Sunday, June 21, 2009

Review -- JIM BYRNES -- My Walking Stick

MY WALKING STICK
Jim Byrnes
Black Hen Music
8-out-of-10
Since the first time I heard Jim Byrnes' 1996 release That River, I have been a huge fan. I still rate That River among my favourite all-time blues albums, and Canadian albums.
House of Refuge, which was reviewed here in June last year, also impressed.
I can tell you that for the most part My Walking Stick follows Byrnes efforts to impress.
The opening cut Ol' Rattler would fit right in with That River in terms of favourite songs among the three CDs.
Walk On Boy follows up here, and is another great cut.
The opening strains of the title cut are a bit different, with a near Spanish approach, and while I had anticipated the title cut to be a gem, it was for me, a bit too much of a departure for Byrnes.
That is perhaps the strength of this album for some. Byrnes takes things further in terms of material than on the previous disks. However, I fell in love with Byrnes as a blues man on That River, and I wanted more of that here.
So when he comes up with Lookin' For A Love, a song he does as a 1950's-style rock song, it's not quite what I was hoping for here. That said, he does a good job on the song, if you take it in isolation, away from expectations created by earlier works.
Byrnes gets back into a more blues vein with Ophelia, albeit with an R&B twist.
Other songs of note here include Talk In Circles, Lonely Blue Boy (Danny's Song) and One Life (Creole Poetry).
Overall, there are 13 songs here, and generally they are very solid. Byrnes has a comfortable, personable voice which carries the material well, and that allows the listener to get into the music on a highly personal level.
Byrnes gives us a bit more varied approach here, and that is good, and bad, as mentioned before. For fans of the blues side of Byrnes, this one takes a bit to grow on you, but in the end, he wins you over with his fine style.
Still very highly recommended. Check it out at http://www.blackhenmusic.com/artist/jim-byrnes
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 17, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JOHN NEMETH -- Magic Touch

MAGIC TOUCH
John Nemeth
Stony Plain / Blind Pig
9-out-of-10

This is another of those fine Blind Pig Record recordings brought to Canada by Stony Plain. The arrangement between the two excellent record labels has been a real winning situation for blues lovers in this country, and Magic Touch from John Nemeth is another example of that.
Magic Touch is the third recording for Nemeth, who has an outstanding voice.
When you add the way he handles the harmonica, you see an outstanding talent emerging in terms of blues music today.
This is a CD with a dozen cuts, and all are pure hot blues from the opening Blues Hit Big Town, which showcases Nemeth's smooth vocals and hot harmonica, 'til he wraps up with Come On.
There are two things immediately evident when listening to this CD, one, Nemeth can sing. He has a voice that flows like silk. There is never as much as a stitch out of place. He just flat out has a great voice.
Any doubt about this guy's voice will evaporate when he hits song two, Blue Broadway, an R&B-style song Nemeth just makes his own.
This is not the gravely, smoky voice, which tends to symbolize blues, but instead, is a higher tenor voice, that really marries R&B style to the blues.
The second thing is that Nemeth uses the harmonica to good effect. He may not be the best harp man you've ever heard, but he spots it well, using as a compliment to what he is doing vocally.
John Calhoun Street adds some really nice piano and organ work here, and The Texas Horns; Mark Kazinoff, John Mills and Al Gomez add depth to the music.
A hot voice that you really must give a listen too. Check him out at www.johnnemethblues.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 17, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ACTIVE GODDO -- Under My Hat:Volume I

UNDER MY HAT: Volume I
Active Goddo
Bullseye Records
9.5-out-of-10
If you are a fan of Canadian rock, and can remember back to the mid 1970s, you probably fondly recall Goddo.
Formed in 1975, and hitting it rather big immediately with Louie, Louie, Goddo never quite had the notoriety of say the Stampeders, or Trooper. They played music with a somewhat harder edge, and were a power-trio from the get go.
Greg Godovitz, Gino Scarpelli and Marty Morin were the line-up, and the three blended well.
Now Bullseye Records has put together a two-disk offering that will have any old Goddo fan drooling. Or, if you just want to build up your Canadian rock library, this is album is a definite must.
On Under My Hat, Bullseye Records really gives us the full-meal deal in terms of this band.
Disk One was recorded at the Tudor Tavern in Cambridge, ON., in 1976, just after Goddo broke onto the scene.
The disk has 17 songs, including O Carole, Already a Memory, Louie Louie, Shakin' Up and Let the Lizard Loose.
Disk Two was recorded in 1977 at The Mustache in Montreal, and collects 15-songs. The material from Montreal included Too Much Carousing, which has some super guitar solo work, Cock On and Hollywood Queen.
The music cooked in the 1970s, and really, it's a refreshing listen today. The music has not lost its edge, and does not sound out of place in terms of today's rock as much as many of Goddo's contemporaries do.
This is a fat disk which really covers the early years of a somewhat under-appreciated Canadian band. Super sweet it is.
Look for it through www.godobilly.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 17, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Review -- COLLEEN K -- A Light In Your Eyes

A LIGHT IN YOUR EYES
Colleen K
Independent
6-put-of-10

It's always interesting listening to a CD which is locally produced. Often you know they are a labour of love for the artist, yet being local, the recordings may never have a broad distribution.
In the case of Colleen K (Kazakoff) of Veregin, she has put out something you can tell is personal to her. You get the feeling each song has some meaning to her, and that she is having a good time putting them on a disk.
This CD is also notable as an effort of passion in that it has 16 songs. How often have I reviewed first time CDs which have only six or seven songs and commented I was left wanting more. That is not the case here, when she put so many songs into the disk. You can tell she has been waiting a long time for her first recording and wanted to make it worthwhile.
However, I must say the CD has a bit too much of the same. There are times you are left wondering sort of where one song ends and the next one starts. I don't mean there is a problem in the recording. It's more a situation of the tone and feel of the material. The tempo of many songs sort of blends with the next. A few change-ups mixed into the recording would have punched up the overall package.
The material here is also interesting. In some cases the music would fit a country format, although generally it has a bit more of a contemporary feel, yet is far from pop or rock.
In terms of exposure, in particular on radio, that puts it in something of a no-man's land. Now there is nothing wrong with forging one's own path in terms of a sound, but it does limit where a CD might take you if you fall through the cracks in terms of format.
So that brings us to the crux of a review, did I as the reviewer like the disk?
Vocally, because the material has a sameness, I was left a little bored by the end. Now that may be a case of this not exactly being my top-five genre of music to listen too.
That said if Colleen K had been just a bit more daring on occasion, pushing herself out of the safe pocket almost all of these songs fit into, it would have been a more compelling effort.
Check it out at www.colleenkmusic.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 10, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- KIROS -- A Single Strand

A SINGLE STRAND
Kiros
Torque Records
8.5-put-of-10

I always appreciate when a band kicks it hard with the opening cut on a CD, and Kiros does that here with the song Strengthen Me, which plain old rocks.
Now there is a worry at times that a band that kicks it hard to open can't maintain the momentum. Of course the ones that can rise above the average.
In that regard, Kiros is flying above the average, because the second cut, Hold Your Breath is a sweet effort, that stands as a winner in its own right.
From there Kiros punches out another 10 songs, maintaining the energy.
Musically, the band stays upbeat, clean and smooth. The band is your typical mix these days, with Jon Purschke and Ryan Guerra on guitars, Guerra also adds piano at times, with Tyler Wells on drums and Barry MacKichan on bass. It's a tried and true rock formula and these guys make it work like the proverbial charm.
MacKichan is also the lead singer for Kiros, and he's good, no make that very good. He has a voice that just fits the genre.
As for best cuts here, take the 12 songs, toss in a hat, and draw one. Any cut pretty well warrants being called a top song. Yes that is hedging things a bit as a reviewer. In the end I'd go with Alone Tonight, and the aforementioned leads cut as the best, but as stated this is just a solid effort start to finish.
Mark this one a can't miss, must have effort.
Check them out at www.kiros.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 10, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- TIM POSGATE HORNBAND -- Banjo Hockey

BANJO HOCKEY
Tim Posgate Hornband
Black Hen Music
9-put-of-10

You just have to love a CD called Banjo Hockey, how cool is that?
The good news is that the Tim Posgate Hornband is far more than a catchy CD title. This is a very entertaining musical journey.
As you might expect much of the album focuses on the banjo, which Posgate handles superbly.
However, what really allows the banjo to shine here is the instrumentation behind it.
Lina Allemona provides trumpet, Howard Johnson baritone sax and the tuba, and Quinsin Nachoff tenor sax and clarinet. The brass back-up to the banjo is a wonderful contrast.
I particularly like how the tuba and banjo play off against each other on My Car Free Ways.
While much of the music here has a somewhat bluegrass appeal, which is a natural given the spotlight on the banjo, they do a good job of mixing things up too. Spike's New Attitude is much more experimental jazz in nature, yet it doesn't stray too far as to be out of place with the rest of the album.
Going to the Island has a sound that reminds a bit of the opening music to the television classic Cheers, again showing this band is willing to explore just how wide a range of music is possible out of the instrument selection.
This CD wins because it dares to offer the listener a diverse range of music, yet held together in terms of being a cohesive album. It is also memorable because you don't hear this mix in terms of instruments on an instrumental album often.
A winner if you like bluegrass or jazz, and how often can you say that about an album.
A CD that you will not be disappointed in.
Check it out at www.blackhenmusic.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 10, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Review - -ALENNA MAZUR -- Almost

ALMOST
Alenna Mazur
Independent
5.5-out-of-10
I have to start this one with a warning, the sugar content here is very high. This is a CD that has a very poppish feel to it, and the lyrics, even om a sadder cut such as I Refuse To Cry, come across as sugary.
Now this is Alenna Mazur's first CD, and she was only 17 when this effort came together, so there isn't a lot of experience to draw on. So that is the good and the bad here.
Let's start with the bad. As much as it pains me to really not like a locally produced CD, Mazur is from Roblin, this effort lacks on several levels. To begin with the lyrics at times seem simply clich├ęd and a tad forces.
Mazur's voice isn't exactly memorable either. Technically she does all right, but it's still more a little girl voice than that of a singer.
The good news starts there though. As Mazur matures, her voice will too, and then she may well have something special, just not today on this CD.
The other positive is that Mazur has no doubt gained a huge amount of experience in getting this CD done, and that will be invaluable as she moves on to her next project. As much as I do not like this CD, I do hope she gives it another go when a bit older so we can she if she can step it up a couple of notches.
Certainly just a few more years will help even with the songwriting as life experiences help with almost any fiction writing.
The effort is here, but the results are just too thin, although there are hints that in time, with greater maturity, Mazur could offer up better.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/alennamazur.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 3, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE GREAT OUTDOORS -- Winter

WINTER
The Great Outdoors
Independent
6.5-out-of-10
I have to say the opening cut of The Winter's Touch took me totally by surprise here. The male lead vocalist has a great voice, although no where on the CD does it explain who that is, or even who the band members are. That in itself is a point off the score. There is even a band picture, but no names. Fans want to know who they hear singing, or who offers up the great guitar work.
Speaking of great guitar, you get that on No Bells.
Anyway, back to The Winter's Touch, a female voice joins in and the two mix remarkably well. Now the cut is co-written by Melisa Devost, so I might go out on a limb and assume it is her voice, but that is only a guess.
Nickle City Slim is credited as the guest vocalist on the very bluesy The Garbage Man Song, another cut which surprised.
Of course The Great Outdoors doesn't really have a style either, which means each song is a bit out of sync with the one before it.
At times the switch takes place mid song too. On Edison's Genius it starts out quite modern rock, then mid song, the bluesy effort pops back into the mix.
There are some definite highlights, such as when Shaun Brodie contributes trumpet. It is a really nice touch.
Individually, I like every song here, yet collectively they aren't quite as appealing, because they don't always feel like they are part of the same whole.
There is certainly enough here to listen to again, and I do hope they record again, but stay a bit more on point when they do. A lot of elements packed into this CD. Most work, a few just feel out of place.
Check them out at http://www.myspace.com/thegreatoutdoorsddg
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 3, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- RHONDA SILVER -- Twelve Pieces Of Silver

