Reviews

Ian Thomas Releases “Little Dreams”

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada


With a beautiful new recording, ‘Little Dreams’ (on Alma Records), Hugh’s Room is delighted to welcome Ian Thomas back, one of the sweetest, funniest guys around.


Ian first hit internationally in 1973 with “Painted Ladies”. With a Juno award, four SOCAN classic awards for "Painted Ladies", "Right Before Your Eyes", "Hold On" and "Pilot", a UNICEF Danny Kaye Humanitarian award,~Juno and Gemini nominations, 15 albums and nearly as many top twenty records later, Thomas has now added author to the mix with two novels, Bequest (Manor House 2006) and The Lost Chord (Manor House 2008).


Ian’s lyrics have been utilized in English textbooks while his songs have found international success with many artists such as Santana, America, Manfred Mann, Chicago, Bette Midler and Anne Murray.~He also records and tours the country regularly with good friends Murray McLauchlan, Marc Jordan, and Cindy Church in a band called Lunch At Allen’s.


From 1990 to 2000, Ian Thomas wrote &recorded four albums and toured with his band “The Boomers” who were comprised of some of the Canada’s finest musicians -~Peter Cardinali, Rick Gratton and Bill Dylan. When you add more than twenty movies as a film composer, six seasons on the Red Green Show as character Dougie Franklin and over a thousand commercials voicing characters from Clive Firkin of Firkin Pubs to Snap the Rice Crispie, the credit list starts adds up.

Donna Greenberg Song in the Wind

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Submitted by Sandy Graham


From the first time you hear the speaking voice of Donna Greenberg, you can feel her passion. Passion for her music, passion for life, passion for mankind. It is no wonder her new CD is such a wonderful production of all that passion. Not to mention her hauntingly beautiful vocals.


Reached in her hometown of Toronto, Canada, Greenberg was eager to talk of her latest offering, 'Song in the Wind'. "I love the songs on this album. They each tell a story, a time or a fantasy in my life, while showing respect for the influence of the famous songwriters who came before me. I love music by Antônio Carlos Jobim, so 'Song in the Wind' was very much influenced by his type of writing .Girl from Ipanema-flavoured, with dance flavours in the production."


"I was classically trained, so I was fortunate to be exposed to all the wonderful composers of the past. I also hold a degree in literature and I an avid reader. This has always been a huge influence on my fantasies of scenes in my mind." "There Was A Time' is a wistful, deep song, with great lyrics and flowing music. "I was taking a walk one night, and saw a young couple talking, walking, looking at houses. They had all the optimism that comes with romance and newness of that fresh love. It is a Gershwin influenced tune. It was nostalgic for when we all have that love in our hearts, when 'there was a time'.

Neil Young: Psychedelic Pill

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Reprise/Warner


You’d think Neil Young’s built enough of a legacy to keep his fame alive for a long time. Seems not judging from his nagging ubiquity. Hard on the heels of the brutal ‘Americana’ album and a sprawling and at times tedious memoir ‘Waging Heavy Peace’, comes the biggest, longest album of his career, Psychedelic Pill.


The good news; he’s back with Crazy Horse and making a rock album, the bad news is that all the songs are hinged on that godawful memoir. So, mixed bag indeed and it should be no surprise. Just as with the memoir, this two disc set could have used a bracing edit; it’s not as if we haven’t seen Neil seesaw between heartfelt and self-indulgent before.


Also de rigueur, direct to a fault. So an album called Psychedelic Pill, opens with what else but an acidy, 37 plus minute acoustic onto electric jam, ‘Driftin’ Back’ Not that acid flashbacks from dudes who’ve been there are always a bad idea, but one fixated on writing my book, man….Oh, the hilarity.


So the ragged glory of the hat-tipping ‘Twisted Road’ and the poignant and Harvest-y “She’s Always Dancing” are balanced by the half-formed title track, which apparently Neil thinks so much of we get to endure the thing twice, one version all phase shifty and cringe-making. Neil getting psychedelic without the drugs I guess.

Don Bray: I Am Myself

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada


Don Bray is no stranger to stressful situations. Years spent as a firefighter pushed him to the edge of human endurance in the name of helping others. Years later, now retired, Bray invests that same sense of courage into the way he writes about life. He doesn’t go part way, pushing himself to the edge in his regard for those he writes and cares about. With that kind of intensity, at his CD release of “I Am Myself” at Hugh’s Room on Nov 4, he may very well burn the joint to the ground. The album is that good.


Bray’s ability to incorporate an obvious love of people into his storytelling only complements the fact he’s a natural singer and a superb songwriter. Reviews of his work yield words like “A thoughtful writer of tales and character sketches that are at once modern and timeless”.

Barlow Burning Days

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Barlow has a new record filled with the kind of songs and messages that garnered the band 3 Juno nominations. Barlowís major label debut on Sony records spawned two top ten singles "Walk Away" and "Married By Elvis" the winner of the Virgin Radio 99.9 Songwriting contest, as well as tours with such prominent artists as John Mayer, BareNaked Ladies and Tom Cochrane.


For the follow up record entitled "Burning Days", Barlow once again teams up with long-time collaborator and Producer Mladen Alexander and together they have created another collection of socially conscious, hook laden pop/folk/rock songs. Staying true to their music-making roots, Tom and Mladen released the first single from their sophomore album Burning Days via viral video in the fall of 2011. Titled  "Steal Like A Billionaire" the track is a reflection of the anger that people around the world have been feeling for a long time toward financial institutions and their inability to lead North America away from financial upsets.

Dragonette: Bodyparts

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Bodyparts is the third album from this Toronto band, with the two earlier releases full of dance tunes, ballads, funk and retro pop. This new offering is produced and polished and ready to show the world what this talent has to offer to its fans and fans to be.

The band’s repertoire includes a host of impressive collaborations with the likes of American DJ Kaskade and French producer Martin Solveig. Most recently, the band worked with Solveig in 2010 to release the joint-effort dance track “Hello.” The single made a huge splash globally, catapulting the band into the limelight amongst a flourishing electro-dance music scene. In the aftermath of the fame wrought by the success of “Hello,” Dragonette has attempted to stay close to their roots of writing and producing dance music with both style and substance while appealing to a larger, more universal audience.

In Dragonettes’ Bodyparts, (Universal Music Canada)the band hopes to balance their historically synth-laced, underground dance-pop sound with the influential pop aesthetic so prevalent today. Lead single “Let It Go” certainly succeeds in this task, featuring a catchy, danceable, and most importantly accessible, hook alongside the youthful vocals of Martina Sorbara and Dragonette’s signature synth-lines. Needless to say, in the post-“Hello” era, the band would also love strike a chord with pop music fans everywhere and showcase a sound they proudly call their own.

Jenn Grant: The Beautiful Wild

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Six Shooter Records


Third time out and Jenn Grant gets it right wth the most fully realized of her albums so far. Debut album, Orchestra for the Moon gave it all away in the title, all gossamer romance and like that. ‘Twas to be expected from a singer.songwriter rooted in the Halifax folk scene.


For this one, It’s like Jenn is looking outward more, taking an interest in other people. Or at least in narratives with a wider resonance. To say the stance has been honestly earned is beside the point. That it’s all come to a forceful and none the less seductive fruition, needs to be said here.


The approach is more laid back, introspective and with moments of understated humour. Grant fleshes out the sound here and there with a dash of harp and a full-on boy's choir on “I Want You Back” and “Michael.” But are you ready for a sweet sitar opening to the roughed-up “Gone Baby Gone”?  And how ‘bout some East Coast jazzy noodlings on “White Dove?”


Like the bird in that song, Grant’s stretching her wings and she’s already hitting the kind of heights that’ll bring her a fresh audience. Especially if they’re of a certain age and come in on  “Green Grows the Lilac,” at the point where she does an amazing reworking via piano and voice of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”  Yep, a total WTF moment whose significance to the album as a whole is buried deep, but one which gives Grant a way better shot at airplay.

Connie Saulnier Impressions

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada


As a singer-songwriter, Connie has thrilled audiences in Canada nationwide, carving “her place” into each province’s music scene. Performances and interviews on local TV, numerous nightspots including Vancouver’s musical launch pad ‘the Railway Club’ as well as being a staple in many hotspots, festivals, & community events. She has had the opportunity to partner on stage with many artists in singer-songwriter circles including Ryan Cook for Minor Music 2009 and performed during the 2009 NS Music Week in Yarmouth. Most recently, she performed at the 2010 Harmony Bazaar Festival of Women & Song in Lockeport where she participated in the Home Grown Stage & jammed in “Irish’s Invitational” with the likes of Irish Mythen & Coco Love Alcorn.


Born & raised in a small fishing community near Yarmouth NS, Connie has filled her life with a love for music. The sounds of an Acadian heritage; choirs, musical gatherings, celebrations & the ‘rock & roll’ sounds of the surf have fueled & fed her. From her first guitar (purchased with money raised from rolling coin for her school cafeteria; still used to write most her music on), to picking up unique instruments & musical teachings from travels around the globe you will hear in her music an explosion of passion, heart, soul & honesty. An Acadian soul, a worldly spirit.

Jim Byrnes: I Hear The Wind In The Wires

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Black Hen


Big advantage in being an older musician fronting a solid, Juno-winning rep like Jim Byrnes is you can release an album like this and still keep your record deal. Known for the rich textures, emotional depths and narrative originality of his own songs, Byrnes goes all music geek by offering his highly subjective interpretations of select tunes from the Golden age of country music.


That said, there are tunes here that aren’t strictly country (“Ribbon Of Darkness”) from artists who aren’t really country either (Tom Waits), which gets us into that hair-splitting country between an album about country songs and a country album.


Teamed again with multi-instrumentalist/producer Steve Dawson and backed by area luminaries Geoff Hicks (drums), Chris Gestrin (organ, piano), Mike Sanyshyn (fiddle), Rob Becker (bass) and John Resichman (mandolin), Byrnes delivers just the best having-the-time-of-his life album.


With a set list drawn from artists including Hank Snow, Marty Robbins, Hank Williams, Nick Lowe, Buck Owens, and Dolly Parton, delivered with love and kickass swagger, this is probably Byrnes’ most immediately accessible and lovable album.


Extra high-fives to the man for a tres cool and most applicable album title, evoking those other Canuck icons Ian ‘Four Strong Winds’ Tyson and Leonard ‘Bird On a Wire’ Cohen.


Lenny Stoute

Snowblink: Inner Classics

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Arts & Crafts


Here’s the second coming from slow-burning T.Dot duo Snowblink. If you loved the lush trance-folk sound and precision harmonies of debut album Long Live, then you’re gonna get wet all over again with this ‘un.


Inner Classics marks the first music from Daniela Gusundheit and Dan Goldman since the pair relocated Snowblink from SoCal to Toronto. Full marks to the lady for keeping her sunny-side-up world view and warm as worn cutoffs vocals intact. Good thing, these being elements central to the Snowblink charm.


What’s most noticably new is a willingness to deploy fresh musical shades and get messy with more involved arrangements. Opener “Pray For Surf” offers a new meld of Gusundheit’s stained glass gossamer vocals with Goldman’s manly, and this time around, more assertive voice. Propelling the track, smart indie-pop guitar licks from Goldman.


Next up is “Unsurfed Waves” a loping little surf-pop number oblique enough to qualify as a love child of Brian Wilson and Joni Mitchell. Simply framed, instantly acessible and a jewel box for the act’s unique charms and warmth, this one has solid earworm potential.If “Unsurfed Waves” is the rocker, then “Safety Stories” is the chiller, slow, sedate, taking its time to reveal its subtle charms. Just when you think it’s going to stay a sweet-natured plodder, Bruce Peninsula’s Misha Bower checks in with a cool, full-bodied vocal correctly contrasting Gusundheit’s sweetness, in one of the album’s standout moments.

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