedly reinvented and reinvigorated  Bluegrass with New Grass Revival in the early 1970s, is joined by most of his revered Nashville buddies here: Rodney Crowell; Alison Kraus; Sam Bush; Chris Hillman; Kenny Malone; Alison Brown; Viktor Krauss; Huey Lewis, and many more. The result is a winner.


The twelve tracks include a searing take on the old Marty Robbins classic, 'Devil Woman', where Cowan's voice hits the highest of notes and holds them till you're gasping for air, and Charlie Rich's 'Feel Like Going Home'. There's even an old Beatles track covered to great effect. Lennon & McCartney's early title, 'Run For Your Life', from 1965, is a surprising addition but one that sits comfortably in the mix and romps along nicely with driving pace and ensures pretty much that there's something for almost everybody included on this release.


There's a cracking version of 'Miss The Mississippi (And You)', here dedicated to one of Cowan's personal music mentors and heroes, the late Doc Watson and his family.


Sixty is one of those albums that can be played repeatedly without ennui ever taking hold. There's always something here to enjoy, to please the senses and tickle the musical taste-buds, as Cowan takes us on a whistle-stop tour through his life and musical influences.

Clint Bradley Riding After Midnight

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Submitted by Iain Patience


Clint A Bradley is an acoustic guitarist, singer-songwriter from the UK with his boots firmly rooted in the plains and hills of American country music. He could as easily be in Tennessee as the South of England.


Riding After Midnight is an eleven-track album of mostly self-penned country music with howling honky tonk and heartache waiting round every corner. Excellent Dobro work by Nick Evans, fits the mood here to perfection. This is a genuinely solid, quality bit of that rare thing these days, good ole Country & Western music. Each track tugs and tears, heartfelt songs that capture the very essence of a near-lost era, when Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Lefty Frizzel and Marty Robbins still rode the Nashville range.


Recorded in London, a music city seldom, if ever, associated with Country & Western, the production values are positively top dollar, right down to the high-gloss CD cover booklet where Bradley explains the scorn he fell victim to in his youth as he tried to track down as much of this music as he could while most of his buddies and the rest of the world moved steadily towards modern Rock'n'Roll and syrupy pop. That he has survived is a blessing, retaining his fervent love for a music form and narrative that now seems almost archaic at times, even in Nashville itself.

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