Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review -- WELCOME TO REYKJAVIK -- Music For Sleeping Lovers ... And For Those Who Wake Up Alone

MUSIC FOR SLEEPING LOVERS ... AND FOR THOSE WHO WAKE UP ALONE
Welcome to Reykjavik
Independent
8-out-of-10
Music For Sleeping Lovers ... And For Those Who Wake Up Alone is a CD which impresses on several levels.
To begin with, the disk is a testament to just how far home recording has come thanks to current technology.
While the CD might not be up to a full studio effort, when you consider it was self-produced, recorded right here in Yorkton in Knox Presbyterian Church, it is a darned fine effort. It speaks to how the world of music has evolved to the point where local musicians can affordably produce quality recordings.
The CD also shows that musician Sean Craib-Petkau is a fine modern day poet. One of the strengths of this CD is the writing. He has a knack for lyrics that have a pop / folk feel. Very nicely done.
The best cuts lyrically are And The Quiet Times, Bridges and A Night. Interestingly Craib-Petkau said he was inspired one night on a break from recording to pen A Night, a song they then laid down on tape within minutes of writing it. Quite a job, on a nice song.
This is Craib-Petkau's second CD, following on the heels of an early 2008 self-titled debut release, again under the name Welcome to Reykjavik.
This time though Craib-Petkau is joined by Emily Kohlert, and that was a very wise decision. Kohlert's voice is a near perfect fit with Craib-Petkau's. Their harmonies are sweet, and another CD highlight. In fact, Kohlert probably needs to be handed a bit bigger role if they stay together. It would be great to see her take the lead on a couple of songs. If you have a good female vocalist, use her.
Having recently heard Welcome to Reykjavik live at their CD release event, Kohlert also added a few brief interludes on trumpet on a couple of pieces not on the album. Here's hoping they use that asset more in the future as well, it was a nice touch.
It is interesting that while I see places for this duo to grow, I still like this current CD very much. It has a laid back, relaxed tone. It doesn't get overly heavy either lyrically, or musically, but is enjoyable.
Grab this CD. Support local music, and get a fine CD to boot.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 22, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- PAUL REDDICK -- Sugar Bird

SUGAR BIRD
Paul Reddick
Northernblues Music
9.5-out-of-10
Sugar Bird is one of those special disks which crosses the desk every so often. It is an effort where artist Paul Reddick pays homage to the past, yet creates something unique to the present.
What Reddick does here is take early Americana/roots blues stylings and then writes new material that fits that style. Well actually he writes some of the songs and Colin Linden a great Canadian bluesman pens others – he also produces the CD.
The result is really quite compelling.
At first listen you find yourself wondering just where Reddick found the music. There is a definite blush of age in terms of style, like he unearthed a trove of older material and has brought it back to life.
Then you get into the lyrics on subsequent plays. You begin to get into the poetry of the pieces, and you hear more of the modern.
There are some absolutely beautiful pieces here, starting with Climbing Up the Hill. It is a song Reddick and Linden co-wrote, and they were on their game the day they did.
If By This also cooks. It is another co-write, and Linden even adds guitar here, as he does on several cuts. He plays a mean guitar and it blends so well with Reddick's vocals and harmonica.
This is of course a polished presentation. It is Reddick's fourth release on Northernblues Music so he knows his way around a studio. He is relaxed in the environment, and it shows.
It helps too to have Linden as a guide. He too is a veteran producer, and writer and performer.
It's two sage bluesmen combining their considerable skills on multiple levels here.
Now this is older styled blues, so it might be an acquired taste for some, but this is a CD that you really need to check out if blues are an interest at all. So sweet it is.
Reddick's website is www.paulreddick.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 22, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE DANKS -- Samples

SAMPLES
The Danks
Independent
6.5-out-of-10

The Danks call themselves a rock band, but they often flirt with a poppier sound, putting themselves in a position to cross a couple of boundaries in terms of the broader genre.
Brohan Moore is the lead vocalist here, and he has a throatiness to his sound which really is the distinguishing feature of the band. It is a voice which is unique enough that you may remember it after the general poppish music fades away – which is likely to happen rather quickly here.
This is music that is OK, albeit rather generically forgettable. You won't mind hearing it. In fact songs such as Sold Me Out have a definite, move-to-the-music appeal. Ditto I Got No Nothing.
However, once it's over, there isn't a lot that will necessarily stay with you either.
Sure I can see a couple of these cuts getting some radio airplay because they have that friendly beat, but then again can anyone remember what song was number 15 on the charts last week?
This is sort of that disposable, good for the moment music, which is to say it is rather typical of a lot of the music churned out these days. The world is generally happy with three weeks of radio play as it moves on to the next hit of the moment.
The good news for The Danks is that they have at least found a way to tap into the 'sound'. Songs such as In The Beginning work for today. They can hopefully grow from that to aspire to something a bit more lasting in the future.
That said, this is a CD you are going to like. You are likely to play it a lot for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, and that isn't a bad thing either.
Check them out at www.thedanks.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 22, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review -- AUTOCONDO -- Self Titled

AUTOCONDO
Self-titled
Independent
8-out-of-10
This is a CD with a sort of pasted on theme. The Toronto-based band wants to listener to climb into a vision of a possible future world, a world where the economy is such that people are forced to live in their cars. The 12 songs here loosely relating to what such a world might be like.
The idea is somewhere between tongue-in-cheek promotion, and effective visionary tool for the CD.
Certainly with a little imagination the songs work in terms of a social commentary on a bleaker automobile condominium world.
That said, you really don't need to paint the overlaying picture to make the music work.
The music has some definite social commentary wrapped in the lyrics, which puts the style somewhere between 1960's era pop, and folk. The lean is toward the pop side, except that you hear the folk writing sensibilities. In fact, on a cut such as Send Her Back, the music actually gets rather country.
If you are getting the feeling Autocondo is a bit scattered in approach, you are only partly right. There are multiple elements at play, with various ones taking the spotlight on any given track, yet each song connects well enough to the next to hold the package together.
Neil Chapman and Tony Duggan-Smith are the voices of Autocondo, and they offer up some smooth harmonies, which again is reminiscent of 1960's pop.
In terms of instrumentation, the mix is simple, straight forward, and effective. Both singers play guitar, and are joined by Russell Walker, again on guitar and vocals, with Steve Heathendom on drums, Matt Horner on keyboards and Glenn Olive on bass. As a unit they do a nice job.
The best cut here is When the Dust Falls, a song which fits in well with the aforementioned theme.
Crimes is another song that has the darkness of a future of auto condos, and vocally has some full-bodied harmonies which stand out. Crimes is a long song that really takes you into the world the band is creating.
This is a CD that admittedly at first listen didn't grab me, but subsequent listens took me into the lyrics and the subtleties of the harmonies and music, and guess what, I like it. This is music which will grow on you.
Check them out at www.autocondo.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 15, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- B.D. GOTTFRIED -- The Element Of Left

THE ELEMENT OF LEFT
B.D. Gottfried
Independent
9-out-of-10
All right everyone hang on for something just a little different, but different in a good way.
B.D. Gottfried comes at us with a new CD which is musically lush, with a bold full sound. He also mixes in a range of elements musically, from near orchestral, to full-blown electronica, creating an ever-changing panorama in terms of the sound. Just when you think you have it figured out, another curve gets thrown. The result is a CD which demands attention. It is intrinsically interesting because of the way the music twists and turns through 10 creatively unique musical pieces.
Laid over the music are vocal stylings reminiscent of British artists of the 1980s – think David Bowie as an example.
Of course we shouldn't expect less from Gottfried, a veteran of several CDs. That experience shows here. This is a well-polished effort. It is smoothly played, while still offering its uniqueness.
Loose Screws is among the best here. A truly fantastic effort.
Transmission Fading is another cut that stands out.
That said Gottfried really fires on all cylinders here. There isn't a bad cut among the 10.
This is music which makes the listener listen, and that's a good thing when the music is as interesting as B.D. Gottfried offers up.
Overall this Ontario band, with Aaron Gottfried offering up the vocals, is just plain good. Jack Smith is on hand with additional vocals work, while Bill Gottfried and George Chaggares round out the band.
Find this CD, buy it.
Check it out at www.bdgottfried.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 15, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- TIM'S MYTH -- Harbour

HARBOUR
Tim's Myth
Independent
7.5-out-of-10

Well-crafted music which wavers on the edge of uniqueness is always appreciated, and that is exactly what Tim Smith offers up on Harbour.
Hailing from Montreal, Smith labels himself an alternative, folk rocker, and that is a pretty fair self-description.
Certainly there are songs here where you can hear the teachings of folk roots music coming to the forefront, such as the cut Left Behind. However, there are modern rock sensibilities at play here which allow the music to resonate for today.
Bloody Diamonds takes to the rock side of Smith's music more fully, yet there is an underpinning of blues roots at play in the tune as well.
Wrecord has that bluesy element at play as well.
The key for Smith is the ability to build with various musical blocks, yet never losing the listener because he goes to far one way, or the other.
The material is all held together with solid lyrics, again something which is an obvious homage to the folk side of things.
In terms of picking the best from among 14 cuts, that is a hard one. Swelling Tide is interesting vocally, as Smith pushes some interesting effects into the song.
The grittiness of Bloody Diamonds appeals to my ear as well.
Still when everything is factored in, Alley Cat is the song which combines the best lyrics, and the best elements of rock stylings. It is one Smith should be proud of.
Check it out at www.heartim.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 15, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CHRIS DAVIS -- A Night Remembered

A NIGHT REMEMBERED
Chris Davis
Cellar Live
7.5-out-of-10
For many jazz is all about the horns.
If that is the case with you, then you need look no farther than A Night Remembered by Chris Davis. Davis is a fine trumpet player out of Vancouver who does a nice job of surrounding himself with musicians who flesh out the sound, including the excellent piano work of Tilden Webb, work which really comes to the forefront at times on this CD. In particular on the piece Elevation, Webb's piano sings.
Add in the sax work of Mike Allen and the trombone of John Van Deursen, and this CD has the well-rounded brass sound that gives it a 'big band' feel without the big band being on stage.
Tommy Babin buts the bass soul into the works, and John Davis does the drums, particularly notable on the Duke Ellington piece Happy-Go-Lucky-Local.
It comes down to the age-old reality of music here. It might be Davis' name on the CD, but the music is really a collective effort, and that is the case here, where the man with the trumpet is wise enough to give the full band its due.
It helps when you have a piece such as Happy-Go-Lucky-Local clocking in at 12-minutes, plenty of time for everyone on stage to get their time.
But, let's get back to Davis. He can flat out play, and the arrangements here take full advantage of that skill.
Davis' trumpet has a subtle maturity. It is always front and centre wailing out the music, yet it's usually there carrying its share of the load, then breaking out to be the feature of the piece. It's a nice approach that shows Davis has the musical savvy to let the piece dictate exactly what he needs to do.
The maturity of approach here is particularly impressive considering A Night Remembered is Davis' debut.
The music here was recorded off the floor of a live set at The Cellar in Vancouver, and the audience that night was a privileged lot to be part of a fine show. Listeners of this CD should also feel good about what they hear, since this is sweetly smooth, yet full-bodied jazz.
Check Davis out a www.myspace.com/chrisdavis00
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 8, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MARK DeJONG -- The Unknown

THE UNKNOWN
Mark DeJong
Chronograph Records
8-out-of-10
There really isn't anything that is better than sax, at least when it comes to jazz. So it was with a certain level of excited anticipation I gave The Unknown a spin by Mark DeJong.
The anticipation proved warranted. DeJong starts the work off hot with the cut Paris of the Prairies, a number which solidly introduces just how well this guy plays sax.
From there DeJong just keeps it coming, offering up eight tracks, all written and arranged by himself. That is a definite highlight, discovering hot new jazz with every track.
While obviously sax-driven, there is depth here. In particular David Freeman on percussion and Jerome Jennings on drums add some definite funk soul to the proceedings.
Steve Hudson's work on piano is also noteworthy, while Mike Noonday rounds out things on bass.
DeJong shows he can write music, and some of the cuts here could well end up covered by others in time, because they are quite nice. The pick of the crop is People Will Say We're In Love, an upbeat piece which reflects the title.
Originally from Calgary, DeJong is employed at the University of Saskatchewan in its music department, so we can take some local pride in this CD, which is a debut effort.
Giving the project a little international twist, The Unknown was recorded at Peter Karf Studio in Brooklyn, N.Y., with DeJong working as his own producer too.
Given the material, and DeJong's sax work, I certainly hope it is not the last we hear from him.
There is a sense of the open Prairies here. The pieces are for the most part bright, open and airy. It is refreshing as DeJong's saxophone seems to lightly blow across the wide open spaces of our minds.
There are pieces, such as Darkest Hour, my second pick on the CD, which are not as light in approach, yet they fit into the overall mood of the CD.
Grab this one. It's a great jazz album from the Canadian Prairies.
Check this sweet effort out at www.myspace.com/jazzmarkdejong
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 8, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DIANA Z -- All I Want

ALL I WANT
Diana Z
Independent
7.5-out-of-10
A few readers out there will recall Diana Z (Zitmanis) from a performance in Yorkton not so many months ago at 5th Ave Cup and Saucer, and from a featurette in Yorkton This Week.
Well Diana Z, who headed back to 5th Ave Cup and Saucer Saturday, also has a CD out, and it's a good one.
The music here is pop / roots in its approach, achieving moments of greatness, mixed in with a cut or two where Diana gets a bit too British poppish for my liking. Coffee Song is one such song. The lyrics are solid, but the style is less to my liking.
There are a few times when Diana Z resonates a bit British-pop. For example Indigo has a vocal flavour but so unlike a modern Lulu from To Sir With Love fame.
OK so, what about the good? Well fortunately Diana Z hits more highs than low, starting with the lead, and title cut All I Want.
The best of the bunch is likely the song Burning, which has a bit more edge. This is a song that owes its approach more to a Canadian icon such as Sarah McLachlan.
The performance in Yorkton was an acoustic affair, just Diana Z, her guitar and her clear voice. The CD has greater depth, at least instrumentally, and that gives us a truer vision of just what she is trying to accomplish.
There are songs here which should be on radio, Something Else coming to mind as a hit waiting to be discovered, as is Tortured Soul, another McLachlan-like piece.
While not every song here strikes a chord, as a whole All I Want works. Diana Z obviously draws on different influences, but her memorable vocals ties it all together nicely. The result is a debut she should be proud of, and a work which should launch her to bigger and better things..
You can follow Diana Z's career at www.dianaz.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 8, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE GRASS -- Rogue Waves

ROGUE WAVES
The Grass
Independent
8-out-of-10
The Grass comes to us from Nova Scotia. They are a rock band which proclaims itself psychedelic and southern rock. OK I might not go quite that far. In most cases they don't have the rawness for southern rock, although you can hear the influences in places in Rogue Waves.
They are however a pretty solid rock band, and the flavour of the '70's psychedelic rock is certainly evident on a number of the songs.
The Grass are prolific, with this their fourth CD. It follows after Report All Ghosts reviewed here last April.
Now one complaint off the top is the CD design. Here they went whole-hog for psychedelic, to the point you likely have to be in a Woodstock haze to read it, or a master in hieroglyphics. You don't do yourself any favours when the listener can't even determine what song they are listening too. You loose a half-point on that alone folks.
There are some great cuts here, starting with Ballad of Davey Jones, likely the truest psychedelic piece on the album.
I'd mention a couple of others, like the well-done Superserum, but I honestly couldn't come up with the name without searching it online, which is way too much work. The piece has a great instrumental intro, and again, is one which makes you think psychedelic.
In terms of the southern rock influence, that is most easily heard on Down At The Station.
Even with the jacket design miscue, this CD is a step forward in terms of music for the The Grass from their previous CD Report All Ghosts. The retro-'70s sound – love Hunter's Moon for that -- just works for me, although that may be influenced by the fact I cut my rock teeth growing up in that era. Yep I am getting old.
But with that age comes an appreciation of good music, and The Grass offers it up here. This one is certainly one to grab for all children of the '70s, and lovers of good music.
Check it out at www.thegrassband.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 1, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DAVID WILCOX -- Boy In The Boat

BOY IN THE BOAT
David Wilcox
Stony Plain
5.5-out-of-10
David Wilcox is a veteran bluesman, with his previous disks Rhythm of Love, from 2002 and Rockin' the Boogie from 2003 previously reviewed here.
With Boy In The Boat Wilcox is back after a four-year break from the studio. With the prep time I was expecting something truly inspired here.
At times the inspiration is here, at other times Wilcox might have wanted to wait another few months.
The truly inspired comes from Wilcox's guitar, which is always solid, as is the case on the solos of his rendition of Catman and the upbeat boogie of Step It Up and Go.
However, vocally, Wilcox is not necessarily among the blues elite. Too many of the songs here are rather superficial in terms of lyrics, and with Wilcox's common voice, it all comes across as a bit bland. There is a need for more songs that go beyond the words of the like of Shuckin' Sugar and the aforementioned Catman.
As a guitar slinger Wilcox is solid, and he definitely shows it here.
As an overall package though it is simply lacking. Not a must-have at all.
You can check this one out at www.davidwilcoxrocks.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 1, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE TERRY B3+ -- Invitation To The Blues

INVITATION TO THE BLUES
The Terry B3+
Independent
8.5-out-of-10
There is nothing better than reviewing a disk which has some sort of local connection. It just seems to make the music more connected.
So it was of course with interest that I placed Terry Blankley's newest release on the old player. Blankley, a roots jazzy blues man out of Ontario actually grew up in Kelvington and attended St. Joe's in the city in 1964.
Regular readers may recall Blankley for a couple of reasons, including a review here of his earlier CD Money Talks in October 2007.
Blankley is also an artist I stayed in contact with due to the old Yorkton connection, and he actually helped recommend a series of great blues CDs that were reviewed as a series a while back.
Which brings us to Invitation to the Blues. While he might have been local, Blankley's Money Talks was only a so-so effort. This time around he has taken a major step forward in terms of the blues.
With an Invitation to the Blues, the musical mix is more sophisticated, and the instrumentation has more depth as well.
Blankley is aided here by musicians such as Bruce Gorrie who contributes flute, and on a cut such as Motherlode that makes all the difference.
Ditto Herb Knox's clarinet on Redwine and Blues.
This CD is also a nicely blended mix of Blankley's own material; Prairie Gold, God Didn't I Tell You and a few others, with some great covers.
In terms of covers the stand out is Blankley's take on Lennon and McCartney's Come Together, another cut with some sweet flute work.
The title cut of course is a Tom Wait piece and there is also a take on Ray Charles' Them That's Got.
A very nice mix, with some cool takes on the music, such as the rendition of 4/4 Time, very well done with Blankley's gravely voice.
Blankley also does our pocketbooks a favour offering up 16-songs, so this disk is a real recession fighter too.
Definitely check it out at www.terryblankley.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 1, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS -- The Crying Light and Another World

THE CRYING LIGHT
ANOTHER WORLD
Antony and the Johnsons
Independent
9.5-out-of-10
Ah the world of experimental music, refreshing, strange, different, unusual and cutting-edge, which is all generally a good thing in a time of cookie-cutter music made for radio.
Enter Antony and the Johnsons, a band out of New York which is definitely not mainstream, although not so far across the line that listeners can't relate.
This is accessible experimental music.
Interestingly, Antony released both The Crying Light as a full-length CD and Another World, a five-song EP in 2008, the two seeming very much two parts of the same whole, so both are reviewed here.
There is a near operatic feel to the piano supplied by band lead Antony, who also offers up the stark, dark, yet surprisingly melodic vocals.
Adding to the classical feel of the music is the presence of a string trio made up of Maxim Moston, Julia Kent and Rob Moose. Add in sax, clarinet, a full horn section and a range of additional strings and this is music somewhere between jazz, on a cut like Shake That Devil (from the EP) to symphonic with Another World.
The broad strokes of the music isn't particularly experimental, but wait Antony is far from finished.
This guy is a modern-bard with a knack for unusual, yet compelling lyrics. They are stories of the weird in a sense, yet they work, especially when performed by Antony and his unique and memorable voice.
Songs such as Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground, One Dove, and the others on the full-length CD are dark, with a sullen, sad mood. Yet, as stark as they are, they are immensely compelling. You want to take a trip inside Antony's world.
This is a CD which will stick with you after it has finished playing. It will percolate in the mind, luring you back for another listen, and then another. That is something many lesser CDs fail to do because they are simply homogenized clones of a dozen other CDs by a dozen other bands.
Antony and the Johnsons have dared go in another direction, and the listener is the winner for their effort.
A bit off the beaten path, but well worth taking the chance to wander the way Antony leads. If you look for these, take the pair, they really do belong together as a longer work.
Check it out at www.antonyandthejohnsons.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper March 25, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE OLYMPIC SYMPHONIUM -- More In Sorrow Than In Anger