TWELVE PIECES OF SILVER
Rhonda Silver
Independent
9.5-out-of-10
Ah now here is a lady that knows how to put it all together on a CD.
To start with Rhonda Silver has a big voice. It comes across strong and clear, yet she can give it that little bit of a dirty growl when needed, like she does on Sweet Sarah's Blues.
While Silver's voice is golden here, the CD offers so much more too.
This is a big band presentation. They make wonderful use of a full range horn section; sax, trumpet and trombone. When you are playing music is the shadowy world between sweet jazz and blues, horns are a near must.
Jeff Healey is on board too offering up guitar on The First Time I Laid Eyes On You, so you get the feeling Silver went all out here. This particular song just cooks on so many levels too. It's as if having Healey in the mix everyone else turned their game up a notch.
There are 12 songs here, and there is not a bad one in the dozen. Silver just impresses from start to finish.
Some stand out of course, like the aforementioned cuts, and the upbeat Whatever It Takes, which pushes into the realm of R&B, and is simply a hot number.
When Silver slows down the mood on a cut like Here's A Toast To You, she makes the transition wonderfully. What a sweet mood piece.
It is hard to think of a way Silver could have come up with a better effort. The song selection weaves through the related genres, yet stay close enough to one another to feel like a unified effort, and Silver's voice handles them all superbly.
Overall, just an excellent effort, that is a must for jazz fans.
www.silvershadowmusic.com/
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 3, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- PASSENGER ACTION -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Passenger Action
Smallman Records
9-out-of-10
Smallman Records is one of those little labels which seems to have a knack for finding bands which flat out know how to play, and Passenger Action is certainly one of those bands.
The band starts the CD with a stellar rendition of the song Tonight We Resonate, a powerful tune that screams 'we know how to play rock'.
From there it's a dozen sweet modern rock cuts.
The music here has a complexity too it, which creates a definite energy in the fast-paced styling.
There is some subtle moments, like the softer opening of To Credit The Archives, but when Passenger Action hits its stride, they speed up things to show off their skill around the guitar.
In terms of lyrics, these guys can write too. Isolate From The Cause, Absent Minds and Beneath The Rust all warrant attention on an overall solid effort.
That this band is hitting the road running with their first full-length CD should come as no surprise since Shawn Moncreiff and Clay Shea recently wrapped up a 13-year run in Choke, so the heart of Passenger Action has experience. Moncreiff is the lead vocalist, and he has a voice perfect for the genre, that pushes elements of punk, techno and classic rock into a winning combination.
Ryan Podlubny and Allan Harding round out this Alberta-based unit.
This is a band which impresses from start to finish. They are a unit which really should draw some major attention. They certainly offer one of the best rock disks to cross my desk in the last six months, and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.
In the meantime this is a CD you really should mark as a must have. Truly excellent stuff.
Check them out at www.myspace.com/passengeractionrock
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 27, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JAY GEILS, DUKE ROBILLARD, GERRY BEAUDOIN -- New Guitar Summit:Shivers

NEW GUITAR SUMMIT: SHIVERS
Jay Geils, Duke Robillard, Gerry Beaudoin
Stony Plain
8.5-out-of-10
I'm not sure what more one could search for in terms of jazz/blues guitar than Jay Geils, Duke Robillard, and Gerry Beaudoin. All three are accomplished performers in their own right, and when you bring them together it really is three times the pleasure for the listener.
Beaudoin offers up seven-string guitar on all 11 cuts, with Geils and Robillard adding their own guitar work throughout.
The three veterans of the strings have created a sweet, and mellow disk, with a mix of original material such as Little Bitty Pretty and Wellspring Blues a pair of cumulative effort for the three, Robillard's Jim Jam, and Beaudoin's Blue Sunset, with other material such as Flying Home from Goodman and Hampton.
The result is a killer guitar CD, that must be heard.
This is a CD with something of a pedigree. Back in 2004, the trio came together and recorded a self-titled collection of songs under the New Guitar Summit name. The acclaimed album led to a subsequent performance DVD, Live from Stoneham Theatre. After that the three went back to their own careers, but luckliy for us, returned to the studio to record Shivers released in 2008.
Now if these three guitarists weren't enough to attract a listener, Randy Bachman (Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive) joins the New Guitar Summit trio, providing his unique guitar sound and vocals to a pair of Mose Allison songs; Your Mind Is On Vacation, (arguably the best effort here), and Everybody's Crying Mercy.
The title cut also vies for 'best of CD' honours, as the three guitarists really cook on Shivers.
A definite winner for any guitar blues fan.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 27, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- RAY WHITTON -- EP

EP
Ray Whitton
Independent
7.5-out-of-10
I can start this one with a big Wow, on the lead cut Sooner Or Later. A definite five-star effort for Ray Whitton.
While Sooner Or Later, the best cut here, has a soft rock feel, Whitton, who hails from Saskatoon, really crosses genres here.
Love You Off Your Feet may lean toward soft rock, but it would certainly play on most country stations these days too, which really reflects the blurred lines of the music industry today more than being a comment of Whitton's style.
Whitton is simply playing some very nice music here on his debut five-song recording, and the music sort of falls on the borders in terms of which territory it best fits.
As the CD progresses, it is obvious that country/roots is where Whitton is most comfortable, even if the lead cut is softer rock in nature. You hear the country more pronounced on You Were My Angel, and Prairie Fire, a song co-written by Jay Semko is flat out country.
That said the final cut; You're So Gone is back to a softer rock feel.
I can say that in the end you will be wishing for more here. Not more in terms of talent, more in that you will wish Whitton had produced a full CD so you could enjoy more of what he does.
Check him out at www.myspace.com/raywhitton
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 27, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- OVERSOUL -- No One Away

NO ONE AWAY
Oversoul
Independent
8-out-of-10
I don't usually do EP CDs, but in the case of Oversoul I'm glad to make an exception since the band is local, they are based in Canora, and they are darned good to boot.
Local music fans may remember Oversoul's lead singer Justin Toffan who won an 'idol-styled' competition at Holly's Nite Club in 2007, the same year the rocker was runner-up in the country-oriented Painted Hand Casino Idol. This guy has a great voice and endearing stage personality. The vocals on this CD are excellent.
Musically these guys are pure rockers. I am reminded of bands such as Art of Dying and Cold Driven
in terms not only of style, but quality.
Aaron Trach has penned the four songs here, and he shows a talent in that regard as well.
The title, and lead cut, is easily the best of the bunch, and should find radio play to raise awareness of the band, which of course is what an EP is designed to do.
Having heard Toffan and the band on several occasions as a judge, I expected nothing sort of what is delivered here. He is the best singer/performer, at least on the rock side of things, I have seen emerge locally in recent years, and as a unit, Oversoul deserves the spotlight.
If there is a disappointment here, it is the fact that there are only four songs. It has been a couple of years since the band and Toffan were in competitions, and I had hoped/expected a full album might have grown out of the 24-months since. Listeners are going to be left wanting more too, because the four songs here are just so good, you want to hear what else Oversoul has to offer.
Definitely a band that with a break could go places. Pick up this EP and help get them on their way.
You can check out Oversoul at myspace.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 20, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MARK CEASER -- Burma Road

BURMA ROAD
Mark Ceaser
Independent
8-out-of-10
Mark Ceaser is a Yorkton boy now in Saskatoon, where he is very much involved in his music. Ceaser is part of Sexually Attracted to Fire, whose self-titled debut was reviewed here last July.
Now with the release of Burma Road, Ceaser has ventured out with a solo effort.
The CD is an EP, only five songs, but they are at least five wonderful songs.
This is soft rock, although Ceaser clearly has a folkie sensibility in how he approaches writing.
When you combine that, there is an option for Ceaser to get a definite country feel going at times.
For example; Highway 16 is a song that is as Western Canadian in nature as any song you are going to hear. It is a song that resonates because of the imagery. Musically, the song is reflective of the song Copperhead Road, itself something of a cross-over hit, and Highway 16 is a direct descendant in a sense.
One of the strengths Ceaser manages is to sing about here. He has found places such as Highway 16, and Saskatoon as influences worthy of using in his songs.
The result is a beautiful effort such as Willow Tree. The song has its share of emotion which resonates beyond any one locale, yet Ceaser weaves in typically Saskatchewan images; a summerfallow field, a willow tree, that as a listener you relate. Nicely done, as a song which could cross from country radio to soft rock quite easily.
Knife and Key is less about Saskatchewan, but is no less compelling. It's another example of Ceaser's ability to capture emotion in his work.
This is a highly credible calling card as an EP, and one that makes you wish there was just two, or three more songs fleshing out the effort.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/markceaser
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 20, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ZACHARY LUCKY -- Maps & Towns

MAPS & TOWNS
Zachary Lucky
Independent
8.5-out-of-10
If you are a regular at all at the music nights offered up and 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer, then you are probably already a fan of Zachary Lucky, who has performed there on a couple of occasions.
Lucky is a performer who combines a sort of folk-based approach, with soft rock, and at times a sort of country song writing sensibility. The results are songs which catch the listener as they are delivered by Lucky's fine voice, and simple acoustic guitar work.
Of course it maybe shouldn't be a surprise this guy can perform, at least if you believe bloodlines have anything to do with it. Lucky is a grandson of Smiling Johnny who along with partner Eleanor have performed one end of this country to the other for decades. Johnny is a true veteran of Canadian country music, and still has his following.
Now the Lucky name being associated with great music continues with Zachary.
Maps & Towns is a six-song effort, and a folly up to his 2008 release Common Dialogue which also offered up six songs.
On the new CD the best songs are Blanket Tent and Midnight Kids, although all six are solid efforts.
In the case of Midnight Kids, the view might be somewhat biased having heard it played live a couple of weeks back, a rendition where Lucky was joined by Sean Craib-Petkau of Welcome to Reykjavik, and the three members of Treelight Room. It was an amazing collective effort on the song, especially Craib-Petkau's use of a simple suitcase as a hand drum. That memorable effort made the song just that much better, even on the CD.
Lucky is a definite talent who should be heard.
Check him out at www.myspace.com/zacharylucky.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 20, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Review -- CAMERON LATIMER -- Fallen Apart

FALLEN APART
Cameron Latimer
Black Hen Music
8-out-of-10
Cameron Latimer knows what country music really is.
When you hear the opening strains of Empty Saddle, you know this guy cut his teeth on the likes of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, and he generally remembers all that was great about country performers of that era.
There are time Latimer shows a bit of the modern. Heartbreaker, while musically rootsy country, lyrically has something of a poppish lilt, but we can forgive him for a couple of small missteps because when Latimer is on, he is so very country.
The Ranch, is a wonderful, albeit somewhat dark, country song of a rancher about to lose his beloved ranch, and how he deals with that. This is a gold nugget of a country song.
While not as western as say Ian Tyson, and with less flare than Corb Lund, Latimer's name deserves to be thought of in the same vein, as a musician who plays country the way it should be played. Of course because he is a true country singer for the most part, Latimer may find it difficult to get some of the best cuts on today's country radio.
So, we forgive him when he offers up the occasional song more suited to today's radio. The title cut is such a song. The music here has just a hint of the vintage Eagles, with more modern lyrics than say the aforementioned The Ranch.
Division Day is another song that is more modern, yet the steel guitar heartbeat resonates here as well.
Latimer comes at us out of Vancouver, not exactly ranch country, but he is able to write with a true country feel. His best songs come across as from the heart, and they resonate country.
The way Latimer blends songs which pay such homage to the purer country of the past, while still offering up some modern approach cuts too, speaks to how versatile he is. He makes this CD work on a number of levels.
As an example Gin Train has more of a southern fried sound, ala Little Texas, and it fits right in with the subtle mix of approaches this artist offers listeners.
This is simply an excellent country effort which deserves a broad audience for its diversity.
Check it out at www.cameronlatimer.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 13, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DREW NELSON -- Dusty Road To Beaulah Land

DUSTY ROAD TO BEAULAH LAND
Drew Nelson
Waterbug
9.5-out-of-10
Drew Nelson is a name you will want to remember if you like folk/Americana/country. He hails from Grand Rapids, WI., and wow, can this guy write, and perform killer music.
The CD starts off with Highway 2, and I thought, 'hey that's a sweet intro song'.
Well folks Nelson was just warming up. Waiting For The Sun is a folksy, bluesy, classic in the making. This CD would be worth owning for this cut alone. Simply great.
As good as Waiting For The Sun is, Nelson just never lets up on this CD, Stranger follows as the CD's third cut, and it too is a blast right out of the ballpark.
The way the music rolled out here, I had to double check that this wasn't songs selected from other writers, cherry picking hits. Nope, Nelson is the poet here, penning all 10-cuts. Impressive.
For its genre, Dusty Road is easily the best folk/Americana/country to cross my desk in ages, likely years to be honest.
There is not a weak offering here, and that is saying something, since most musicians miss on a song, or two. Nelson knows the genre, and he has a knack for telling compelling stories in poetic style which he then adds simple played music too. His comfortable, likable voice does the rest, making everything work.
Dusty Road is Nelson's third recording. He produced a six-song EP back in 2001 entitled Recovering Angels, then released Immigrant Son in 2005, as his first full-length effort.
If you want just one country-styled, folk CD this year, four months into 2009, this is certainly the front runner to be the one to have.
You can check this one out at www.drewnelson.net
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 13, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ULTIMATE POWER DUO -- New Normal

NEW NORMAL
Ultimate Power Duo
Independent
6.5-out-of-10
Regular readers may recall the Ultimate Power Duo from an earlier review of their We're In Control Now back in 2007.
That first disk was not one I liked, at all. It rated a paltry 4.5.
Well, the band has taken a step forward this time around. The CD has a greater level of cohesiveness than the earlier effort. The music holds to style, tempo and feel from start to finish.
The music is still punk/indie, which is a style you either like, or you don't. It doesn't quite fall into my usual musical interests, but I have to tip the hat to this trio for staying true to itself, and maturing in their approach as they went to put this CD together.
This time around I do hear a bit more of a British style to some of the cuts, something they may have picked up when they played there.
There are in fact, a few cuts here, that I do like quite a lot; in particular Judas The Betrayed.
Overall there is an energy here, that is infectious, and that carries the CD too.
Still an acquired taste, but a taste much more palatable than the trio's earlier work. This CD should keep these three busy on tour, as it will find fans among younger listeners.
Check them out at www.ultimatepowerduo.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 13, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- PROPAGANDHI -- Supporting Caste

SUPPORTING CASTE
Propagandhi
Smallman Records
9-out-of-10
If you are into the alternative scene at all, Propagandhi is most likely a band you have heard of. Let's face it they have a string of recordings dating back to 1993, with Supporting Caste their sixth effort.
In terms of any band, when you manage to survive for more than 15 years, and can manage to release six disks, you have pretty well stated claim to a very solid career.
The band began recording on Fat Wreck Chords, an American label, but turned to the Canadian label Smallman for their last two offerings, after relations with the American company soured.
Propagandhi, who hail from Winnipeg, really have a sense of just what rock can be.
On the music side this is pretty straight-edged rock, with an occasional punk influenced chord peeking through. It's high energy, not overbearing, yet powerful. It shows a rock heart beats for these guys.
Lyrically, Propagandhi looks to make statements with every one of the 12 songs. Sometimes they beat you over the head with their message. At other times it's a bit more subtle.
Either way Propagandhi recognizes that rock music has been used for protest in the past, and they are keeping that tradition alive.
It's not often a band so clearly wants the listener to end up thinking, yet they wrap their message in such fine straight rock, that the music really draws you in. You come for the beat, and stay for the message.
Of course, given this band's experience why would anyone expect less. Lesser bands are long gone before amassing the number of disks these guys have taken to the street.
If you like hard-edged rock, rock that offers more than catchy rhyming lyrics to entice a radio DJ to play it, then you owe it to yourself to grab Supporting Caste. You will not be disappointed.
Check it out at www.propagandhi.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 6, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CHRIS JAMES and PATRICK RYNN -- Stop And Think About It

STOP AND THINK ABOUT IT
Chris James and Patrick Rynn
Earwig Music
8-out-of-10
Stop And Think About It is the debut album for the duo of guitarist Chris James and bassist Patrick Rynn. The two San Diego bluesmen have fronted a band in the past, and now break out to take centre stage.
James offers up the lead vocals, with Rynn adding secondaries at times, on this fine effort from Earwig Music, itself a fine small label.
The duo does a nice job of blending material here. There are several cuts written by the pair, including the very fine Mister Coffee, and cuts such as You're Gone and Relaxin' At The Clarendon.
The remaining works come from other sources, such as Early One Morning and My Kind Of Woman by Elmore (Elmo) James. The mix works fine, since James and Rynn make every cut their own with their seamless collaborative musical effort.
The duo has a host of other musicians involved here too, rounding out the music with harmonica, saxophones, piano and additional guitars as needed through the 2 cuts. It's a full-meal deal musically, although James and Rynn are clearly the main course.
This is upbeat blues. The kind that is infectious, toe-tapping, lift your spirits blues. You can't help but smile as this duo works through the disk.
There are several totally excellent cuts here, including the aforementioned Mister Coffee, Confessin' The Blues, and Mona, yet the strength is more the lack of a weak cut. There isn't a song here that the listener is left wishing they had left gathering dust in the studio. Think quality consistency here. Think let's party with the blues.
Check them out at www.earwigmusic.com/jamesrynn.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 6, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- AMANDA TOSOFF -- Wait And See

WAIT AND SEE
Amanda Tosoff
Cellar Live
7-out-of-10
Anytime you see the Cellar Live label on a CD, if you like jazz you should be tempted to pick it up.
Wait and See from Amanda Tosoff is another example of just why this Vancouver-based label is so fine.
Tosoff is a B.C., native herself, hailing from White Rock, where at an early age music apparently became a passion, a passion she pursued with fervor.
Tosoff's bio explained “She attended the prestigious music program at Semiahmoo Secondary school from 1996-2001, where she studied with award winning jazz educator Dave Proznick. Tosoff continued on to study at Capilano College in North Vancouver BC, where she received a degree in Music - Jazz performance in 2005. At the college, Tosoff honed her piano skills under the tutelage of Juno award winning pianist Ross Taggart, Chris Sigarson and Lorne Kellett. She also studied with some of Canada's most prominent jazz educators and performers, including Mike Allen, Ihor Kukurudza, Rejean Marois, and Al Wold.”
That's a pretty impressive resume, and now Tosoff, only 24, takes it another step with this, her debut CD.
There are 10 instrumentals cuts here, nine being originals by the artist. Mark that impressive from such young jazz pianist.
Tosoff does a nice, relaxed job, or letting her fingers wander over the keys in some delightful patterns. At times, such as the cut Julia's Blues, I thought of a butterfly fluttering around a flower patch on a warm day. Yes this is that sort of music, light, enjoyable.
Technically, there are pianists on the jazz scene who push things further, but that isn't what Tosoff is trying for. This is traditional piano jazz by a young artists starting to assert herself. Experimentation may well follow, but this is a CD which builds a foundation on the tried and true formula of jazz piano.
This is a very nice CD, and one that could well be launching a growing Canadian jazz talent. Check her out at www.amandatosoff.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 6, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CLARA LOFARO -- Perfekt World

PERFEKT WORLD
Clara Lofaro
ComeTrue Records
6.5-out-of-10

Clara Lofaro's release of Perfekt World marks her third effort on the Indie ComeTrue Records.
The good news here is that Lofaro has a surprisingly mature voice. This girl can carry a range of music, and carries it well.
However, her voice's diversity has become something of a trap for Lofaro, as this CD tends to wander a fair bit.
There are cuts here which push to the edges of urban hip hop/rap, with songs such as Don't Push Me and Bitch Go Off. The latter is actually one of the better cuts here. Lofaro's deep voice is allowed to get down and dirty here, and the musical rhythm catches and holds the listener.
Then Lofaro skids across the musical spectrum to a cut such as Birds of a Feather, a song not so far removed from the likes of Saskatchewan singer Connie Kaldor. With a 10-minute music fine tune, this one would be straight country radio-ready.
Waterfall is another cross-over piece, with a rock beat on the CD, yet a country feel which could be exploited with a music re-write.
No Way Home is more a straight rock cut, with a sprinkling of a jazz undertone. This is another very solid effort, as Lofaro let's the power of her voice soar.
Lofaro crosses a lot of genres here, frankly too many.
Vocally, she handles each with a practiced ease, yet the musical mix can be a bit disconcerting. It's hard as a listener to get into a groove here. The divergent musical styles incorporated here create too much of a roller coaster ride for me.
If you take individual songs here, Lofaro has crafted some beautiful works, and they show just how talented she is.
However, if you take the CD as a whole, you may wish Lofaro had reined in the diversity a bit. With a little more focus stylistically as she wrote for this album, she would have created a more unified recording.
There are potential hits here, but finding what radio format to play them will be the challenge, depending on the cut.
Checker her out at www.claralofaro.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 29, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BRUNO HUBERT TRIO -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Bruno Hubert Trio
Cellar Live
8.5-out-of-10
If you like piano jazz, then the self-titled release by the Bruno Hubert Trio is a must find.
Hubert may not be as widely known as some jazz pianists, but this CD, another from the great Cellar Live label, will go long way to raise the jazz community's awareness of his talents.
Hubert is joined by Andre Lachance on bass, who does some sweet work on the album including the Herbie Hancock piece Dolphin Dance.
Brad Turner rounds out the three-piece on drums.
Musically, this is a CD where the trio highlights the work of others for the most part.
There is a short, but likable rendition of Lennon and McCartney's In My Life, a more than nine-minute version of Duke Ellington's Sempre Amore, and six other covers.
Hubert does conclude the album with his own Latina la Cap, a near nine-minute piece that is a fitting wrap-up to a very fine recording.
This is a CD which should carry Hubert, and his trio to greater heights, as it definitely showcases just how good he is.
The music that makes up this CD is from the last two nights of an ‘Artist In Residency’ at The Cellar brilliantly captured by Brad Turner. Check it out at www.cellarlive.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 29, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- RYAN NEILSON -- Four Walls

FOUR WALLS
Ryan Neilson
Independent
6.5-out-of-10
Relaxed, pop/rock music, the kind with crystal clear vocals, and a relaxed approach might best describe the efforts of East Coast singer Ryan Neilson on his indie release Four Walls.
The lyrics are pop formula too. They aren't exactly the deepest, thought provoking songs in the world, but they can get you singing along, and there are a few stories being told.
Songs such as Hello Houston, Back To Life and Dear Stephanie all have a somewhat inward looking theme in terms of their lyrics.
There are times where Neilson goes for the sappy, which of course often happens with this genre. That happens on cuts such as Slow, and All Fall Down. Now this isn't necessarily a knock against the material, since that is just what the genre tends to offer up.
In the case of Neilson, the good news is his voice. It's clear with a nice timbre, that carries pop well.
This is not material that you will remember listening too in six months, but for what it is, it's good, after all no one said pop was a 'deep' musical style. Think of the pop of the 1970s. Hits came and went overnight, and one-hit wonders flourished.
It will be interesting to watch how Neilson grows as a performer. The voice is there to take his music farther than this medium offers.
It is also obvious Neilson can write. There is a poet at play here, and in time he may create music with a harder edge, or move into a genre like jazz, and that will allow him to say more.
As it is this is a pop album, a good one at that, so if pop is your thing take a listen
Check it out at www.ryanneilsonmusic.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 29, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada