Monday, May 17, 2010

Review -- HARPDOG BROWN & GRAHAM GUEST -- Above And Beyond

Harpdog Brown & Graham Guest
Dog Breath Records

It’s always cool to review music from someone you sort of know. Harpdog Brown and I have chatted via email for a couple of years, and more recently through Facebook, so I’ve followed the Edmonton bluesman’s career for a while.
In the case of his new disk Above and Beyond it was interesting that the artist actually called me up for a coffee and we met here in Yorkton as he traveled back from a Winnipeg show headed to his hometown. As a side note it’s really too bad there wasn’t a place he could have played here. There are no doubt many great bands passing through on the Yellowhead highway, but we sadly lack venues, which I suppose goes back to the fact Yorkton music fans seem sadly satisfied with canned tracks over live music given the sparse crowds many live bands play to here.
But back to Harpdog Brown and piano man Graham Guest. As his name implies, Brown is a harp man. He plays the harmonica, and he plays it fine.
Brown also supplies the vocals, and he has the gravel-infused voice to make the blues his own. One song into the disk and you know two things for sure, the blues was made for Harpdog’s voice, and that he is genuinely in the blues because he loves the music.
The combo of harp work and gritty vocals sell this one as very solid blues.
Graham adds the piano work, and he is a perfect compliment to the ‘Dog.
The disk includes a range of covers, from You Don’t Have to Go from Jimmy Reed, to Percy Mayfield’s Someone to Love to Let Me Explain from Sonnyboy Williamson II.
This of course is not Harpdog’s first recording, having Live at the Vat with his band the Bloodhounds out a few years ago.
This is a CD that should be marked a must for blues fans.
Check it out at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 12, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- HOT CLUB EDMONTON -- Self-Titled


When you go to a band’s website and on the front page read “are you ready for a unique musical experience? This is a place where 1930’s Gypsy Jazz, meets Western Canadian Folk Music, creating a sound unlike any you've heard before: Hot Club Edmonton,” you tend to get rather curious about just what is going to be on the disk.
Well, true to its billing, Hot Club Edmonton throws together several musical influences on their self-titled effort.
The idea of Parisian jazz certainly comes through, from the opening instrumental Belleville to the French vocals of Blanche which could have been playing in a French club during the Great War as far as style goes.
The CD liner notes explain the roots of Gypsy jazz. “Gypsy Jazz was shaped within the context of Paris in the 1930s’ by Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Together these two masters popularized this style and made waves throughout the world. Gypsy Jazz is an utterly infectious genre of music that encompasses haunting airs, swinging melodies, driving rhythms and virtuosic improvisation. All of this is delivered with the Gypsy flair.”
That a band on the Canadian Prairies undertook this particular project is interesting and gratifying for the listener too.
Hot Club Edmonton looks to capture that historical feel. “It is our goal with this project to capture the essence of the Quintette du Hot Club de France while paying tribute to two giants in the history of Jazz.”
To the group’s credit they do it well. Certainly the word infectious is one which comes to mind in terms of describing the music here. It is a fun disk to listen too.
This is one worth checking out for its uniqueness, its upbeat music, and fine musicianship.
Oh yes the best is Misty, with the sweet vocals of Thea Neumann. Impressive and beautiful.
Check this unique effort out at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 12, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- NICK la RIVIERE -- Too Much To Do

Nick la Riviere

Nick la Riviere plays the trombone, and he plays it very well.
The guy has a flare, which makes the music simply a joy to listen to.
The opening cut is Inspiration, and the title fits the mood of the music completely. This is a song of joy, of excitement, of well, inspiration.
The album includes four original efforts by la Riviere, and that is always exciting on a jazz album, to see where an artist can take the music. Here the artist does excellent work. The Streets is one of his best here.
Five others are jazz standards, such as Clifford Brown’s Joy Spring, and Weaver of Dreams from Young and Elliot. The latter is a beautiful piece on the disk.
The nine pieces cover 71-minutes of music, and that is a lot of fine music in this case.
La Riviere is complimented by a rhythm section which includes Ross Taggart, Jodi Proznick and Jesse Cahill.
A nice addition to the album is a string section, provided by Cam Wilson, Julian Vitek and Peggy Lee.
The combination of strings and rhythm sections as background add a compliment to la Riviere’s trombone and gives the music a richness. There is a big band element here.
This disk is certainly a wonderful example of jazz trombone, and will find favour with lovers of the instrument, or fans of just plain good jazz.
This is one to look for folks. Totally enjoyable.
Check it out at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 5, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BRAIN SAUCE -- Individuality Is An Old Commodity

Brain Sauce

When you get a CD from a band named Brain Sauce you’re not quite sure what to expect,
So you toss it on the player, half expecting screamer metal, or something out of left field.
Then the band comes at you with A Theme From Antic Hay (Whats a Man to do?) which is a seven-minute rock anthem, with a hint of blues and you go this is pretty cool stuff.
The Moose Jaw band wins fans with the opening cut.
But this is a progressive indie rock band according to their webpage at
That means the band is more out in left field than the first song might indicate.
Gomer’s Shuffle has a sort of southern rock meets bluegrass/folk feel, that doesn’t quite fit with the lead cut.
But the third song, Dirty Disco, does build on the southern rock feel of Gomer’s Shuffle. The pluck of the big bass, the rhythm of the song, the pacing of the vocals, yep southern-fried and served up hot.
That southern feel tends to dominate the rest of the way, on cuts such as Marijuana Stole My Baby, which admittedly has some progressive licks mixed in.
The band includes Brodie Mohninger, Mark Lowe, John Dale, Steve Leidal and David Howard.
This is a fun album. You can tell the band was having a blast pumping out the tunes. This is just good old rock with a few little twists, and that is really a nice change as many bands are trying to create art. This is rock for the sake of rock. Check it out folks, a solid effort from a Saskatchewan band.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 5, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JIMMY AND THE SLEEPERS -- Self-Titled

Jimmy and the Sleepers

Jimmy and the Sleepers is a blues unit out of Edmonton.
The leader is guitarist Jimmy Guiboche, although the vocal lead is carried by Guy ‘Big Guy Slim’ Gagne.
The band is rounded out with David ‘Crawdad’ Cantera, Chris Brzezicki and Grant Stovel.
The disk was actually recorded some time ago, but just came my way recently, and as a blues lover, I have to give it a mention.
As a collection this is all right, although nothing exactly reached out and grabbed me.
Gagne’s vocals are frankly not my cup of tea. He’s in there pitching on every cut, but his voice just doesn’t quite do it.
I also found some of the song selections less than ideal to my mind. Oopin Doopin Doopin by George Smith is just a bad song.
The rendition of Come On missed too.
One little addition of note to the recording is Big Dave McLean adding vocals on Not Gettin’ Up.
While this is my beloved blues, and from a Western Canadian band, there isn’t enough here to highly recommend it. There are better disks out there to spend your blues dollar on.
Check them out at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 21, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JOHNNY GRIT -- Make Liars

Johnny Grit

Johnny Grit is another band emerging out of Saskatoon.
The CD Make Liars is certainly rock, and it is rather diverse in how it attacks the genre too.
The opening cut Escape From Mexico, written by Grit and Ryan Olenick has a Santana feel to it, and really sets a high tempo to the disk. The song has a bit of a salsa, horn powered feel. Barry Redford does nice trumpet work here.
Up next is Heart Is On Fire which is straight ahead rock.
On Fair the music slows a bit, and Grit doesn’t push and growl his voice quite so much, and that allows his voice to be more melodic and it makes the song stand out because of the change.
The vocal credits on the disk go to guitarist Fabian Minnema, bassist Chris Richardson and guitarist Kyle Dixon, and on Spell they combine for some nice harmonies.
Percussionist Randy Farkas and Ross Nykiforuk on organ round out the band.
Generally speaking this is a pretty solid effort. Nothing exactly suggests gold record hit, but cuts such as Made are certainly solid rock songs.
Certainly a disk worth grabbing if you like rock, and of course to support Saskatchewan music.
Check them out at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 21, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE BRAVEST GHOST -- Self-Titled

The Bravest Ghost

Yorkton’s own Sean Craib-Petkau is back with a new disk, this time a self-titled effort for his new recording persona The Bravest Ghost.
Local music fans should recall Craib-Petkau for his Music For Sleeping Lovers ... And For Those Who Wake Up Alone, which was recorded under the name Welcome to Reykjavik. That disk was released just about a year ago, and rated an 8-out-of-10 here.
I am not sure why the change to The Bravest Ghost, it is something which will be somewhat confusing for some fans of Craib-Petkau’s music.
And believe me, there should be fans for this young man, who does a fine job of music that is essentially modern folk in my mind.
The CD has six songs, with an alternate rendition of I Am Hungry as a bonus. The first rendition of the song on the disk is the best, with some very nice harmonica work. The segment is short, but adds to the song.
The alternate rendition of I Am Hungry takes the music a step farther. There is some very nice saxophone added in the song. While the early copy of the disk I have doesn’t state it, I am assuming Emily Kohlert provides the sax work, at least she did at a live performance I heard at 5th Ave Coffee Cup one night. It was the most notable song Craib-Petkau did that night, and frankly it is here too because the saxophone makes it stand out from the others.
North Line likewise uses an interlude with the harmonica effectively. It is an element of Craib-Petkau’s music he needs to utilize more.
Beyond the splashes of harmonica and all too little used saxophone, Craib-Petkau keeps the instrumentation minimalistic, relying on the guitar, and keeping even that simple.
The lyrics are the strength here. They are heartfelt, and Craib-Petkau delivers them with a relaxed, friendly style that makes the disk a pleasure to listen too.
Check it out a
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 14, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- STEPHEN MAGUIRE -- Irish Soul

Stephen Maguire

It was in September 2008 I reviewed the debut, self-titled CD from Stephen Maguire, and it’s good news that he is back with Irish Soul.
Born and raised in Ireland, Maguire now has a Canadian connection having married a Yorkton gal so local readers will have some added interest.
The debut disk was one I tagged as having a ‘folk-style’. On Irish Soul, there is more pop styling to the work. In fact Best I Can has a decidedly Elton John feel to it.
Maguire however is at his best when the folk soul shows through.
Streets of Belfast is a wonderful song. The lyrics tell a story, and the music and vocals are infectious.
The same can be said for the opening cut, the title song, which is arguably the second best effort on the disk.
Clearly Maguire is casting his musical net a bit broader this time around, and that is a good thing. The more mainstream cuts, such as So You See Me, have a familiarity to them that will catch some listeners.
True even adds some ‘big band’ instrumentation that is a nice feature, or a song that is near R&B at times.
The key will be to not stray too far from the Irish roots. That is still where he brings everything together, lyrics, music, vocals, most effectively.
Check him out at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 14, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CHRIS DAVIS -- Baile Bonita

Chris Davis
Cellar Live

In terms of Canadian jazz I have come to respect the stable of artists and catalogue of material from Cellar Live.
Baile Bonita does nothing to change that view.
Trumpet player Chris Davis does a fine job on Baile Bonita, his second recording with the B.C.-based label. His first effort for Cellar Live; A Night Remembered, garnered a 7.5 here when reviewed in April last year.
This follow-up effort is just a bit crisper in my mind, thanks to cuts such as West 42nd Street.
All That Glitters is a piece in a somewhat traditional vein that is just as fine as they come.
Davis, originally from Jacksonville, moved to Vancouver five years ago, and is carving out a name for himself, and his trumpet, with the two fine Cellar Live albums helping that reputation grow.
Davis is joined on the new disk by Ian Hendrickson-Smith on alto sax, Adam Thomas on bass, and Jesse Cahill on drums. Each adds a layer of intricacy to the music, while generally allowing Davis to be the featured performer.
If you enjoy trumpet-inspired jazz, played by one of the emerging stars of the Canadian West Coast, then Baile Bonita is a disk you do need to check out.
Check it out via
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 7, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- TIM HARWELL & FRIENDS -- The Wander Man Revisited

Tim Harwill & Friends
Harwill Music

In a world where country music singers tend to have become a homogenized group where one voice simply mimics the last one heard of what passes for country music on the radio these days, it is gratifying to hear a voice you might actually pick out the next time you hear it.
When Tim Harwill starts off his latest CD with Sittin’ In a Hotel Room, you immediately recognize that his voice is unique enough to be memorable. Delores Hershey provides harmony vocals and adds a nice touch to the song.
The song Barely Alive follows, and you know why this guy sings country. He has that old country-style twang going on that frankly would not work on any other genre of music.
That at least tells you Harwill is playing what suits him best. How often do we spin disks and can tell the musician would be better suited singing something different. At times musicians get caught in a trap of following radio fads, or chasing the few live venues that still exist, and in the process they lose creditability in their sound.
Harwill is country, and his voice sounds as if it was born and bred on the Prairies amid wild horses and cows.
The dozen songs here are also penned by Harwill.
Guess what, he understands country lyrics too.
The song Road Traveled Less is an example of his skill with a pen. The song is one of those old-style hurtin’ country tunes filled with imagery and emotion, and darned if it doesn’t fit Harwill’s easy vocal delivery well.
This is a disk which really is what I want in country music. I don’t want someone disguising pop behind a country guitar chord.
There is a realism in Harwill’s music that speaks to the true heart of music.
There is a bit of Waylon in Harwill, and that counts for a lot on a song like the title cut, a song where Tim Hus joins in on the chorus.
Sadly, it may be music that has a difficult time making radio these days, and the airways suffer because of that.
Make sure to check him out at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar. 31, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- NADIA -- Arrival

ZTO Records

You might want to etch the name Nadia in your musical memory, because this gal has the stuff to break big.
Hailing from Calgary Nadia Kazmi really does put it all together.
Let’s start with her songwriting. She has solo writing credits on eight songs, and takes co-writing credits on the other three. The songs she has penned are poetic, yet have some actual depth.
The opening Volcanoes is an amazing song, and the follow-up cut called Mother holds to that high level.
On a website I saw that Queen is among her influences, and musically there are certainly elements of that super group. You can hear it in the song Julian and on Arrival too, but it’s really more about the attitude of Nadia’s music.
She has written interesting, and powerful songs, and you can tell she just grabs the microphone and says, ‘here is my music, hope you like it’. From there her voice takes over and it’s just WOW!
Take a song like Tyranny of the Heart, Nadia just simply rocks it. Joan Jett couldn’t have done it better. Nadia just gives her all through the song.
And then she slows it down, and gets all sultry with an R&B-influenced cut like My True Love, and you just get carried away by her voice.
Ditto with The Blues Always Bleed Red.
This is a lady who really does put it all together. Impressive to say the least. This truly in a must have album.
Check it out at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar. 31, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada