Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review -- OLD MAN LUEDECKE -- My Hands Are On Fire and other Love Songs

MY HANDS ARE ON FIRE and other LOVE SONGS
Old Man Luedecke
Black Hen Music
9-out-of-10

Old Man Luedecke is one of those Canadian musicians who really should be a household name, but sadly isn’t.
Granted the music is perhaps not the most popular, being a cross between bluegrass, folk, and Americana, but really folks few do it better than this Nova Scotia-based, banjo player.
The new album, which releases March 30th in Canada is a follow up to his Juno Award-winning album ‘Proof Of Love’, which was reviewed here in Dec. 2008. Proof of Love impressed me to the point it earned 9-out-of-10.
Well Luedecke certainly does not miss a step with My Hands Are On Fire and Other Love Songs.
The new album was recorded largely live off the floor, and also features bluegrass legend Tim O’Brien on every song.
Steve Dawson is the producer as he has been on Luedecke’s previous two recordings as well.
As for music, Old Man Luedecke shows he is a fine songwriter as well as performer. There are 11-songs here, all of them good.
There are message songs such as Woe Betide the Doer of the Deed, which arguably is the best cut here, and then songs that are more just fun, such as Mountain Plain.
Powered by Old Man Luedecke’s fine banjo work, and relaxed, casual vocal delivery, this is a complete package.
A disk that truly impresses from start to finish.
Check out www.oldmanluedecke.ca
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 24, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY STRING QUARTET -- Far Behind I Left My Country:Klezmer and East European Folk Music

FAR BEHIND I LEFT MY COUNTRY: Klezmer and East European Folk Music
The University of Calgary String Quartet
Indie
8-out-of-10

If there is one thing I have learned over the years of reviewing music, it’s that the Canadian music scene is about as diverse as you can get, and I am still surprised at times by the disks that come across the desk.
I can certainly add Far Behind I Left My Country by The University of Calgary Quartet to the list of surprises.
Like most I suspect, I see a string quartet as being rather traditional in their approach, and being first and foremost a vehicle for classical music.
Well this is classical in the sense its timeless music, and certainly old, but it comes at the term classical from an Eastern European vantage point.
This is the music that conjures images of Dr. Zhivago, Cossacks on horse back, Ukrainian dancers and gypsies.
As a result the disk comes across as fresh in terms of musical styles and instrumentation.
The string quartet has received acclaim for the disk, having been selected as a nominee finalist for the Instrumental Group of the Year award – 2008 Canadian Folk Music Awards.
The quartet features Edmond Agopian and Brinna Brinkerhoff on violins, Dean O’Brien on viola, and Beth Root Sandvoss on cello.
So unique it warrants a listen by any fan of good music. Check it out at www.ucalgary.ca/ucalgarystringquartet
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 24, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- NATE SAWKIW and BEN NAGY -- Nate & Ben

NATE & BEN
Nate Sawkiw and Ben Nagy
Indie
7-out-of-10

If there is one thing that technology has allowed, it is a proliferation of basement CDs that have production qualities which are well above the scratchy mish mashes which used to come out of garage bands with an 8-track recorder.
In even a small city like Yorkton there are several musicians who have amassed enough computer programs and recording gear to do a solid job of laying down some musical tracks on a disk.
Ben Nagy is one of those, and he has actually been rather prolific with this disk being his fourth. In this case the 10-song effort is in collaboration with Nathan Sawkiw, with Sawkiw penning three songs, and the pair sharing credit on a fourth song.
Now if you are familiar with Nagy’s previous works, such as his Dr. Qtron CD, you will appreciate he doesn’t usually follow the crowd in terms of music. He goes off on his own, and dares the listener to follow him down a decidedly twisted little rabbit hole to a world where his music resides.
With Nate & Ben, Nagy actually comes back into the more ‘normal’ musical world a bit. Yes there is still some anger in the lyrics, and adult language of course, but this is really a rather straight ahead rock album.
Nagy manages to subdue his usual penchant for warped humour, and keeps the music more serious. He deviates back to the safety of humour on one cut, but in general terms there is a greater level of maturity in the lyrics here.
Sawkiw is the new voice here. On cuts he wrote; Kill Your TV, Lose It and Scrunge, you hear music that has something of a ‘60s feel to it. It’s a nice contrast stylistically on the disk.
So in general terms, this CD is a step closer to the modern rock world for Nagy, although it is in no way a sell-out to following the normal conventions of the genre. The likelihood of this being on radio anytime soon is rather remote.
Still local music fans should support local artists, and this is well-worth checking out.
The disk will be available at Fuzztone Music and B3Xtreme Sports in Yorkton.
You can check out Nate & Ben at www.myspace.com/naten39ben
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 17, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- VANCOUVER CHAMBER CHOIR -- Due East:Choral Music By Stephen Chatman

DUE EAST: Choral Music by Stephen Chatman
Vancouver Chamber Choir
Indie
9-out-of-10
It’s always refreshing to have the opportunity to review something which is at least different personally. That is the case here. After years of reviewing, this is the first disk of choral music.
I must say I lucked out. The Vancouver Chamber Choir has been performing at home and across Canada since its formation in 1971 by conductor Jon Washburn, and according to the group’s website has a rather illustrious international record with tours to the United States, China, Hong Kong, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
The website at www.vancouverchamberchoir.com also notes, “The Vancouver Chamber Choir is Canada’s outstanding professional vocal ensemble. Based on the Pacific Coast in British Columbia, conductor Jon Washburn and his 20 singers are noted for their diverse repertoire and performing excellence. The ACDA Choral Journal has declared the VCC to be ‘as fine a vocal chamber group as any in the world today.’ In 1998, the VCC and Jon Washburn won the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence for their outstanding contribution to the choral art. Mr. Washburn and the Choir were honoured with two awards at the 2000 Chorus America Conference, including the prestigious Louis Botto award, given in recognition of Washburn’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit in the development of a professional choral ensemble of exceptional quality.”
Due East is actually the choir’s third disk focusing on the works of Canadian composer Stephen Chatman. The first disk was Due North, followed by Due West. In Due East the choir brings listeners Chatman’s most recent works. One would imagine Due South is reserved for his works yet to come.
Chatman is certainly well known, as the CD liner notes explain. “Professor and head of Composition at the University of British Columbia, is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Michigan (DMA). He is the recipient of many awards in composition, including 2005 and 2006 Western Canadian Music awards (Outstanding Classical Composition), 2007 Juno nomination, a Fullbright Grant, Dorothy Somerset award, and the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The first Canadian ever short-listed in the BBC Masterprize competition (2001; Tara’s Dream for Orchestra). Chatman is also the only North American to win three consecutive BMI awards to Student Composers.”
Certainly a great CD from a great choir, highlighting a Canadian composer. If you like choral music this is a must have.
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 17, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DIANE CHASE -- Gettin' There

GETTIN’ THERE
Diane Chase
EMI
7.5-out-of-10

Diane Chase is a definite veteran of Canadian country music who continues to record solid country tunes.
Music fans may recall her debut effort In the Middle of Something. The title track and first single was a Top-10 release. Follow-up singles from the disk included; Walkin’ Away With You, Taking Back My Heart, There I Go Again, and Crazy In Love, culminating in two Top-10 and four Top-20 hits.
Next came the 2004, release of Chase’s second CD, The Ride which had two Top-20 hits with the release of the title cut followed by I Hate Love.
And now we have Chase back with Gettin’ There.
You can fully expect Chase to be back in the Top-20 with a couple of songs here. In particular watch I Wanna Live Like That, Gonna See You Again, Soldier’s Wife, and again the title cut.
As always Chase comes at listeners with a relaxed, pleasant voice. She might not have an immediately recognizable vocal style, and it is not the most powerful country voice you will hear, yet you have to like it.
This is the sort of disk you will hear and you will go, ‘gee that’s nice’, but it may also leave you asking ‘I wonder who that is’, because it’s not a voice that leaves an indelible memory.
That does not mean you won’t like this disk. Far from it actually. Chase has put together a disk of modernistic, radio friendly country, which should please older fans, and win her some new ones as well. It may not be your favourite disk, but you will like it.
Check out http://news.dianechase.com/
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JIMMY WAYNE -- Sara Smile

SARA SMILE
Jimmy Wayne
Open Road Recordings/Valory Music
9.5-out-of-10
Do you like sad country songs, the kind that can draw a tear if you are already blue? Then you are gonna love Jimmy Wayne. He can perform a sad song like few others that have spun through my player in recent years.
From the opening Things I Believe, this guy captures the listener emotionally, and you are hooked for the next nine songs too.
All the Time In the World is a beautiful follow-up to the heartfelt opener, and then he throws the title cut at you (a former Hall and Oates song), and you are simply wrapped in thoughts of love gained, lost, found and lost. You have to give huge credit to a musician who can get the listener to invest their own emotions in the music, and yet that is just what Wayne does.
If you aren’t ready to ‘feel’ then don’t spin this disk. Wayne’s vocals, the lyrics, the total package is one that is based on emotion, both from the performer, and the listener.
As good as the opening three cuts are Just Knowing You Love Me and Just Look At You, and in particular Counting the Days are all likely better.
A follow-up disk to Wayne’s Do You Believe Me Now, this is a classic not to be missed. There isn’t much else to say. This one is simply outstanding from start to finish. Buy it now, play it forever.
Check it out at http://www.thevalorymusicco.com/jimmywayne/
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- EMERSON DRIVE -- Believe

BELIEVE
Emerson Drive
Open Road Records
9.5-out-of-10

When it comes to Canadian country music few, if any bands, are better at what they do than Emerson Drive.
And when it comes to the CD Believe, Emerson Drive is at the top of their game.
This is a disk that is as close to wall-to-wall hits as you can get.
From the opening song; That Kind of Beautiful, Emerson Drive comes at you with radio friendly hit after hit. That Kind of Beautiful is a wonderful love song, and while it is a hit, it actually comes up as only second best among love songs on the album.
Belongs To You is a slow-paced love song that is going to be popular at anniversarys, weddings and Valentine’s Day for years to come.
The title cut Believe is a song that will get tons of airplay too.
Of course when it comes to hearing songs on the radio, you could spin any cut on this disk and it would please listeners.
I Love This Road is a song perfect for blasting on the CD player as you bomb down the country road on a warm summer day.
Of course we should expect hits from Emerson Drive, who have put out some excellent past efforts, including the 2006 release Countrified, and What If? in 2004.
What works for the band is the cohesiveness of the quintet musically. They blend their talents flawlessly. From the show vocals of lead singer Brad Mates to the fine musicianship of band mates Danick Dupelle, guitar, Dale Wallace, keyboards, David Pichette, fiddle, and Mike Melancon on drums the unit is as tight as a band gets.
If you are a country fan then Emerson Drive is almost sure to be a favourite band, and this disk will only raise the appreciation of their music.
This is simply a must have disk. One not to be missed.
Check them out at www.emersondrive.com
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 3, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- AMY SEELEY -- Eight Belles

EIGHT BELLES
Amy Seeley
Outgo Records
7.5-out-of-10

It is always interesting to read about how a performer came to their music, and Amy Seeley has an interesting story she relates at her website www.amyseeley.com
The explanation is one I suspect many artists feel, the need to delve into their art, but not always knowing at a young age just how to do it.
“In hindsight I think I knew it deep down by the age of eight,” related Seeley. “I’d played since I was four, was writing songs, and I knew I felt drawn to the piano in a way I couldn’t articulate at the time. I just knew I wanted to play and write and perform someday.
“So I feel like it’s something that’s been a part of me my whole life, but it’s how that knowing has transpired that’s really formed the path. It’s taken some time, and a lot of not knowing.
“What I mean is I played piano for my high school choir, and for church, for this and that; tried out music in college and didn’t like the theory of it all so much and bailed out of voice lessons … felt frustrated and ultimately, afraid to explore, to really dive in …
“Then my mid-twenties hit like a storm. That’s the second part to the story. My childhood and my twenties are connected by an invisible string. At 25 I returned to the piano with a fury. The songs 25 was born and that’s when I realized, oh my God, this is it. I have to play these songs live. I no longer knew how not to converse with my piano. I realized it was a part of who I was. The biggest part. The decision to pour myself completely into the craft of songwriting and exploring how to share that genuinely with people has become more and more clear as my calling over the last few years.”
What that journey has led to is a deeply personal set of eight songs on Seeley’s disk Eight Belles.
The music here is thickly emotional. The piano sort of starkly layered in the background as Seeley focuses on making sure her sharing of her lyrics is personal and clear.
There is a sombre mood here. Seeley looks upon the world through sad eyes, heard immediately on the soulful opening cut How Hard I Try.
A lady with a mournful outlook and a voice that is pleasant, a nice combination. Do check it out.
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 3, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DAVID GOGO -- Different Views

DIFFERENT VIEWS
David Gogo
Cordova Bay Records
9-out-of-10

If you like the blues, and in my case that’s a given, and you’re Canadian, you should know the name David Gogo.
Gogo is a guitar slinging bluesman from B.C., who just seems to be getting better and better and that is saying something considering he’s been a solid performer for some time already.
Yorkton blues fans should remember Gogo from a killer show at the Painted Hand Casino a few years back when the Casino held its much-missed biweekly Blues Night. Gogo really cooked that night.
Back in the fall of 2007 I also had the pleasure to review Gogo’s acoustic disk, and loved it. It rated a 9.5.
And, that brings us to Different Views where Gogo just keeps progressing in his music.
This is a disk where Gogo has again picked up the writing pen, and has a hand in most of the 12-cuts here. In some cases they come across with a classic ‘feel’ such as the song Lies.
This is not an acoustic effort, although at times Gogo does slow it down nicely. Such as on the cut Erase Any Trace, a moody, slower-paced effort.
Ultimately, the whole CD is solid blues, powered by Gogo’s outstanding guitar work, and delivered with his smooth vocals. It really is a combination that is taking Gogo to a higher level than most in the industry on this side of the 49th Parallel.
Of course we should expect fine music from Gogo, who cut his first disk back in 1994, and has thankfully been a prolific recording artist since with Different Views being his 10th release by my count. Fans will remember previous efforts such as Skeleton Key from 2002 and Vibe in 2004.
This is simply put, a must have blues album. Just buy this one, you will not regret it.
Check it out at www.davidgogo.com
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 24, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE DAVID LIBERTY BAND -- Objects In The Mirror

OBJECTS IN MIRRORS
The David Liberty Band
Indie
4-out-of-10

When the staple of your music reviews are indie releases you are never exactly sure what you are getting as you spin a new disk.
I had not heard of The David Liberty Band before getting Objects in Mirrors, so I popped on line to www.davidliberty.com to check him out. Seeing the recording was his third CD I was expecting something pretty solid.
Then the lead song; I’m Irked played, and the song really summed up my reaction. I am a stickler that the first song you hear be a good one. It sets the mood for any listener, and is critical to catch the ear of a radio programmer, or reviewer. Well I’m Irked caught my attention for its repetitious, grade school quality lyrics. It took some amount of good conscience on my part as a reviewer to not turn the CD off at that point. It is among the weakest songs I’ve heard on a disk in well ... ever and I’ve been reviewing for years.
David Liberty at times simply tries too hard lyrically. He wants to get a message across, but the delivery just never seems to work.
The music is simple. He clearly wants the lyrics to be paramount, but it just never comes together for me.
Mark this one at best an acquired taste, and in my case, not my taste at all.
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 24, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BILLY JOE GREEN -- First Law of the Land: If Broken Return To Maker

FIRST LAW OF THE LAND: IF BROKEN RETURN TO MAKER
Billy Joe Green
Strongfront Records
9-out-of-10

If you want your blues with a jagged-edged feel, laden with lyrics that tell both a story, and carry some pretty ugly, but sadly true stories, than Billy Joe Green’s latest First Law of the Land is a must disk.
Green is a First Nations bluesman out of Manitoba who brings all the tools to the table. He plays darned fine electric guitar, and he has a ‘bluesy, smokey voice which carries his music well. Now that combination would work to play any blues cover, and do it well.
However, this disk really has nothing to do with Green’s voice, or his guitar work.
This is a CD where Green set out to tell the history of his people, with a First Nation’s viewpoint.
That effort has resulted is some very stark lyrics.
Right from the opening P.O.W. Blues to cuts such as Los Sin Dios (those without god) to Muskrat Blues and Nightmare Blues, Green tells his people’s story focusing on the injustices he has seen.
Set against the basic tenants of blues music, and its ability to illicit emotion, this CD becomes a very powerful recording.
Radio airplay will be hard to find, but that isn’t what this CD is about. This is about telling a history that is from a perspective that is not usually in the popular history books.
Some may question what they hear, but honestly that is what Green is hoping for. He wants people to think about what Aboriginal people have faced through the years.
This is as powerful a group of songs lyrically as you are likely to find on a CD.
The content will not be for everyone, although maybe we should all listen at least once just to hear the words.
Check it out at www.billyjoegreenmusic.com
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 24, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE SOJOURNERS -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
The Sojourners
Black Hen Music
9-out-of-10

Since I am a huge fan of Canadian singer Jim Byrnes, the story of the creation of The Sojourners has always been of interest.
It was Byrnes who called Vancouver based gospel singer Marcus Mosely on the phone a few years ago to ask if he could gets some friends together to record some back up vocals for his new album.
Mosely brought Will Sanders and Ron Small with him, and the trio clicked.
As noted on The Sojourners’ website, “hot on the tail of their session with Byrnes, the Sojourners went into the studio with roots music whiz Steve Dawson to record ‘Hold On’, their first solo album in 2007. Two years and many sessions later, Mosely, Small and Sanders have taken all they’ve learned in between and returned to record a second CD simply entitled The Sojourners.”
It was two years ago now that I reviewed Hold On and gave it a solid 8-out-of-10.
I can tell you The Sojourners have not lost a step in creating their sophomore disk.
The same things which stood out then still do.
To start with these three harmonize seamlessly. Their voices truly seem as if they were meant to be melded as a unit. There is something special when voices mix so well, and these three sound like they’ve been together forever.
And then there is the music. This is fully gospel. It carries a message and in this case the message is delivered through wonderful voices. An example is the powerful song Another Soldier Gone.
There are also instances where the go upbeat with the message, such as Strange Man.
For many this disk will bring comfort I am sure, along with the simple enjoyment of the fine vocals.
The Sojourners are about as good as it gets in this genre.
Check them out at www.thesojourners.ca
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 17, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- HARLEM WORLD -- Before The Celebration

BEFORE THE CELEBRATION
Harlem World
Patriarch Records
??-out-of-10

Coming out of Florida is Before the Celebration, the debut disk for Harlem World.
The music is a mix of rap and hip/hop, and so admittedly it is something that I will admit I have no affinity for, so to actually rate the disk would be unfair.
However, I have no problem informing readers that the disk is out there.
From the group’s Myspace page we learn, “Patriarch Entertainment / Patriarch Records are proud to announce the release of ‘Before The Celebration!’ Independent Artist Harlem World’s debut studio album on Tuesday, January 26th. The first single from the album is titled “Never Be” and was produced by Shi-wun of Sunrise, FL. ‘Never Be’ has received well over 4,000 plays to date and has been distributed to over 5,000 networks worldwide. The single is currently Number 11 on the Fort Lauderdale Hip-Hop Music Charts, after reaching its all time high of number seven.”
Check them out at www.patriarchrecordz.com
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 17, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE MARIGOLDS -- That's The State I'm In

THAT’S THE STATE I’M IN
The Marigolds
Indie
8-out-of-10
The Marigolds are a trio that I must say created some interesting thoughts when I first checked them out.
To start with the spot on MySpace describes their music as roots music / country / jazz. Now roots and country are kissing cousins in terms of music, but in my mind it was going to be a challenge to incorporate jazz into the mix smoothly.
Then I considered the make-up of the trio, which includes Gwen Swick, Suzie Vinnick and Caitlin Hanford. That is a rather experienced grouping of Canadian talent.
Now Hanford might be better known as one quarter of the popular vocal group, Quartette, a quartette which Swick too has been involved. That experience in harmonizing and in sharing the spotlight serves both well here.
Vinnick, who is originally from Saskatoon, a singer, songwriter and musician who was awarded the 2003 Canadian Maple Blues Female Vocalist of the Year.
The three ladies have a fine musical pedigree.
The three are also established songwriters, and they actually all had their hands in co-operatively creating three of the songs here, including A Little Bit of Heaven and For Your Love. I suspect the effort of songwriting together helped galvanize this trio.
The disk is at its best when it is focused most on roots. Sometimes I Think I Can Fly is a bluesy/rootsy piece which rises above a very solid collection of 14-songs here.
Why Baby is another cut that has a sort of ragtime feel that is infectious.
Overall the Marigolds are a smooth trio who harmonize well with a selection of music that is simply relaxing to listen too.
Very solid effort as one would expect from such veteran performers.
Check them out at www.themarigolds.ca
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 17, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS -- Lost Channels

LOST CHANNELS
Great Lake Swimmers
weewerk
8.5-out-of-10

The Great Lake Swimmers may not be a household name to many, but when you listen to Lost Channels you quickly wonder why. This is a fine album, if you like laid back, relaxed music. The band terms their style ambient folk.
A song such as Everything Is Moving So Fast is just a great song. I love the way they juxtapose the song’s lyrical theme against their mellow musical style. Serena Ryder adds vocals on the song.
That they follow up with another great song such as Pulling On A Line speaks to how good the band is.
Of course the Great Lake Swimmers should be rather polished in terms of recording. They have been rather prolific since releasing a self-titled effort in 2003, and an EP came out in 2006, which is actually available as an LP. That marketing decision tells you the band cuts their own swath.
Onigara followed in 2007, and a nine-song EP; Song Sung Blue came out in 2008.
The constant for the band, which has seen personnel changes over the years, is vocalist Tony Dekker who has a mellow, emotionally vibrant voice which truly is the heart of the music for Great Lake Swimmers. That Dekker also has writing credits throughout, and co-produced the disk with Andy Magoffin only adds to his influence on the end product here.
The disk offers listeners a dozen songs, and truly there isn’t a weak effort here. This is a great CD.
This is one to mark as a must have.
Check them out at www.greatlakeswimmers.com
CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE MARC ATKINSON TRIO -- IV

IV
The Marc Atkinson Trio
Warner Music
8-out-of-10

As you might assume from the title, this in the fourth CD for The Marc Atkinson Trio which was formed in 2000.
In the ensuing years the trio has garnered international attention having “toured North America, England and Europe and has received standing ovations everywhere they perform from the Montreal Jazz Festival to the Vancouver International Folk Festival to DjangoFest Northwest,” according to their website at www.marcatkinson.com
Certainly the trio cooks up a wonderful 50-minutes of music on IV. The CD features 11 Marc Atkinson original compositions and one rearrangement of a Russian Rag.
In terms of style, the website relates, “his (Atkinson’s) catchy compositions, found on the self-titled CDs I, II, III and now IV take guitar beyond the usual repertoire and sound. The tunes have a fiery but elegant guitar style, infused with a catchy blend of influences. All this while still maintaining the laidback humour and casual 'good time feel' of Canada's West Coast. Atkinson's picking has been described as flawless, surprise-filled, sizzling and supremely melodic. His music is original, complex and challenging in its conception and delivery but remains accessible and absorbing.”
That works for me. The music here does come across as fun. A song such as Between the Wakes really has one thinking of a scene like a pup chasing a butterfly at times.
Guitarist Atkinsion is joined by Joey Smith on bass and Michael Hamilton on rhythm guitar.
If you like guitar music, or just a relaxing disk for fun, this is one to give a long listen too.
— CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- WILL CAMPBELL -- Think Tank

THINK TANK
Will Campbell
Cellar Live
8.5-out-of-10
I have always like saxophone driven jazz, and Will Campbell’s Think Tank certainly fits that niche.
On this disk Campbell really gives himself time to explore musically with his alto saxophone. While having only seven songs, two eclipse 10-minutes as he lets the music take its own course from start to finish. There does not seem like any constraints are put on the piece, it just seems to be allowed to happen naturally.
Currently, Campbell is the Director of Jazz Studies and Assistant Professor of Saxophone at UNC Charlotte. Originally from North Carolina, he has played saxophone since elementary school.
From his website we learn Campbell has a pedigree musically. “Between his undergraduate and Masters degree, Will spent over three years touring the world and recording with the Harry Connick, Jr. Orchestra. Highlights with Harry include a sold-out Broadway run, The Grammys at Radio City Music Hall, and performances at venues such as London's Royal Albert Hall, Lincoln Center, and The Kennedy Center.”
Still Think Tank is Campbell’s first CD where he gets lead billing. The disk comes across as one he has been working toward for a while. The material is polished and fine.
Olive Street and On a Clear Day get top billing among the cuts here.
Campbell is joined by Scott Harrell, trumpet, Stefan Karlsson, piano, John Brown, bass
and Rick Dior on drums.
If you are partial to sax-driven jazz, this is quite simply a must have.
Check it out at www.willcampbellmusic.com
— CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- RICASSO -- Overgrown

OVERGROWN
Ricasso
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

Ricasso is one of those fine Saskatchewan artists who just keeps doing what he does best, create fine indie music.
Overgrown is Ricasso’s third CD effort, following Pollution and Disgraceland, both darned fine disks in their own right. Of note the bluesy title cut of Disgraceland finds its way to the new disk as well.
That said, I do believe Ricasso takes it to the next level here. The songwriting on the 13 songs is just a step up from previous efforts. That could be because Ricasso seems more focused on just writing a good song as opposed to trying to create a message in the words of his previous albums. Dear Abbey Road, the lead cut is an example of the change. There is not a lot of depth to the lyrics, but the song is so catchy and infectious you are singing along to the chorus on the first listen.
The next cut is the title cut, and as it should be, it is easily the best song on the album. It is lyrically strong, emotional, and compellingly rendered.
Of course if you are familiar with Ricasso from his previous CDs, or past appearances at Holly’s Nite Club, you expect him to be spot on vocally, and I assure you that he is in the groove from start to finish here.
After the superlative Overgrown, Ricasso gets into a rhythm and just adds one solid effort after another on this disk.
Three Words is a beautiful song, with some truly lovely guitar interludes. Musically this is a great piece.
Speaking of beautiful songs, The Same Sky is another sweet love song.
Pictures of You has a sort of subtle Spanish thing going on which works nicely as a musical change of pace.
Hangin’ On ends the disk, and rates in the top two, or three songs here.
And, in case you think Ricasso has abandoned protest songs altogether, there is Buy Yourself, a song with a definite message.
This is a disk which really takes Ricasso up a level. Find this CD, you will not be disappointed.
Check it out at www.ricasso.ca
— CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 3, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SCOTT COOK -- This One's On The House

THIS ONE’S ON THE HOUSE
Scott Cook
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

Scott Cook is a veteran Canadian musician with a series of CDs dating back to 1997.
In 2007, Cook released Long Way to Wander, and I had the pleasure to review that disk, and I liked it a lot, giving it a 9-out-of-10.
So expectations for This One’s On The House were rather high.
For the most part Cook manages to carry the expectations. The lyrics are strong from start to finish. The heart of an old time troubadour beats in this guy’s chest.
The ability to pen a great song for Cook is also firmly rooted in folk music, although he does expand on that.
Lucky Star has a bluesy sound carried by some nice harmonica work.
Then on The Dirt On Your Heart has a throwback country sound.
Cook maneuvers through a variety of roots influences here, and handles them all well.
Vocally, Cook was meant to sing this sort of music. There’s just a touch of grit in his gizzard, and he uses that to come across as real.
As for songs Shady Grove is the best here. Excellent.
The result is a great disk, which I highly recommend, although it does come up just a hair short of the Long Way to Wander.
Check it out at www.scottcook.net
— CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 3, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SUZIE VINNICK -- Happy Here

HAPPY HERE
Suzie Vinnick
Indie
7.5-out-of-10

Suzie Vinnick has a crystal clear voice that takes her blues-influenced music into that realm where one is reminded of show tunes, country and just plain fine music,
Happy Here is Vinnick’s third solo CD, the first; Angel in the Sidelines dating back to 1994. While not overly prolific as a solo artist, Vinnick has honed her considerable skills on several side projects including the 2005 project The Marigolds.
Maybe because the disks haven’t rolled out in quick succession, Vinnick has loaded up Happy Here with 14 songs. It’s always a bonus when an artist gives the listener those few extra cuts.
When it is Vinnick at work it’s even sweeter given those fine vocals, which might best be described simply as musically pleasant. My Kind of Loneliness is a great example of that. It is a beautiful song filled with lyrics which create images in the mind that have you remembering lost loves and special times. It is easily the best song on the album, and that really is saying something since it had to rise above a dozen other very good numbers
Vinnick was the 2008 recipient of the Canadian Maple Blues Award for Female Vocalist of the Year, and 2009 Juno nominee for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo.
A very nice CD that is well worth a listen if you like female blues that aren’t really blues, but is still fine music.
Check it out at www.suzievinnick.com
— CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 3, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada