Reviews

Half Deaf Clatch The Blues Continuum

The Blues Continuum Half Deaf Clatch.jpg

Autoprod/Redpromotions
Submitted by Iain Patience
(Cashbox Europe)

This is the third release from a mighty fine slide blues picker from England, a wonderful album that could all too easily be overlooked. Which would be a tragic mistake, because this CD has many excellent qualities and deserves widespread exposure and recognition.

HDC, a British Blues Award 2014 finalist, wrote most of the material here, together with Red Burley. Who features on backing vocals. The album has been gaining airplay with blues shows across the UK since pre-release promo copies were made available a few weeks ago.

There are clear shades of Son House in the mix but this album is not just another of those old music replayed affairs; far from it. It's a finely crafted work of traditional sounding musical reinvention and much more.  From the gripping, jangling slide work on the intro to the  first track,  'Bury My Bones', to the close,  ten tracks later, 'The Blues Continuum' serves as an engaging showcase for Half Deaf Clatch's gravel vocals,  soulful picking and strong song-writing skills.

This is one of those all too rare things: a simply cracking, crackling bit of originality. With roots firmly in the Deep South but produced in England,  'The Blues Continuum' brings a flavor of new blues with new songs and sounds to a wider audience.  Track five, entitled 'Good Thing', says it all and fittingly hints at what to expect here. Positively recommended.

Website: www.halfdeafclatch.com

Cold Specks: Neuroplasticity

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Arts & Crafts
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

This muchly-anticipated follow-up from the diva of doom soul does not disappoint. It scarifies, mystifies and is naked of anything radio friendly. Also absent is the stripped down deep-rooted gospel folk of Juno nommed debut I Predict a Graceful Expulsion. Going the completely opposite way with the follow-up is a bold move aimed at dodging the sophomore boogieman. It succeeds more often than not and misses the mark less in comparisons with its predecessor and more in reaching the bar CS sets for herself at various places in the album.

While the dark tones of the Deep South remain and there’s music aplenty, Specks indulges her experimental side at many points. There are woozy, slack-tuned guitar lines, shrieking trumpets drop in and out, bringing a menacing whimsy, the deep, deep brooding vocals of the Swans' Michael Gira on “Exit Plan” and “Season of Doubt” and permeating the whole enterprise, a sense of unease.

Not so far around the corner from prime Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, except for the lack of strong melodies. This is after all doom soul, so there’s no expectation of killer hooks but still  too often the ornamentation outshines the melody.

The standout songs stand way out. Opener “A Broken Memory” nails the tone firmly in place: synths and drums of a creeping menace supporting a solid melody most suitable for lyrics like “All is calm / Nothing is right”, delivered in a semi-sung chant which Specks employs on a number of songs. “Old Knives” and “Absisto” are cut from similar bloodstained black flags, the latter being released as the album’s first single, despite the plodding tempo.

Too often, CS seems to be content to let songs meander along, any dynamics which appear seem like pleasant happenstance. Check “Bodies at Bay” and “Exit Plan”

Suzy Bogguss At Hugh’s Room Lucky Us

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Submitted by Don Graham

Hugh’s Room, Toronto’s acoustically superb listening room venue, and American sweetheart songstress Suzy Bogguss, are a perfect fit. Both are unique and tops in their field so it was fitting that Bogguss  graced Hugh’s Room stage on Saturday night (August 16) to a capacity crowd.

It was a magical evening and the attentive crowd got what they came for and more. Suzy, bass player extraordinaire Charlie Chadwick and Chris (If It Has Strings I Can Play It) Scruggs  grabbed the crowd immediately with Suzy’s big hit ‘Outbound Plane’ and held them for the entire night with their musicality, humour and warmth.

Suzy Bogguss has platinum and gold records in her collection and a Grammy award but on stage she gives you the impression that she has come to your house to sing, entertain you and make sure you have a good time. No diva syndrome here. It probably helped that Suzy, who went to college in Illinois, had her college roommate from back then in the audience. They got together for a chat before the show and Suzy said laughing, “One of us went north and one of us went south. She told me I had a southern accent and I said you have said “eh” five times It was sure great to see her again.”

Bahamas Is Afie

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Afie Jurvanen known by his stage name Bahamas, is a Canadian musician born in Toronto, and raised in Barrie, Ontario.  Jurvanen is self-taught on guitar and has worked with such musicians as Feist, Howie Beck, Jason Collett, Jack Johnson, The Weather Station, and Zeus.

Jurvanen recorded his debut album, Pink Strat, in a cabin in rural Ontario in 2008. It was released under the name Bahamas in 2009 and subsequently nominated for a 2010 Juno Award for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year – Solo.

Bahamas' second album, Barchords, was released on February 7, 2012.  At the 2013 Juno Awards, it was nominated for the Adult Alternative Album of the Year and Jurvanen was nominated for Songwriter of the Year for the tracks "Be My Witness", "Caught Me Thinking", and "Lost in the Light".

His third album, Bahamas Is Afie, is truly that. Jurvanen has always been the key element to Bahamas, and this time he has basically made this new offering all about himself. Don Kerr assisted in the recording and drums, while others from the Bahamas band were there to lend musical helping hands.

Weakerthan Jason Tait and background vocalist Felicity Williams, both of whom play in the four-piece Bahamas touring ensemble) but it is the sound of Jurvanen playing all parts himself that makes this so refreshing.

While the new offering drops in stores on August 19, a solid tour schedule that starts in California and zigzags across the US until October 16 (there is one gig in at the Shivering Songs Festival in Frederiction, New Brunswick on September 10) Afie won’t be back in Canada until October 16, starting on the West coast, then Ontario and Quebec, the schedule is solidly booked.

Arkells: High Noon

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Universal/Dine Alone
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

For this third cookie, Hamilton indie rockers Arkells bust out a big, shiny version of the retooled classic rock sound that’s won them a pair of Junos. Indicative of the album’s ambitions is the presence of L.A. producer Tony Hoffer (Phoenix, M83) but that nouveau worthy doesn’t meddle all that much with the sound already in place.

That front guy Max Kerman owned up to listening to a lot of The Clash during the writing of High Noon, might account for some of the Arcade Firey wide screen sensibility suffusing the project. That this is not all that far off shows up on the very first track, “Fake Money.” Think Arcade Fire bombast and anti-indie rock welded to organic gritty Clashisms, replete with fist-pumping shout out lyrics like ‘preying on the weak and those who don’t believe’. This one’s the wild card, with the bulk of the material staying with what the band does very, very well: mining late Seventies-Eighties radio rock. Case in point, “Cynical Bastards,” a solid dance floor banger whose earworminess derives from its sounding like a vintage album track you swear you’ve heard before but just can’t place.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Hypnotic Eye

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Warner
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

On this thirteenth studio outing, Tom Petty may not have much new to say but it’s a fine reminder of why the man got as far and as high as he did. Bottom line, this un’ does a fast backwards stylistically to the earliest days, namely the 1976 self-titled debut album and its immediate follow-up 1978’s You’re Gonna Get It.

This happens not just musically, with many of the songs alluding to Petty’s rebel rocker side, which tends to live in the shadows of the chart topping tuneage. ‘All You Can Carry’ is a fine example, building on a Mike Campbell guitar riff and studded with pointed lyrics such as “No one can say I didn’t have your side / No one can say I left without a fight.”

Petty’s gone many rounds with the corporate music world, from protesting album price increases to giving away free downloads to fans at concerts and battling to put a cap on concert tickets. So the fact ‘Hypnotic Eye’ is full of standing strong songs (‘American Dream Plan B’, “Power Drunk”) gives the thing the heft of authenticity.

Nor is the boy shy about dropping the hammer and going way loud more often than not, the centerpiece in that regard being the scathing look at society’s marginalized that’s “Forgotten Man.” But this crew didn’t get large on volume alone and there are plenty of moments reflective of the musical artistry and clever bits of business that come from playing together for so long.

The Sand in My Shoes Terry Gomes

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What better to review on a weekend when everyone should be having some fun in the sun. The Sand in My Shoes is an EP from Ottawa-based Terry Gomes, who is a guitarist influenced by smooth jazz and a Latin American flavor.

This is his 5th recording, and credits much of his influences on his upbringing and musicial inspirations. “Growing up in a Guyanese family, I was exposed to a lot of Caribbean-based music, including calypso and a variety of other music from South America and Latin America. I have played many genres of music, but after the passing of my father and uncle, I moved into a type of music and recording that would have made them proud.”

Gomes studied classical guitar and modern composition at the University of Ottawa. He graduated with an Honours degree and went on to teach guitar for a decade, while performing in various bands.

‘Look Alive’ opens up the EP, and is a timeless song, with smooth guitar lines and slick percussion, ‘Hey Sweet Shirley’ shows the folk/rock influence of Gomes earlier days, ‘Tradewinds’ is truy the jewel on the recording; for anyone who has walked the beach watching a Caribbean sunset, this is it. ‘On The Pier’ is a great production of simple guitar and tasteful percussions, and the closing track ‘Hide and Seek’ brings the whole production together, once again showing the true experience of great musicians.

John Hiatt Terms of my Surrender: New West

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Since he’s never really been away, ‘comeback’ may not be the right word. For an artist whose hits by other artists are better known than he is, a little name-brand recognition at this late career stage is a needful thing. If he’s ever going to change that ‘critically acclaimed but widely under-appreciated status,’ the time is now.

This being his 26th album, some slackerism is to be expected, especially in the way of lyrics, but thing is, even Hiatt’s slacker shit is well, you know the rest. Dude hasn’t lost any of his snap and snarl nor his way with a backhanded lyric like "Staring at my motorcycle/ My heart is so heavy/ Like a stack of Bibles." On “Baby’s Gonna Kick”, Hiatt sounds almost gleeful singing:"I'm riding downtown dialled to John Lee Hooker / I've got my mind set on a slow meat cooker / My baby's gonna kick me out someday."

For the most part, Hiatt’s sets down the electric sound for a more mellow, acoustic album, with the band used primarily for highlights such as the funky harp line on “Face of God” or the razor-sharp guitar solo on “Nothin’ I Love”. Over time, the haunted, hard travellin’, love-driven persona has grown a layer of lovable old outlaw with a salty sense of humour, in full display on “Old People.”

The Devin Cuddy Band Kitchen Knife

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Cameron House
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

No chance this apple was ever gonna fall from its tree. With a Canuck musical icon for a dad and growing up in an environment rich in alt-country and roots music influences, Devin Cuddy probably never in his life thought of going punk. Also, it does help his identity thing that his instrument of choice is the piano.

The debut album showcased a deep interest in the prototypical roots elements which became the building blocks of primal rock and roll and Kitchen Knife carries on in the same vein.

Album opener ‘Kitchen Knife’ features Cuddy’s rough-edged vocals riding atop a mellow barrelhouse piano riff, offering a palatable counterpoint to lyrics which seem to allude to getting justice at knife point. There’s much the same aesthetic at work on ‘Forty Four’, whose rollicking stride piano riff carries Cuddy’s gleeful warning to stay away from his door ‘cause he gots his Forty Four.

So yeah, this one is all about the storytelling, and Cuddy cleverly employs a number of personae in getting the stories across.

On the vocal end, Devin’s still growing into the mellow side of his tenor and in a couple of places, notably the classic weepers “Home” and “Lee’s Lament”, is pitch perfect on every level.

Steve Groves Notes From The Underground

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Steve Groves has released his latest CD "Notes From The Underground, a 5 song EP of all original blues written and produced by Steve. The CD has special guests. The great Montreal guitarist Ricky Laurent plays swamp slide guitar on "Runnin' Through The Bayou”.  Everyone knows bluesman Steve Marriner blowing’ harp on this up tempo blues shuffle, "Shut The Front Door”.  Steve’s daughter, Raven Desneiges Groves adds a sweet flavour with the background vocals on "The Queens Cousins Cats" and Rene Fortier playing hot percussion on 3 of the songs.

Regular band members in the Steve Groves Trio are rock solid low bass tones coming from Jamaica’s Owen Brown rooted with his rhythm partner, Jorge Reyes on drums.
Having just returned from a 99 day tour of France, Spain and India, Steve is busy successfully contacting blues radio stations globally. So far the EP is being played in Spain, Switzerland, England, Canada and New Orleans, as well as on syndicated blues radio shows across North America. Radio response has been 100%.

Steve is now planning his next world tour. Spain has invited him back to perform at several festivals and other countries are in his sights. "I feel great about the response that the songs from the CD are getting.  New Orleans Radio has three of the tracks on rotation plus Blues Deluxe broadcasts on local stations throughout North America".

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