Reviews

Sills and Smith Etched

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Submitted by Don Graham

Sills and Smith have released their 4th studio album , Etched , as is their modus operendi  the evolution continues.  Like the river you stand in is not the river you walk in, the boys creative energy flows constantly and never at the same speed  but their forward direction stays the same. They continue their quest to reach the “sea” and won’t stop until they get there. This time they have switched producers and studios in their search for their true sound.

The boys, Jeremy and Frank explain their band this way, “The core band is Jeremy Sills and Frank Smith, who write the songs and we  handle all the vocals. For the fourth studio album we used a new producer Phillip Victor Bova (Bova Sound) who has worked with a who's who of Canadian folk/rock artists including David Wiffen, Ian Tamblyn and classical pianist Angela Hewitt. Phil and our drummer Bruce were in Richard Thompson's band when I saw Thompson in Ottawa about 20 years ago. There were 8 contributors to this recording. Phil played bass, T. Bruce Wittet drums, Kevin Breit electric guitars and mandolin, Don Wallace electric guitars and dobro, RoddyEllias electric guitar and nylon string acoustic guitar, Raphael Weinroth-Browne cello. Jeremy played acoustic guitars, piano and crystal bowls. So this group of 8 is the studio band, with the other 6 augmenting what is rooted in a two person project. Jonathan Edwards (Corvidae Music) was the producer and multi-instrumentalist on our first three albums.”

Brian Kramer Full Circle

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Submitted by Iain Patience

This CD, from US-born, Sweden-based bluesman, Brian Kramer is already one of my personal favourites of the year.  With all the material written by Kramer, and an excellent cast of supporting musicians providing back-up, it hits the spot for me with its soulful guitar-work and laid-back ragtimey-blues feel.  Since its arrival, I’ve been listening to it on an almost daily basis.  And, unlike some others, it never seems to become boring or simply background noise. It’s a really rewarding album, never jaded, that can be listened to time after time.

‘Full Circle’, in short, is an excellent little album. Themed around Kramer’s quarter century as a pro player and his US Big Apple roots, It sure resonates with me with its laid-back rhythm and material that ranges from Ragtime-Blues influences to Brian’s beloved and sensitively picked Steel Guitar work.  His electric playing is also showcased with a fine bunch of backing musicians including Chuck Anthony on guitar, Mats Quarfordt on Harp, another Swedish based US player, Bert Deivert, Steel Mandolin, and some very soulful backing vocals from Maria Blom, Isabella Lundgren and Fanny Holm. At times the groove here is reminiscent of the late JJ Cale, with its deceptively laid-back melodies and clever lyricism.

Kramer, for many years provided back-up guitar to Eric Bibb, both on the road and in the studio, and has also worked with Junior Wells and Taj Mahal, among many others in the USA. He was a peripheral part of the Greenwich Village traditional US music scene, busking in Washington Square for nickels and dimes in the late sixties/early seventies., and gigging in bars and clubs throughout New York as he gained a toe-hold in the exploding blues music business.

‘Full Circle’ is a marvellous album that gives great, genuine pleasure and is well worth a listen for anyone who loves the blues.

www.briankramerblues.com

Stars No One Is Lost

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Pop went Stars on 2012’s The North and had so much fun in the process they decided to stay with it and amp it up to even giddier heights on this one. Recorded above a former gay disco in Montreal, No One Is Lost is Stars’ blatant invitation to get down and shake it loose in the shadow of doom. No surprsie then that some of these ghosts from the now-dead club crept into the album. So what we have here is ‘indie dance music’; got the beats and the handclaps down (“A Stranger”) but still in thrall to the angst and the dramatic statement.

Which is plainly laid out in the seven-minute rave-up of an opener, “From the Night”, whose manifesto goes something like, no matter how boring or empty your dayside life is, night time is the right time to change all that up. Which, for Torquill Campbell, is very stripped down and direct. Best of the odes to party are “Movie Score” and “Are You OK?” with all kinds of au courant electronica and sparkling percussion driving them forward. But while da boogie is in full effect, the emotional underpinings are more their usual fatalistic outlook than any newfound optimism. That there are no certainties, love will break your heart, the world is running down, change is the only constant and how much constant change can a person handle?

The dueling duets of Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell are an essential ingredient in the Stars’ sound and given the album’s milieu, the pair don’t hold back from embracing the melodrama, especially on the innuendo-driven “You Keep Coming Up” and the hell-bent glitter of the title track with the killer line, “ Put your hands up ‘cause everybody dies.”

Campbell still wants to have it both the romantic and the outrageous ways so we get the slow grinders “Turn It Up” and “What Is to Be Done?” just to remind us they’re not done with the romantic thing yet. In spite of it all, Stars really do want to raise your spirits and get you dancing.

Lucinda Williams Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

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Submitted by Iain Patience
Cashbox Magazine Europe

A glorious 20 track, double album from the queen of Americana. Most double albums have an inevitable feeling of too much weak material, superfluous padding, about them. Not this one, a jam-packed elemental tour de force from start to finish.

Williams is on top form throughout, her gritty voice and guitar shored up by quality writing, at time withering lyrics, and gnawing raw emotion.  We're all familiar with her style and unique - often dark - view of life, love, relationships and vision. 'Down Where The Spirit Meets the Bone’ is no exception, but with more than a hint of redemption in the mix. Williams says of this release, it is an expression of her 'optimism.' Not a description often attached to her usual, stripped-bare emotive take on life and love.

Tony Joe White  and Jakob Dylan both feature together with strong support from multi-instrumentalist/producer  Greg Leisz, Bill Frisell, and a couple of former Elvis Costello sidemen, drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Danny Faragher. The production is perfectly pitched and assured with such a great studio team onboard.

This has to be one of those sadly all too rare things, an absolutely essential album.  Is it country, is it Americana, is it blues?  It's all of those things and much, much more. Possibly the essential release of the year.

www.lucindawilliams.com

Eric Andersen You Could Have Heard a Pin Drop

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Submitted by Don Graham

Eric Andersen’s return to Hugh’s Room was a fascinating night of legendary songs, newer songs destined to become legendary and triumph.

When I arrived at Hugh’s Room for Eric Andersen’s performance, the room was already buzzing in anticipation of seeing and hearing this American icon who was there at the beginning of the explosion of music in New York’s Greenwich Village.  He was introduced by Jane Harbury who was once a waitress at The Riverboat in Toronto where Eric played and sang in the 1960s. The moment he was introduced and made his way to the stage the room fell quiet, eerily quiet. That’s how much respect this man got from this audience of fans and people just wanting to be transported back to a simpler time. But this was not a nostalgia show. Unlike some veteran performers Eric Andersen didn’t just sing his classic songs from the 60’s (although he could have easily done a whole evening of that) but rather did some current material. He even had a song called The “Plague” where he referenced the current Ebola scare in Dallas Texas. “You guys are following that right?”

From the first words out his mouth when hit the stage you knew you were in for an interesting evening, As he climbed up on the stage and put on his guitar he stood by the mic, in the soft lighting, looking very ethereal and said, quietly “ Can you walk behind Niagara Falls? “ Somebody yelled out “Yes!”  Eric said, “How far back can you go?” The answer, “ About 200 feet.” Eric stared out at the crowd and said “I’m going to be thinking about that all night.”  The crowd was all his from that moment on.

Matt Woosey Wildest Dreams

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Radar Music Records
Submitted by Iain Patience
Cashbox Magazine Europe

The latest release from young UK acoustic singer/songwriter, Matt Woosey, 'Wildest Dreams' is another positive triumph. Woosey's previous two offerings, 'On The Wagon' and the EP 'Hook, Line & Sinker', were both excellent. It was hard to see how he could follow through with his next release. But Woosey has pulled it off again; indeed, he has done it in spades. Another simply stunning ten-track CD full of his instantly recognisable guitar work and fabulous songs, a seamless fusion of Americana and raw down-dirty blues.

This guy just gets better and better, stronger and stronger, and is clearly extraordinarily talented. This has to be the main contender for 'album of the year'.

The maturity of the song-writing and playing skills on display belie his age; this is one dude who is certainly going places fast.
If you buy only one album this year, make it Woosey's "Wildest Dreams'.

www.mattwoosey.co.uk

Mary Flower When My Bluebird Sings

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Bluesette Records
Submitted by Iain Patience

Mary Flower says of this latest album, that it marks a departure from her usual  style, normally a ragtime-blues acoustic driven mix of blues standards and self-penned tracks. And yet, that solid background shines through here with wonderful, crisp and clear guitar work matched by a mellow voice that seems to improve steadily with age, like a good wine or a fine malt. All titles here were written by Flower and she plays both standard acoustic and slide guitar with strength, sensitivity and soul throughout the mix. From the opener, 'So Far Doin' Alright' she shimmies on to a more typical ragtimey theme with 'Ragtag Rag'. 'Sashay My Way' is a cracking, walking  boogie  piece and the closer, 'Atchafalaya' is a beautiful, rhapsodic piece of playing, reflecting and echoing the genesis of this release which was recorded down in New Orleans a few months ago. For me, Mary Flower is probably the finest female acoustic ragtime-blues picker out there, so it goes without saying, this CD is recommended.

www.maryflower.com

Scott Richmond Come What May

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

The cover of the CD is earthy and warm as is the photo of this artist so when the first track comes on it is a huge surprise to hear this bluesy strong voice singing out to you.

Scott Richmond is a Southern Saskatchewan musician, composer, and performer who has spent the past decade working on his music. He has won multiple music competitions in Canada and is just about to break loose in the major markets.

This debut album ‘Come What May’ was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee with producer/engineer Gabe Masterson at EastSide Manor Studios, this album features several musicians that have performed with some of the most important artists of the past few decades: Colin Linden (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, The Band, Bob Dylan), Kris Wilkinson (Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Garth Brooks) and Kim Morrison (Lynyrd Skynrd, Hank Williams Jr., Ray Charles)

‘Come What May’ is a collection of emotionally charged folk songs, tinged with soul, pop and country, with some tunes pushing the blues as well. From the cinematic Fallen to Rise to the outlaw anthem White Whiskey and Bourbon, to the evocative Fades into Silence, the songs are of stories of love, loss, rebellion, life and death, all put to a great music bed of strong vocals, good melodies and slick musicianship.

Roy Roberts Strange Love

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Submitted by Iain Patience
Cashbox Europe

Roy Roberts is one of those old-timers, a guy who's been around the East Coast US music scene most of his seventy-year plus life. In that time, he's remained below the radar yet been sideman and guitarist with many influential giants of US  popular music. This is a guy who was a soulmate of Otis Redding in the 60s;  he shimmied with Solomon Burke and Eddie Floyd; worked with Stevie Wonder (when he was still 'Little Stevie') and many of the soul music dynasty while developing his own sound, reflected in this excellent ten track album.

'Strange Love' has that full-on Stax sound: rounded Horns; crisp guitar work seamlessly merged with soulful, rocking vocals. Roberts wrote all of the material here, and it is a tribute to his ability and undoubted talent.  With 'Strange Love', Roy Roberts shows he is still firmly rooted in the Deep South but has shaken himself free of his long passed and more successful musical buddies to emerge triumphantly from the shadows. Recommended for sure.

Railroad Steele Back On Track

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Railroad Steele was born out of the need to feed the musical soul. Created in 1989 by lead guitar player Laurence Massicotte and lead vocalist/keyboardist Glenda Massicotte  it has become a vehicle for many players to hone their skills. Located mid way between Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie Ontario, the members are spread amongst the treasured little communities (Iron Bridge to Massey) we call the Walford Station. Many players from the region had got their start with us and will always be remembered as part of the group. The band has changed its genre several times playing everything from classic country to classic rock with their own original tunes which makes for a crowd pleasing experience. Railroad Steele has opened for recording artist April Wine, The Stampeders, The Bright Brothers, and has shared the stage with the likes of Kim Mitchell, Honeymoon Suite, Prism, Glass Tiger, Colin James, Coney Hatch, Carol Baker, Graham Townsend and many incredible artist along the way.

‘On the Verge of A Good Day’ has a great clear vocal, with a repetitive guitar lick that sticks in your head, with a feeling we all embrace of being on the verge of a good day.

The second track rocks it out with ‘Looking Back at You and Me’, a reflective song with survival and love while ‘Life After Love’ could be the follow-up to this track, with Jenny Massicotte delivering a tasteful vocal.

‘Dreaming’ rounds out the vocals with steady harmonies and reminds you of the same feel of ‘No Time Left for You’ with a Guess Who flavor while ‘Do You Believe in UFO’s’ is a playful tune talking about aliens and the reality that they might just be among us.

‘Back on Track’ has a bluesy feel with Allman Brothers style guitar sounds, and Gracie Slick vocals.

Once again Railroad Steele addresses the love gone bad song with ‘Did What I Had to Do’ and

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