Reviews

Sultans of String: Koerner Hall

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Toronto, ON.
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Watching people stream out of the St. George Station and roll directly towards Koerner Hall as if on tracks was an indicator of just how far Sultans of String have come from their beginnings in the small clubs on the Danforth, to the magnificence of Koerner Hall.  Once the show started, they looked totally at home on a stage spacious enough to accommodate seventy-something people and leave lots of space.

Like many in the audience, I’d never seen the Sultans do their symphony thing, so the anticipation barre was way high. Doubly so for those who’d heard the songs from Symphony!, the band’s current release and centrepiece of the show.

The full house was to be treated to the songs on the album, as recorded, with full symphony Ork in attendance. With the orchestra in place and warmed up, the Sultans of String took the stage to a wave of applause and promptly launched into the sparkling, flamenco flavoured ‘Alhambra”, followed by "Rainflower Kitchen Party, a six minute romp through all sounds Celtic, then into “Josie, a virtuoso set piece for McKhool’s showcase of the many styles of ‘roots’ violin playing and onwards to the gypsy jazzy, guitar-powered “Emerald Swing”.

Ross Petty Returns with The Little Mermaid

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Submitted by Don Graham

Every year at Christmas time Ross Petty Productions has brought  their unique brand of family entertainment to the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. This year instead of the Brothers Grimm he has chosen Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid as his story of choice. Ontario’s O-Fish-Al Family Musical is the 18th year of his holiday production.

This is theatrical fun at its best; a fractured fairy tale.  The humour is aimed at the entire audience with enough grown up content to keep the adults attention and the humour that has kids laughing loudly and booing and hissing at Petty’s character, the evil  Ogopogo.

“I love it” says Petty who is a serious actor with some serious stage and screen credentials behind him, “I get to be a kid again, put on the mascara and  be the villain. The more they BOO me the better.”

The story has little to do with the Disney movie. Too high a cost for the use of the brand and more to do with the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale , which as a song and dance routine in the prologue says is completely “public domain.”

In typical Petty fashion, 18 crowd pleasing years and counting, the comedy content was topical and current, with thankfully very few Rob Ford references.  I think people are tired of hearing about him so we didn’t do much about him this year,” Petty said.

Winter Child – Ed Henderson

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Ed Henderson has had a diversified career, from performing with Leon Bibb and his brother Bill’s band Chilliwack, his work composing scores for theatre, documentaries and network television.  He has been commissioned to compose works for many including the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Elektra Women’s Choir, The Dance Centre, Canadian Music Centre, the Vancouver InterCultural Orchestra and musica intima.   He has been nominated for numerous awards and is the recipient of many including a Juno (Ancient Cultures, El Camino Real), Jessie Richardson and Dora Mavor Moore (theatre), Leo (TV score) and Cannes (TV score).

Winter Child is his new solo guitar release and hopefully radio is smart enough to embrace this on their seasonal rotation, as it is a refreshing offering of holiday music.

Carol of the Bells/That Bell Thing is a wonderful opening track reminiscent of Fernando Sor while The First Nowell brings back the spirit of Christmas long ago, memories and family.  Carol of the Drum incorporates The Little Drummer Boy with bassy, deep playing and an intricate jazz style.

The Child’s Dream feels like just that; with snowflakes and frosted windows, waiting for Santa to come.

Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabela is pleasant and easy to listen to while Blessed Child takes you back to the first track with the Spanish influence. O Come O Come, Emmanuel is a rich recording, with an ancient feel of times gone by and the title track Winter Child is a pretty tune with a jazz arrangement.

Sunset Blues Denis Viel

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Denis Viel is an artist from Quebec City who has been travelling for over ten years ‘doing the blues’ in his own style of deep blues, folk, country and world music.  Multi-instrumentalist, Denis Viel plays most of the instruments on his albums including guitar, piano, bass, mandolin, pedal steel and B3 Hammond.

The title track ‘Sunset Blues’ tells a great story of a Louisana style story while ‘Always Bad’ has a shuffle beat and an infectious track that makes you feel like you are actually sitting and watching this guy in a smoky bar.‘Take It Easy Take It Slow’ almost has a Paul Butterfield influence, right down to the great harmonica solo,  ‘Unrequited Love’ could be a blues number from the early 1920’s, ‘Westfalia Blues’ actually is a bit country rock, showing the versatile style of this singer/songwriter musician.

‘I’m Leaving You’ surprises you again with a rock ‘n’ roll shuffle much like early Downchild, ‘Driving Slow’ is a beautifully produced track, showing off the musicianship of this artist, ‘Fill In The Echo’ does the same while BFW shows off Viel’s adept vocals, reminiscent of Ry Cooder, while ‘The Offer’ is a comfortable jive blues tune, while the closing track ‘Life Is Good’ sounds like Leon Russell’s early day recordings.

One Offs Exhibit Opens in Ontario

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada
All Photo Credits: Viliam Hrubovcak and Jolie Fejer
Photo at right: Steve Leckie and Viva

The One Offs exhibit features portraits of musicians and artists from the ‘70s through to the present, created by Torontonians Viliam Hrubovcak and Jolie Fejer. Their work celebrates the musicians as artists and creators and includes such musical legends as Joe Strummer, Johnny Rotten, the Ramones, Debbie Harry, and Iggy Pop.

In the last 30 years Canadian photographers Viliam Hrubovcak and Jolie Fejer have captured the biggest names and many of the influential artists behind the audacious punk movement.  

Rather than exclusively focusing on the 70's icons, the pair decided to trace the idea of punk, and include those who lit the fires first. To go back to Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley from the U.S.; to Lee Scratch Perry and Prince Buster from Jamaica;  to such writers as Jim Carroll and Allen Ginsberg, among others. 

Most of their images have been kept under wraps from the public.  There have been some exceptions: There have been of a number of projects involving the estate of Joe Strummer as well as the limited edition autobiography of John Lydon, a.k.a. "Johnny Rotten, "Scrapbook" which won the Mojo Book Of The Year award in 2012.

Jolie and Viliam have kindly sent these photos with full explanations on what they are about:

Selena Evangline Time is On Her Side

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Submitted by Bill King

I often wonder what the outcome would be if one of our local singing icons were given the treatment lesser deserving receive on reality shows like the Voice. You imagine how a Shakura S’Aida, Divine Brown, Alanna Bridgewater would captivate and own the territory - the orbit being visibility and a worldwide hearing.

These competitions are often about what is referred to the, ‘money notes’ - a blistering succession of tones that peak somewhere near the top of a combatant’s vocal range and strike an emotional chord with an audience. Most times amateurs meander in the lower regions and are judged on a few artificial embellishments.

Selena Evangeline is empowered with a voice that resides somewhere between the practiced artistry of Dinah Washington, Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight and Jennifer Hudson. The low notes carry as much soulful grit and charm as the elevated songbird region most promising sopranos would barter with the devil for.

At an age when musicians begin to question the commitment, long hours, the grind, and disappointments;  Evangeline is beginning to see performance daylight and gathering steam much to do with fellow friends like Shakura S’Aida, who has campaigned in behalf of the talented woman a decade or so her junior. The praise and call to attention is more than well-deserved; it’s the right thing to do. No one this gifted, accomplished and passionate should be denied centre stage.

PUP

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute
Royal Mountain Records

If you think this crew had bite as Topanga, wait’ll you hear them snarl as Pup. On the self-titled debut, Pup has taken the melodic sensibility and clever structures, which they developed as Topanga and welded them to a scalding and abrasive classic punk sensibility.

The album opens with the killer one-two of  “Guilt Trip”, showing off the lighter side and “Resevoir”, a blazing barrage of power riffage and hooky changeups. The pair set a tone and pace which never flags throughout the album’s 12 tracks.

Yup, there will be no power ballads as the Toronto ON foursome deliver the goods with impassioned vocals, great shout-along choruses and heaping helpings of rage-appropriate lyrics. Sonically, it’s a clear case of throwback, just torrents of bigass drums, bumping bass and distorted guitars. Except PUP deliver loads of trippy hooks and punchy guitar solos that amp up such as “Mabu” and “Dark Days”. The weirdest track is the sprawling dirge-metal stomp of  “Yukon” which features a wall-of-noise segment that’ll pin yer ears back.

But it’s not all about the full bore energy. Pup have a way wth clever arrangements, surprising song structures, a knack for the varied changeup and an ear for the beats. Think a muscular mashup of Weezer and early Green Day.

Little Miss Higgins & The Winnipeg Five: Bison Ranch Recording Sessions

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Independent
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

For her fifth full-length, Manitoba’s Jolene “Little Miss Higgins” joins forces with the like-minded Winnipeg Five for an entertaining collection of vintage country blues. Genre fans may know the Five as The F-Holes, under which moniker they’ve released three albums, making this collaboration a natural seeing as how both acts revel in early 30th century sounds and the ‘authentic’ recreation thereof.

The music’s warm, rootsy and intimate, as befitting an album recorded live off the floor of a recording studio in an old barn on the Renaissance Bison Ranch. With the Five bringing the warmth and charm, it’s up to Miss Higgins to bring the sass and the sweet. The lady does not disappoint; revelling in the seamless backing which allows her to lay out the full range of her impressive vocal talents.

Which proves the equal of Higgins’ songwriting talents, seeing as she penned all but one of the ten tracks here. It’s great to hear the one of a kind Higgins sense of whimsey remains sweetly intact, best displayed “I Was At An Auction”, “Chateau Poulet” and the hilarious and foot-stomping “Dead Cow Hill”, but never very far away from the proceedings.

There’s not a false note here and nothing overstays its welcome on this genuine genre gem.

In My Head Alysha Brilla

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Alysha Brilla is a critically acclaimed Tanzanian-Canadian musician who is known for her unique roots-pop fusion musical style. In August 2013, Brilla completed her first full-length record called “In My Head” in which she wrote and produced all the songs and also collaborated with Mike Jones, a Juno winning engineer, and had the album mastered by Tom Coyne, a Grammy Award winner, who has worked with artists such Amy Winehouse and Adele to name a few.  True to Brilla’s musical style, In My Head, features an eclectic musical arrangement of drums, bass, guitar, keys, sax, trumpet, congas, and djembe and his her first release on Sunny Jam Records.

Little Miss Higgins & The Winnipeg Five: Bison Ranch Recording sessions

miss2[1].jpg

Independent

For her fifth full-length, Manitoba’s Jolene “Little Miss Higgins” joins forces with the like-minded Winnipeg Five for an entertaining collection of vintage country blues. Genre fans may know the Five as The F-Holes, under which moniker they’ve released three albums, making this collaboration a natural seeing as how both acts revel in early 30th century sounds and the ‘authentic’ recreation thereof.

The music’s warm, rootsy and intimate, as befittiing an album recorded live off the floor of a recording studio in an old barn on the Renaissance Bison Ranch. With the Five bringing the warmth and charm, it’s up to Miss Higgins to bring the sass and the sweet. The lady does not disappoint; revelling in the seamless backing which allows her to lay out the full range of her impressive vocal talents.

Which prove the equal of Higgins’ songwriting talents, seeing as she penned all but one of the ten tracks here. It’s great to hear the one of a kind Higgins sense of whimsey remains sweetly intact, best displayed “I Was At An Auction”, “Chateau Poulet”  and the hilarious and foot-stomping “Dead Cow Hill”, but never very far away from the proceedings.

There’s not a false note here and nothing overstays its welcome on this genuine genre gem.

Lenny Stoute

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