MORE IN SORROW THAN IN ANGER
The Olympic Symphonium
Independent
8.5-out-of-10
When The Olympic Symphonium CD arrived, I sort of expected some sort of new wave, punk CD, just a feeling which came from the CD graphics.
More In Sorrow Than In Anger proved once again you can't judge a book by its cover.
This is simply mellow rock, with a near folk feel at times. Of course if you check out this trio's webpage at www.theolympicsymphonium.com, that is exactly how they bill themselves too.
Made up of musicians Nick Cobham, Kyle Cunjak and Graeme Walker, The Olympic Symphonium has the roots feel of their native New Brunswick, infused with just enough rock verbs to make it transcend straight folk.
The trio has a relaxed approach to music, relying on music that has a nice relaxed rhythm, over which their smooth harmonies fit nicely.
The result is music that is perfect for that summer day relaxing on a blanket in the park.
Songs such as The Note take on a full sound, yet when the trio heads into the lyrics, the music is pared back, to allow the words to carry the song. Nicely done boys.
The CD is a follow-up release to their 2007 debut Chapter 1, and while not having heard that release, I can attest to the newest CD to be a very solid, relaxing, musical effort.
When you hear a song such as Side By Side you just want to allow the music to carry you away. It's like a sunny day with clouds across a blue sky, suddenly turned to music. I particularly like Blood From A Stone too.
This may not impress everyone, but taken for what is is, pop, with a little greater depth from the folk/roots background, which adds to the lyrical side of things, this CD is very solid.
Definitely one to look for.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper March 25, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SMOKEKILLER -- 13

13
Smokekiller
Independent
8.5-out-of-10

Readers may recall from an earlier review of the self-titled debut album in September 2007, that Smokekiller is the stage name for Saskatoon-solo performer John Antoniuk.
That debut album was one which didn't immediately impress, but gained strength with a few listens.
No worries this time around. Smokekiller has grown as a musician, and 13 starts off strong, and holds your attention from the get go.
The strength here is a sound which is mellow, akin to some of the rock of the past. For example, the lead cut California could just as well have been performed by the Beach Boys, as a sort of slower number for their repertoire. Smokekiller does a really nice job of the piece, a cut that should find radio itching to slot it into the summer rotation.
Interestingly, the song You've Got a Hold On Me reminds me of the Beach Boys rock generation too, not as party rock as the Beach Boys, but the same underpinnings of style.
Smokekiller recently showcased at Canadian Music Week in Toronto, and if his live music matches the CD, he no doubt earned some attention.
At least the material on the CD is very strong given its mellow rock genre stylings. Cuts such as Out There are offered up in a relaxed, bop along to the beat styling, which is quite infectious. It's plain hard not to get into the rhythm of the music here.
There are a number of cuts here that could make radio, including the aforementioned California, Hover and Sunshine.
Overall, a CD which takes Smokekiller to a whole new level in terms of his music. It is impressive to see such growth in material, especially since many performers see a drop off in their second album, having less time to prepare for it. Antoniuk avoids the sophomore slump here and takes a major step forward. It will be interesting to see how he grows with his third album. Until then, just enjoy this one.
Check it out at www.smokekiller.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper March 25, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CANDICE CHANTRELL -- Behind The Mic

BEHIND THE MIC
Candice Chantrell
Independent
8-out-of-10
All right then music fans, Behind the Mic is something I don't often get to review, Canadian hip hop / R&B.
While a bit of a rarity, Candice Chantrell surprises right from the opening song I Depend On Me. This TO-based singer has the style down pat. Her voice is perfect for the genre, and the material, most of it coming from J. Peters, melds well with her vocals.
This girl is the total package for the genre, starting with the drop-dead gorgeous look. A sweet blonde that exudes the sexuality usually associated with the music.
The good news is that Chantrell is more than hot good looks. She offers up a voice that carries the sultry emotions of songs such as Know Me Well, to a 'T'. You are truly carried into the emotion of the material, and with hip hop / R&B that is a must. If the singer doesn't connect the listener to the emotions the CD just comes across as flat.
That is not the case here. You become emotionally invested in what Chantrell is singing.
While many songs are love songs, there are some 'just fun' cuts that have dance floor written all over them, in particular Down to the Disco. This one has hot dance floor move images all over it. I don't even mind the rap aspects mixed into this song, and rap is one of only two, or three music genres I generally cannot stand.
Chantrell has it going on throughout this CD, and as a debut effort, you have to think she has a future, if she gets a push. That of course is a real key. So much of this genre is image, and promotion, and as an indie release it might be hard to create that larger than life persona.
Still, musically, Chantrell is very solid, and as a first CD Behind the Mic is impressive.
Check her out at www.candicechantrell.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper March 18, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- VARIOUS ARTISTS -- These Times

THESE TIMES
Various artists
Borealis Records
9-out-of-10
Bill Garrett is an accomplished voice in terms of blues and folk music in Canada, so when I saw his name attached to this compilation disk as producer, I was expecting it to be pretty darned good.
I was not disappointed. Coming from Borealis Records, a well-respected small Canadian label dedicated to folk, These Times captures a modern take on the genre, with a decidedly Canadian focus in terms of content.
As the company's website (www.borealisrecords.com) states, “These Times looks at our western society through the eyes of some observant songwriters as we struggle through the first decade of this new millennium ... These Times follows in the tradition of the broadside ballads that have been sung since the 16th century. Originally broadsides were printed on one side of a piece of paper and only included the lyrics with the name of a popular tune below the title. The subject matter was most often in the form of a complaint against the crown or some other repressive authority. Broadsides were posted on walls, in town squares, or in pubs for all to see and learn. These Times contains some modern day “complaints” including the misuse of natural resources, the absurdity of war, and the excesses of our contemporary society, among others.”
Folk music is most often at its best when it offers up a complaint, and makes a statement, and the artists here have done a good job of following those high ideals. A fine example being Another Big Box Store by James Gordon, a lament of how those big stores change a community.
Another song that makes you think is Bottle This! by Evalyn Parry, a lament of the craziness of bottled water.
The CD has an impressive roster of folk talent, including Michael Jerome Browne with Cancer Ward Blues, Enoch Kent with Some Ha'e Meat and Bill Garrett himself teaming with Sue Lothrop with the thoughtful No More Fish.
This is a CD that we should also listen to carefully for the messages the songs bring forward, more than for the music. This is a work that is designed to make you think. It is an anthem of sorts heading into the future, and the issues here are all sadly too real, and often rather scary. We need to think, and these songs get us thinking.
Few recent albums have made me consider issues that matter more than those here, and for that reason alone this CD is highly recommended.
As a folk album, this one is steeped in tradition, meaningful for today, and enjoyable musically. Check it out.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper March 18, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- GEOFF BERNER -- Klezmer Mongrels

KLEZMER MONGRELS
Geoff Berner
Jericho Beach Music
7.5-out-of-10
Ah yes, Geoff Berner, a musician I will never forget, although I must say he's not quite my favourite either.
Berner's previous CD The Wedding Dance of the Widow Bride was up for a Solo Roots Award at the 2008 Western Canadian Music Awards, and this one certainly follows stylistically.
The question is whether you like the style. Berner works to his own beat to say the least. His music is heavily influenced by traditional Eastern European rhythms, mixed with startlingly weird and unusual lyrics.
Now I generally like strange, and this fits that. Still Berner's earlier CD didn't quite work for me. Maybe a bit too weird (yes I did say that).
This one is more of the same, the lyrics are very tongue-in-cheek, although at times they carry more meaning too.
Now I had to smile at a song such as The Whiskey, and I understood the deeper impact hidden in a song such as Half German Girlfriend.
So, maybe Berner is winning me over just a bit. At least the score on this one is up a point, as I learn to appreciate the originality of taking accordion based traditional music and layering on the original lyrics a melding Berner does carry of flawlessly.
If you like your music way out on the edge, check out this one at www.geoffberner.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper March 18, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada