Friday, September 18, 2009

Review -- FARIDEH -- Symphony Of Chemistry

SYMPHOMY OF CHEMISTRY
Farideh
Independent
8.5-out-of-10

I have to say that I like a CD where the artist puts their best cut first and foremost, using the first song to catch attention.
Well Farideh does that here, with the song Heart of a Man, which is simply a fantastic song which showcases both her voice and her knack for writing fine lyrics.
Farideh is another one of those musicians that you listen to on disk, figure they came out of the big city music environ of a major city like TO, and then realize she's from Saskatoon. Actually Saskatoon has an amazing music culture, and guess what Farideh makes it a richer one.
As a songwriter, Farideh is very good.
Edgecliff Station is a wonderful piece, Sidelines is a slower-paced effort, that really allows Farideh's voice to shine, and My King, My Beloved, while having more of a pop feel, is simply excellent (can you say hit). She is also a song which has to draw attention.
Vocally, Farideh is smooth, clear, and compelling. She really draws you into her world.
So what style does she perform? Increasingly labeling music is harder as good musicians blend styles in new ways, blurring the lines between styles in the process. Farideh does that.
From the material you think folk, but a cut like Caterpillar reminds me of something the Too Good Tanyas might perform, and they are not folk.
There are elements of pop here, and Farideh gives a nod to R&B when discussing her music. In the end just mark her music and this disk down as darned good.
It is impressive that a lady with this talent is from Saskatchewan, and played in Yorkton at 5th Avenue Coffee Saturday. We are very lucky when music this good comes to the city live.
This is a definite winner. Check her out at www.farideh.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 16, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MARSHALL LAWRENCE -- The Morning After

THE MORNING AFTER
Marshall Lawrence
Independent
7.5-out-of-10

All right folks, The Morning After is not the first Marshall Lawrence CD I have reviewed, but it is the best, and that is always a good thing in the sense you hope a musician gets better as they progress in their career.
I have to tell you, this is a very impressive edition of Delta style blues out of this Edmonton musician.
The lead cut Freight Train reminds me stylistically, and even vocally of David Essig, and believe me that is very high praise since Essig is one of my all-time favourites.
The guitar work on Blue Sky is Fallin' also reminds of another Canadian stand out, that being none other than Big Dave McLean. Again that's pretty high praise.
Now before you start thinking Marshall simply copies other performers, that is not the case. This guy doesn't need to copy anyone. He plays a darned fine guitar, adding mandolin, banjo and even kazoo on occasion on this disk. He also has a distinctive voice for the blues which generally sets him apart too.
That said, Lawrence does have aspects of this CD which remind of the best, because he is climbing up the ranks of Canadian blues with this CD.
Back to Lawrence's voice for a second. Most often blues singers are at their best when their voices have a certain amount of gravel to them. It suits the genre.
Lawrence is different there. His voice is smoother, in a sense more mainstream, and that really gives this set of Delta blues a different 'feel', and that is not a bad thing either.
The disk has variety, from the faster-paced Shake It, a Lawrence original that while stylistically strong, is maybe the weakest cut in the sense his individual style suits the blues that are slower and more heartfelt.
Lawrence is in his zone with the more traditional efforts, even those he has written, such as Catfish Blues, and the aforementioned Freight Train.
This CD certainly takes Lawrence another step in his career, and is well worth grabbing if you like Delta blues served up acoustic and hot.
Check it out at www.doctorblues.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 16, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JOHN WORT HANNAM -- Queen's Hotel

QUEEN'S HOTEL
John Wort Hannam
Black Hen Music
9.25-out-of-10

It was October 2007 when I had the pleasure to review John Wort Hannam's disk Two Bit Suit. I liked it a lot, giving it a 9-out-of-10.
Hannam is back with Queen's Hotel, a disk that was released to the public only yesterday (Sept. 15). Guess what, this talented Canadian artist has not lost a step with this disk.
Of course why would we expect anything less. Hannam is now a veteran of the recording studio, with Queen's Hotel his fourth disk. The maturity shows through on this disk. There simply aren't any missteps here.
The opening song, With The Grain, sets the pace here. It has compelling lyrics, has a perfect arrangement, and John Wort Hannam's voice is clear, inviting – just excellent.
The strength of the first song sets a very high bar for Queen's Hotel, but Hannam is up to the task.
Perhaps the key here is that the music comes off real. That 'feel' is helped along by the recording process. The CD “was recorded live off the floor at Vancouver’s The Factory. Musicians sat in one room facing each other in a circle and played the songs – no bed tracks, no click, and no overdubs except for a few harmonies,” explained Hannam's website.
This is a CD rich in wonderful music.
I have to say growing up in Saskatchewan where small towns are still a vital aspect of the culture, the song Requiem For A Small Town is most touching, and becomes a favourite here.
Come Back To Me is a truly beautiful piece, with a sort of mournful, haunting element, which seems ideally suited to Hannam's voice.
Church of the Long Grass is a hit. It is two parts country, one part folk, and in the end is just all great.
This CD is every bit the equal of Two Bit Suit, in fact maybe just a fraction ahead, the reason for the funky score for fun. This is simply one you should own.
Check it out at www.johnworthannam.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 16, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Monday, September 14, 2009

Review -- ENUMA ELISH -- A Shine Of Darkness

A SHINE OF DARKNESS
Enuma Elish
DFX Records
8-out-of-10

When you can take heavy metal, add a killer female voice, and an epic twist, you have a winner, and Enuma Elish does a great job of carrying that off.
The sound here can really be explained in two words; Oriana Shadows. She is the lead vocalist here, and her at times near operatic soprano voice carries this CD. That is a good thing. Her voice is a great contrast to the guitar work of David Escudero and the keyboard work of David Inbernom. The keyboard effort here really lays down the underpinnings of the music.
Hailing from Spain, Enuma Elish falls somewhere near the realm of symphonic metal in terms of approach, although their instrumental range is limited to the more traditional metal range. That said there is only one guitarist.
While the music is definitely metallic, it is not overpowering to the sound here. In fact, for some I suspect it may not be quite 'hard' enough. It really hits in the pocket between extremes.
Lyrically, like the best of symphonic-style, Enuma Elish paints large pictures with their words. They are epic in approach. That is not to say at times the lyrics aren't a bit over-the-top, and melodramatic, but that really speaks to the genre as much as this band's particular approach.
Make no mistake, this style of metal is an acquired taste. Traditionalists, those married to AC/DC and Metallica, will likely see this as too forced and dare I suggest 'flowery'.
However, those who have found symphonic metal to open doors to fantastic, epic story lines, and a sound that builds on guitars with a fuller sound approach are going to totally be at home and comfortable listening to A Shine of Darkness.
They will also become quick fans of Oriana Shadows, who really does have a memorable voice for the style.
A definite must if you are already a fan of the genre. If not, this is quite accessible in terms of entering into the world of symphonic-influenced metal since it is not fully symphonic, but does lean that way in its approach.
Very solid, pick it up.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 9, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- GROOVE KINGS -- Blood Red

BLOOD RED
Groove Kings
Visual music
8-out-of-10
Ah, it's always good when a singer can make the listener's emotions flow to the song they are performing.
Irene Marc, the vocalist with the Montreal-based duet Groove Kings does that very well.
I would defy a listener not to be getting into the upbeat funk of a tune such as Real Love, and then the next moment becoming much more melancholy when she comes at you with Temporary Man.
The songs, all written by Howard Forman, who also does all the instrumental work here, are lyrically very solid as well, and that of course helps the vocalist get the emotions of the song out.
So what style do we have with the Groove Kings? Well they are somewhere between blues and jazz in my books, although on a song such as Chore you pretty quickly think R&B too. At times you might hear some rock vibes, but realistically you can say that about just any CD these days, from country to blues to metal.
Here certain sounds flow into certain categories more closely. For example, I'm The Rain is most definitely a blues song.
However you look at Blood Red in terms of style, you still end up with a very solid disk of music. Marc has a very sultry voice, and she can punch out a tune laden with emotion, just sit back and she'll take you through a range of feelings which by the end of the CD have you feeling emotionally invested in the CD.
This is a CD that is one to take the listener to a different place from song to song. It is escapist in that regard, and we all need that at times.
Check it out at www.groovekings.ca
Nicely done indeed.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 9, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- FIVE STAR TRAILER PARK -- The Fight That Broke Your Heart

THE FIGHT THAT BROKE YOUR HEART
Five Star Trailer Park
Independent
7.5-out-of-10
Five Star Trailer Park come at us from Toronto. A six-piece rock band that is just that. They play rock. It is sometimes refreshing to hear a band that doesn't see itself as more than that.
The sound here is solid, if not blow you out of your seats great. That said, the more you listen, the more you appreciate how tight the band is, and how complete the sound is.
There are some cuts though which rise above the rest, and have hit potential if they get airplay. I am particularly fond of Slow Motion, the second cut on the CD. I might have suggested they put this one first, just to set the flavour of the CD immediately.
Goodbye Caroline is a nice slower song on the CD.
Nick Spence is the lead vocalist here, and he does the job well.
Rachel Hamilton adds female voice on five of the songs, and that's a nice compliment here.
The sound here is often big too, as you might expect with a six-piece outfit.
This is a disk which will make you a believer in Five Star Trailer Park after a few plays. I will admit I wouldn't have said they were a band I'd put on a portable player after one listen, but after a few spins, guess what, I wouldn't mind taking these guys with me.
A very solid debut effort. Pick this one up, it could be the start of something big.
Check them out at www.fivestartrailerpark.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 9, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ROGAIRI -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Rogairi
Independent
9.5-out-of-10
All right, I will start with a simple plug here for Rogairi. This is an amazing new Celtic band out of Regina, and if somebody in Yorkton is wise, they'll have Rogairi playing some function here very soon.
The CD starts off with a fast-paced and wonderfully rendered Come Out, Ye Black and Tans. The song immediately highlights the vocals of the band's usual lead singer Sean Farr. Just a great effort to start a CD from a new band.
When Susan Wadel lends vocals on the second cut Nil se'm la, it sends chills down the spine. This gal can sing with the best of them. This is arguably the premier cut on a CD which impresses throughout. It really is too bad that she only lends vocals in two songs, the other being The Coal Quay Market.
Song three and Rogairi continues to show its versatility, with Haw Wee Man a rollicking polka instrumental, of course in the finest Celtic traditions. While not a dancer, as my wife will attest, this one certainly calls one to the dance floor.
From there Rogairi weaves you through the variety of Celtic music.
The Hare's Paw / Jean's Reel is an instrumental where Carolyn Lowther on violin gets to cut loose. This gal can handle the bow and fiddle. Another definite toe tapper.
David Popoff gets a pat on the back here too for his flute, whistle and accordion work, with Wadel back to add whistle on a number of cuts as well. Celtic music is often measured by the quality of the whistle work, and these two get top marks throughout.
The whistle work on the intro to When Summer Ends is particularly beautiful and somewhat haunting.
And since I have mentioned the others, I would be remiss not to point out Trevor Bennett plays bass here, with Bryan Rice adding bodhran.
Now I will admit that I enjoy good Celtic music, and Canada has a long list of bands over the years who do it well, Great Big Sea, Scatter the Mud, Mad Pudding, Orealis and others. With this CD Rogairi sends the message that excellent Celtic music comes out of Regina too.
This is an excellent disk, and really one which is a must for anyone who enjoys Celtic.
Check them out at www.rogairi.com/
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 2, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SCOTT ELLISON -- Ice Storm

ICE STORM
Scott Ellison
Earwig Music
7.5-out-of-10
It has been a while since I've had a pure blues CD for review, and I have to say it feels good to be back with my favoured musical genre.
Of course Scott Ellison makes the transition back into the comfort zone of the blues an easy one. He has a simple, relaxed, blues style which is immediately comfortable for the listener.
Now to be honest I expected the disk to be a good one. Earwig Music has a solid reputation as having a fine stable of talent, and Ellison certainly keeps that rep intact.
Ellison plays a solid, if not outstanding guitar. That isn't a problem though because it's really Ellison's voice which carries the day here.
That Ellison's voice is front and centre makes sense when you recognize he is perhaps best-respected as a songwriter. The dozen cuts all have Ellison as writer, and good writers usually have a knack for creating tunes with the musical pace to match their vocal talents. Ellison shows he well understands that it is important to match his writing and voice.
Lyrically, Ellison knows the blues too. There aren't any songs here that are startling new in approach. But guess what ? In general terms, blues has a number of well understood elements, and he sticks to them. Like drawing in a colouring book, the finished art work usually looks best when the artist stays within the lines.
The result of that is a song such as Big Blue Car, yep another blues song that focuses on somebody's ride. Hey it has worked before. It works here too. In fact, Ellison offers up Cadillac Woman as another example of the same basic song premise.
In the end, Ellison does everything right here. He may not hit a home run on any particular song, but to follow the baseball analogy a bit further, he sprays a lot of solid singles, stretching a few into stand up doubles along the way.
This may not be the first CD you reach for in your collection, but when you do, it will always be an enjoyable experience to listen to it again.
Check Ellison out at www.myspace.com/scottellisonband
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 2, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DWAYNE FORD -- On The Other Side

ON THE OTHER SIDE
Dwayne Ford
Independent
6.5-out-of-10
Hmmm! Can you have country/jazz?
OK I suppose not.
Yet after listening to the first two songs on Dwayne Ford's recent CD release, I am not sure he isn't flirting with it.
Lyrically at least, both Please Don't Say You Care and Any Fool With A Gun could be construed as country songs, as could Who Did You Do To Us.
Musically though, the instrumentation is more jazz/pop.
As the CD progresses we find that the jazz/pop world is where Ford, who hails from Edmonton, is at home.
East Side Girls has a sort of R&B feel, and the instrumental Rio Stat is pretty much a straight jazz effort, with just a hit of pop at times.
If this sounds a bit mish-mashed, it surprisingly isn't. There are tangents and corners here, but somehow Ford keeps all the different influences in check enough to offer up a pretty cohesive CD.
Interestingly, the more risks Ford takes, the bigger the leap if you wish, the better he gets. There is a sort of Middle Eastern intro to On The Other Side, and it takes Ford into a song where he lets go more vocally, and in so doing, he reaches higher with the song than all the others.
Somebody Ought To is also a great song, with the most powerful lyrics here. They have greater heart as they delve into the dark side of life.
This becomes an interesting disk for some of the risks Ford takes in his approach, even though he ends up with a CD which is kind of middle of the road poppish in the end. It's the subtle influences of jazz, country and R&B that you can hear here which is most interesting. Hopefully he will explore those influences more on subsequent CDs.
Check them out at www.dwaynefordmusic.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 2, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BY 21 TANDEM REPEATS -- No Junk Mail Please

NO JUNK MAIL PLEASE
By 21 Tandem Repeats
Independent
8-out-of-10
When you read the bio for By 21 Tandem Repeats – yes that ranks up there with the lost unusual band names out there – they talk about being part of Vancouver's underground music scene.
Now the concept of a 'music underground' has always been one I have found rather interesting, and in many ways ridiculous. To begin with, the perception of an underground would be that a band operates outside the mainstream, where most have not heard of them. That makes zero sense for a band. Come on almost every band out there wants to attract a mainstream audience. If you make music, you want as many people as possible to hear it.
For those few bands that prefer general anonymity, they are either playing to a very defined group, see some elitist view in playing without being heard, or are so bad who cares.
So I do hope By 21 Tandem Repeats is looking to grow beyond the underground terminology.
I say that because these guys play some pretty fine tunes.
To begin with, these guys are Canadian through and through. It's cool hearing Saskatoon referenced in a song such as On Frozen Pond, and the former obscure Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden is even mentioned in a song. How much more Canadian can you get?
Beyond waving the flag a bit in their music, and that is good to see in a country where all too often musicians seem to write for Americans, there are some very solid modern/folk/rock songs here.
In particular the lead cut; Summertime Will End When It's Over is a beautiful song. It sets the stage for the soft rock to follow.
Heidi Stopover is another top song, with a sort of haunting quality which works nicely.
While definitely rock, a bit of the old British invasion feel, By 21 Tandem Repeats also show they have a folkie heart, at least in terms of lyrics. These are generally songs which tell a story. The words paint a picture in the listener's mind. Nicely done.
I wasn't sure where this CD might go, but must say I was more than pleasantly surprised by the journey By 21 Tandem Repeats takes the listener. They might be underground, but they shouldn't be. They deserve a broader audience for this fine recording.
Check them put at www.21tr.ca
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 26, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DAVE STANLEY BAND -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Dave Stanley Band
Independent
7-out-of-10
The David Stanley Band comes to the music world from Surrey. B.C., not exactly mainstream music Canada, but you know these guys might just help change that view.
Now I will admit the band scored some pre-listen points with me when I was looking at the song list on the CD cover and noted the first song was entitled Bobby Orr. Come on, how can you not love a band that does a song about the guy who single-handedly changed how defence was played in hockey.
So how is the song Bobby Orr?
Well, I absolutely love how the song starts with a sort of echoing intro, and the story of the song resonates nicely, because so much of the imagery of the song is what I grew up through as a kid of 10 to 15. When a song takes you back, it tends to hit a chord, and this one does that. I love this song.
That is not to say every song here hits for me. In fact the high of Bobby Orr slipped away pretty quickly with the second song When I Get Sober, a song that vocally just missed for me. It's like lead singer Dave Stanley tries a bit too hard to get down and growly with this one.
That is the juxtaposition of this CD. At its best the music catches you, and makes you feel. At it's worst it comes across a bit hollow.
Certainly the band gets back into the groove better on song three with Lights Out, and Hallelujah is solid as well.
In the end, there is good stuff here, but it's a bit like a lot of Saskatchewan highways these days. The pavement is fine, if you can maneuverer around the occasional hole in the road.
This is in the end a CD worth listening too. There is enough here to be generally a pleasing effort.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/davidstanley
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 26, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE GREAT OUTDOORS -- Fall

FALL
The Great Outdoors
DDG Records
7.5-out-of-10

The Great Outdoors are a great folk unit out of B.C., well at least modern folk in style.
It was back in June of this year the band's CD Winter was reviewed here, and now we look at Fall. Sadly it's another EP effort, with only five songs. That is an unfortunate trend for bands. They pump out EPs more quickly I suppose, and get a few added sales, but I am still always left wanting more. If the material on an EP is good, and in this case it's a step up from The Great Outdoors' Winter effort, then you wish the package was thicker.
The strength of Fall is the haunting quality of the lyrics of the CD's best songs, in particular MacIntosh Apples and Black Water Road. If this was a full CD of material like these two songs, then Fall would be an easy nine.
That said, I have a tough time ever scoring an EP as high as a full CD simply because the band doesn't show it can carry a full disk.
Still, there is enough here to recommend this EP. In fact, I wish there was more here.
As for a website, I am afraid the one listed on the CD is a link to a different site all together, so if you want to know more Google the band.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 26, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada