Reviews

The Jimmy Zee Band – Ride

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The Jimmy Zee Band is back on the road with ‘Ride’, another funky, smoking roadhouse blues recording. ‘Ride’ features a collection of new and original songs, plus a stellar version of Rush’s ‘Working Man, done like you have never heard before.


Nominated for Blues Recording of the Year by the Western Canadian Music Awards for 2010’s ‘Devil Take Me Down’, Jimmy Zee’s single from that recording ‘Roxy Roller’ was named one of the Top Ten Remakes of All Time by The Toronto Star.


The sound is funky and soulful, while maintaining the balance between smooth jazz and new blues with special feature solos reminiscent of great classic rock. The vocals are smoky, gravely and the music features some of Canada’s best.


Jimmy Zee is known through his writing and production credits, having placed songs with John Michael Montgomery, Aaron Tippin, Diamond Rio and Neil McCoy to name a few. His singles ‘Sante Fe’, ‘Diamonds’ and the remake of Sweeney Todd’s ‘Roxy Roller’ have garnered international attention with adds and chart positions on radio playlists in the US, Europe, Japan and Canada.


If you are a fan of the blues, this is a must have for your collection. If you are new to lovin’ the blues, this is a great CD to show you the way.


Music at it’s finest – Truly ‘Zee’ best.


Sandy Graham

Young Guv & The Scuzz: A Love Too Strong

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Southpaw

Guitarist Ben Cook’s job with prog-punk stars Fucked Up is to bring the melodies to Damian Abraham’s hard-hitting extravaganzas. In the process he’s evolved a shimmering, sparkling, incredibly fluid and exuberant style of lead guitar and this action-packed throwdown is all about that.

In six songs under 22 minutes, Cooks makes a strong case for cleverly constructed, forceful, squeaky clean and loud power pop, ably assisted by top-flight production work. At certain points influences come through loud and clear but at no point do they ever overwhelm a track or obscure Cook’s signature sound. Or his way with a flurry of hooks, as on “Heal In Time” and “I Am The Rogue”.

There’s not a dog in the lot nor a single wasted or stepped on note and at the end, one of few albums recently heard that genuinely left a body wanting for more. Oh yeah, responsible for that in a big way, the amazing work of sound engineer Steve Chahley, a name we’ll be hearing more of sooner rather than later.

Lenny Stoute

Andrea England Hope & Other Sins

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada


Canada’s Andrea England has a unique ability to work successfully in two different music worlds, placing her pop co-writes such as “Casualty” on Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger’s solo debut album, Killer Love, and recording and performing as a solo artist herself in a folk/roots/country vein. Her sophomore album, Hope & Other Sins, is the long-awaited follow-up to 2005’s Lemonade, the debut that enabled her to work behind the scenes as a professional songwriter.


“The fact I wrote on a song as pop as pop can be boggles the mind of people in the folk genre,” Andrea laughs.


Her new album, Hope & Other Sins — produced in Nashville by Colin Linden (Bruce Cockburn, Colin James, Stephen Fearing), and featuring such special guest musicians as Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Liz Rodrigues, Gordie Sampson and Damhnait Doyle — is about resilience, much like Lemonade was, how life can knock you down, but nothing good can come from staying down for the count. “A lot of the songs on this album have, at the seed, some kind of conflict or struggle, but in the end they are hopeful.” And that’s just who Andrea is — a glass half-full kind of person.

Cold Specks:The Great Hall

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Toronto

Cold Specks return to The Great Hall was met by a hipster heavy crowd, all plaid shirts and facial hair on the boyz, blinged out sandals for the ladies and a buzz of anticipation shared by all. The occasion was a rare club date for the band, taking a time out from the lucrative festival circuit to drop one for the hometown fans.

The packed house showed its appreciation with rapt attention and appreciative applause for the many twists and turns a Cold Specks song can take. Although singer/songwriter Al Spx has described her sound as ‘doom soul’, it also has elements of a Gospel sound delivered in shades of hope and is not without dark humor.

A Cold Specks concert isn’t so much about showcasing individual songs as creating and sustaining an atmosphere on which the songs can’t help but shine. Spx and her five-piece band wasted no time getting down to polishing. She joked early on that it was extremely tough for her and the band to put together the set list, as they were looking for the best mix of older and new material but on evidence, they got it just right.

Some of this involved tweaking the material just slightly, partly as updater and partly as application of things learnt from frequent touring. The older tunes in particular came across as more vivid, especially “ Dirty Water”. With a show built around the vocals, it’s to be expected that the singer will deliver that special something you won’t hear on the recorded versions and Spx delivered large.

Ruthless Ones: Ruthless Ones

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Independent

Powerful stuff from this young ska/punk outfit with loads of energy and promise. Ruthless Ones are Ian Robertson (gtr, vcls), Evgeni Varakin (gtr, vcls), Elliot Siebert (bass, vcls) and Nik Robe (drms), and all those voices are very necessary for the group’s shout along choruses.

Stylistically, they draw from ‘White Riot’ era Clash for the socio-political stance and West Indian rhythms and from Stiff Little Fingers for the teen energy and the scalding guitar breaks. Within those parameters, Ruthless Ones manage to find space to experiment with nuance and texture.

While “Natty Treble” is a classic slice of old school Oi punk, “Walls” is completely in the punk now, with its nods to metal and garage influences. Given that this isn’t a genre known for intricate arrangements, the band’s ability to flip the script saves the album from sounding too much all the same.

While the musicianship is just fine, Robertson’s up from the guts lyrics sets Ruthless Ones apart. Loosely themed around a young man’s coming of age struggles in the urban world; “Long Run” goes down the bleak road of teen angst, “Nobody Knows” checks on communities within the communities we think we all know and “Big Eye” is a clever breakdown on how Big Brother has become just another commodity on the greed market, which Robertson implies, is a much scarier prospect than ol’ Big Brother hisself.

Jeanine Mackie Band: Live At The Drake

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Submitted by Don Graham


After watching the gifted Jeanine Mackie perform for a few nights at the Beaches International Jazz Festival Street Fest, what better way to listen to her at home than a live recording? And that’s exactly what I did. ‘Jeanine Mackie Live At The Drake’ is an 11 song offering of classic R&B and Soul classics. Making a live record can be a daunting undertaking but Ms. Mackie and her band of brothers pulled it off in topnotch fashion. Having just watched her performance and then listening to the live CD, I was impressed with how much the band and Jeanine sounded exactly the same on record as they do live. That is a true testament to the talent assembled for this project. The band consisting of the guitar magic of Bob McAlpine, the keyboard mastery of Matt Horner, the solid bass of Bryan Stoher, the soulful saxophone of John Johnson and held together by the driving drums of Al Cross and percussion of Arturo Avales- these are some of Toronto’s finest players. It’s the type of ensemble that a pure voice like Jeanine Mackie deserves and needs to show it’s full quality. A perfect marriage of band and vocals.


The set includes a great version of Junior Walker’s Shotgun, and a funky version of Bill Withers’ Use Me. Dionne Warwick’s Walk on By is another highlight, Aretha’s Respect and Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On shine as well.

The River’s Edge Steve Rivers

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Submitted by Don Graham


Steve Rivers is part of the new breed of young country artists emerging on the scene today. It’s country music, but with an edge. That doesn’t mean it’s pop or mainstream, it’s more like a cross between Creedence Clearwater, Bruce Springsteen, The Allman Brothers and Hank Sr.


Splitting his time between Nashville and Ontario, the Canadian native is working hard to carve out a place for himself in the ultra competitive country market. When asked what sets him apart Rivers says ” Hopefully my songs and my stage show. We try every night to give the folks their money’s worth and try and write what’s in my heart, and in the show we try and make the crowd  feel like they are a part of the show.”

Kelly Joe Phelps: Brother Sinner and the Whale

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Black Hen Music

There’s more than a whiff of weirdness around this album. After a decade of adamantly refusing to play his signature slide guitar, the ramblin’ man of the Pacific Northwest chose this collection of songs to return to his bottleneckin’ roots.

While Phelps has always been a deep running river, song titles like “I’ve Been Converted” and “Talkin To Jehovah”, delivered without a sliver of irony, signal spiritual doings afoot in the Phelpsian world.

To get the job done right, KJ returned to longtime collabo Steve Dawson in Vancouver’s The Henhouse Studio for this squirrel ass tight collection.

This is the other kind of summer album, the one with the dust in your throat and sweat in your eyes and the road ahead shimmering silver in the heat is really no escape.

It’d be easy to tag it as Phelps goes Gospel, if it were not for the fact he remains one of the finest finger pickers about and that alone informs every song he touches in very specific ways. Very much a case of the singer not the songs.

Fans are already calling this his best work ever, high praise when you recall previous efforts have made fans of U2’s The Edge and Steve Earle, to mention but two. The new songs are beautifully crafted acoustic gems, layered with nuance and so captivating melodically the message is often lost in the music.

PURITY RING: Shrines

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4AD

“Cut open my sternum and pull/my little ribs around you," Megan James intones with sweet and heartfelt warble. And lives there a man, woman or small furball dog you can’t tell one end from the other who could resist such an invitation? If so, wouldn’t want to be that especially as this is but one facet of the many diamonds in Purity Ring’s setting.

The Edmonton-born electro freak rock oddballs, featuring  James’ vocalising while Corin Roddick plays an instrument shaped like a tree of lights, on relocating to Montreal found a sympathetic environment for their eccentric, highly textured style of music.

On Shrines, Purity Ring’s muchly hyped major label debut, the duo do not disappoint. PR sounds settled into its groove, making it easier to step out experimentally via wordmangling lyrics and lurching, woozy, vaguely familiar pop melodies. James drops some impressive lyrical changeups that woujld have wowed James Joyce, only hinted at in song titles such as “Belispeak”, “Lofticries” and “Obedear” which clearly set her head and creamy shoulders above the rest of the freak pop field.

Of interset too is that many of these tunes carry enough triggers to make the transition to club bangers, making for a potentially grabby live show.

Meantime, slap on the headphones, get down with Purity Ring’s death disco for bolgheads and get reaccquainted with your sense of wow wonder.

Shrines drops July 24 with a cross-country tour already in progress.

James Lizzard

Beauty and the Beast Delivers the Goods

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Submitted by Amanda M. DaSilva

Sitting in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, in downtown Toronto, I was anxiously anticipating the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. I remember the Disney video so well, and couldn’t wait to see how it translated into a stage play.

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