Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Review -- THE PACK -- Tintype

The Pack

You often hear of new female voices in the blues genre compared to Janis Joplin, and usually that's not fair to the greatness of Joplin, or to the new voice. However, when the first strains of The Pack's lead cut to Tintype began to play, I immediately thought Wow! This gal has Joplin soul.
Becky Black is the lead singer, and guitarist for this two-piece band, and this is clearly her show (Maya Miller is the drummer). She is The Pack. This band out of B.C., will live and die based on Black, and while that might add some pressure, she should not fear, cause she has the voice to carry any band.
Musically, this is definitely blues. In fact it's pretty killer in terms of the blues beat. Yet, and to the credit of The Pack, they put a modern rock twist into enough songs to add to the overall flavour. Songs like This Terror and Stray are crossover cuts that fit into both worlds nicely. Ditto a moody cut like Bang.
This CD is a moody one, kind of heavy, dark, and simply delicious. Black's voice has that sort of nasty growl that so well fits a darkly moodish effort, and it all comes together well here.
Even the lyrics are enticing, once you get to the point where you are digesting the words instead of simply enjoying Black's voice which is the overriding power here throughout. To The Pack's credit they wrote every cut here as well, which bodes well for the direction their careers are likely to take.
Listeners are going to fall in love with Black, and will count themselves lucky that The Pack is offering up 17 songs, on this their debut release.
This one is really worth seeking out. Check them out at www.thepackafterdeath.com

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 14, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BANG LIME -- Best Friends In Love

Bang Lime
Last Gang Records
Coming out of Texas is the duo Bang Lime, Joules Scott-Key on drums and Joshua Winstead playing guitar and providing vocals.
This is a band which blends a number of styles, all basically different shades of rock. Overall, there is a feel that reflects back to the 1960s, heard clearly on cuts such as The Death of Death.
Interestingly, when you add modern punk attitudes to '60's styling, it works rather effectively. It probably comes from the fact that in both eras the music was focused on expanding what was already there, so it fits as it comes together.
The Best of Friends is interesting because of the combination stylings, although it may not be the most memorable CD you hear this year. It's solid enough, and for people nostalgic for the 60s wanting to see a modern twist, it's intriguing, but the music is probably not going to last long term. Of course in an era where we are used to a hit single lasting three weeks, that is not unusual.
Vocally, Winstead is once again solid, if not uniquely outstanding, and he carries the works here well.
The pair do write all their own material, which is rather cool given they have the 60s feel down so well, and yet are smart enough to twist in punk and modern rock elements too.
Check them out at www.banglime.com

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 14, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CHROMEO -- Fancy Footwork

Last Gang Records
Welcome to the work of electronica/pop, a world where you are either at home as a listener, or likely to be reaching for the CD changer after about a song-and-a-half. Unlike some genres, such as a jazz fan living through the blues, or a country fan accepting folk, this is really kind of take it, or leave it stuff.
There are occasions, such as on the cut Bonafied Lovin that Chromeo actually swings over into a style not so far removed from some modern jazz, but still the electronica takes the lead here too.
Chromeo is Dave 1 and P-Thugg, which basically leaves them a mystery, but musically they know their stuff, having written and produced the entire album. That is almost expected considering that such music tends to have a freedom of form that comes from the soul, and that shows in this music. That said I don't mean soul in a sorrowful, low mood way. This music is happy, upbeat, has a hot beat, and it leaves you feeling good.
Is this a CD I will listen too daily? Nope. But, on a day when you just want to pop a bit, this fits the bill well.
If you like your music keyboard and synth driven check this one out at www.chromeo.net

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 14, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE DIVORCEES -- You Ain't Getting My Country

The Divorcees
So how good are The Divorcees? Well, the East Coast Music Awards are rather highly coveted given the heritage for music that region of Canada has, and these guys walked away with the 2008 Country Recording of the Year Award. That tells you something right there.
Yep, this is country folks. The kind of country that is all about rockabilly, cowboy boots, cold beer and summer parties. These guys really cook it up with lots of banjo, mandolin, fiddle and pedal steel.
They hit the ground running with the title cut, then turn up the tempo and heat with Take, Take, Take.
This is fun country. Rockin' with pure, traditional country instrumentation. I love it. This has elements of Nashville to be sure, but it's more free form than that, reaching back into the heart of country for some old fashioned partying soul.
Slap on your cowboy hat and get up on the dance floor with a cold one in one hand, and your partner in the other, and don't expect to be going to work the next day, cause you won't be crawling home 'til sun up.
The Divorcees just keep plowing forward with song after song that have you bopping along, whether it's Hard Luck SOB, Red Haired, Red Blooded Woman, or the remaining cuts on this fat 13-cut effort.
The band is made up of Brock Gallant, Jason Haywood, Denis Arsenault and Alex Madsen, and one listen you'll be glad these guys got together. If you like country, then mark this one as a must have. WOW!!!!!!!! it's a hot one. You can find them at www.thedivorcees.com

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 7, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- LEAH MORISE -- Take Me Anywhere

Leah Morise

Leah Morise is a gal that floats musically in the hazy world between jazz and blues. She starts off Take Me Anywhere with the jazzy Heart of Many Colours, then gets more bluesy on the tongue-in-cheek cut The Panty Song.
Interestingly though, Morise, who hails from London, ON., herself uses the label acoustic/folk on her myspace.com page, which I'm not sure is quite the right vision of her music.
For the 13 cuts, Morise meanders back and forth between jazz and blues, creating something which should appeal to broad-minded fans from both worlds.
I rather like Morise's voice, although at times the song selection left me questioning why? The Peaceful River is such a song. The lyrics are boringly repetitive, and even the styling doesn't seem a good fit for this CD.
At the same time Morise does some very nice songs here too. Street Light Shining is beautiful, and likely the best cut here.
Teddy Bear is another song that works for Morise's voice.
Morise does have a nice voice, but overall this effort would have benefited from a touch more editing. While I like CDs that offer a lot of material, more of a good thing is a good thing, there are simply a couple of cuts here that had they been trimmed out of the mix, would have strengthened the effect of what was left.
You can check her out at www.leahmorise.com

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 7, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Friday, May 2, 2008

Review -- THE ACORN - Glory Hope Mountain

The Acorn

Take something of a pop undercurrent, with the soul of old-fashioned folk music, and add a splash of world-beat instrumentation stylings, and you have The Acorn in a nutshell.
This Ottawa based band has an interesting sound. Generally this is pretty mellow in approach, laid back, relaxing. Crooked Legs, a song with a world beat drum element is about as pumped as they get. In that regard, this is great music to relax if you don't take the material in too deeply. Low Gravity too takes it up just a bit too, but don't fret, it's not overly exertive on the system. It's just more electronically flavoured.
However, there is an entirely different level to The Acorn's music, and that comes to the listener when you relax and absorb the lyrics. There is a lilting poetry here, often with subtle messages that the mind can mull over at its leisure later.
Of course you might expect a CD with a certain level of depth and maturity here. Glory Hope Mountain is not a debut effort. In fact, The Acorn began recording back in 2002, and have produced nearly a CD a-year since. For an Indie band that is mighty impressive, and suggests they have attracted a strong following.
There are a number of really beautiful songs here, although my favourite is Oh Napoleon, a number that at times hints at a sort of Japanese rhythm underneath the main sound.
Overall this is a CD which actually grows on the listener. I will admit with the first listen I was sort of ho-hum on the material, but with each follow-up listen the stylings here grew on me. I think the key is to be in the mood for something that is at times beautiful, that is almost completely relaxing, and something that just takes you to a rather mellow state-of-mind.
This is folk music for the 21st century. A natural progression of the genre. Wonderfully executed. Check them out at www.theacorn.ca

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 30, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- UNDERNEATH THE FRAY - Every Song On The Radio

Underneath the Fray

Underneath the Fray is an acoustic folk band out of Saskatoon.
Actually, the sound is that of Lois Mullen who performs acoustic and electric guitar, vocals and drum machine. That tells you two things. One this gal has definite musical talent, and two, this CD is a labour of love when you realize she put extensive effort into doing almost everything here. You have to appreciate the determination, and tip the hat to her effort and dedication.
So was the effort worth her while?
Yep, this is a pretty good first effort. As you might expect the key factor here is Mullen's voice. While not completely unique, it is one well-suited to folk stylings.
The second key to good folk-influenced music is having good lyrics. At times I find this one a tad popish in approach, but you get the feeling that will change as Mullen matures as a performer, and you do recognize she has talent as a writer too.
There is no doubt Underneath the Fray would be a great act to have in the right venue, something small and intimate where Mullen and the audience would be able to interact, sharing the music and the emotion of the performance.
This CD offers up only seven songs, so you might wish for a bit more, but as a first Indie release, you can accept it.
As for a best song, I'll pick Smile, although all the material is pretty well on the same level here.
Check out this Saskatchewan talent at www.myspace.com/underneaththefray

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 30, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada