Thursday, February 5, 2009

Review -- ONEDAY40 -- Unfinished Business

Want to mellow? Country that let's you relax, and just get into the mind space of enjoying the day, then you might want to check out OneDay40's recent release Unfinished Business.
What blows me away the most about this band is that while you'd expect it to be a product of Nashville, or maybe Calgary, the group actually originates in Glasgow, Scotland. Yes, that does say Scotland.
This band shows that country comes from the heart more than it does from the mailing address.
Now this isn't hardcore country by any means, in fact the band's spot on suggests they are 'Matchbox 20 in a street fight with the Eagle'. Not a bad description really.
Certainly on a song such as Always, the band moves over into more of soft rock sound, and the horn work on Hometown is far from typical of country.
Then just as easily slides to the other side of the fine line they dance around, to touch on more of a country feel with songs like 50 Miles, Love Ain't Always Pretty, and What A Fool (a country hit if ever there was one), just as is Sad Cowboy.
While flirting with the two faces of the musical coin is something other bands have tried, and often get totally lost in the attempt, creating recordings which don't hold together, OneDay40 has found the balance.
OneDay40 could have several of these cuts in full rotation on any current country station, and at the same time, a fair share of the material would fit soft rock venues too.
At a time when it is trendy to offer up a rock album, then redo it with country instrumentation, OneDay40 just pulls it all together on one CD.
I mean, really Love Me Like You Do, could even fall into some jazz radio formats, with its nice horn under current, and sultry chorus vocals.
The more spins this one gets, the more impressive it gets. Where most CDs that try to be too much irk my musical tastes, this one has only my respect for the band's ability to make it work.
Find it. Buy it.
Check them out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb. 4, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- FRASER MacPHERSON TRIO -- Live At Puccini's 1977

Fraser MacPherson Trio
Cellar Live

Ah to reach back through time and pull forward a gem like this CD is a credit to the Cellar Live label.
In this case they turn back the clock 30 years, to give listeners a taste of the Fraser MacPherson Trio. The trio is fronted of course by tenor saxophonist Fraser MacPherson, and while his tenor work is as smooth as silk, he in no way overshadows his mates. Oliver Gannon is allowed to showcase his fine guitar work, and Wyatt Ruther shows that the bass can jump to the forefront and star just as easily as the other instruments here.
Musically, this is pure jazz. There is no pretense to add electronica, no desire by this trio to go way out on the edge of the genre, even for the era it was recorded. Instead, they stay true to the heart of jazz. For the most part the music is a happy journey of sounds, the three musicians playing off against each musicians individual strengths. At times each is allowed to step into the limelight and for a time they lead the journey, then easily stepping back to walk in perfect step with the others, as the three blend flawlessly.
At times, such as the cut Body and Soul, the trio switches things up, with a number that would be perfect for lovers embracing on the dance floor, slow, relaxed, and tender.
MacPherson himself died in 1993, but thankfully material like this CD are still out there. MacPherson was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1987 and won the Oscar Peterson Trophy shortly before his death in 1993. In the summer of 1993, Pacific Music Industry Association (PMIA) created the Fraser MacPherson Scholarship Fund which annually awards grants of $2000 to from four to eight young music students.
The trio was formed in 1975, and it's hard to imagine it sounding any better than on the night at Puccini's when this CD was captured.
Highly regarded at the time, this CD shows why, and it's because these three talented musicians are wise enough to blend their talents. Creating something special beyond what any individually might have achieved.
A great album from the past jazz fans will want to own.
Check it out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb. 4, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- VARIOUS ARTISTS -- The Future Of The Blues

Various Artists
Northernblues Music

I should premise this review with a notice I generally am not a huge fan of compilation disks. I have never understood why people download a bunch of singles off the 'Net to make a disk. You want that then turn on the radio. A CD is supposed to be where you get to enjoy a body of work by a single performer, allowing them to weave the different moods as they go.
That said, anytime a killer blues label such as Northernblues Music puts together a sampler, you are in for some darned fine music.
This Canadian label has a fine stable of artists and it's a treat to enjoy a taste of each, although be forewarned, you are likely to be left with a substantial list of full-length CDs you will be wanting after getting a sample here.
The CD starts off hot with Watermelon Slim's rendition of Blues For Howard. Slim is a performer who gets better with every CD he puts out, and he's smokin' here. He also contributes Blue Freightliner, and Dumpster Blues, and the trio of cuts are recording highlights. Of course any blues collection needs a Watermelon Slim CD or two.
Of course hot blues is the order of the day here.
Homemade Jamz Blues Band, one of the most promising young blues band, and I do mean young as the trio are all in their teens, offers up Penny Waiting On Change.
Tell Me Why is one of the best-of-the best here, coming courtesy of Moreland & Arbuckle. Very sweet blues indeed.
Paul Reddick is on-board with Breathless Girl, Eddie Turner, hot as he is, offers Mr. Blues, and the smooth as ever Mem Shannon contributes Phunkville.
By now you probably get the idea that this is really a loaded, all-star-style line-up, and that is just what it is.
The end result is a CD which is a great introduction to a great label, and its amazing collection of artists. You will be left wanting more, but isn't that the idea of a sampler.
You can check it out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan.28, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- LESISMORE -- As Much As I Need

Lesismore is a band out of British Columbia that pegs its music as blues, funk, roots, and I suppose there are elements of all three here, but this is music that really feels less blues to me, and more like the rock of the 1970s.
Of course there are certain songs that have more directly recognizable feels too. For example, Sweetest Heart has a definite funk feel.
Of course that is the challenge when reviewing music, coming up with a label that fits.
Regardless of just where Lesismore falls in terms of genre in a listener's mind, the sound here is unmistakably that of lead singer Leslie Harris. The 'more' here is the band, and while at times they cook, like on the song Memory, it ends up being Harris' energetic, crystal clear vocals, that draws you to this music.
That said, when tenor sax man Steve Hilliam is allowed to take the lead with some solo work, Lesismore really jumps.
Curtis Debry is solid on the guitar work, as is drummer Nino Dipasquale. While Jeremy Holmes and Patrick Metzger both contribute bass work on the CD to round out the band.
This is a CD that does cross the genres very smoothly, but keeping it all interconnected in such a manner that the overall product holds together. It is the ability to switch gears, but to do it so subtly that the listener can make the leap so smoothly that works for this band.
It really comes together as a very nice musical experience, and you will quickly grow to appreciate Harris' voice, especially on a piece such as Angel From Montgomery, arguably the best cut on a very fine album.
Check them out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan.28, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- STATE OF SHOCK -- Life, Love & Lies

State of Shock
Cordova Bay Records
OK, there are some really killer indie bands out there across Canada these days, and you can certainly add Vancouver's State of Shock to the list.
Life, Love & Lies is one of those killer CDs that you just have to like right from the opening strains of the lead title cut.
The good news is that State of Shock doesn't slow down. Hearts That Bleed, the CD's second song is one of the best cuts on the entire recording.
The catchy Money Honey has been the big hit off the CD. It has already been certified platinum in Canada, and netted the band three Canadian Radio Awards, including Best New Group, Best New Group at the CHR format, and the Canadian 2008 ‘Indie’ Award for Favorite Single Of The Year.
As successful as Money Honey has been, the true gem here is Best I Ever Had. This one is a hit in any rock era.
There are 10-cuts here, and State of Shock gives you their best from start to finish. This unit is hot, and I mean lava-like.
The songs are all written by the band, and they have a knack for catchy lyrics, as seen on cuts such as Day After Day, and so many other cuts here.
The band includes; Johnny Philippon on drums, Jesse Wainright and Simon Clow on guitars, Cam Melnyk does the vocals and Alison Toews on bass. The five meld together into a definite power unit. That said Melnyk's voice is given the freedom to dominate the music when he needs too, and that is always a plus.
A power rock band that knows what the music is about. Just a super job.
You can mark State of Shock not as an up and coming band, but as a unit which has arrived. Life, Love & Lies should be a must have recording.
Check them out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan.21, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada


Melody Diachun
Cellar Live
Melody Diachun has a voice that might best be described as friendly, warm and inviting. It's a style which completely works for this performer who offers up a sort of nouveau jazz offering with EQ.
Diachun's first two independent releases, Lullaby of the Leaves and Dreams and Places showed this gal is an emerging voice in terms of Canadian jazz. EQ is her third album, and it shows a maturity for her, both as a songwriter and a singer. Backed by her own quintet this is a CD that while clearly jazz has enough elements from stage and pop that it crosses genres to provide a completely compelling offering.
Diachun is joined by some well known musicians, including Cory Weeds on soprano saxophone. Weeds is maybe best known as the front man for the Cory Weeds Quartet, also on the Cellar Live label. When the music moves to this guy's solos, it is almost always a highlight of the song.
Tilden Webb adds fender rhodes, Doug Stephenson bass and Dan Gaucher is the drummer.
Together the musicians perform ideally as a compliment to Diachun. The music is subdued until given the limelight as soloists. The rest of the time they know that Diachun's voice is the star here and they fade quietly into the background and let her woo the listener with her voice.
It's a voice easily capable of entrancing the listener. Not overpowering, it has that friendliness that makes listening a relaxing, joyous occasion.
The songs all clock in at around six minutes, time enough to allow the band to explore, and for Diachun to have her say with her lyrics.
The best cuts include When Beauty Reigns, Spanish Joint and Invocation.
Check her out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan.21, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BEN SURES -- Field Guide To Loneliness

Ben Sures
Ben Sures is a folk singer, one that offers up the traditional, and the unusual, all in one package.
He starts Field Guide to Loneliness with the beautiful piece Dancer, a song that is purely folk, and purely good.
Then Sures shifts gears and offers up Used to Have a Raygun, a song that has an interesting message wrapped up in quirky and weird lyrics.
Now some will like the rather massive gear shift, like going from bull low on a logging truck, to fifth gear in a Porsche in one move, but for me, it's a bit too huge a change.
Sures, a veteran of the Canadian folk scene can probably get away with it based on his reputation, which included a Live album in 2001, and Goodbye Pretty Girl in 2003, but I'd like to see him stick to purer roots stylings, which I think stylistically suit Sures better.
That said you can see Sures wants to push the boundaries. He longs to explore the genre. For example, Bachelors has a sort of Mexican ballad musical undertone, and again cutting edge lyrics that are quirky. It does make the listener pay attention.
The CD has some very nice instrumentation. Sures handles the guitar with skill. His voice is clear.
The make or break point for listeners will be the lyrics. Does Sures push things too far? That is something each listener will decide, but for me, it generally doesn't work for me.
That said, there are some songs I like here, including the aforementioned Dancer, and Not On The Town, a song which highlights guest vocalist Little Miss Higgins, an excellent blues singer from Saskatchewan whose solo CD has been reviewed here previously.
You can check him out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan.21, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MILES BLACK TRIO -- Some Enchanted Evening

Miles Black Trio
Cellar Live

The Miles Black Trio doesn't take many risks with their CD Some Enchanted Evening, but then again that's one of the simple charms of this effort, it's familiar for the listener.
Black and company offer up a recording of songs most any jazz listener has heard before, typical is the title cut, a song most will relate to the late Robert Goulet, and a Las Vegas lounge. The Trio does a nice job of offering up a relaxing rendition of the title-classic.
The CD includes nine cuts, including renditions of Moonglow, Somewhere and the very familiar On the Sunny Side of the Street. As you can see from the list, this isn't anything new in terms of music here, but again the listener will forgive that, because the Miles Black Trio offers up a solid rendition of these numbers, which is rather enjoyable.
The Miles Black Trio is out of Vancouver. The trio includes pianist Miles Black, bassist Miles Hill and drummer Dave Robbins, all three being fine musicians, who ply there trade smoothly here.
That is both the strength of this CD, three guys doing music they obviously love, and doing it well, and also the weakness because you might expect these guys to come up with something newer, something a bit more daring to push themselves a bit more.
Still, you will enjoy this one, if you like jazz. It won't take you to the moon, but you'll enjoy giving this one a spin on occasion when you want something that you know well, sort of like calling an old friend just to hear the voice. In this case the Miles Black Trio speaks with a practiced and cohesive voice.
You can check out the trio at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan.14, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- TIM HUS - Bush Pilot Buckaroo

Tim Hus
Stony Plain Music
Tim Hus is an interesting voice in terms of Canadian country music these days. Hailing from Calgary, this guy is about as country music as you can get. He comes across as real with songs which are uniquely about this country, such as the opening cut Dempster Highway.So what sort of country is Hus about, given that country is a pretty diverse world these days? Well, there's a pretty big helping of Stompin' Tom Connors, mix in some Ian Tyson, nearly a given for any country artist from Alberta, and add in some modern Corb Lund sense abilities, and you have Hus.It is rather interesting how Hus combines elements of the three. Dempster Highway has a sound a bit like Lund, where Hockey Mom is like a near ode to an earlier Connors song, while Tyson just echoes through all 12 songs.Now if you are into Nashville country, or at least what that city spins out as country these days, Hus' music is not really for you.But if you want your country a little more roots-based, country that rings true like a pair of cowboy boots scarred by barbwire, then Hus is a must have. Now Hus isn't about country that is all cows and horses, but instead he uses that sense ability to tell more modern stories of the Canadian west, stories like what the title song Bush Pilot Buckaroo tells. And Roadhouse Band tells and Coal Mine tells. These are stories of people still working hard, sweating hard, playing hard, living life to its fullest.Hus is an exciting new country voice calling to listeners in Canada, and anyone taking the time to hear what he has to say in his songs will enjoy the experience.Definitely a CD to check out from the noted Canadian label Stony Plain.You can check out this exciting new voice at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan. 14, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada