Monday, November 26, 2007

Review -- LUNARTHEORY -- Self Titled

LUNARTHEORY
Self-titled
Independent
4.5-out-of-10

Welcome to the syrupy world of electronic infused pop. Please be aware you might O.D. on sugar here.
LunaTheory is the work of Jared Robinson a Saskatchewan artist who should be commented at least for the effort put into this self-titled release.
Robinson composed the material here, and he performs everything on the CD too, laying down his own guitar, bass, keyboard, and drum tracks. He is also the CD's producer. To put such effort into a project speaks to Robinson's desire as an artist to have his music captured on CD, and to have it shared with an audience.
The problem is, I'm not sure who that audience is. I'm a long way removed from my early teens when sugary sounding pop was of interest. To my mind this is sort of The Partridge family meets electronica, and it is a meeting my ears could simply have done without.
The effort to do it all impresses me, but the results are far, far, far from my cup of tea. If you want to check it out I'd suggest an Internet listen to a song, or two, before taking the plunge to spend money on this one. Check it out at www.myspace.com/lunartheory
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 21, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE SUMNER BROTHERS -- In The Garage

IN THE GARAGE
The Sumner Brothers
Independent
5.5-out-of-10
In the Garage starts with the tune Luke's Guitar, by Stompin Tom Connors, and my first thought was that the Sumner Brothers had a sound which will have many thinking of Connors.
This is a CD which floats between traditional country, blues and folk, with a dash of bluegrass thrown in. While that is usually a tasty recipe for music, somewhere along the way the bread fails to rise here.
There are times I was left hopeful The Sumner Brothers were going to crank it up and find their way to something better. For example Goin Out West is a mournful country blues song which is purely great. If this was the rule here, rather than something of an exception among the 13 cuts, this would be a CD rated way closer to 10 than it is. The CD is almost worth recommending on the one song alone.
It is pretty clear country blues is where The Sumner Brothers are most accomplished and comfortable. You find that when they hit up the chords to Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues, another cut where the brothers Bob and Brian shine. There is talent here, but the consistency is just lacking in my mind.
This is worth a look, and shows enough that it makes me curious what will follow. With a bit more consistency, theses guys could truly shine.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 21, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CHUCK BROWN -- Rough Stuff

ROUGH STUFF
Chuck Brown
Independent
5-out-of-10

Chuck Brown's spot on myspace hints that Chuck Brown offers up Southern rock and blues, so I was hoping for some guitar-driven music, with a ton of grit and gravel.
Well the CD is called Rough Stuff, but that's about as Rough as this Alberta singer gets. This is blues rock, but of a more poppish lilt. Songs such as Good Ta See Ya! and Love That Lives are examples of Southern rock that doesn't rock. It barely rolls.
This is a CD which fails to live up to the expectations of the expected genre, and really never finds a way to shift down into bull low and really deliver.
Brown does have a nice voice, but maybe that too is a problem. Blues often is best with a song with some edge, warts and flaws.
It seems Brown might be caught between a desire to be a bluesman, and a voice and style that is soft rock driven. The result he is neither, and this CD is left drifting between the worlds of soft rock and blues, two genres which never have much chance of coming together well.
Brown has the tools, he just needs to find a better project to use them on.
Check Brown out at www.myspace.com/chuckbrownband
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 21, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review - HUTCHINSON ANDREW TRIO -- Lost But Not Forgotten

LOST BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Hutchinson Andrew Trio
Independent
8-out-of-10
Finally we come to the gem of the week, with the Hutchinson Andrew Trio's sweet jazz album Lost But Not Forgotten. This is the debut recording for this Alberta trio, and hopefully it will not be their last, because they hit the ground running on this effort.
The co-leaders of the trio are Kodi Hutchinson on bass and Chris Andrew on piano, with Sandro Dominelli rounding out things on drums.
The strength of the jazz here is that the trio is wise enough to allow all three instruments their moments to shine, often allowing each to step into the spotlight at different times even within a single song. You hear that approach well on the CD's second cut Frambrough.
While a lot of jazz these days is experimental, with a lot of electronic wizardry at work twisting the genre into new sounds, the Hutchinson Andrew Trio keeps it simple. This is three accomplished musicians playing acoustic-based jazz, and playing it well. There are no bells and whistles, it's simply bare bones jazz, and that works.
Like most good jazz there are several cuts here which paint long, detailed musical pictures, music created from a huge pallet. 3 Corners of Emotion times in it at near 7:30, and seven of 10 cuts go beyond five minutes. The result is a satisfying ride into the Trio's world of jazz.
As a first recording this one is darned impressive, and jazz fans will want to check it out at www.myspace.com/hutchinsonandrewtrio
Me, I just hope they are soon back with a follow up effort.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 21, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DREMORA - Martyrs

MARTYRS
Dremora
Independent
7-out-of-10

I don't usually review EP discs, those with only three, or four tunes, since there are so many full length efforts to listen too, but the above reviews were short, I am going to indulge a personal interest in symphonic metal, and give a hint at what could be coming from Dremora, a duo out of the U.S.
Like many bands of the genre, Dremora relies on the voice of female lead singer Juliana Novo, giving the music a near operatic feel set against the metal driven instrumentation. For a first CD Novo comes across with a full, strong voice, which indeeds carry the sound.
Thomas Kampert is the male vocalist, as well as adding the guitars, drums, and keyboards. Considering symphonic metal can be quite involved, Kampert does an amazing job of pulling it all together. This guy is obviously a very good musician.
There are only four cuts here, but still clocks in at about 23 minutes. The CD starts with the strong piece Alone, follows that up with the powerful Martyrs and Madmen, then offers Fair Haven a cut with a more Medieval feel, at least until Kampert's vocal parts kick in. They wrap up with Transcending God.
Overall, I can only say 'I want more'. Very promising.
Check Dremora out at http://www.dremora.net/
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 21, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Monday, November 19, 2007

Review - ALANA LEVANDOSKI - Unsettled Down

UNSETTLED DOWN
Alana Levandoski
Rounder Records
8-out-of-10

Alana Levandoski is a conundrum for this reviewer.
On the one hand I quickly recognize a talented roots music writer who grew up in the small town of Kelwood, MB. It's those small town roots that you hear as an underlying truth in her words.
Lyrically this gal has a ton of talent, and a rural heart governing what she puts down on paper.
Songs such as Bring Me On Home are classics in the making, gems waiting to be discovered. I have little doubt Levandoski is among the brightest stars in this country in term of writing a folk roots song.
Musically she mixes elements of bluegrass, straight folk, and a dash of pop in her songs. It's a mix she does a nice job of controlling to good effect, never allowing a song to go too far into the pop genre, nor to get stuck in the most traditional folk vein either.
Moonshine is an example of the controlled approach. It is a song that could be played on a progressive country station, or most pop leaning ones as well. It would find listeners on both as well.
The only drawback here at all is Levandoski's voice, which I find a little bit of an acquired taste. It has just that timbre that can be a bit much when listening to the entire CD. If you heard one cut on the radio it would be so distinctive as to catch your attention, and in a good way at that.
However, the pitch is just high enough that to my ear, I have to be in a particular mood to want to listen to the entire CD. That may well not be the case of other listeners, but it is for me.
I respect Levandoski's skill as a songwriter, and I like how she handles the music. I can see her going far, and deservedly so, even though my ears are not always a fan.
You can check out this artist at www.alanalevandoski.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 14, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review - THE PUCKS -- Are We There Yet!

ARE WE THERE YET!
The Pucks
Independent
7-out-of-10

I popped Are We There Yet! on the CD player not sure what exactly to expect, after all it's not too often you see a CD cover where one of the musicians is holding a sousaphone.
Well, the CD was as much a surprise as the photograph.
The CD starts out with Favourite Fantasy, a Latin-flavoured song with a sultry texture, which is highlighted as the introduction to the voice of Cindy Larsen. Larsen's voice is very nice, and could be at home singing anything from folk to jazz, and I'd love to hear her take on some Gothic metal.
Hailing from British Columbia, The Pucks call themselves a folk/pop trio, although really they spend a limited amount of time paying homage to folk in my find. This is what I would term a melting pot pop band that is most at home on the very edge of the genre.
I will grant there is folk instrumentation here, with whistle, harmonica, and bass, but this trio does a good job of taking their sound a bit more mainstream.
Murray Gable is the male vocalist here, and he too has a notable voice. You will fall for it once you hit the song Cinema, and will grow to appreciate as the CD moves through its 11 cuts.
Lloyd Larsen, who plays the sousaphone, along with the bass, rounds out this interesting trio.
One thing about this CD, by the time it's over, you know you've arrived at a place you're happy to be, because the trip has been so much fun listening to The Pucks perform.
Check them out at www.thepucks.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 14, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review - PANACEA - Self Titled

SELF TITLED
Panacea
Independent
8.5-out-of-10

Panacea comes to the Canadian jazz scene out of Montreal determined to offer up their own interpretations of the genre.
The CD is experimental, progressive jazz which caresses and jars the senses, often at the same time.
The five-piece band offers a cornucopia of instrumentation, from the traditional trumpet, trombone, bass and drums through to synthesizer, French horn, euphonium and didgeridoo. Guests artists add in violin, oboe, cello,and bassoon, so musically Panacea draws on orchestral roots.
As artists; Nick Kirshnit, Eli Chamber, Gregory Burton, Josh Dodds and Ben Dodds, take the listener on a wild ride, yet never so far to the edge of jazz that they risk loosing the traditionalists among their listeners.
There is enough pure jazz layered here that when the curves do comes, the listeners can take them at full speed, and Panacea never lays down a real hairpin corner that would shake us loose from enjoying what they are doing.
And what they do is tell some interesting stories in a language not totally familiar, yet with enough phrases we can identify that we are comfortable listening.
They do it all with just a bit of humour too as witnessed by song titles which include Freedom Fries, Ode to an Ugly Pig Parts I & II, which combined for a 15-minute excursion, and the CD ending Trash Stash which weighs in at more than 10 minutes.
This is a CD I like because it pushes jazz sensibilities, yet without going too far as to lose even a casual jazz fan. That is not always an easy balance to achieve, but Panacea succeeds. Check them out at www.panacea1.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 14, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- REZONATORS - Delta Man

DELTA MAN
Rezonators
Independent
6.5-out-of-10

The Rezonators are the blues duo of Rob Clarke and Gerry Norris hailing from London, Ont.
The duo offers up a 14-song CD with Delta Man, with both Clarke and Norris providing vocals. The pair are aided on a few of the cuts by Amiel Houghton. She takes the lead vocal reigns on Blues At Midnight, as well as chiming in on Yellow Dog Blues and the CD title cut; Delta Man.
These guys are veterans of the blues, having met in high school, and formed the Rezonators more than a decade ago in 1996. While together for years Delta Man is the duo's first offering on CD.
This is country-influenced blues, as you might expect from the CD's name, Delta Man. Clarke and Norris do it well, offering up a nice selection of material, some written by Clarke, others by Norris, surprisingly, never teaming as writers. I would imagine that may be their next step as a duo, to pen more material together.
These guys would be interesting to see live in the right venue, a smaller intimate location where you could feel part of the show, and get into the mood these two put forward.
For blues loves worth a listen for sure.
The Rezonators can be found at www.myspace.com/therezonators
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 14, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Friday, November 9, 2007

Review -- QUARTETTE - Down at the Fair

DOWN AT THE FAIR
Quartette
Independent
9.5-out-of-10
When you see a CD coming from Quartette you can pretty much assume it's going to be a good one. After all this group of ladies are all veterans of the Canadian music scene with notable solo careers, and a history of great material as the group Quartette as well, having previously released five CDs, including a Christmas album.
For those unfamiliar with Quartette, the line up includes; Cindy Church, Caitlan Hanford, Gwen Swick and Sylvia Tyson.
On Down At The Fair each member of the group brings their own influences and strengths to the effort. However, the true strength of the work is how the four weave their individual talents together creating something wonderful in the process.
Still, the ladies do let each other shine through too. Sylvia Tyson writes Twenty Shades of Blue, and there is a nice underlying feel of a blues tone here, although not so bluesy that it sounds out of place on a CD that is overall more of a folk, easy listening effort.
Hanford's That's What You Always Say To My Heart has a definite bluegrass sound, with some nice mandolin work.
All These Things Are You penned by Swick, and vocally led by her too, has a sound that seems to draw from 1960's country, although at times you wonder if there isn't a touch of stage song here too.
I love the soulful sound of Church's Nothing Can Make the World Right Again.
These ladies are professional enough to allow each their moment to lead, yet are there supporting each other through harmonies, creating a sound that is maintained throughout the CD because of that effort.
Quartette has a mature sound, no I am not saying these ladies are old, but they have the benefit of experience, the strength of a lifetime making music, and here they have drawn all that experience together to create something truly special. It's hard to imagine a better effort from this great group.
If anyone has enjoyed Quartette in the past, or been a fan of the individual careers of the members, then make sure you seek out this CD. Check it out at www.quartette.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 7, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review - VARIOUS ARTISTS -- The Gift: A Tribute to Ian Tyson

THE GIFT: A TRIBUTE to IAN TYSON
Various artists
Stony Plain
9.5-out-of-10

I just couldn't resist the idea of reviewing a tribute to Ian Tyson in the same issue as Quartette, which of course includes Sylvia Tyson, Ian's former wife, and musical partner. While the musical careers of the pair went their separate ways, they will be forever linked in the mind's and hearts of Canadian music fans.
Ian Tyson has of course had an outstanding career helping to preserve and re-popularize the genre of true western music.
As a performer you tend to know your career has earned respect when other artists gather to do a tribute album, and one listen to this effort and you know Tyson's career is indeed worthy. This CD is crammed full of recognizable hits covered by some of the best in Canadian music, along with a few American friends added in. I truly enjoy the mix of veteran and new musical stars paying their respects here.
The CD starts with Canadian super group Blue Rodeo doing a sweet rendition of Four Strong Winds, an early hit from when Ian and Sylvia were famous just by their first names in this country.
On the very next cut Corb Lund, a more recent arrival to the country charts in Canada doing the western classic MC Horses.
Cindy Church, yes another tie to Quartette, offers a rendition of Range Delivery.
Amos Garrett, a great bluesman does Some Kind of Fool, and the Good Brothers do Summer Wages.
A favourite cut here though has to be Canadian folk icon Gordon Lightfoot's rendition of Red Velvet.
The only thing really missing here is a rendition of Navajo Rug, maybe Tyson's best known, and best-loved songs. Perhaps for that reason no one felt comfortable covering such a signature song.
Overall this is a great western CD, made even better because of the collection of artists coming together to pay homage to a true star of the Canadian music scene for decades. He has released 11 solo CDs, dating back to 1973, and Four Strong Winds was a hit a decade earlier than that.
This is one to be cherished.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 7, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CAPTAIN TRACTOR -- North of the Yellowhead

NORTH of the YELLOWHEAD
Captain Tractor
Six Shooter Records
6-out-of-10

Way back in 1994 I had the opportunity to review Land from Captain Tractor, and was really blown away by this Edmonton band with it Celtic roots sound tinged with a good share of humour.
East of Edson in 1995 followed that tradition.
Then a number of CDs came out that I have sadly missed, but I'm back on the tractor with North of the Yellowhead, the band's most recent release.
Through the missed CDs, four being release between East of Edson and this effort, Captain Tractor has evolved.
There is less Celtic here. In fact you've got to listen real hard to find a hint of the Gaelic here; although it does pop up a bit on cuts like The Southern Cross.
At the same time the band has gone into lyrics that are generally more humourous overall than in their earliest works.
The result is a band that is probably a blast at university parties, but doesn't quite cut it turning on the player at home.
This may be a case of memories from more than a decade ago overshadowing the current release, but I'll be digging out the earlier Captain Tractor works before giving this one a regular listen. My guess is if you are a fan and have been along listening to the evolution over the seven CDs the band has released, then this might be better received. However, I can't quite make the jump. I want the old tractor back.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 7, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DAWN ALEXIS -- Such-a-Bouquet

SUCH-A-BOUQUET
Dawn Alexis
Funtazm Entertainment
7-out-of-10

Such-A-Bouquet is the debut recording for Dawn Alexis and it's an ambitious undertaking to say the least for the Regina-based artist.
The CD is a 'FAT' 17 songs, all written by Alexis, which is a pretty impressive effort lyrically for a jazz artist offering up her first recording. It is a genre which often begs a few covers to add a touch more familiarity to a debut project. Kudos to Alexis for going her own way.
Alexis also did the arrangements here, and she shows maturity on this front too. The skillful use of brass on a cut such as Don't You Fret shows that.
The CD is also self-produced, so everything you get here has Alexis' mark on it.
So what do we get?
Well it's a jazz album, with touches of swing, and a few Latin twists, such as When Will You Write.
Vocally, Alexis has a deep, sort of throaty voice, with excellent range, which she uses to full effect throughout. It's the sort of voice which will stay haunting the listener for a long time, and that's a good thing. The haunting quality comes through on cuts such as Please Don't Make Me Go.
Overall, this is an impressive effort from a new voice, and one that deserves a listen. Alexis is another Sask. talent who deserves to be heard here in the province. Maybe the adult jazz band the city can have her headline a show, it would be a good one.
Check her out at www.funtazm.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 7, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada