Friday, August 17, 2007

Review - DAVE HOLE -- Rough Diamond

ROUGH DIAMOND
Dave Hole
Blind Pig Records / Stony Plain Records
6.5-out-of-10
Ever throw a CD on the player and after a listen or two you end up wishing it had been an all instrumental effort? Well that's where I'm at with Dave Hole's Rough Diamond.
When it comes to blistering guitar work, the kind that threatens to set your CD player aflame, Hole is among the best flamethrowers out there. His work on the electric guitar is simply flawless. This ain't no wimpy little four cylinder guitar player. Put a guitar in this guy's hands and he starts pounding on on all eight cylinders.
From the opening Rough Diamond Child through Can't Stop Loving You, to the final cut I'm A King Bee, Hole simply shows he's one of the best blues guitar slingers to come out of Australia in years.
OK, so that's the good news.
The bad news, I'm not particularly enamoured with Hole's vocals. They lack the growl I like in the blues, and at times it seems his voice adds little to a number. I kept finding myself waiting for the red hot guitar solos. An example is Vintage Wine where quite frankly I felt Hole's voice simply got lost.
I'd really love this CD as an instrumental effort, but with the vocals included I just have to deduct marks.
Still guitar fans will want to check it out at www.davehole.com. When Hole lets his guitar do his talking, then it's a voice you'll want to hear.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 8, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review - The FATES - Slam

SLAM
The Fates
Independent
9-out-of-10
The Fates are an all female trio based out of Alberta who rely on tight harmonies and a melodic sound to create music that is in the soft-pop/folk vein. The trio includes Jen Allen, Lin Elder and Lori Reid. As you listen to Slam you will note each of the trio take the lead at times, allowing their individual talents to shine.
Slam is the trio's second recording, following their debut effort 'Till We Have Faces, which I also completely enjoyed. It was an effort which showed these ladies could go places musically.
With Slam they have chosen to go with a live recording, although at times you tend to forget that because there aren't a lot of places here where they noticeably go beyond what the song would have been had it been recorded in the studio. That said, don't fret that, cause it still works.
There is a minimalistic approach to the instrumentation here. The Fates instead rely on their harmonies to carry songs musically, and that is a good choice on their part.
When it comes to selecting the best cuts here, Farmer has a truthful ring for someone who grew up on the farm.
However, I'll go with The Eagle as the best cut. You really get to hear the full strength of their voices here. Truly sweet.
Heal Me has a sound that will take you back a decade, or two in sound, but The Fates make this one work too.
The Fates are definitely worth checking out for their harmonies, strong lyrics and simply orchestrated sound. They can be found at www.thefates.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 8, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review - LEANNE HYND -- Ultimate Paradox

ULTIMATE PARADOX
Leanne Hynd
Independent
8-out-of-10
Saskatchewan certainly has a diversity of musicians spending time in the studio these days rolling out a variety of music.
In some cases the music is a touch hard to pigeon-hole into a specific genre, something we reviewers tend to like to do since it helps you the reader understand the sound of the recording. Leanne Hynd is one of those artists with a sound that crosses genres rather easily, and on Ultimate Paradox she certainly shows that.
In some cases, the songs have a pop rock feel, then as you listen, you realize there are elements that could have the same song find a home on some progressive county station, or perhaps a soft jazz spot on the radio dial.
Adding the paradoxical aspects of this effort is the fact that the eight songs included here are provided firstly in an electronic musical version, and then again in acoustic fashion. It's an interesting twist to the whole effort.
Dead Or Alive could certainly go country, Will You Fly is more jazzy and All There has a pop leaning.
In many cases when an artist goes all over the board I find it distracting. However Hynd avoids that problem because even with individual songs there are little snip-its of various genres, making the musical diversity itself the common thread which binds this CD together.
I love the jazz horn intro to Man of Mystery, another example of the variety of approach Hynd puts into this CD. Then when she switches to the acoustic set the songs go into blues mode with harmonica replacing the horn, and it works as a blues tune the Nth degree.
Interestingly a lot of her acoustic arrangements have a deep blues feel, making that side of the CD my personal favourite.
The title song itself is a song with superb lyrics that are a nod to its folkish-feel. This might well be the best cut on the album.
Through the melding of styles Hynd's crystal clear voice rings through. This lady has a voice that can carry whatever musical genre she chooses to pursue.
Ultimate Paradox is a step forward musically for Hynd from her previous release Somewhere In Between, which itself is a good effort, but doesn't quite push the edges as mush as Hynd manages on the more recent release. With Paradox she takes several musical threads and weaves them well. Make sure to check it out at www.leannehynd.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS


-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 8, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Review -- CARBON DATING SERIVE -- Self-titled

Self-titled
Carbon Dating Service
Teargas Recording Tree
7-out-of-10
There are bands and CDs which are immediately intriguing for a variety of reasons, for me Carbon Dating Service was one of those bands, probably starting with their chosen name. You have to admit it's a unique one, especially for a band out of Saskatoon, SK.
When the CD arrived the artwork shows a huge blue whale, not exactly a Saskatchewan image, and a quick perusal of the song list showed efforts with names such as Dragged for Ten Miles by a Harpooned Whale, Robots in Rome (Electrons Escaped), Dead Dogs Love Us Still, Slow Motion Unicorns and Mushrooms On Your Lawn.By this time I had no idea what to expect.
So, I headed to the band's website, where I found out this is an eight piece group. I thought wow, is anybody playing with a band roster that big these days. Most gigs would leave an eight-member band playing for darn little money per member. Then I looked at the instrumentation this band throws into the mix, harp, horns, viola, steel drum, banjo and dobro.
If that all sounds cluttered, it's really not. Carbon Dating Service goes out of its way to create intricate musical efforts, which expand the usual vision of rock music.
Does it always work? Nope, but for the most part they do create music that has a more big band, at times sort of classical feel, set over rock/pop roots, and it works.
There is a horn section focus at the end of Gift Horse that is such a refreshing breath for modern pop/rock, that you can't help but like what these guys are trying to accomplish.
They come back with Drunk Company which has a near country lead in.
Now my wife who was listening to this CD as I reviewed it, was not a fan. She would have admittedly turned it off three songs in. A friend was here at the same time, and she was not a fan either. They both saw the music as somewhat distracting. The friend pointed out she could not read to the music since it was always throwing some new instrumentation at her
.That though is the point for this band I believe. They want the listener's ear focused on the music, to catch just how they push the genre with the range of instruments at there disposal. In fact, for the most part lyrics and vocals are minimalist here too, letting the music take the listener.
I would love to see these guys in the Anne Portnuff Theatre where great acoustics would allow Carbon Dating Service to perform to its full potential.
Check them out at http://teargasrecordingtree.com/artists/carbondatingservice/
Wild, different, unique, strange, and for all of that well worth a listen.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 25, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Review -- The DUNES -- Socializing w/Life

SOCIALIZING w/LIFE
The Dunes
Curve Music
7-out-of-10
Today, as I review CDs, I not only have the chosen disk playing as I forge out the words to describe it, but I almost always have the band's myspace.com page loaded in the background to easily glean tidbits of information regarding the musicians.
In checking out The Dunes, I was immediately struck by their statement, “
The song is king. Seems like a simple enough statement, yet how often is it ignored? Witness the current state of music: many bands striving so hard for aesthetic approval and acceptance within genres that they let their defining element the music fall to the wayside.”
In many ways the statement mimics my own view, that bands often get lost pursuing radio play and record deals, and they forget the music.
The Dunes do a solid job here of keeping music as the forefront. The lyrics are clean, and they allow the vocals to lead the music, meaning you can actually hear the words. I have always thought that paramount. If lyrics are worth writing, a band should let you hear them.
In this case lead singer Kevin Pullen gets the main writing credit, with input from the rest of the band. In his effort to keep music at the heart of what The Dunes are all about, he's managed to create songs that radio stations should give a chance. I particularly like Hurry Up, Calling All Cars, Do It All the Time and What You Wanted.
Pullen's strong lyrics are backed up musically by drummer Matt Barnett, guitarist Jason Burgess and bassist Chris McInerney.
This is a re-release of the band's debut, remixed and remastered to showcase The Dunes style. As a calling card I like this 10-song CD. It really deserves to get the band added attention.
Check them out at www.myspace.com/thedunesrock
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 1, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- The WYRD SISTERS -- Wholly

WHOLLY
Wyrd Sisters
Independent
9-out-of-10
I have been a huge fan of the Wyrd Sisters ever since I reviewed their CD Inside the Dreaming way back in 1994. I missed out on Raw Voice and Sin & Other Revelations, something one day I will rectify, cause these gals have always been fantastic.
While a dozen years have gone by since Inside the Dreaming until the release of Wholly, the power of the Wyrd Sisters has not waned one bit.
Through the years the line-up of the all-female trio has changed, but Kim Baryluk, one of the Wyrd Sisters' founders, the primary writer, and lead performer has stayed a constant, and clearly she is the heart of the group, and her writing that which gives the Sisters its soul.
Baryluk has a style that certainly connects with the protest songs of the best folk singers. There are works here that are heavily laden with messages calling for a better world; in particular John Badertscher comes to mind.
The material the Wyrd Sisters perform is also deeply spiritual in nature, although not with any particular faith taking centre stage. While some Christian themes, like the lead cut Mary (Wholly), they mix in enough imagery there is a near pagan feel to many cuts too, which might be a natural given the trio's chosen name of the Wyrd Sisters.
As a group the Sisters show another strength too; their crystal clear vocals, and flawless harmonies.
I also like how these ladies add depth to songs in subtle ways. For instance an aboriginal chant used in Mary (Wholly) is a perfect added touch.
The piece Skin has an extended section that is simply read. It is another cut with a definite message, and the change of pace of reading the words rather than singing them helps push the point of the song home.
Overall, there are 12 songs here, and not one is weak. I even like the tongue-in-cheek, female anthem Faucet.
There is little doubt if the Wyrd Sisters sang country, or pop, something with broader radio play potential they would be among the best-known groups in Canada. They however are on their own course and that means far better lyrics and a stronger message than you would likely see if they succumbed to a pursuit of airplay.
Search these ladies out at http://www.wyrdsisters.com/ and find yourself something truly special.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 1, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- B.C. READ -- Bowl of Sugar

BOWL OF SUGAR
B.C. Read
Independent
8-out-of-10
When it comes to blues music in Saskatchewan no one does it better than B.C. Read, a sort of walking encyclopedia of the genre who knows how to play the blues in a way that pays homage to the genre's history. This guy is sweet, so his latest recording effort is certainly aptly named.
Read might be best known for the way he covers the history of blues in live performances, something Yorkton blues fans will recall as he was a regular when the Painted Hand Casino was doing bi-weekly blues Tuesdays (oh to have those back).
This is Read's third album, following the 1998 release My Tunes and his 2002 Live album reviewed here a number of years back. On this one Read has his hand in writing all 15 cuts, yes 15 cuts so it's a hearty helping of blues.
When I initially listened to this effort, I immediately assumed at least some were cover tunes, since they have a sound so reminiscent of blues from and earlier era. It surprised me to see Read had penned them all, although it shouldn't have, knowing this guy has such a solid understanding of the history of blues. For him he was simply writing what he knows best.
When you hear Can't Be Found, a song Read has performed for a while now in his live show, you will swear it was cleaned from the repertoire of some bluesman from a half century ago.
You will love the sad song I've Got News For You. You just know somewhere along the way Read faced a broken heart.
Personally I liked the harp work on A Blues Man Has Got To Wear A Hat, a song Manitoba Hal and Big Dave McLean are going to like since both Manitoba bluesmen wear familiar hats. Interestingly, Read rarely does. Of course Big Dave has a tie to Bowl of Sugar playing harmonica on To Wear A Hat, as well as on Why Do Girls Do That.
I like the cut Prove That You Love Me, which has Read joined by Sharon Mathison for some nice vocal harmonization.
Read has always been the king of blues in terms of Saskatchewan, and among the royal elite in Canada, in my mind. With Bowl Of Sugar he certainly justifies my view of his ability. Keep it up B.C., you definitely add sweetness to my day anytime I give your CDs a spin.
Check him out at www.bcread.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 1, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada