Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Review -- JOHN CAMPBELLJOHN - Weight of the World

John Campbelljohn

“I know all four of these guys and played with all of 'em, John Campbelljohn, only, on a session in my studio, he was staying with me for a couple of days studying steel with a friend Bob Taillefer, shortly after he appeared on The Trailer Park Boys Xmas Special playing steel in a church. He's a wicked slide guitarist in the style pioneered by Sonny Landreth. The track I Can't Win on my CD Money Talks had John playin' steel, sadly I lost the data so I replaced it with Hammond organ, the tune would make a good Western Swing. John spends a lot of time in Europe, Germany mostly. As he says "its faster and cheaper than going to Alberta". He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.” -- Terry Blankley

Our first stop is out Cape Breton way, where we find John Campbelljohn churning out some killer slide guitar-powered blues.
Actually Campbelljohn is noted for his slide, but plays a variety of instruments here, including bass on the lead cut Autobahn John as well as Weight of the World, the latter a fine instrumental effort. He also plays standard tuned acoustic, and electric guitar, in addition to electric slide and pedal steel.
Regardless of what his fingers are dancing over this guy can play. You know that when he rolls into a song such as Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing, and does it justice. He also does Waterfall (May This Be Love) by Hendrix, another nice choice for this blues effort.
There are some really great story blues songs here too. I love Sydney Steel a song Campbelljohn co-wrote with Kenneth Larocque. This is the kind of song that shows how thin the veil between folk and blues can be. With different instrumentation this is a folk tune, but works great as a blues effort too.
Of course look at this guy's bio and you should expect some killer blues. Campbelljohn has six CDs to his credit.
In addition Weight of the World earned Campbelljohn the East Cost Music Award for top blues album in 2007, and he was also nominated for Guitarist of the Year and Electric act of the Year for the 2007 Maple Blues awards.
This guy is a killer player, and a fine writer, so it's no surprise he is receiving accolades on this CD.
The best cuts here are the aforementioned Sydney Steel, Ice Cubes In Her Wine, How Does It Feel and Light At The End of the Tunnel.
This is a MUST for blues fan. Just killer.
Check this guy out at /

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 31, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JACK DE KEYZER - Blues Thing

Jack de Keyzer
Bluestar Records

“Jack de Keyzer is probably the most well known of the lot. He's a serious blues musician and historian, and has been known to lecture on various blues styles and artists. He is always busy and a hard worker, probably the most popular guy on the blues scene in Ontario. He has started producing as well lately, Tracy K's latest, which you reviewed, is an example. He also has a great sense of humor. We were both up for the same award two years running. He won two years running. Deservedly so!He lives up the road apiece in Whitby.” -- Terry Blankley

So you like guitar blues, but with a big band feel, then you are in for a treat when you spin Blues Thing by Jack de Keyzer.
de Keyzer is the guitar slinger here, and a dang fine one, in addition to providing the vocals, and he shines there too.
However, what helps take this CD to the next level is Chris Murphy on sax, and Dave Dunlop on trumpet, giving the project an extra layer of depth.
Blues Thing is an album that grabs you from the get go. The first song Music Is The Food Of Love is a solid blues effort, and de Keyzer never misses a beat as he takes you through a fat 14-song package, where he has penned every tune.
Quickly he let's his guitar shine, with If I Had Your Love, the CD's second cut, a tune which also shows this guy has a versatile voice. He won the Maple Blues award as Guitarist of the Year in 2004 and 2005.
Stylistically, this is jazz/funk inspired blues, with toe-tapping instrumentation, melding nicely with often more sorrowful lyrics.
de Keyzer was a Juno winner back in 2003 for blues album 6 String Lover, and Blues Thing may well get him on the list for close consideration of the award again, since he's really cooking on this one.
Top cuts here include I Want To Love You, That's The Only Time, Cry The Blues and Merciless Beauty.
Check Jack out at

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 31, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JOHNNY MAX BAND -- A Lesson I've Learned

Johnny Max Band
Pour Soul Records

“Johnny Max is a very talented singer and shares a radio show with Chuck Jackson (Downchild) on Sunday nights. Johnny could make a dog laugh. He's one of the funniest people I know. He has a huge voice and strong stage presence. He also coaches hockey and helps under privileged youth. He was born in Scotland, and lives in Etobicoke, ON.. I played with him recently.” -- Terry Blankley

The Johnny Max Band comes to us out of southern Ontario, bringing with them a blues sound that has one foot solidly set in the rock genre, and the other in the traditions of the blues. From the opening Down In History you get the feeling these guys would be a great blues bar band on those nights you really want to party. You get that party feel just from the piano work of Martin Alex Aucoin on the song.
Johnny Max is the vocalist here, and offers up a smokey voice that has some miles on it, making it almost ideal for this boogie blues effort.
A Lesson I've Learned is Johnny Max's fourth recording, and you get the feeling he has learned his lessons well, at least in terms of his music. The CD cover has the look of a school notebook, with a few doodles of musicians and instruments, like a kid dreaming of the stage. Well Johnny Max has made it to the stage and learned his trade well. This CD has a workmanlike feel, blues from a band used to going bar to bar performing for the love of the music.
If you need a blues fix to lift your spirits, well get to the doctor and request 100 c.c.s of A Lesson I've Learned, cause this is the cure.
Songs such as the title cut, We're Gonna To Do It (All Night Long), Big Ol' Girls Need Some Lovin' Too, and Why I Sing the Blues ... for Joe, are what this CD is all about. Blues with soul, for the fun and love of playing.
You just know Johnny Max would be playing for free if he had too, and may well be buried with a microphone in his hand and a sound track in the coffin, so that he's ready to play for all the old friends he may meet along the way.
Check these guys out at

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 31, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- FATHEAD -- Building Full of Blues

Electro Fi Records

“Al Lerman (the front man for Fathead) also teaches harp in workshops at colleges, schools, and in his home in Etobicoke. He has produced Pinetop Perkins and he and Jack (de Keyzer) toured Europe with Pinetop. Jack and Al also play on the CD Juke Joint Rockers featuring Willie Big Eyes Smith. Willie was drummer for Muddy Waters. An interesting aside about Pinetop, is, he lives on McDonald's Cheeseburgers and chain smokes, he presently is 93 or 4. Al told me in Stockholm there was only one McDonald's they took a taxi over and Pinetop ordered six cheeseburgers ate two and put four in his bag...Jeezzz!! Al and I worked as a duo for a couple of years aside from our other gigs. We get along great although my interest in other forms of music clash with his in some ways, him being very much a blues artist. We haven't worked together in awhile but hope to soon.” -- Terry Blankley

Fathead is a veteran of the Canadian blues scene formed back in 1992, giving this Ontario band a decade-and-a-half to hone their skills and fine tune their sound. So it's no wonder Fathead comes off as well-polished on Building Full of Blues, the band's sixth album.
As a band Fathead truly shares the limelight. John Mays in the lead vocalist, but the sound comes from the likes of Al Lerman on harp and saxophone, Omar Tunnoch on fretless bass, Darren Poole on guitar (adding fiddle in a spot or two as well including a hot piece called Katrina), and Hayden Vialva on drums.
Over the years these guys have been up for a ton of blues awards, most recently seeing three 2007 Maple Blues Awards, Mays for vocals, Lerman on harp and Tunnoch for bass.
So the pedigree and polish is there to make this a winner.
I particularly like What About Me? Where Sharkura S'Aida comes on to add duet vocals. Her voice fits in with Mays' like they've been performing together for years.
Other choice cuts are One Day The Sun Will Shine, a cut where Mays' voice really shines, and the sax work is sweet, and Apartment 10, a true party song, and Too Many Heartaches.
Another CD that is well worth grabbing.
You can check out Fathead at

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 31, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Review -- DONNY PARENTEAU -- What It Takes

Donny Parenteau

If your a country fan in Yorkton you are probably already familiar with Donny Parenteau, a somewhat regular performer at the Painted Hand Casino in the city.
For years Parenteau, an accomplished fiddle player has taken a support role for much of his career, playing with a number of big name stars on both sides of the 49th parallel.
With the release of What It Takes, Parenteau has assumed the lead role, and it is a mantle he wears easily. His is a pleasant voice with a maturity that shows. One listen and you'll understand why this CD is up for a Western Canada Music Award (WCMA) for Best Country Album.
I have had the opportunity to interview Parenteau over a cup of coffee in the past, and spent a couple of nights at the Painted Hand Casino Idol Competition. He has a ready smile, and a winning personality, and it comes through in spades in his music.
This CD is a good one, with a number of very good songs, yet one stands out, head and shoulders above the others, the mournful Postmarked Heaven. Anyone whose father has passed on is going to tear up just a little with this song. Simple, yet powerful lyrics make it a winner.
Parenteau really shines on the sadder, slow tempo songs, making Cold Virginia Rain the second best cut offered here.
The upbeat Country Calling Me is a radio hit, and I like that Old Man Thibodeaux features Jo'el Sonnier on accordion. Belly Up is a bar drinking, honky tonk tune that will find an audience too.
Parenteau who penned all 12 cuts here, has a traditional country sound so clearly heard on a song like Someone More Lonesome, that makes him familiar to the listener.
The CD is produced by Parenteau too, along with Steve Fox, who as I have said here before seems to have his hand in most country music coming out of Saskatchewan these days.
This is a fine effort by Parenteau, and definitely worth looking for. Check it out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 24, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BRENT SAKLOFSKE -- I Love Guitar

Brent Saklofske

Brent Saklofske is a guitarist from Calgary, AB., and a darn fine guitarist too.
So, it's no wonder his CD I Love Guitar was nominated for the WCMA Best Instrumental Album award.
Saklofske's previous album, the very fine Music For Trees, showed this guy was a talent, and it has progressed with this latest release.
Naturally, I Love Guitar is a CD which highlights the guitar, and with Saklofske at the strings, you're immediately happy about that.
The CD starts off with the somewhat fantastical The Pharaoh's Winter Palace, which clocks in a 7:35 minutes. You might think that long for an instrumental effort, but the music paints such images of a cold winter palace that the time flies by.
Saklofske gives the listener a number of thick cuts here, with A Mountain's Dream also eclipsing seven minutes, and Tabla Prism (Scarlet/Azure/Emerald) and The Bridge to Dunnotar going over five minutes each.
Stylistically you can hear classical elements melded with a more contemporary, easy listening tilt, which proves a nice mix here.
If you like guitar, you'll like this album, it's a simple as that. Check it out at /

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 24, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SIMON FISK -- You and Yours

Simon Fisk

Simon Fisk's You and Yours is one of two albums being reviewed this week which are up for the WCMA Best Jazz Album award. This is second such nomination with the Simon Fisk Trio receiving a nomination in the same category in 2003 for Trainwrecks.
Fisk hails from Calgary, and is a bassist, so right off the bat you know this is a CD with a deep undertone resonance, which is something I personally like.
The style here is definitely modernistic, with its share of electronica adding a layer to more traditional jazz roots.
The result is breathtaking at times. The overall approach to the piece Jan 29 is dynamic, unusual, and totally satisfying.
What Fisk manages here is a sound that is different enough to catch and hold a listener's attention – you find yourself not wanting to miss the nuances – and yet with familiar enough underpinnings to not turn off a traditionalist jazz fan.
Kudos to Fisk, and his supporting band of Aaron Young, guitar, Chris Gestrin piano and Kenton Loewen, drums and percussion, for achieving the balance.
Often electronica, experimental jazz can end up being just so much noise, but Fisk holds the reins just enough to keep his sound from going completely feral. At the same time listeners will want to be at least a little bit willing to walk the wild side, or this may not be to their tastes. Fisk is after all one clearly not held by tradition. A song like New Sketch proves that.
At the same time a cut like Don't Forget To Mention Me is more traditional in approach, giving the CD a nice blend.
For me though, it is the walk into the wilds of jazz, looking to twist sounds in new, yet pleasing fashions, which set this CD apart, and make it worthy of the nine score. Jazz freaks go get this one.
You can check out more about this exciting jazz artist at his website

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 24, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ZAPATO NEGRO -- Zapato Negro

Zapato Negro
Canada is noted for its rich ethnic diversity, and in terms of jazz the diversity of the Canadian mosaic comes through pretty clearly in the case of Zapato Negro, also up for the WCMA Best Jazz Album award.
The jazz group bases out of Vancouver, but the line-up is definitely an international one. Gilberto Moreaux on drums and Ivan Soto on congas are both Cuban by birth. Pianist Andre Carrasquero was born in Montreal, cut his teeth in jazz in Caracas, and has toured much of the world. Allan Johnston, the bassist is noted for having performed in a number of Vancouver's hottest bands. Add in that Miguel Valdez, again from Cuba adds trumpet and flugelhorn on five of the nine cuts here, and you see how different cultures come to the fore for Zapato Negro.
Not surprisingly there is a strong Cuban/Latin/Caribbean flavour to this jazz album. Stylistically, the jazz here is progressive, highlighting a nice smooth drum under beat, layered with piano, and punched up a notch every time Valdez adds his horn.
This is a fun CD, one for that afternoon you need a little boost. It's the kind of sound that is infectious in its good nature.
In general terms I find picking a favourite cut on an instrumental jazz album difficult, tending to listen and appreciate it as a whole, but in this case the horn lead numbers including Jazz Tumbao Thing and Caminando stand out most.
This is a really great album and one worth searching out for fans of jazz.
You can find the band on the Internet at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 24, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Review -- MONICA SCHRODER -- A Different Drum

Monica Schroeder
A Different Drum
This week I will continue to look at some of the nominees for the Western Canadian Music Awards which were held in Moose Jaw on the weekend, with four of the nominees for Best Pop Recording.
The big thing here is that 'pop' is an increasingly difficult group to get one's head around. Where does pop end and rock start? Where does pop slip back to folk?
It is a category where the music is softer, with a generally more relaxed feel, and thus many might term the music easy listening, at least back in my younger day.
Whatever the criteria was for nomination to the category, Monica Schroeder's latest A Different Drum is a CD that immediately caught my ear.
I knew I was in for something solid, or at least I expected so, having years ago reviewed Schroeder's 2000 release The Expectation of Home, and liking it a lot – and no I don't recall what I rated it back then. Schroeder had a couple more CDs released before this WCMA nominated one, but sadly I missed those.
I can tell you Schroeder continues to mature as a singer, with a voice which is simply enjoyable to listen too. She might sing a grocery list and you would enjoy listening. I mean that too in the sense the opening cut on this CD City Lights has a somewhat monotonous and repetitious chorus that could easily have turned me off as an opening cut, but Schroeder's voice carried me through that minor slip in opening song choice. It was still enough to trim a half point off the final rating.
Once past the opening cut though, Schroeder's lyrics get back on track, and she gains strength the rest of the way.
There are some truly beautiful songs here including; Hold On, These Days and November, my personal favourite.
Schroeder has a style that would fit into the same slot as say the more famed Sarah McLachlan, and quite frankly to my ear should be up there at the same level based on this fine CD. She has a sound that could easily be on the local Arts Council Stage. Yes it's pop but so accessible as to please any lover of music.
Check her out at, this Manitoba performer will not disappoint.

--Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 17, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SHEENA GROBB - Safe Guard Space

Sheena Grobb

Maybe there is something in the water over in Manitoba because Sheena Grobb, also up for the WCMA Best Pop Recording, is another gal with a simply pretty voice.
Lyrically, and stylistically, Grobb is more 'pop rock' oriented than Schroeder, but no less accomplished because of it.
Grobb has some sweet musical sequences here with a line up of instrumentation which includes a true orchestral sound thanks to violin, viola and cello on the song Character, arguably the best song here, although that is a close call with the song Good Reason. The CD includes an alternate version of Character, which quite frankly I would have left off in favour of one more original piece, and that is the one little disappointment here (there goes a half point).
However, on the very next song Clean and Discreetly the opening strains include hand drum, and an acoustic guitar is intertwined nicely.
As a song writer, Grobb shows a lot on this her first album. One can only imagine how good this gal will become.
When it comes to voice, Grobb has nice range, hitting some of the high spots on the before mentioned, Clean and Discreetly.
There are only eight songs here, but Grobb likes the longer efforts and you still get a superb package of music thanks to cuts such as Head On, Confession and Back Row.
As this is Grobb's first CD it is definitely one to grab since it could be the launch of a rather fantastic career. Check her out at

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 17, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JOEL KROEKER -- Closer to the Flame

Joel Kroeker
I guess Winnipeg is the place for WCMA pop this year with Joel Kroeker, also a Manitoba capital native up for the pop award.
Closer to the Flame is Kroeker's third album, so you would expect a level of maturity here, and this CD might best be described as solid. It may not be the upper echelon of the genre, but you can see while Kroeker has been able to carve out a three-CD career so far.
I find this a CD that I would most easily recognize as pop among the nominees reviewed here, although I do understand how all four ended up in the category.
This is a generally upbeat effort, with a lot of toe-tapping cuts, including the title cut.
Kroeker does give his fans a meaty CD here with 13 songs, including the bonus track Deja Vu, all the songs under his own pen as well (that seems a near requisite here to write your own material).
As I was writing this set of reviews, I figured after listening through the efforts of Monica Schroeder and Sheena Grobb back-to-back, I would lean toward this CD more just because it offered up a different voice which might influence the score. However, while solid, I'm afraid I just can't get into what Kroeker is doing here to the same degree as the gals above.
It's not that Kroeker misses here with songs like The Good Stuff, Hymn Number One, Nothing But The Stars being the best of the bunch. Everything is done well enough, from the lilting instrumentation, to Kroeker's own soft-male voice, but it never all came together to carry me to a higher score.
As I said solid enough work here, but not enough to particularly excite me. You can check it out at

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 17, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JP HOE & the TRULY RICHARDS -- The Live Beta Project

JP Hoe & the Truly Richards
Rounding out the Winnipeg themed grouping of WCMA Pop Recording of the Year nominees being reviewed here is the live offering by JP Hoe & the Truly Richards.
Hoe is a songwriter that must have some folk influences in his background, at least you are left thinking that as he opens up with the song Always, using minimalist instrumentation to open before jumping into a more pop/rock sound mid way through the cut. It's a rather effective way of showing the two sides of his music. Once amped up, the sound is a little like Volcanoless In Canada in spots. A reference here simply because they are so well-known locally.
I do like some of the instrumentation Hoe employs. The little harmonica riffs on Completely is an example. It is only in there a little bit, but is so effective because of its minimalistic use. By the way Completely might be the best cut here.
Vocally, Hoe is the most unique among the four reviewed here. He sings with energy and that permeates this CD. One can feel the energy he must give off when on stage since this is a live effort recorded at the Park Theatre in the 'Peg.
As for his writing, Hoe brings a poet's heart to his songs, on cuts such as Lady Bliss and Since You Could Be really comes to the forefront. The strength of this CD comes from Hoe's lyrics.
Cuts like Rise, Nicest and All of a Sudden are all great, among a lot of really hot material here.
Just to add to the mix, Hoe does one cover, wrapping up this 13-cut effort with a rendition of David Bowie's All The Young Dudes.
Another first full length effort from an artist that you should keep an eye on if you like folk/pop/rock. His combination of poetical lyrics, and the energy of a live performance gives this CD a slight edge on the field. Check it out at

-- Reviews first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 17, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Review -- JOHN WORT HANNAM -- Two Bit Suit

John Wort Hannam
This week I'm going to do something a little different, looking at four CDs which are up for awards at the Western Canada Music Awards which will be presented later this month in Moose Jaw.
I'm starting with John Wort Hannam's wonderful recording Two Bit Suit, a CD up for Best Roots Solo Album.
This is one of those albums which could just as easily have been among the finalists for country as well, since several cuts are very much bluegrass, including the title cut. Of course when you start looking at country, roots, bluegrass and folk you often end up splitting hairs to categorize where a given CD fits best.
Regardless of what label the awards committee chose to put on Two Bit Suit, it's a fine album. This is a CD rich in the lyrics Wort Hannam has created. There are love songs like Sweet Sweet Rose, that could easily find an audience on country radio given a chance.
Damn It Gwenivere is pure old-style country, and dang nab it don't it sound fine. It's nice to hear someone who remembers how to write purist country.
Other cuts, such as National Hotel are more upbeat, but still enjoyably acoustically driven.
The ballad Infantryman resonates with raw emotion, and may be the most heartfelt cut on this CD.
Vocally, Wort Hannam has a common voice, that is to say one where you get a feeling he'd be most at home sitting among a group of friends, just him and his acoustic guitar, sharing his wonderful music as a gift to those there.
I will have to say anyone who seeks out this CD will be acquiring a definite gift. This is one that impresses from the opening chord through all 11 songs. I hope he wins. It sure should.
You can check out Wort Hannam at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 10, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- KIM BEGGS -- Wanderer's Paean

Kim Beggs

Kim Beggs' Wanderer's Paean is another of the Western Canada Music Awards finalists for Best Solo Roots album, and one listen tells you she has a voice that is one so clearly suited to roots music it is hard to envision her playing/singing anything else.
This is a CD that has the flavour you might expect from a roots performer from down Tennessee or Alabama way, having that deep south feel. That is interesting when you consider Beggs has lived in Whitehorse, Yukon for the past decade-and-a-half. At the same time one can easily see how the sort of frontier feel of Canada's north would be a fertile place for roots-style songs, and Beggs has written a number of very nice folk tunes here, including Lay It All Down, Lips Stained Red With Wine and the CD's title cut.
This CD has been recorded in what I would call a relaxed, and yet intimate manner. Instrumentation is generally minimalist, allowing Beggs unique vocals, and the often powerful lyrics. Sit back and get into the words on songs such as Up From The River, and you get into the heart of roots music, compelling words that tell a story, a story which takes the spotlight over the instrumentation with Beggs.
As I mentioned, Beggs has a rather unique voice, almost adolescent in its simplicity, yet again thanks to the realities of roots music, it carries maturity arising from the music itself. It is really a contrast of vocals and material which is compelling here.
Beggs shows here that she is a fine writer, yet does mix in some material not her own as well such as the traditional Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow and All The Good Times Are Past And Gone, both adapted nicely by the artist.
This is one well worth searching out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 10, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- GEOFF BERNER -- The Wedding Dance of the Widow Bride

Geoff Berner
Geoff Berner's latest The Wedding Dance of the Widow Bride is also up for the Solo Roots Award, although many may question why?
This is a CD which immediately intrigued me, probably be the title, which hinted at a darkly-themed CD. I suppose you would say it achieved that in some tongue-in-cheek way. Certainly the lyrics on songs such as Week, Bride, Weep are dark enough, and is arguably the best cut here.
The instrumentation is the strong point of this CD with the accordion playing a lead role, as the music has the sound of old Eastern Europe. You could easily see a Ukrainian dancer doing steps to the music here.
So there is something different here, and that should be applauded, as Berner goes off into a musical realm rarely, if ever explored. His choice of instrumentation and musical style crossing over with a modernist approach to folk/roots lyrics.
The approach was one that on the first listen I actually dismissed as being frankly awful. However, on subsequent listens my respect for Berner's approach grew. I commend him for taking a rather daring approach to roots music. That is of course one of the strengths of the genre, with the music coming from the roots of cultures, and in this day that means something of a melding. Lyrically, Berner is almost a punk rocker or free form performance poet, but musically the old accordion holds this CD in a different age.
This is a CD that in the end some people will dig in a big way, and others will vehemently dislike – I doubt there is a middle ground on this one.
It's out there on the edge of musical weirdness somewhere, but it is a local worth a visit for those with an adventurous musical taste.
Check it out at


-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 10, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DAVID GOGO - David Gogo Acoustic

David Gogo
Cordova Bay
To mix it up a bit, I'll switch to a finalist for the Western Canada Music Awards Blues Album of the Year, with a look at David Gogo's acoustic effort.
Local blues fans will recall Gogo who was one of the best performers to visit the Painted Hand Casino back when they were doing their bi-weekly blues nights (I still miss those in a huge way).
Gogo is best known as a dynamite blues guitarist. I can still remember him walking through the audience at the casino using disposable lighters and shot glasses as tools as he wailed away on his electric.
Well, this time out Gogo has taken a different approach, going the acoustic route, and guess what, he still wails.
Musically there are a number of Gogo originals including the hot lead cut It's Killing Me.
To mix it up he also throws in a few borrowed blues, including a killer hot rendition of Robert Johnson's Dust My Broom, arguably the best cut here, although I do say arguably because there are a number of cuts which could be labeled 'the best'.
For example Years Since Yesterday, a song by David Gonzalez, is another contender, as Gogo is great on both the guitar, and on vocals on this cut.
The cover of As the Grow Flies by Tony Joe White is also great, with its southern blues tilt.
The blues category is deep at the WCMA with efforts such as B.C. Read's Bowl of Sugar and Kat Danser's Somethin' Familiar, both reviewed in these pages in the past. Those two CDs were rated 8 and 8.5 respectively, but are still a step behind Gogo's latest work.
Very hot. It's a must for blues fans. Check it out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 10, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Review -- TERRY BLANKLEY -- Money Talks

Terry Blankley
If there is one thing which continually amazes me it is how much music connects back to Saskatchewan, and in particular to Yorkton and area.
That seems particularly true in the case of blues, as strange as that might seem. Big Dave McLean and Kat Danser are two performers who come to mind with connections to the area. You can now add Terry Blankley to the list.
Blankley, a roots jazzy blues man out of Ontario actually grew up in Kelvington and attended St. Joe's in the city in 1964. It was kind of cool having a note in the CD package asking about Yorkton, with a note that in his time here there was only about 10,000 people in the city. He added he even made TV here in his day appearing on a show called Profile with MC Hugh Vassis.
So musically what does Blankley bring to the table?
To start with the CD was nominated as best roots blues album by the Durham Region Music Society, and Blankley as best male vocalist. While not winning either, it shows the CD has drawn attention.
Well, I'm not sure if its the effects of growing up with Prairie winters inhaled into the old lungs, but he has a deep, growly voice that I really like. To me his sort of voice is what the blues calls for. You really get a feel for the voice on a cut like Lyna, where there is almost a Springsteen-style vocal effort.
Blankley is a man who obviously has a range of influences from jazz, through blues, as well as touches of folk Americana. It all works together since the styles are all rather closely related, with elements common to all.
It does create some wonderful sounds, there is a sort of mix of Spanish, French and jazz on La rue de skid, that is rather unique.
Blankley has his hand in writing most of cuts on this 11-song CD too, and his maturity, in age, as much as as a musician, comes through lyrically. There is a depth of life knowledge here. That isn't to say everything goes back to years long past. Some of the songs connect with the now just as easily, such as the cut Squeegee Kids.
This is a very solid effort, and with his long ago regional roots, one you really need to check out. Head to to learn more.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 3, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- The BLOOD LINES -- Self-titled


The Blood Lines are yet another band emerging out of the fertile music grounds of Saskatoon which is beginning to carve out a strong following.
This is a band that has taken some rather significant steps in conjunction with their self-titled debut CD.
The recording is up for the Best Rock Album Award at the Western Canada Music Awards which will be presented in Moose Jaw this month. They should have a legitimate shot at the award. Although they are in tough with bands such as The Harlots and Into Eternity vying for the same prize.
The Blood Lines were also off to China this summer to play at the Beijing Pop Festival alongside groups such as Public Enemy and Nine Inch Nails, so it's pretty head stuff for this young band.
The band includes Paul Ross on guitar, S.J. Kardash on bass, Maygen Kardash on keyboards and Barrett Ross on drums, with all four contributing vocally to the group.
This is a group that is pretty mellow in its approach to rock, sort of reminding of bands in the late 1960s, at least to my ear.
The CD starts off well with the cut Song Salvation, followed by On My Way Back Home, both songs which show The Blood Lines at their best.
The album doesn't always hold the same level throughout, but still throws some cool sounds at the listener. Off My Mind for example has a kind of retro-Beatles beat that is rather interesting. Not surprisingly the band lists the famous Brit foursome first on the lists of influence on their page.
The band mixes an electronic-feel exemplified by the song Modern Science, with a varied vocal approach – four singers does that – to create a definite winner for a first CD effort. The female touches which Maygen adds to the mix are certainly a plus.
The best cut here might be Stay Home, musically upbeat, with an over lay of sadder lyrics.
This is a band well worth giving a listen. Check them out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 3, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CODIE PREVOST -- The Road Ahead

Codie Prevost
Let's start by recognizing The Road Ahead has earned Codie Prevost some recognition early in his career, having been picked as the Saskatchewan Country Music association's Album of the Year Award for 2006.
When you give the CD it's first spin and Better Off Alone, the album's first cut kicks in, you can tell why it has garnered attention. Prevost is right in the pocket in terms of today's country sound.
This is Prevost's first album, and to his credit he has a hand in writing most of the 12 songs, usually in collaboration with the Cd's producer Steve Fox. Fox is becoming recognized as the 'go-to' guy for young country performers in terms of material and production.
It is interesting to see A Million Miles Away, one of the best songs on the album was actually co-written by Jay Semko, famous as a Northern Pike member. It's always neat to see the connections within the music industry.
This is ultimately a CD that is safe. Prevost isn't taking any chances here. These songs have “written for radio” all over them. There are the party songs such as Not Just The Beer Talking', something that is a party song, with a catchy chorus. We've heard a hundred derivatives of this song on radio the last decade, which isn't to say Prevost's won't find favor with the same audience.
Songs like The Road Ahead is as strong as any you will hear on country radio, and that says a lot for where this young performer is musically.
I get something of the feel of the Poverty Plainsman's first CD in as much as this effort has a lot of potential single releases, although Prevost's debut isn't quite at the same quality of Gotta Be A Believer, which I rate one of the best country CDs out in the last 20 years.
Still, country fans are going to like this. Check Prevost out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 3, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DARK FOREST -- Aurora Borealis

Dark Forest
Surprise! Slip into this Dark Forest and what you will find is some driving Viking, or maybe more appropriately folk metal.
This is a metal album which is deeply-themed, which of course is at the heart of sub genres such as Viking and folk metal. The songs are all inter-connected, telling a story which is added to be each successive song.
What makes Dark Forest immediately interesting is the fact the band hails from Calgary. It seems most bands focusing on this style of dark metal saga hail from Europe, but Dark Forest boldly goes there and they do a solid job.
Musically, I love this stuff. To me this is the symphony of today's younger generation. Yep, it's driving metal, but there is a full orchestral feel to the music that is compelling. The instrumental Two Ravens Soaring which is the final cut on this CD exemplifies the sound the most. Truly moving. I love the haunting use of the sound of wind that you just know is sweeping over a snow-covered land.
What is truly amazing about this CD is that Dark Forest is a one-man effort. David Parks supplies the guitars, keyboards drum programming, mouth harp and vocals. It's a rather Herculean effort when you listen to the finished product.
The songs were written over only an eight month period as well, again by Parks, who self-recorded the CD too.
By now you are catching on that this is very much a labour of love for the musician.
Now since this CD holds its parentage to Viking metal, the vocals are growled and screamed into the microphone. I'd take a purely instrumental version myself, although that is personal taste.
The lyrics actually have an ode'ic feel, and are full of unique visions, that again hearken to the great sagas of old. And, to Parks credit, even with the growl, he let's you hear most of the lyrics pretty clearly, a definite bonus in this genre. It will be interesting to see where Parks goes next with the style.
This is a pretty good example of what this type of metal can offer. Well worth a listen.
Check it out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 3, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BLACK COFFEE COWBOYS -- Hot Like Fire

Black Coffee Cowboys
All right everyone get ready to be just plain BLOWN AWAY when you pop Hot Like Fire! in the CD player.
Well, at least I was blown away.
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect with the Black Coffee Cowboys; Deuce Frehley, Slick Patsy, Earl Garnet and Bobby Velvet. The CD cover shows the four in black jackets and old-fashioned ties, with hairstyles circa the 1950s.
But, there were also indications in a bit of pre-listening research that these guys were a country band.
The cool thing is that the Black Coffee Cowboys have managed to bring the music of the 1950s, think Buddy Holly, together with a hearty dash of country twang to create something pretty darn special.
This is not music that is deep on lyrics. You don't have to think here. This is fun music, with lyrics that are upbeat, a tad tongue-in-cheek, and just plainly put in a sweet musical romp.
I just love cuts such as Drinkin My Blues Away, Hot Like Fire, Hip Shakin Mama a sure hit had it been released in 1955 instead of being written 52 years later.
These guys would make a great cabaret band, especially one that had a 1950's retro-theme. Now there's an idea for Harvest Showdown *wink.
There are a fat 13 songs here, so it's a rollicking retro rockin' country good time that is unique enough in this day and age to be totally refreshing.
I can only tell you that I had listened to this CD three times from start to finish within six hours of its arrival. That hasn't happened in months of reviews.
This is not Nashville country. It might be if Nashville could look past it's navel, but that's another sad story, having nothing to do with the Black Coffee Cowboy's hot debut.
Just do yourself a favour, find this one and have a good time every time you give it a spin. Check them out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 29, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SUMMER & The SINNERS -- Boogie With The Devil

Summer & the Sinners
The Devil is one lucky dude to be boogieing with a gal who can sing the blues like Summer does.
Coming to your CD player from British Columbia Summer (I still haven't found her complete name), has a voice that from the opening Breakin' Up Somebody's Home, you recognize as a perfect fit for the blues. There's a deep richness here, that has elements of a smooth Scotch, although at time she can add enough growl to make you think of a bit of fizz added to that fine Scotch too.
Buddy Love adds some solid guitar work throughout, and that adds immensely to the sound. For a little added punch guitar guru Dave Gogo pops in to add some licks on Sinners Boogie and Independence Blues, so that's a sweet little extra.
Ditto having Paul Wainwright adding tenor sax to five tracks, including real nice work on Ti-Na-Ni-Na-Nu, and on Little Mixed Up.
This is Summer & the Sinners' second CD, a follow-up to Stranger's Blues, a debut cut I'd like to track down one day, given that Boogie With The Devil is so solid.
For the most part Summer borrows material from a range of sources, such as Albert Kings Natural Ball, and Eddie Taylor's Big Town Playboy. However, Summer and her band do contribute an original cut Ooh Baby. With not the best cut here, it is to be hoped we see this gal develop a few originals that fit her own style.
As it stands, as for a best cut here, I love the upbeat Big Boss Man. On this one Summer's certainly in her groove.
Very solid. Check 'em out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 29, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DROWNING GIRL -- Bang!

Drowning Girl
Puck Eye Records

OK, this is one of those CDs that just grows on you.
I'll admit Drowning Girl didn't exactly capture me on the first listen. Maybe I wasn't in the mood that day for female pop/rock, but I had this one pegged as a so-so effort.
However, on every successive play, I found myself falling more deeply under the spell of the voice of lead singer Kill Kourkoutis. This gal has a voice that will set her apart from most of the pop rock landscape today -- melodic, with a unique cadence.
At times Kourkoutis can drag you down to the depths emotionally, like on the song Fishhook, and then lift you up and carry you higher on songs such as the title cut Bang!, more for the tempo than the lyrics.
It should be pointed out that overall lyrically Drowning Girl is a little dark. Ah, but doesn't that make it all the more delicious.
The other half of Drowning Girl is guitarist David Paoli, who does a nice job of sitting in the background, strumming out the chords, allowing the music he plays to be a platform on which Kourkoutis can blossom as a fresh voice on the Canadian pop/rock scene.
As we reviewers often do, I found myself looking for somebody to compare Drowning Girl too. Well, on the band's website it is suggested you think Eurythmics, and that sums it up pretty nicely. The pitch in Kourkoutis' voice isn't the same as Annie Lennox, who could ever stand up to a direct comparison like that, but Bang! has at least a common 'feel' with the famous duo.
There are some real hit cuts here; Caught By The Rope, Sugar Bowl, Rogue among others, so this debut effort should do well for Drowning Girl.
This is another one to watch. Get'em now cause in the future the duo of Kourkoutis and Paoli could be headlining some very big shows.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 29, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SLIM SIXTY - Cut

Slim Sixty

Cut is the debut release for the four-piece, Regina-based band Slim Sixty.
Chris Vallee is the voice of Slim Sixty, not only providing lead vocals, but having a hand in writing the lyrics to most of the band's original cuts. Vallee is joined by Andy Dinsmore, Brennan Lott and Glen Iverson.
When you tour the band's website;, you learn the four band members are proud to point out they are Christians, although they add they are not necessarily a Christian rock band. That is true that they are more straight rock, but there are underlying message here too; most notably You & I that with a slight tweaking of the music would likely be a country hit.
Not necessarily Christian, but often inspiration with a Christian slant might best describe these guys. It is a road they may wish to pursue in greater depth, because if taken as just a rock band, they don't quite have it. I can think of a number of Saskatchewan bands, Sheepdogs, Pipedream, Hurricane Cletus, Wheatmonkeys, One Bad Son, that all easily outdistance Slim Sixty when matching rock note for rock note.
However, when you mix in the Christian overtones of songs like All I'd Need, then there is a demographic out there where these guys could rise higher – The Rock might well want to give these guys a listen if not already playing them.
Slim Sixty seems to want to promote themselves as just a rock band, so I'll judge them on that merit. As Vallee pointed out in a Leader Post article posted on the band's website, “We're
Christians who play in a rock band. A lot of the messages are thought
provoking; there are some undertones of Christianity in some of the
songs, but it's not blatant.”
On that premise, there are just way too
many better options, even within their home province to recommend
this CD.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 29, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada