Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review -- KYLER SCHOGEN -- Pocket Fulla Nothin'

Kyler Schogen
SunCave Records

Hailing from Edmonton Kyler Schogen hits a sweet spot musically, that area just where rock, blues and folk converge. It is a place which musically is almost ideal, at least to my ears, a devout blues lover, who appreciates a good rock song, and the lyrical strength of folk.
It's a crossover locale others have visited, some making it their musical home. Schogen should certainly make it his residence since he is clearly at home in this neighbourhood.
In Schogen's case the music has more blues to it than rock. It's not a smooth 50/50 mix, but he does use elements of both.
On a tune such as Ebb and Flow Schogen mixes in a bit more of an obvious rock flavour, whereas the title cut has more of a pure blues beat.
Just Got Eyes For Me is another driving blues cut that catches attention.
Musically the 13-cuts here are pleasing, although vocally Schogen might not make it to anyone's top-10. It's not that he is bad at the microphone, but he just never seems to quite punch it up to a higher gear to match the work of the bans.
The end result is a pleasing CD, but one you just feel he could have taken a notch, or two higher.
Still it's an effort worth lending an ear to, just maybe regularly.
Check it out at
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 27, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DEL BARBER -- Love Songs For The Last 20

Del Barber

Del Barber's latest effort, Love Songs for the Last 20, is along this year's finalists at the Western Canadian Music Awards for Best Solo Roots Album.
Being among the six finalists for a major award such as those of the WCMA tells you something about the fine music you're going to get when you pop this disc into the player, and Barber does not disappoint. Of course the disc also earned Barber a Juno nomination, so the pedigree is in place.
Barber, who hails from Winnipeg, has a good handle on what it is to play roots music. The disk takes elements of folk and country and blends them seamlessly.
The title song is a perfect example of the idea of alternative country, a song that owes its roots to older music, yet lyrically holds its place in the current era of song writing. That can be said of the entire CD. Barber clearly has a poet's soul the way he writes a song, and there is certainly an element of a modern cowboy minstrel here too. Barber might not ride a horse like an old cowboy crooner, but you can tell he's at home singing story songs around a campfire just the same. You only need to listen to Miles and Years to know that.
Barber may not win the WCMA nod, but you will certainly be a winner if you buy this disk. It's a great effort.
Check it out at
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 27, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MONKEY JUNK -- To Behold

Monkey Junk
Stony Plain

Experience me has taught me to expect to love most CDs coming out of Stony Plain Records.
And really you have to be intrigued by a blues band with the name Monkey Junk.
So it came as no surprise at all that I was immediately impressed by the disk To Behold.
Monkey Junk is Matt Sobb on drums, Tony D on guitar and Steve Marriner lead vocals, harmonica and guitar. Together the trio offers up what I term modern blues. There is healthy rock flavour here, but the heartbeat is purely the blues.
The disk starts off with Mother's Crying, a cut with a throwback country rock-a-billy beat, and it sets the mood for what is generally energetic blues.
You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave) follows in style and tempo.
Right Now gets into a bit more of a soul undertone.
From there the rock begins to creep into the music a bit more, and cuts such as Let Her Down, You Don't Know and All About You are the best examples, and are the best of a very fine CD.
This is a must have blues CD this summer. Find it, buy it, enjoy it.
Check it out at
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 20, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DONALD RAY JOHNSON -- It's TIme

Donald Ray Johnson
MarVista Records

Donald Ray Johnson is a bluesman with a track record. Born in Texas, and now based in Calgary, he has some four decades in the blues business, and has garnered a Grammy Award win, and twice being a Maple Blues Award nominee. He was also voted Best Male Blues Vocalist 2007 by Real Blues Magazine.
So the pedigree is there for Johnson, and that comes through clearly on It's Time.
Johnson's voice remains clear, powerful, appealing,
When Johnson tears into Change Is Going To Come you know you are in for a treat. It's a blues classic in the making.
Through 10-songs Johnson shows why his career has stood the test of time, he's just plain good.
Songs such as Heavy Love, Girl Friend Blues, Louisiana Country Girl and Rainy Night In Georgia are the best cuts on the disk, the later a slower paced song, rich with mood.
Johnson is a veteran blues craftsman showing just what the blues are all about, and he does with the clear confidence of a lifetime behind a microphone.
A wonderful offering to check out.
Check it out at
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 20, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- REDBIRD -- We're All Friends and Lovers Until It Falls Apart


We’re All Friends and Lovers Until It Falls Apart is the debut EP from Vancouver band, Redbird, a group some fortunate local music fans will remember from when the band recently performed locally at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton.
Redbird is the latest musical vehicle for singer/songwriter Savannah Leigh Wellman who has fronted previous variations of her own group, but has made her greatest strides since the formation of Redbird which includes Wellman (vocals and acoustic guitar), John Sponarski (guitar), Jeremy Appleton (bass) and Ben Brown (drums).
"I've gone through so many variations of bands over the past 10-years, but am really happy with where I'm at now with Redbird," Wellman told Yorkton This Week in a May interview.
Certainly the resulting EP is a solid debut for Wellman and Redbird, a definite rock band, albeit one where lyrics and vocals are at the forefront.
"I have a pretty wide range of influences, and I think that definitely comes through in my writing," said Wellman. "I admire the word-craft of greats like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, but also really appreciate the beauty of a catchy melody and harmonies like Fleetwood Mac. I'm also a huge rock and roll fan - this summer I'll be seeing the Black Keys and Sam Roberts Band in outdoor concerts, and I couldn't be more excited! I think I take a little bit of all of those aspects and try to roll them into my own music."
Whatever the specific influences are Wellman has blended them into a great personal sound for Redbird.
There are some fine songs here, in particular In the Hands of Ghosts and West Wind, a couple of tunes as fine as any I've heard in rock in recent months.
As I have often lamented good EPs are always just a bit disappointing because you'd like more than six songs when the band is good. That is the case here, since most of the songs are above average. Oh Please My Heart being the one exception, as it gets a bit repetitious with repeated vocal, but non-word interludes.
Still there is way more positive here than not, and it is certainly easy to recommend music fans check this one out.
Check it out at
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 13, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JJ GUY -- Old Time Dance Album

JJ Guy

There are certain times as a reviewer you realize just how long you've been giving opinions on music, and when I began spinning JJ Guy's latest fiddle release it was one of those times.
It was back in 2007 I reviewed Guy's fiddle release Cadillac, and October 2009 the appropriately named Fiddler, both offerings garnering 8-out-of-10 scores.
Well here it is four years after Cadillac and Guy is back with Old Time Dance Album, and there is no reason not to make it a third straight eight score.
Now I should preface things here just a bit, as the name implies this is old time dance music, the kind I grew up remembering being played by local fiddlers at talent shows at rural summer fairs such as Connaught, Golburn and Shand. That was half a lifetime ago, and I'll admit at the time I would have never admitted to listening to the music, let alone liking it, but now as I have eclipsed 50-years, I have come to realize the old tunes stuck with somehow.
This is a recording of traditional fiddle which Guy outlines are suitable for a range of dances.
Darling Nelly Gray/Soldier's Joy is a medley for the Virginia reel, while The Old Spinning Wheel is a two step.
There are also numbers for the fox trot, barn dance, heel and toe polka and others.
So if old time fiddle is in your blood Guy does it well, so check it out for a transfusion.
Check it out at
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 13, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- NICK FAYE & THE DEPUTIES -- The Last Best West

Nick Faye & the Deputies

Nick Faye is a name you might want to remember because this Regina-based musician writes a darned fine soft rock song, and quite frankly performs them just fine too.
Faye recently performed locally at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton, where it was just Faye and his guitar. It was a more intimate representation of his music in the cozy venue, but the disk in this case is better.
Faye's music works better with a full band in support of it. The music comes across more like it was meant to be.
All the songs were written by Faye, and he writes what he knows, with songs reflective of Saskatchewan. You see our province in the lyrics of songs such as Hawks Above and Bankend, and they are more enjoyable as a result.
This disk also has some local relevance. Faye has family in Foam Lake, and Byron Chambers, formally of Yorkton is both a musician on the disk, and he recorded, mixed and mastered The Last Best West. Joining Faye and Chambers on the album is Adam Ennis.
In addition Emily Kohlert from Yorkton took the CD's interior photo art.
While there are good reasons to check out this disk to support local and Saskatchewan talent, the best reason to buy it is because it's a great piece of music.
Check it out at
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 29, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada