Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Review -- ART OF DYING -- Self-titled

ART of DYING
Self-titled
Thorny Bleeder Records
9-out-of-10
There are just so many great bands in Canada right now pumping out rock music, and if you are keeping a list you best add Art of Dying to it.
Hailing from Vancouver, these guys will be big. Did I say big? I meant BIG!!!!
The band's spot on myspace.com calls their sound rock/alternative/grunge. OK, if that's what they see in themselves I'll buy it. To me this is pretty straight ahead rock, a CD filled with great music.
Lyrically these guys are accomplished considering it is their debut album.
Musically, this five piece unit is tight.
Vocally, Jonny Hetherington is great, and band members Greg Bradley and Niz on guitars, Matt Rhode on bass and Flavio Cirillo on drums round out the band's stellar sound.
There are times you will think Nickleback here, the curse of being a Canadian band right now, but Art of Dying has enough sound of their own not to be lost as a clone.
So which cuts are the best here? Well, that's a little bit like trying to determine the biggest nugget in a pile of gold. I'm sure every listener will have their own choices, but you are likely to like Get Through This, I Will Be There, the Fits of Clarity, Completely, Build A Wall and Alone.
This is one to grab now, because these guys are going to be big, and you'll be happy you took the effort to find their early work.
You can follow the rise of these guys at www.artofdyingmusic.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 19, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BILL BOURNE -- Boon Tang

BOON TANG
Bill Bourne
Cordova Bay Records
7-out-of-10
It seemed only fitting that after reviewing a CD produced by the great Bill Bourne that I follow it up with one of the Master's own efforts, his latest effort Boon Tang.
From the opening strains of the first cut; No Women No Cry, this is unmistakably Bourne. Few performers have a more distinctive voice than he does, and it's a voice I first fell in love with when I reviewed Dear Madonna, a CD Bourne did with Shannon Johnson way back in 1994.
Since then I've had the opportunity to review Bourne's solo Voodoo King CD, and Tri Continental, a CD that has a world beat sound done collectively with Lester Quitzau and Madagascar Slim.
Tri Continental showed an interest to take his music to a different level, mixing his roots sound with world instrumentation.
Boon Tang continues that evolution, as Bourne pushes things even farther. This is a CD that ends up a mix. Songs such as No Women N o Cry and Roll River Roll, with wonderful flute work by Aysha Wills, are Bourne at his familiar best. This guy has a way with what I have seen called “a rough-hewn” poetical style. Coupled with his distinctive voice they are immediately memorable.
Other cuts on the CD Bourne ventures off into the world of the Middle East and Orient for songs that are startlingly different from what Bourne is best known for. On The Terror Time, a song written by Ewan MacColl, Bourne even takes a back seat letting Eivor Palsdottir take the vocal lead.
The title cut Boon Tang follows the same haunting Middle Eastern feel.
Now I always appreciate when an artist pushes in new directions. Music doesn't grow by copying the last sound on radio. So credit Bourne for that, not that he has ever worried himself with radio friendly music.
In this case Bourne really goes out there when he shifts to the Middle Eastern themed material. He has built a few bridges that tie his traditional roots with the more foreign material, like Rain, which sort of melds elements of both. That helps hold the CD together musically.
Fans of Bourne will still find this a gem, but for a new ear, this may be a tad radical as an entry point to this outstanding Canadian musicians material, so be warned.
Check him out at www.billbourne.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 19, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DAN FRECHETTE -- Lucky Day

LUCKY DAY
Dan Frechette
Blind Snake Records
8.5-out-of-10

I have a tendency to just rip open a CD, toss it on the player and listen to it long before getting around to reading the liner notes, something that comes later as I want to learn more about the artist.
So that was the case when Dan Frechette's Lucky Day arrived.
Before the first song was over my mind was already thinking 'hey this guy sounds like Bill Bourne or Dave Essig. Now if you are a fan of Canadian roots music at all you better have heard of Bourne and Essig two guys that are usually flat out fantastic in everything they record. So I was already mighty impressed by Frechette, and believe me that great first song impression stayed as I listened to this wonderful 14-song CD.
So back to the little story about liner notes. When I got around to reading them I quickly learned Lucky Day was produced by Bill Bourne. It must have been like producing a younger clone of himself.
This CD is full of wonderful roots music. Frechette can write folk music, following the tradition of the likes of Gordon Lightfoot in this country.
Vocally, Frechette has a clear, rootsy sound, the kind of voice that would be perfect around a railroad yard barrel fire, or a small coffee house (don't you wish we had one of those in Yorkton offering live performances).
The best cuts from this Pinawa, MB., native are Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, Horse and Buggy Rag (sweet horn work here), Creeping Around, and the CD's title cut.
Check this guy out farther at www.danfrechette.com you won't be sorry you did if you like roots music.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 19, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- HARPER -- Day By Day

DAY BY DAY
Harper
Blind Pig / Stony Plain
6.5-out-of-10

Speaking of world music, Harper is dabbling in that realm with his latest release from Blind Pig, and American label noted for blues, and brought to Canada by Stony Plain Records.
Harper was born in Britain, but grew up in Australia, and the percussion sounds of the country Down Under permeate much of this CD, providing a nicely unique take on blues rock music.
The song One Day has this great under-beat which is so clearly Australian, thanks to the didgeridoo, that you immediately see where Harper is trying to take his music.
Now Harper doesn't over do the Australian world beat, nor does he use it as a crutch. This guy can play traditional blues too. Harper plays some sweet harmonica here too, seen first on Sure There's A Place. So don't be afraid this guy is simply flogging a gimmick. He's a blues man.
Still, I like the idea of a didgeridoo taking the role in a blues song we here are most familiar hearing the French harp, or a horn. It adds a freshness, and shows that blues are truly something you can find anywhere. In fact, the CD would have been strengthened by a bit more of the didgeridoo to be honest. He is on to something, and doesn't explore it enough here.
Away from the instrumentation, Harper has written a dozen solid songs, that cross between blues and rock. A cut like Watch Your Back could easily fit rock radio where a music director is willing to push the boundaries just a little.
Overall this is a fine CD, although Harper still needs to develop what might be best termed maturity in terms of the overall package, but the CD is one which is certainly worth a listen. Check him out at www.harper.biz
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 19, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CRIMSON TEARS -- The Dark Awakening

The DARK AWAKENING
Crimson Tears
Independent
7.5-out-of-10
I just mentioned liking symphonic metal in the review of Woods of Ypres. Well that's where Britain's Crimson Tears takes you.
Now anyone who hasn't heard the sub-genre of metal, a quick explanation is warranted. Take the sound of a symphony orchestra stuck on fast forward, then mix in the driving guitars of metal, and you get an idea of the music. Think the sound track of Lord of the Rings with a metallic soul.
However the real key to the sound are epic lyrics, reminding of the Illiad, Beowulf or the Viking Sagas. They are songs bigger than life, deep in the realm of fantasy, sung with the virbasso of a huge Broadway performance.
When it comes to vocals, Crimson Tears turns to Gina Oldham, a cross between Loreena McKennit and Pat Benatar. This girl must be classically trained, but between classes was obviously listening to rock 'n roll too. Truly a nice voice.
The other members of Crimson Tears are; Dave Miller on electric and acoustic guitar, Steve Taylor on bass, Marcus Chapman on keyboard and piano, Gina Oldham vocals and Trevor Phillips on drums.
The sound here is big – no beyond big, it's huge, full, driving. To see a band like Crimson Tears in concert it would need to be an auditorium where a symphony would be at home.
If you are into classical, and want a little edge, this is for you. If you are a metal fan, that is maturing a bit in taste, Crimson Tears will fill that need too.
As for picking a favourite cut, that is not really possible in the sense a CD such as The Dark Awakening tends to be a complete tale told through a series of inter-related songs. Each is a piece in a grander musical tale. Still cuts such as Frozen, Steal My Heart, Pandora's Realm (Aurora) and Razorblade Serenade are sweet to the 'Nth' degree.
Overall, the sound is fantastic, although maybe not at the very summit of the genre, Crimson Tears shows here they are ascending to the top of the mountain.
Go grab this one. Check them out at www.crimsontears.co.uk
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 5, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- WOODS of YPRES -- Against the Seasons

AGAINST the SEASONS
Woods of Ypres
Independent
5.5(8)-out-of-10

OK, let me premise this CD right from the start, it's death/black metal, which is at best an acquired taste, and not one I have fully developed.
I really like the music here. I'd rate this CD much higher if it were an instrumental. This five-piece unit from Ontario can flat out play. This is music with the epic sound that is part of so much metal these days, from death metal through folk/Viking/ and symphonic metal.
David Gold on guitar and Dan Hulse on bass offer up the vocals, and herein lies my problem with this sub genre of metal, without liner notes my ear just doesn't have a clue what these two are singing. I get the feeling the songs are rich, detailed tales, but I don't want to have to study notes to appreciate music. Sadly a lot of effort that goes into writing gets lost in music like this (at least in my opinion).
I happen to love symphonic metal, and they have found a way to keep the metal influence and allow the grandiose stories to come through lyrically. I rather wish Woods of Ypres had gone in for the same effect.
Musically, give these guys full marks. The band is rounded out by Chris Mezz on drums, and Jessica Rose on keyboards.
Lyrically, I just don't know. They growl into the microphone, but about as clearly as a tormented grizzly bear. I just think they sell their lyrical ability short in the process. There are in fact times when Woods of Ypres does tone down the growl in places on the five, wonderfully long songs, and it's WOW time for me.
That said, I rather expect fans of this genre will find this a fullblown treat, thus again the duel scoring above, the eight being for fans of this particular brand of metal.
Check them out at www.woodsofypres.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 5, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CHAINFIRE -- Details

DETAILS
Chainfire
Independent
6.5-out-of-10

This is a week for metal heads as you will see from the next two CDs.
We start in Saskatoon, where yet another band is plying their trade, this time in the realm of metal-dom, a genre which today has spawned so many sub-genres it takes an expert in filing to figure out just where to slot a particular band.
Chainfire, in my mind comes at you with pretty straight forward metal. Think Metallica with a tad more edge in general.
The man behind Chainfire is Bradley Scrivener, guitarist, lead vocalist, and lyricist on the nine songs on this the bands debut CD effort. Now for a pet peeve, the rest of this four-piece power outfit are identified on the CD only by their first names only. It's too bad the other members aren't given a little more recognition than being Chris – drums, and so on.
One thing I do like about the package is a totally macabre and totally memorable piece of photo art on the back of the CD, of a girl with sad, bleeding eyes. It's a tad creepy, but it certainly catches attention and on a crowded CD rack in some music store that is essential. I might have suggested the piece be incorporated into the front of the CD.
Back to the music.
This is guitar-driven music, where a few times the music transcends the vocals, but they do a decent job, at least on the recording of keeping it balanced. I would fear live the voices would get totally lost behind a wall of guitars.
Under Me is the cut that the band is pushing first as a single, although my fav is Laydown, and the seven-minute title cut is great. I love metal pieces that rumble on past three-minute radio-friendly song lengths.
If you are into metal check these guys out at www.chainfire.ca
As a Saskatchewan band alone they deserve attention in any local metal collection, and frankly this CD is worth owning no matter where you hail from.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 5, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MUFFLER CRUNCH -- Ol' Sparky's Revenge

OL' SPARKY'S REVENGE
Muffler Crunch
Independent
8.5-out-of-10

Talk about metal that is raw, dirty, grungy, full of dark spirits and spit. That is the best way I can describe Muffler Crunch, a down to the bone duo out of Hull, QC.
The duo is vocalist and drummer Angie Neatby, who also wrote the gritty lyrics on this seven-song effort, and guitarist Luc Lavigne, who also throws in vocals on the CD's title effort.
When you listen to Muffler Crunch the first thing you are going to love is Neatby's voice, all growl, scratch and spit, yet allowed to come through clear enough too be understood.
Next come the lyrics. Wow, so deliciously dark. This girl has seen her share of urban demons, and she introduces you to many of them here. Listen closely and the darkness just about reaches out from the CD player and claims you. Sweet.
The band's spot on myspace explains the duo as “
Risen out of a Hull, Quebec neighbourhood made infamous by crack busts and stabbings. Risen from a house where the amps must be cranked up high to be heard over the warthog snorts of 18 wheelers barreling down their street and the screeching tires and pulsing stereos of bondo smeared Mustangs. Risen from a street full of loud-mouthed drunks taking their clumsy, evening constitutionals.”
This is certainly the world Neatby writes about, and while not pretty, it is compelling. You will find yourself the moth to her dark flame.
This is one you really need to search out. Cuts such as Left For Dead, Marchin' Back to Sugar Mountain, and Third Eye Blues are really killer cuts, on an overall great effort.
Look 'em up at www.myspace.com/mufflercrunch
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 5, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- The PERPETRATORS -- Tow Truck

TOW TRUCK
The Perpetrators
Independent
6.5-out-of-10
Coming out of Winnipeg, a city that has a strong blues culture, The Perpetrators are carving out their own piece of blues turf in the Manitoba capital and beyond.
The Perpetrators are in that wonderful realm of music stuck somewhere between blues and rock, with a sound that should please fans on both sides of the musical line.
There is a definite energy to these guys. I can imagine live in a bar they are on the top of their game. The energy is actually complimented by a sort of rawness here. These guys aren't fully polished just yet. Instead they are more like semi precious stones still rolling around in the shining tumbler. If you look there are still a few edges, but you can see the shine starting to come through too.
The Perps are J. Nowicki, guitar, Ryan Menard, bass, and Chris Bauer on drums, with all three contributing vocals.
This is a pretty solid effort, although I do expect better things to come from The Perpetrators as they add some experience, not only musically, but lyrically as well. If they do continue to progress they will be a damn fine band, and you'll be glad you have this effort to look back on.
Tow Truck is definitely worth a listen, especially cuts such as Movin' Right Along, You're Going to Kill Me, Call Me and Baltimore. You can check out the CD and band in more detail at www.perps.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 29, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- KELLY BROCK -- Rebel Kind

REBEL KIND
Kelly Brock
Warner Music
6-out-of-10
Kelly Brock is a new voice on the country music scene. This is a girl that clearly listens to country radio, and headed to the recording studio with a plan to put together a CD that would catch the ear of music directors.
The lead and title cut has radio written all over it, and the second song Cowboy Boots and Levis certainly has the sound to be a huge radio song too.
Brock has a definite modern Nashville sound going on.
So then, the question I had to ask myself is whether the world needs another country singer that has twisted in a bit of rock and has created an album that is so obviously made to be radio friendly?
If you're looking for lyrics that have depth, pass on this one. For the most part this is a collection of songs with catchy hooks that you can sing along to on the radio without really thinking about the words.
Vocally, Brock can sing. She has a nice voice, but it won't necessarily stand out as unique either.
This is an album that radio should love, and you could well find yourself popping along to a number of these songs as you listen to your favourite country music station in the coming months. On that level this should be a winner. From a current country sound with radio hits in mind Brock has a CD full of potential.
If however you want something fresh from your country, then this isn't it.
This is formula country, but Brock at least follows the formula well.
Check her out at www.kellybrock.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 29, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- M'GIRL -- Fusion Of Two Worlds

FUSION OF TWO WORLDS
M'Girl
Independent
9-out-of-10

Just because a CD has earned an award doesn't mean it is something immediately worth adding to one's private play list. In the case of M'Girl's Fusion of Two Worlds though, the list of awards it has garnered should be taken as a clear indication this is an album to search out and add to the collection.
The CD earned a Female Traditional Cultural Roots Album Award in 2006 at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. The album also had a nomination for Favourite World Artist/Group of the Year from the Canadian Indie Awards.
M'Girl is an Aboriginal Women's Ensemble with a line up for this album including Renae Morriseau, Sheila Maracle, Cheryl L'Hirondelle, Tiare Laporte, and the three gals mesh perfectly.
The strength of this work is captured in the CD's title. This is a work of fusion, not only of two worlds, combining traditional Aboriginal themes and styles with more mainstream music, but also a fusing of a number of musical styles.
The groups website at www.myspace.com/mgirlmusic explains M'Girl's sound as harmonies which “
incorporate the sounds of R&B, blues, folk/roots, house and world beat with traditional Aboriginal melodic phrasing, song-forms and rhythms ... The message in the music is an emergence of cultural ideals and worldviews from the perspectives of their Metis/Cree (Nêhiyawin), Ojibway and Mohawk backgrounds.
It is truly a refreshing sound that results from M'Girl's efforts at fusing all the cultural and musical styles together, and in so doing they have truly created something with a bigger and better sound than they could have focusing on any of the individual components.
There are 12 cuts here, and there is no picking favourites. They all deserve your ear. This one could fast become a favourite for anyone who appreciates great music.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 29, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- 18 RABBIT -- The Blame Is Ours

The BLAME IS OURS
18 Rabbit
Independent
8-out-of-10

The first time you listen to 18 Rabbit's CD The Blame Is Ours wear your headphones on. The lead into the opening cut Levitate is a definite sensory twist on headphones.
With that little secret suggestion out of the way, I must say I was curious to hear this band since doing a story earlier this year on a concert at Assessippi Ski Resort in which 18 Rabbit were sharing a stage with Volcanoless In Canada, the locally well-known band. I wanted to know if this Manitoba band performed the same stylistically as Volcanoless. They don't.
Now that isn't a bad thing, just a fact that 18 Rabbit attacks their style of rock and roll with a more electric sound. This is pretty straight ahead rock, not quite metal, but at least leaning in that direction.
There are times you can almost hear the Rolling Stones a band these guys may have grown up following.
18 Rabbit has a sound that while still having a rawness that you want in rock, has a maturity to it as well. That simply shows these guys are becoming a veteran unit with The Blame Is Ours being the band's third recording effort. It follows their debut effort Smoking Gods and Our Place In the Shadows.
The band is made up of bassist Ryan Felstad the writer of the lyrics on all cuts and the band's main vocalist, Les Mitchell, vocalist and guitarist, and Darrin Cherewayko on drums.
In his writing Felstad shows a political awareness that he brings out in his music, Lord of War, a number interspersed with supposed news broadcast clips, is a powerful piece, and lyrically is the best here.
18 Rabbit also has lots of straight rock here too, with cuts such as Mind Ablaze, Crowned, and Juggernaut definitely catching my attention.
I like these guys – a lot! If you like edgy rock take a chance and follow these guys down the rabbit hole. Check them out at www.myspace.com/18rabbit.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 29, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ONE BAD SON -- Orange City

ORANGE CITY
One Bad Son
Versailles Records
8.5-out-of-10

One Bad Son are really 'One Good Band'.
I love the way the CD breaks in with a hot drum beat on the song Gringo, and when the rest of the band joins in, and vocalist Shane Volk starts screaming out the lyrics, you know you are into for a fun rock ride.
There is just a taste of AC/DC style here, not that these guys are quite on that level yet, but Volk can flat of sing even at a near scream. He is able to get the lyrics understandable even while spitting out rapid fire lines and a high pitch.
In addition to giving One Bad Son its voice, Volk is the songwriter here, and he captures angst and rebellion here with songs such as Crooked Mic Stand and Winterman.
At times too Volk seems to channel Axel Rose including on Brooklyn 8 Eye and Sun & Fire.
In addition to Volk, the band includes Adam Hicks on Guitar, Ryan Serblowski on bass and Kurt Dahl on drums. As a group they play some definite power rock.
Recorded in Saskatoon, mixed
at Powersound Studios (Tea Party, Econoline Crush) in Edmonton, and mastered by Nick Blagona at Toronto's Metalworks Studios (Billy Talent, Trail of Dead).
One Bad Son is another of the gems of music coming out of Saskatoon these days. Wow what a city for rock these days. This is the band's second album, following their debut This Aggression Will Not Stand.
Considering these guys have already opened for Buckcherry, you know they are close to busting big, jump on the wagon now.
If you like your rock deep and dirty One Bad Son is for you.
Check 'em out at www.onebadson.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 22, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BALL and CHAIN & the WRECKERS -- Live At The Bayou

LIVE AT THE BAYOU
Ball and Chain & the Wreckers
Independent
5.5-out-of-10
If you are a country music purist you have to be interested in any CD that starts out with a rendition of Marty Robbins classic Devil Woman, and that is just how Ball and Chain & the Wreckers lead in to Live At The Bayou, the third CD release for this Ontario group.
This is a fat effort with 18 songs, so you get a full helping of classic country, including Hank Williams' Lovesick Blues and Fool About You, Steve Earle's Graveyard Shift and a pile of other material, almost all of it familiar.
The songs are belted out by Michael Ball and Jody Benjamin. Ball has the better of the voices, although Benjamin's works in harmony pieces. When left to take centre stage, like on the aforementioned Devil Woman, you are left wanting just a bit more. Recorded live at The Bayou Blues and Jazz Club in Ottawa even the applause is a subdued here.
There is some nice fiddle by Jordan Officer on cuts such as Mamou Two Step.
I am sure if they were alive my father, or grandfather would be shaking their heads that I didn't give this a higher score. However, it's not because of the music, I enjoy a lot of older country, it's simply a case where Ball and Chain don't offer enough in the way of unique presentation to really catch my attention.
Check them out at www.ballandchain.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 22, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DEVILSPLENDER -- Hilding From the Cold

HIDING FROM THE COLD
Devilsplender
Independent
6.5-out-of-10
Devilsplender is the kind of band name you might expect from a scream metal trio, but this music is really at the opposite end of the rock spectrum.
What you have here in Devilsplender, which is lead vocalist Ron Malowany, and whoever is in the band at the time according to their website, is pretty straight ahead rock. It's doesn't have the drive of a Rick Springstein, or the lyrics of an Elton John, but you could slot Devilsplender somewhere in between.
This is Devilsplender's fifth recording effort, following the debut of the poetically named Slowly Comes My Voluptuous Death. In listening to the debut, and now Hiding From the Cold, probably named because of their home in Edmonton, you can hear growth in Malowany's work. At the same time five CDs into a career you might expect Devilsplender would be a bit more of a household name by now.
At the same time, like a lot of beginning artists Devilsplender has apparently self-financed a lot of the work to-date, and that suggests he has a deep love of his craft.
It would be interesting to see where this guy might go with some bucks behind his next effort.
There are some solid cuts here, which show Malowany can both write and sing. I enjoyed Barstool Skinhead, The Last Pioneer and the CD's title cut.
This is an effort which promises better things to come from Devilsplender. Don't be surprised if you like this CD and that this guy becomes much more recognizable into the future.
Check them out at /www.devilsplender.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 22, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JANN ARDEN -- Uncover Me

UNCOVER ME
Jann Arden
Universal Music Canada
6-out-of-10
Oh Jann why?
There are few, if any female vocalists I enjoy any more than I do Jann Arden. She has a phenomenal voice, and thankfully that remains here.
I also appreciate Arden for unique lyrics and the feelings she is able to bring to her work.
In some cases, such as Bring The Boys Home, the emotion is still here, but this isn't Arden. Rather it is Arden singing a collection of 10 cover songs. It works on something like Bring The Boys Home released in 1971 by Freda Payne, since it is an all but forgotten piece.
But, when Arden heads into the ultra familiar California Dreamin' I hear that great voice, and just wish it was being applied to something new and something that is more Arden, since she is such a great songwriter.
I was excited by the thought of a new Arden release and while I can listen to Uncover Me for the voice alone, I get a better package throwing Living Under June, Happy, or any of her earlier recordings on the player.
I am sure this CD will do well for Arden, but to me this is something of a filler effort. I hope Arden is busy writing, instead of touring to support this rehash of other's people's work. I will simply have to wait a while longer before Arden teams her beautiful voice and wonderful songwriting skills on an album like her fans have come to expect.
Even as a huge Arden fan myself I have to suggest you play your older material from this Canadian diva of music, and save your money for her next CD rather than rushing to buy Uncover Me, a recommendation based solely on the material.
You can watch for her next release at www.jannarden.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 22, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MARIA MULDAUR -- Naughty, Bawdy & Blue

NAUGHTY, BAWDY & BLUE
Maria Muldaur
Stony Plain Records
9.5-out-of-10

WOW! When it comes to gals singing the blues few are better at it these days than Maria Muldaur.
This is the third Muldaur CD I have had the opportunity to review, dating back to the 2002 release of Richland Woman Blues, which was good enough to garner a Grammy nomination.
Muldaur followed up that tribute to the great female blues performers of the past with Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul which was released in 2005, which also garnered a Grammy nomination.
And now we have Naughty, Bawdy & Blue, which again pays homage to those who have gone before her. Muldaur has songs here from the likes of Mamie Smith, Sippie Wallace and Victoria Spivey, choosing songs that are about relationships, and the inner strength of women in dealing with them.
In doing so, Muldaur's distinctive, somewhat growly voice never misses a note.
Backing Muldaur on most of the album is James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band (who often performed with Sippie Wallace). The band includes clarinet, sax, trumpet, trombone, tuba, banjo, guitar, piano, bass and drums, so there is a rich sound for these songs which are a sultry mix of blues and jazz. Other guests on the CD include Dave Mathews on piano and Kevin Porter on trombone.
As for Muldaur, this gal could have been a start in the 1920s, or 1940s, just as she in in this millennium.
There are 12 songs here, and picking which one is best, is like seeking which one of a pile of diamonds is the best. Pick any song here and you have a gem. Cuts such as Separation Blues (performed with Bonnie Raitt), A Good Man Is Hard To Find and Early Every Morn, are plain fantastic.
If you were going to buy one blues CD this year, you wouldn't go wrong with Naughty, Bawdy & Blue, although the proviso is that you appreciate the old blues, that were sung in smokey bars a half century ago.
Sadly, this is the final chapter in a trilogy of CDs for Stony Plain to honour great women of the blues from the 1920s to 1940s.
Among ladies in the blues today Muldaur is definitely royalty. Check her out at
www.mariamuldaur.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 15, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- GABE PENNA -- Coffee Cup

COFFEE CUP
Gabe Penna
Independent
4.5-out-of-10
If you are a regular reader of these reviews, you have probably recognized I love to promote Canadian talent and in particular musicians from Saskatchewan, so it was rather difficult dropping such a low rating on this CD from Gabe Penna who hails from our province.
However, this is simply not my 'Cup of Tea', to play off the CD's title.
On the positive side Penna allows his voice to be the focus of his songs, the acoustic instrumentation taking a background position. At the same time though, his voice is not particularly memorable.
Lyrically, this CD doesn't quite catch my attention either. Too often they come off as simply superficial.
Overall, the best cut is Under the Sky, but to my ear there aren't a lot of songs that are memorable among the 10-cuts.
I do suspect there are those who would like the popish-folk stylings, and the lyrics which have a positive message, but it simply misses for me.
This is one that won't get played once this review is done.
You can check him out at www.gabepenna.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 15, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SMOKEKILLER -- Self-titled

SMOKEKILLER
Self-titled
Independent
7-out-of-10
This is a CD that has actually grown on me a bit since it's first spin. After the first listen I wasn't particularly impressed, but as I delved into the effort a bit deeper, I have come to appreciate the lyrics more, and musically it may not have any edge to it, but it suits here.
Smokekiller is really John Antoniuk, who is then supported by a back-up band. Yes a little confusing to say the least.
The band includes vocalist and guitar player Josh Palmer, who fans of Canadian Idol will recall, as the Saskatchewan singer who made a run for the big prize a couple of years back. That alone gives the band some PR creditability. The band also includes bassist Jeremy Lane and drummer Brian Hankewich.
However, lead vocals are actually provided by Smokekiller (aka John Antoniuk).
Another great Saskatchewan talent Jen Lane adds her vocals on occasion too, and while that doesn't make this CD particularly stronger, it is always interesting to see how the music community supports each other in helping round out a CD's sound.
OK, the line up is a tad confusing, but hey, in the end they work in putting together a really solid CD.
This CD has been around for a while, Palmer has a new one on the way, as does Antoniuk according to his myspace page, but fans of the show, and Saskatchewan talent might still want to search out this indie disk.
While Palmer may be the recognizable name here, this is really Antoniuk's work. He wrote all 12 songs, and lyrically this is pretty solid. I particularly liked War Song, Back Again, and Postcards.
It is to be hoped Smokekiller, or more importantly Jon Antoniuk heads back to the studio. This guy can write, and vocally he supports his songs well.
Definitely worth a listen. Check them out at www.smokekiller.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 15, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- VERBAL DECEPTION -- Aurum Aetus Piraticus

AURUM AETUS PIRATICUS
Verbal Deception
Independent
7-out-of-10
The toughest CDs to review, at least in my opinion are those where you have no natural reference points. If it's a blues album, or country-rock, etc., you have other CDs that you can measure it against in your mind.
However on occasion bands still go out and forge music in new ways, and when you run up against one of those, the review process gets a lot more difficult.
Welcome to Verbal Deception, a metal band out of Calgary. While the band wears the metal label, fans of the world of metal know the genre has fractured into numerous sub-genres, from Goth metal to death metal to Viking metal, and now Verbal deception steps forward with what one I guess terms Pirate metal.
Like Viking metal before it, this CD is themed around pirates and the sea, unusual I suppose from a band on the Alberta Prairies, but nevertheless a fun romp musically.
There is enough straight-ahead, guitar-driven metal instrumentation here to please the average metal head, so that is a positive.
Lyrically, you'll be ready to keel-haul the enemy, or swab the deck after listening to this one. Sure it's a little bit overly stylized, akin to Viking and symphonic metal, but hey that's what makes it fun. With the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, why not set sail on this CD too.
Kresho Klarich is the lead vocalist, doing the deep growl of the genre well, but at least in most instances you can understand the words without heading to the liner notes.
Overall, this is just too fun in its originality of subject material as a CD not to recommend, as long as you enjoy metal to start with. Check them out at http://www.verbaldecption.com/
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 15, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada