Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review -- KYLER SCHOGEN -- Pocket Fulla Nothin'

POCKET FULLA NOTHIN'
Kyler Schogen
SunCave Records
6.5-out-of-10

Hailing from Edmonton Kyler Schogen hits a sweet spot musically, that area just where rock, blues and folk converge. It is a place which musically is almost ideal, at least to my ears, a devout blues lover, who appreciates a good rock song, and the lyrical strength of folk.
It's a crossover locale others have visited, some making it their musical home. Schogen should certainly make it his residence since he is clearly at home in this neighbourhood.
In Schogen's case the music has more blues to it than rock. It's not a smooth 50/50 mix, but he does use elements of both.
On a tune such as Ebb and Flow Schogen mixes in a bit more of an obvious rock flavour, whereas the title cut has more of a pure blues beat.
Just Got Eyes For Me is another driving blues cut that catches attention.
Musically the 13-cuts here are pleasing, although vocally Schogen might not make it to anyone's top-10. It's not that he is bad at the microphone, but he just never seems to quite punch it up to a higher gear to match the work of the bans.
The end result is a pleasing CD, but one you just feel he could have taken a notch, or two higher.
Still it's an effort worth lending an ear to, just maybe regularly.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/kylerschogen
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 27, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DEL BARBER -- Love Songs For The Last 20

LOVE SONGS FOR THE LAST 20
Del Barber
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

Del Barber's latest effort, Love Songs for the Last 20, is along this year's finalists at the Western Canadian Music Awards for Best Solo Roots Album.
Being among the six finalists for a major award such as those of the WCMA tells you something about the fine music you're going to get when you pop this disc into the player, and Barber does not disappoint. Of course the disc also earned Barber a Juno nomination, so the pedigree is in place.
Barber, who hails from Winnipeg, has a good handle on what it is to play roots music. The disk takes elements of folk and country and blends them seamlessly.
The title song is a perfect example of the idea of alternative country, a song that owes its roots to older music, yet lyrically holds its place in the current era of song writing. That can be said of the entire CD. Barber clearly has a poet's soul the way he writes a song, and there is certainly an element of a modern cowboy minstrel here too. Barber might not ride a horse like an old cowboy crooner, but you can tell he's at home singing story songs around a campfire just the same. You only need to listen to Miles and Years to know that.
Barber may not win the WCMA nod, but you will certainly be a winner if you buy this disk. It's a great effort.
Check it out at www.delbarber.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 27, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MONKEY JUNK -- To Behold

TO BEHOLD
Monkey Junk
Stony Plain
9-out-of-10

Experience me has taught me to expect to love most CDs coming out of Stony Plain Records.
And really you have to be intrigued by a blues band with the name Monkey Junk.
So it came as no surprise at all that I was immediately impressed by the disk To Behold.
Monkey Junk is Matt Sobb on drums, Tony D on guitar and Steve Marriner lead vocals, harmonica and guitar. Together the trio offers up what I term modern blues. There is healthy rock flavour here, but the heartbeat is purely the blues.
The disk starts off with Mother's Crying, a cut with a throwback country rock-a-billy beat, and it sets the mood for what is generally energetic blues.
You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave) follows in style and tempo.
Right Now gets into a bit more of a soul undertone.
From there the rock begins to creep into the music a bit more, and cuts such as Let Her Down, You Don't Know and All About You are the best examples, and are the best of a very fine CD.
This is a must have blues CD this summer. Find it, buy it, enjoy it.
Check it out at www.stonyplainrecords.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 20, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DONALD RAY JOHNSON -- It's TIme

IT's TIME
Donald Ray Johnson
MarVista Records
8-out-of-10

Donald Ray Johnson is a bluesman with a track record. Born in Texas, and now based in Calgary, he has some four decades in the blues business, and has garnered a Grammy Award win, and twice being a Maple Blues Award nominee. He was also voted Best Male Blues Vocalist 2007 by Real Blues Magazine.
So the pedigree is there for Johnson, and that comes through clearly on It's Time.
Johnson's voice remains clear, powerful, appealing,
When Johnson tears into Change Is Going To Come you know you are in for a treat. It's a blues classic in the making.
Through 10-songs Johnson shows why his career has stood the test of time, he's just plain good.
Songs such as Heavy Love, Girl Friend Blues, Louisiana Country Girl and Rainy Night In Georgia are the best cuts on the disk, the later a slower paced song, rich with mood.
Johnson is a veteran blues craftsman showing just what the blues are all about, and he does with the clear confidence of a lifetime behind a microphone.
A wonderful offering to check out.
Check it out at www.donaldray.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 20, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- REDBIRD -- We're All Friends and Lovers Until It Falls Apart

WE'RE ALL FRIENDS and LOVERS UNTIL IT FALLS APART
Redbird
Indie
7-out-of-10

We’re All Friends and Lovers Until It Falls Apart is the debut EP from Vancouver band, Redbird, a group some fortunate local music fans will remember from when the band recently performed locally at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton.
Redbird is the latest musical vehicle for singer/songwriter Savannah Leigh Wellman who has fronted previous variations of her own group, but has made her greatest strides since the formation of Redbird which includes Wellman (vocals and acoustic guitar), John Sponarski (guitar), Jeremy Appleton (bass) and Ben Brown (drums).
"I've gone through so many variations of bands over the past 10-years, but am really happy with where I'm at now with Redbird," Wellman told Yorkton This Week in a May interview.
Certainly the resulting EP is a solid debut for Wellman and Redbird, a definite rock band, albeit one where lyrics and vocals are at the forefront.
"I have a pretty wide range of influences, and I think that definitely comes through in my writing," said Wellman. "I admire the word-craft of greats like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, but also really appreciate the beauty of a catchy melody and harmonies like Fleetwood Mac. I'm also a huge rock and roll fan - this summer I'll be seeing the Black Keys and Sam Roberts Band in outdoor concerts, and I couldn't be more excited! I think I take a little bit of all of those aspects and try to roll them into my own music."
Whatever the specific influences are Wellman has blended them into a great personal sound for Redbird.
There are some fine songs here, in particular In the Hands of Ghosts and West Wind, a couple of tunes as fine as any I've heard in rock in recent months.
As I have often lamented good EPs are always just a bit disappointing because you'd like more than six songs when the band is good. That is the case here, since most of the songs are above average. Oh Please My Heart being the one exception, as it gets a bit repetitious with repeated vocal, but non-word interludes.
Still there is way more positive here than not, and it is certainly easy to recommend music fans check this one out.
Check it out at www.redbirdmusic.ca
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 13, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JJ GUY -- Old Time Dance Album

OLD TIME DANCE ALBUM
JJ Guy
Indie
8-out-of-10

There are certain times as a reviewer you realize just how long you've been giving opinions on music, and when I began spinning JJ Guy's latest fiddle release it was one of those times.
It was back in 2007 I reviewed Guy's fiddle release Cadillac, and October 2009 the appropriately named Fiddler, both offerings garnering 8-out-of-10 scores.
Well here it is four years after Cadillac and Guy is back with Old Time Dance Album, and there is no reason not to make it a third straight eight score.
Now I should preface things here just a bit, as the name implies this is old time dance music, the kind I grew up remembering being played by local fiddlers at talent shows at rural summer fairs such as Connaught, Golburn and Shand. That was half a lifetime ago, and I'll admit at the time I would have never admitted to listening to the music, let alone liking it, but now as I have eclipsed 50-years, I have come to realize the old tunes stuck with somehow.
This is a recording of traditional fiddle which Guy outlines are suitable for a range of dances.
Darling Nelly Gray/Soldier's Joy is a medley for the Virginia reel, while The Old Spinning Wheel is a two step.
There are also numbers for the fox trot, barn dance, heel and toe polka and others.
So if old time fiddle is in your blood Guy does it well, so check it out for a transfusion.
Check it out at www.jjguy.ca
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 13, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- NICK FAYE & THE DEPUTIES -- The Last Best West

THE LAST BEST WEST
Nick Faye & the Deputies
Indie
8-out-of-10

Nick Faye is a name you might want to remember because this Regina-based musician writes a darned fine soft rock song, and quite frankly performs them just fine too.
Faye recently performed locally at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton, where it was just Faye and his guitar. It was a more intimate representation of his music in the cozy venue, but the disk in this case is better.
Faye's music works better with a full band in support of it. The music comes across more like it was meant to be.
All the songs were written by Faye, and he writes what he knows, with songs reflective of Saskatchewan. You see our province in the lyrics of songs such as Hawks Above and Bankend, and they are more enjoyable as a result.
This disk also has some local relevance. Faye has family in Foam Lake, and Byron Chambers, formally of Yorkton is both a musician on the disk, and he recorded, mixed and mastered The Last Best West. Joining Faye and Chambers on the album is Adam Ennis.
In addition Emily Kohlert from Yorkton took the CD's interior photo art.
While there are good reasons to check out this disk to support local and Saskatchewan talent, the best reason to buy it is because it's a great piece of music.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/nickfaye
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 29, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JERRY STAMP -- Bloodwork

BLOODWORK
Jerry Stamp
Indie
6.5-out-of-10

Jerry Stamp is a prolific musician out of Newfoundland.
I say prolific with meaning in this case with Stamp's hands in five albums in a single year.
Somewhere amid the recording this acoustic artist still finds time to tour including being the 'boats' aspect of a recent Boats to Barley Tour with Nick Faye which included a stop in Yorkton.
In Yorkton it was just Stamp and his guitar and that was just fine for a performer who owes a lot of his sound to folk roots.
Stamp has a sound which certainly fits the notion of East Coast music. There is a high level of reality in the lyrics.
There are several songs here which are quite appealing, including Tonight, Pretty Things, And The Waves Crash … and Stars Don't Call.
This is a disk which requires some listener investment in as much as you need to hear the lyrics to truly appreciate the detailed pictures Stamp paints here.
If you are willing to make that investment, and you like folk-based music, this is one to search out.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/jerrystamp
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 29, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- PORTAGE & MAIN -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Portage & Main
Indie
8-out-of-10

Portage & Main sounds like a band which might call Winnipeg, but they actually travel Canada out of British Columbia sharing their folkie-influenced brand of music.
On the disk the roots of this band's music is rather obvious. On a song such as The Morning After you can hear The Eagles at a time when the world thought them rock, but they were more folk on their softer songs than most admitted.
Neil Young is also quite apparent in the material.
John Sponarski and Harold Donnelly are the writers behind this folk-rockband, but Portage & Main also includes the talents of Georges Couling on keys, Ben Brown on drums, and Mike Agranovich on bass .
The band, which was recently in Yorkton at 5th Ave Cup & Saucer where they performed as a stripped down three-piece acoustic unit, have a laid back, relaxed style that is completely satisfying.
The 12-song CD has several notable cuts, including I'm Going Down Tonight, Nothing (Take What You Need) and I'd Never Climbed A Mountain.
This is a disk from a band not yet garnering headlines, but listen to this disk and you will believe they should be better known than they are.
Check it out at www.portageandmainband.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 22, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- TEXTING MacKENZIE -- KARATEKA

KARATEKA
Texting MacKenzie
Indie
6.5-out-of-10

Coming out of Guelph, Ont. is the band Texting MacKenzie.
This is a three-piece indie rock band which has a definite tongue-in-cheek approach to its material.
Robin Jools Wright pens most of the band's material and he mines a definite humour vein for his music.
Indier Than Thou and Lemonade are a couple of examples of how Wright works with lyrics which turn phrases and use word play to good effect.
The resulting body of work is catchy, although admittedly it may not be an approach appreciated by all. This is music which works in a live venue, such as the band's recent visit to 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in the city, but past some college stations the material may not find a ready radio audience.
Texting MacKenzie might never earn regular play in a collection it does suit a particular mood, when you want some indie rock which makes you smile.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/textingmackenzie
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 22, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- KENNY WAYNE -- An Old Rock On A Roll

AN OLD ROCK ON A ROLL
Kenny Wayne
Stony Plain
7.5-out-of-10

Canadian blues fans are going to recognize the name Kenny Wayne from a string of disks on Electro-Fi Records, including the 2006 Blues Record of the Year Juno for 'Let It Loose'.
While Wayne is a blues veteran An Old Rock On A Roll is a first release on the popular Stony Plain label.
The new disk highlights 13-songs, all penned by Wayne. Original blues is always a pleasure to listen too. Of course when Wayne is behind the music you are in for something better than the average.
Cuts such as Devil Woman, Searching For My Baby, and the title cut are all excellent offerings, although in truth Wayne doesn't misstep on the disk.
Wayne flat out plays a fine piano and enhanced by the baritone sax work of Doug James and the tenor sax of Sax Gordon the CD is outstanding.
It doesn't hurt Duke Robillard is on hand to lay down the guitar either. He is one of the best with six strings.
This is a smooth blues offering which speaks to the confidence a veteran like Wayne can bring to a disk.
Most definitely a disk to put high on a blues-lover's want list.
Check it out at www.stonyplainrecords.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 15, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- RAY MANZAREK & ROY ROGERS -- Translucent Blues

TRANSLUCENT BLUES Ray Manzarek & Roy Rogers
BLIND PIG RECORDS
8.5-out-of-10

There are record labels you get to know you can trust, and Blind Pig is certainly one of those. You see the logo of the grinning porker with sunglasses and you are pretty much sure the disk is a winner.
Now add into the equation Ray Manzarek's musical roots extend back to a group called The Doors, and you get the feeling Translucent Blues is going to be a rather special disk.
The disk really highlights music which is the offspring of rock and blues. Not exactly classic blues, which may limit the appeal for some, Manzarek and Rogers combine to create something quite unique and fabulously refreshing.
For example there is an underlying beat to Kick which reminds of The Doors, yet it is still a full blues effort.
Of course with Roy Rogers offering his fine skills on slide guitar to the disk, as Manzarek plays keyboards and applies his vintage voice, it's hard not to be impressed.
In Rogers' case he is a performer with pedigree. He has performed with Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Miller, Linda Ronstadt, and Sammy Hagar and been nominated for 8 Grammy's as producer, songwriter and performer.
There are 12 songs here, and every one is rock solid. I'd highly recommend checking this one.
Check it out at www.blindpigrecords.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 15, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- VARIOUS ARTISTS -- 35 Years of Stony Plain

35 Years of Stony Plain
Various artists
Stony Plain
9-out-of-10

Regular readers will know I have something of a soft spot for the Stony Plain label out of Alberta.
The label doesn't roll out a lot of disks in a year, but the ones they do are usually as solid as you can get.
Specializing in blues, swing, and older style country, Stony Plain has endured where many smaller labels have failed, in large part no doubt to the stellar line-up of performers who have recorded for the label through the years.
So when the new compilation disk celebrating 35-years of Stony Plain music arrived I knew it was going to be golden.
Generally speaking I'm not a huge fan of compilation disks. I find they have a hard time holding together in terms of style.
In the case of what is essentially a sampler of a label's best, you have to just forget about thematics and instead focus on the strength of each cut.
In the case of Stony Plain's 35 years, there are 41-songs on a two-disk set, eight of the songs previously unreleased, three by Bob Carpenter, four by Robert Nighthawk and one by the famous King Biscuit Boy.
Among the other performers, the list is impressive with the likes of Jeff Healey, Duke Robillard, Amos Garrett, Ian Tyson and Long John Baldry.
Add in a third disk of bonus DVD videos and docs and this is a great package which will keep you entertained for hours.
Showing a bit of age in terms of how long I have been at this review stuff, I enjoyed Stony Plain's 25-year collection, and their 30-year disks, both sets being well worth being in any music collection.
This 35-year retrospective collection continues that fine tradition. A definite winner.
Check it out at www.stonyplainrecords.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 1, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BARBARA LYNN DORAN -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Barbara Lynn Doran
Indie
7-out-of-10

Scarborough, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto may not seem like the place from which a country singer would emerge, but that is exactly the case with Barbara Lynn Doran.
Citing a diverse range of artists among her favourites; Olivia Newton John, Madonna, Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, it was the country influences which ultimately won out with Doran.
Doran likes her country slower. Her voice seems best suited to a country song laden with emotion.
Cuts such as Innocence and Little Misunderstood are among the best of a solid six-song debut disk.
On her website Doran notes that Little Misunderstood is in large part autobiographical. “This song is my life in a nutshell. I’ve always been misjudged and misunderstood and I thought it was a great title for my first single," she explained.
Doran is like a lot of country of singers these days, musically solid, but not exactly offering something which completely knocks your socks off. That said, this is a disk which holds promise of being the launching pad of a new star in terms of Canadian country.
Check it out at www.barbaralynndoran.ca
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 1, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- COLD DRIVEN -- The Wicked Side Of Me

THE WICKED SIDE OF ME
Cold Driven
Indie
9-out-of-10

Time seems to fly by when dealing with indie bands, even the best of them.
Cold Driven is an example. It does not seem like it was three years ago that I was first introduced to this band with its release of Steel Chambers, a disk that warranted an 8.5-out-of-10 in a June 4, 2008 review.
Local fans might remember the band from a gig at Rayzer's in the Yorkton Hotel when that venue was doing live music before local apathy killed the bar's interest in supporting traveling bands.
Now nearly exactly three years later the B.C.based band is back with The Wicked Side of Me.
The good news is that Cold Driven does not miss a step with the new disk, although with only six songs and a short intro you are left wanting more.
Of course if the disk had a dozen songs, and they were all as good as the six here, you'd wish there was more.
The band includes brothers Billy and Dennis Nickell and Ben and Shane Bouthillier and Jeremy McLachlan. The five piece unit allows for a big, full band, straight ahead rock sound, which is a comforting place to be for this listener.
From the opening Kingdom Come, or through all six songs Cold Driven does not miss a beat.
The title cut is simply great rock, albeit with a definite melancholy atmosphere. It will feed a certain mood for certain.
Now That I'm Gone is another strong cut on a disk with no weak spot.
Overall this is a CD that should be owned.
Check it out at www.colddriven.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 25, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MORGAN CAMERON ROSS -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Morgan Cameron Ross
Indie
6.5-out-of-10

This is the solo debut for Morgan Cameron Ross, although he has been on the music scene for awhile as the lead for Toronto's Birds of Wales the past half dozen years.
As a solo effort Ross is able to provide a more varied, individualistic sound, something he does with such relish the overall cohesiveness of the disk is compromised.
My Brother Went To Prison has a sort of Celtic feel. It could easily be picked up by John McDermott and fit him perfectly.
Then Ross gives us 13C, a new-age country style song. It's actually one of the better cuts here, although thematically it seems out of place.
In general though this is a sort of pop, soft rock effort, which has a hard time rising to the point of being memorable.
Every Mile and Passing Year, Storybook Romance and Hey There Darlin are examples. If you like the mellow, soft rock sound you may well find Ross' effort solid.
If not you may wish to pass.
Check him out at www.morgancameronross.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 25, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- RORY BLOCK -- Shake Em' On Down -- A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell

SHAKE 'EM ON DOWN
A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell
Rory Block
Stony Plain
9.5-out-of-10

Oh my goodness there are times you just fall into the music of a CD and know you are exactly where you want to be.
The country blues of Rory Block is exactly that sort of album.
I have reviewed other blues disks in recent weeks, but it has been a while since a Stony Plain release crossed the desk. One song into Block's latest effort and I realized just how much I missed the great blues this Canadian recording company regularly releases.
Now in the case of Block a listener should expect nothing but the best. This gal is a veteran of the genre with a discography of some 20+ albums. That sort of longevity speaks volume about any artist's talent.
In this case Block is paying tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell one of those artists who really helped define country blues.
McDowell apparently also helped define a young Block.
"I met Fred McDowell at a time in my life when I was most impressionable, and when the effect would deeply inspire and educate, That experience (along with meeting other surviving country blues masters such as Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Bukka White and Reverend Gary Davis) would become a life-long influence," noted Block on CD.
Thank goodness Block had the opportunity to meet the blues icons because listening to Shake 'em On Down you recognize the blues is exactly where she should be.
A slightly gravelled voice, fine guitar, and a mix of songs from McDowell and Block's own pen all combine to make this a simply amazing disk that any blues fan must have.
McDowell’s numbers include Kokomo Blues, Worried Mind and the title track, while Block offers up new classics in the old style such as Ancestral Home and The Breadline.
The best CD disk I've had the pleasure to review in ages. All I can say is grab this jewel.
Check it out at www.stonyplainrecords.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 18, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JOHNNY HATCH -- Indie

Johnny Hatch
Indie
6-out-of-10

Johnny Hatch is from B.C., although he currently calls Regina home.
With Happiness Instead we have a disk which Hatch terms alternative, folk-rock.
All right alternative maybe, but I don't hear the folk heart here at all.
In fact, the disk comes across with what I think of more as a 'California-sound'. Now defining that sound isn't necessarily easy, nor exactly cut and dried, but this effort fits.
Lucky Seven Yeah! is an example. A nice beat teamed with a catchy, but all too repetitious lyric set. The result, the toe taps for a spin or two, but the interest in the song fades pretty quickly.
Hatch likes using a tag line in a song repeatedly. Find The Door uses the same concept, and on the heels of Lucky Seven Yeah! is actually a bit annoying because of it.
The music here is catchy, some of the effects on songs such as Let There Be Peace are actually pretty cool.
However the lyrics are thin, mostly superficial, and that detracts from the disk in a major way.
Check Hatch out at www.johnnyhatch.net , and go from there.
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 18, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MIRRORS AND DOORS -- Jean Paul De Roover

MIRRORS and DOORS
Jean Paul De Roover
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

Jean Paul De Roover is one of those artists who really does need to be seen live to really appreciate what he does musically.
I was afforded that opportunity recently when De Roover appeared at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton. The soloist really opened my eyes to what can be accomplished using the voice and a bit of modern tech as tools to create background sounds on the go.
De Roover uses an on-stage recording device to record little bits of vocal manipulation, hand claps, finger snaps, and single guitar string harmonics, which are then played back in a reoccurring loop as elements of the song.
Now the artist could simply pre-record the tracks and use the recording over and over, but by doing it as part of the stage show the audience is taken inside the process, given a look at the ingenuity of the process, whereby De Roover creates a more diverse sound than you would expect from just a guitar and voice.
The CD Mirrors and Doors, is a full disk of studio recorded music, with a full sound, De Roover's voice and guitar blending smoothly on every cut.
I Need You is the lead cut, and is the best of the bunch, which is saying something on an indie folk-rock disk which is actually very solid from start to finish. De Roover has some definite polish to his work, not unexpected from a performer who has toured cost-to-coast repeatedly.
The travels have allowed him to write some fine lyrics reflective of life and emotions.
Never, The Knife, and the title cuts are other memorable efforts here.
It is worth mentioning De Roover has an acappella EP Pitch Pipes, that will remind of efforts by The Nylons. Very good in that it truly shows the voice as a musical instrument in the background of each cut.
If you ever have a chance to see De Roover live take it, and in the meantime his disks are well worth searching out.
Check it out at www.jeanpaulderoover.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 27, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SHE WAS A BOY -- Yael Naim & David Donatien

SHE WAS A BOY
Yael Naim & David Donatien
Indie
7-out-of-10

Yael Naim and David Donatien are from France, although fear not She Was A Boy is in English, and yes that surprised me a little too.
Yael Naim has a beautiful, sort of natural, relaxed, vocal style. It really comes across as effortless, yet satisfying on the title cut, although on every song she does a nice, almost sweet job.
The music is acoustic folk-pop, and in that vein the lyrics are often life and circumstance reflective.
Since the genre is rather broad it is not a surprise, or out of place that a song such as Never Change is actually quite bluesy.
Naim is the creative force behind the CD too, have composed and written every cut except Go to the River, where Donatien takes the writing lead. Donatien's work is one of the most solidly pop efforts on the CD.
That said Stupid Goal is fully pop too.
In general terms this is a bit more to the pop side of things than I generally like, although Naim's vocal style does soften that a bit.
A bit of an acquired taste, yet one worth giving a listen to. Check Naim out at www.yaelweb.com , and go from there.
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 4, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- NORTHERN RANGE -- Larry Krause

NORTHERN RANGE
Larry Krause
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

It's always interesting to interview a singer before listening to their disk.
In the case of Saskatchewan singer Larry Krause that was doubly the case.
In the interview he noted "there are lots of musical influences that have made their mark, including a lot of traditional country performers, whose music I listened to and still perform; Johnny Horton, George Jones, George Strait, others like Garth Brooks and Toby Keith..
"But some of the greatest influences were harmony styles like the Statler Brothers-the type of music we sang in church, and also Ian Tyson, whose music and the disappearing lifestyle that the Cowboyography album and era represented, probably had the most impact and influence on my music, performing style and songwriting nuances."
Any one musician who even knows who Johnny Horton is these days gains marks from me, and being a fan of Tyson's Cowboyography tells you this guy knows what country western music is at its heart.
The disk arrives and I give it a spin, and it's like going back to the country music I grew up on.
Years Flyin' By, Footprints in the Moss, My Own Heart's Delight, in fact practically the entire CD reminds of Marty Robbins and Tyson and George Jones.
"I consider myself a western/roots singer/songwriter, with a very prairie-rural insight into the stories, people and times of the west," said Krause in the interview.
Therein lies the soul of country western music. The songs ring true for those who actually work the soil and raise the cattle and ride the horses.
Krause has a great grasp on the 'real' of Canadian Prairie life, and he reflects that in his wonderful lyrics.
A singer/songwriter, who will perform at the Legion Hall in Yorkton this Friday(29th), perhaps caught out of time in terms of becoming widely successful but lovers of old country will want this disk as part of their collection.
Check it out at www.larrykrause.ca
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 27, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DEVIL TAKE ME DOWN -- Jimmy Zee

DEVIL TAKE ME DOWN
Jimmy Zee
Indie
7-out-of-10

Devil Take Me Down earned Jimmy Zee a nomination in the blues category from the Western Canadian Music Awards so it has some pedigree.
Zee, who hails from B.C., assembled some fine musicians to put together this disk including a blues bud of mine Harp Dog Brown. It's always cool when he's playing 'harp' on a tune.
As for Zee himself he has a bluesy, growly-flavoured voice, and in the genre that is always a good thing in terms of sound.
With Devil Take Me Down Zee has a solid blues album featuring 13-songs, all of them self-penned except for a remake of the classic Roxy Roller.
In writing the dozen tunes Zee shows a well-experienced pen, and turns out some fine material, the title cut among them.
Bad End Boys, Show Me and Boston City are songs which caught my ear.
Overall a blues disk out of Western Canada I enjoyed from start-to-finish.
Check him out at www.zeeblues.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week DANIELSnewspaper April 27, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review -- SANDMAN VIPER COMMAND -- Everybody See This

EVERYBODY SEE THIS
Sandman Viper Command
Indie
7-out-of-10

Coming to music fans out of Burlington, ON., Sandman Viper Command is Rob Janson, Daniel Reardon, Aaron Harvey and Matt Damon Meyer.
"In the beginning, the four best friends who make up the ambitiously named outfit (Rob Janson, Aaron Harvey, Dan Reardon, Matt Meyer) locked themselves up for days in their parents' basements practicing and refining demos, only emerging when they had stumbled upon the most perfect blend of garage pop/guitar fuzz rock this side of the border has heard in a long time. It's this obsessive compulsiveness in their music that pays off huge on their independently released debut, Everybody See This," details the band's bio on MySpace.com
Well I might not suggest this music, and frankly very little music in general is perfect, but within its genre Sandman Viper Command does it pretty well.
Among the dozen cuts here the best is Using Everybody. A solid song with a hook to catch you.
For the most part the band does a credible job of catching the listener's ear.
It's not necessarily the lyrically deepest music on the planet, but I doubt the band was looking to make political statements, or to create rock anthems with the release of this disk.
What they have is a highly listenable album save for one weak spot that being Dial M, a song which drags and has something of a repetitious drone to it.
Overall worth a listen even though Sandman Viper Command is not likely to become a household name based on this release.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/sandmanvipercommand
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 20, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- RAY ELLIOTT BAND -- Good Prairie Folk

GOOD PRAIRIE FOLK
Ray Elliott Band
Indie
9-out-of-10

I am often pleasantly surprised by CDs which originate in Saskatoon. Other Canadian cities; Calgary, TO and Winnipeg might have a bigger reputation than the City of Bridges, but when you hear someone such as the Ray Elliott Band you realize the gap is far less than most probably think.
When preparing for this review I popped to the band's page on MySpace.com and noticed where it asks the band to describe who they sound like Elliott has, "I guess maybe on a really great day I would say Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Blue Shadows, Blue Rodeo."
All right that's pretty heady company. Three of the listed performers are household names in music, at least in Canada, and while the Blue Shadows are less well-known a review of 'Lucky To Me' from years back is still fondly remembered by this reviewer. So I wasn't truly expecting Ray Elliott to live up to his own comparison.
Well the good news is that he reaches for such lofty heights. On a cut such as Hard Scrabble Year he makes it.
Then there is the opening Johnny Canuck, a song which could be a new Canadian folk/country standard.
Of course Bluenose is an East Coast hit which could have come from Great Big Sea and been an automatic hit.
And he doesn't miss a beat on cuts such as I Count the Days, Redwood Giants or Man on the Porch.
Overall this is a gem folks. Find it. Buy it. Enjoy it.
Check them out at www.myspace.com/rayelliottband
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 20, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BROWNMAN ELECTRYC TRIO -- Juggernaut

JUGGERNAUT
Brownman Electryc Trio
Indie
9-out-of-10

The Brownman Electryc Trio are a treat if you like jazz. Their recent show at the ANAVETs in Yorkton was likely the best jazz I have heard live in Yorkton, and that means in more than a couple of decades.
Now I will grant you Yorkton is not a jazz hotspot, so the number of shows over that 20-years is sadly very limited, but that in no way lessens what this trio did that night.
Brownman himself did a great job of explaining his own interest in taking familiar jazz standards and twisting them with latin undertones, R&B and hip hop, creating something that while comfortable because they were known pieces, were also fresh and exciting because of the bold new treatments.
On Juggernaut Brownman uses the same sensibilities. He is a creative man with the trumpet, and it shows. Jazz by nature is usually rather free form, often explorative. Brownman follows that tradition but always the music seems to have been thought out. He is taking some roads less traveled, but you know he's at least looked at the map before hand to get an idea of where he's going, and how best to get there.
Of course the trip is often a leisurely one. There are only six songs on Juggernaut, but there's still nearly an hour of suburb jazz.
Red Clay, the last song meanders through Brownman's creative mind for some 15 minutes. It's an excursion which really let's him be the creative artist he desires to be.
Brownman is joined by electric bassist Tyler Emond and drummer Colin Kingsmore on the disk.
I have to add the CD comes with copious liner notes, a throwback to the past, which is a nice touch, and the cover art is stunning. In talking to Brownman it was learned the artist was found through an online contest, which is a modern marvel of interaction via the 'Net.
Overall, just great. Buy it.
Check it out at www.brownman.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 6, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SEVEN YEAR RIOT -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Seven Year Riot
Indie
9-out-of-10

Seven Year Riot must have read my mind in turns of hard rock when they headed to the recording studio to do this disk. I like heavy metal ... to a point. Once the vocalist feels the need to scream into the microphone I turn off in terms of interest.
But driving guitars and heavy rhythms are just fine, and that's exactly what you get with Seven Year Riot, well at least until they turn it down and give you a pretty rock number like Autumn Rain, which is a great cut. It's a strong vehicle for the vocals of Justin Forsyth.
Forsyth is joined by Jim O'Neil on guitar, Jarrod Oglan on bass and Jess Azer on drums in this Windsor, ON-based unit.
Of course they can crank it way up too and still hit the sweet spot. Stitched and Mended is great, and Headcase plane rocks.
Now yes, the CD comes with a parental advisory for explicit lyrics, so be warned, although on the comparative scale this is rather modest. Of course as we see on TV every show comes with a warning these days.
This is an exciting debut from a great new voice on the Canadian rock scene. Grab it and hold on.
Check them out at www.myspace.com/sevenyearriot
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 6, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE MOUNTAIN & THE TREES -- I Made This For You

I MADE THIS FOR YOU
The Mountain & the Trees
Indie
8-out-of-10

Jon Janes is what can best be described as a modern folk minstrel who performs his solo act under the somewhat strange The Mountain & the Trees label. Yes I know it sounds like a band, but when on the road, and his tour schedule is a busy one, he is on stage alone with his guitar.
From Newfoundland, The Mountain & the Trees has a sound reflective of his minstrel lifestyle. There is the feeling of a lot of road dust on many of his songs. You get the feeling of nights in the backseat of cars, the floor of friend's living rooms, and cheap hotel rooms, this guy didn't sleep until he had taken the time to scratch out a song on some small picture of life he had seen that day.
The results are childhood memories in Fear of Ghosts, love in Crossing Crows, and small town realities in Goodbye Little Town, the latter could be an anthem for a generation of young people living in small communities across this country.
Now while The Mountain & the Trees performs solo, as he did recently at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton, on the CD he has several musicians adding their talents to various cuts, and even some added vocals too. That's a good thing. The sound is certainly fuller on the disk.
That said a soloist can survive on the road far easier than a band, so it is easy to understand why The Mountain & the Trees has made the touring choice to go it alone.
Back to the recording, if you like life vignette, folk with what feels like free form poetic lyrics, this is it. The Mountain & the Trees has a knack for making songs which come across as photographs of a moment in time in life, the musicians, or the listeners. He may have lived it, or merely observed it, but there is an element of realism here because the listener can relate.
Very well done.
Check him out at www.myspace.com/themountainsandthetrees
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 30, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- KERRI SENKOW -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Kerri Senkow
Indie
6.5-out-of-10

Kerri Senkow,is really an interesting musical story.
When you get to know most musicians they relate stories of piano lessons at age eight and performing in church or school projects from an early age. Rare are singers which come to the craft after their teen years, but that is the path Senkow took.
"I've always wanted to be on a stage and perform since a child, but never started performing until I was 20," she recently told Yorkton This Week. "I started out in front of Regina Liquor Stores as a way to make money between jobs and found the response to be encouraging. In September of 2009 I took it beyond a few coffee shops and stores and was booking steadily and since made it my career."
Senkow is somewhat unique in regards to coming to music older than most do.
"I started playing guitar at age 19 with no musical background," she said. "Within two weeks of having no idea what I was doing, I had already begun writing my own songs."
So when Senkow's five-song EP disk arrived, it was one which admittedly was of guarded interest.
The CD is solid if not spectacular.
If you think about it being Senkow's first effort, and that she has limited experience, especially on the song writing side of things, the material comes out in a brighter light. A song like Washington is actually hauntingly beautiful, and shows just what Senkow can achieve. There is a slightly Evanescence quality to the song and that is high praise in my book.
That said, the rest of the disk lacks anything to grab you, and struggles to hold form. Graduation 2004 has a sort of country vibe when Senko sings, and more rock when a male gust picks it up. The harmonica work adds to the country flavour. The song is a miss-matched mishmash. On a five-song effort one bad apple is a very bad thing.
The remaining three songs are fine, although there is a sameness to the material that if it were to continue on a full CD would lead to monotony.
But, back to in experience. If she can build on a song like Washington, forget country even exists and stretch herself a few times, her next disk might be a pleasant surprise.
Check her out at www.reverbnation.com/kerrisenkow
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 30, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JUSTIN LACROIX BAND -- Le Gauche et le Droit

Le GAUCHE et le DROIT
Justin Lacroix Band
Indie
7.5-out-of-10

Justin Lacroix is a Winnipeg-based artist who performs in both English and French, his bilingual roots used to good effect on Le Gauche et le Droit.
Lacroix's website notes "The show is bilingual. But wait! This is a good thing. Since French and English come naturally to them, embracing both languages as they surface allows a true expression of the soul."
I have to say when you hear Lacroix doing French cuts such as En vélo and De plus, soul is a rather appropriate word in terms of describing the feeling of the music.
Le Gauche et le Droit is Lacroix’s second recording. It follows a solo bilingual recording (Boogieman-2005) which has sold 2000 copies to date, not bad for a Prairie indie disk.
The website also suggests the Lacroix band takes a rather natural approach to its music. "To play music the way it comes to you is how music should be made. This statement embodies the Justin Lacroix Band’s approach. Whether the style is folk, rock or funk, the band creates meaningful arrangements to offer heartfelt songwriting as a craft and labour of love. Highlighted by a tight-knit rhythm section, imaginative guitar riffs and sweet 3-part vocal seduction, the live show is authentic and uplifting."
Lacroix, who will perform at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton March 25, does a nice job of making his bilingual music accessible. He mixes in the French pieces allowing them to be enjoyed musically without becoming tired since there is a language barrier for a listener such as myself.
One to check out for something different.
Check him out at www.justinlacroix.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 16, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- OHAMA -- Earth History Multiambient

EARTH HISTORY MULTIAMBIENT
Ohama
Indie
5-out-of-10

All right, let's preface this with a note that I think I learned something with Tona Walt Ohama's Earth History CD, I am not a particularly big fan of what the artist terms electronic synthpop.
Now maybe I am missing something here, but what I end up hearing is rather bland, repetitious music which might find a home in an occasional elevator music loop.
A case in point is the opening song on disk #1, entitled Hello, appropriate when you consider the word 'hello' is probably used a hundred-plus times in the near five-minute song.
OMG isn't much different with "Oh My God" used over and over and over and … well you get the idea.
I can see the Alberta musician cringe, but this is very much an acquired taste.
When Ohama goes strictly ambient on Earth and Rebirth it’s better, although by then I had basically lost interest.
Now if you like this sort of music then Earth History is a good value, as a three-disk set. But, if you don't like it, it just extends the tedium.
Check it out at www.facebook.com/pages/Tona-Walt-Ohama
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 16, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- LAUREN MANN AND THE FAIRLY ODD FOLK -- Stories From Home

STORIES FROM HOME
Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk
Indie
7.5-out-of-10

Lauren Mann has one of those voices that tends to sparkle no matter whether a song has an upbeat, catchy sound, or whether she slows things down with a sadder tune. It's just a pretty voice which is a pleasure to listen too.
And, on her full CD debut Stories From Home, Mann certainly draws the listener in quickly. Lost in the Sound is the lead cut, and it's one of the best offerings on a very solid 11-song effort.
Stow Me Away contends for top honours as well, along with Lady in the Yellow Dress and Let's Go Into the Unknown.
The music is clearly folk at its heart, although one can see the influences of Mann's jazz training, and the reality of modern pop, adding brush strokes to the material.
"This album, Stories From Home, is a different sort of album," said Mann, who recently performed at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton. "It's a collection of songs that I wrote and recorded over the past few years, some on my own, and some with a friend in Calgary who had a studio in his basement."
The finished product is very good, and Mann is rightfully happy with it.
"I think that “Stories From Home” is good as a self-produced and mostly self-recorded album," she said. "I’m proud of the songs, and I’m happy with how it turned out ….
"It’s also a good starting point to continue with. I think that writing those songs has helped me develop lyrically and musically as a musician, and I hope that development will be seen on future recordings."
This is a disk which should find a broad fan base as it has appeal in material and style which really does cross the barriers of age.
Check her out at www.laurenmannmusic.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 9, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JACQUIE DREW -- Red Hot Candy Heart

RED HOT CANDY HEART
Jacquie Drew
Indie
6.5-out-of-10

Born in Nova Scotia Jacquie Drew moved west with her family at a young age where she took classical piano and grew into a career in not surprisingly country music given her new home in Calgary.
The Rolling Wind was Drew's debut disk back in 2008, and now Red Hot Candy Heart arrives on the scene.
It is interesting how some songs remind of others. Drew's Cowgirl That I Am is country, but I am reminded of Sonny & Cher's I've Got You Babe. Yep a strange connection, but there is something of the old TV show hit in the country song.
So how is the overall package of Red Hot Candy Heart?
With the title I had expected more of a southern, roadhouse-style country, but this is a rather mellow country effort. Stylistically Drew has a bit of a Crystal Gayle-thing going on. She doesn't exactly blow you away the way Gayle repeatedly did, but there are aspects of their vocals they hold in common.
There are times Drew goes in a bit of a different direction. Neither Would I is a song with a hint of jazz, and much closer to the pop line than the rest of the effort. In that regard it may be the most "marketable" song here, although in terms of country it is a bit of the square peg in a round hole too.
Cleaning Lady is a heavily jazz influenced cut, and that is good, or bad, depending on your country vision.
Generally Drew is solid, although she lacks the 'wow-factor'. The material and her voice are both fine, although remembering it a week from now may not be easy.
Check her out at www.jacquiedrew.com
CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 9, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JASON McCOY -- Everything

EVERYTHING
Jason McCoy
Open Road Records
8.5-out-of-10

In terms of Canadian country few names are bigger than Jason McCoy, who has had success as both a soloist and the mega-popular Road Hammers.
Well McCoy is back with a new CD, Everything, which hit the shelves March 1. He will be on the road in support of the new disk with a cross Canada tour, which will include a stop at the Painted Hand Casino in Yorkton March 18.
With the new disk McCoy shows that as a veteran of the country scene he knows the genre and country radio well.
That should not be a surprise since McCoy is a two-time CCMA Male Vocalist of the Year, and three-time CCMA Songwriter of the Year (SOCAN Song of the Year), for Born Again in Dixieland, Ten Million Teardrops, and Rocket Girl.
The experience means McCoy can write and sing a country song that has radio all over it, and he does just that with I’d Rather Be Happy Than Right, I’m Only In It For The Country Girls, and Little Bit Of Lovin’.
But McCoy is at his best when he shifts in down a gear (had to make a trucker reference with his Road Hammer fame).
The title song is a slower cut and I expected it would be the best of the CD when I first heard it. It's that good.
However, it comes in at second best pretty quickly after listening to Louisiana Law, a beautiful ballad, one with a rich storyline in the same vein as Seven Spanish Angels, and frankly just as good. This is the cream on this CD.
McCoy does not take any risks here. It's straight forward, modern country. It's made for radio. He goes from the toe-tapper, top down, running down the dirt road on a hot summer day song, to the kind of slow song you can hold your gal close with on the dance floor.
The risks are not taken, but then again what McCoy does simply works. There isn't a weak spot on the disk. This is a veteran showing off all he knows about making his way in modern country. Nicely done Mr. McCoy.
Check it out at www.jasonmccoy.com
— CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 2, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- NIKTEX -- The Power Of Yang

THE POWER OF YANG
Niktex
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

So you're a regular reader, and you know I tend to like music which pushes into new areas. There is something compelling about the effort to blend music in different ways.
That is the reason I was immediately intrigued by Niktex, a collaborative effort joining Nikole Texidor and Manjinder Benning.
The pair work at mixing electronics and Indian instruments into folk and jazz. The result is actually quite beautiful.
Texidor herself has a beautiful voice which would easily carry either jazz, or folk. It is the vocals which you immediately notice, and like -- a lot.
Benning adds the refreshing instrumentation, cajan, tabla, cast iron pan, to which Texidor at times tosses in her own efforts on cabasa, gourd and glockenspiel. The diversity of music here truly adds to the depth of the overall effort.
The song Irrationalities is one which truly shows the strength of the collaboration, and is one of the best songs here.
This is one of those CDs which will have a tough time finding a radio spot, but that is not a bad thing. It generally means the music simply doesn't fit the cookie cutter motif too well.
In this case ignore radio, and buy this disk direct. This is a fresh take on folk / jazz, and a totally enjoyable listen.
Check it out at www.niktexmusic.com
— CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 2, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Monday, February 21, 2011

Review -- DONNA GREENBERG -- Mav'Rik

MAV'RIK
Donna Greenberg
Indie
8-out-of-10

Donna Greenberg hails from Toronto, and Mav'rik is her sophomore effort.
Those not familiar with Greenberg, myself included until the arrival of this disk, she has a sound somewhere in the realm between jazz and Broadway show turns.
I love the old 1920's gravely male vocal opening on You're My Summer Peach. It is a nice counterbalance to Greenberg's own smooth vocals. There is some sweet horn work on the number too.
In terms of older influence, Old Country Road takes the listener back a few decades for its influence as well.
Greenberg likes to add mood with the opening arrangements of her songs. She does it with a sort of Medieval feel opening to the beautiful Nature's Glory. It is the prettiest number here, and the tin flute by Tom Skublics is a memorable aspect of this CD which will stay with the listener for a long time after the CD is put away.
Greenberg switches things up within the broad realm of jazz too, including the Latin La Nina de Rosa, which might seem a tad out of place, but stands as a counterpoint to the rest of the CD.
There is a gospel-inspired piece mixed in as well, with the song Praise Be.
You know how some voices seem ideally suited to a style of music? Well Greenberg's seems to be have been born to jazz. She sells all 12 songs via crystal clear vocals.
Jazz fans will like this, and the music is accessible enough, and Greenberg's vocals pleasing enough to satisfy a broader audience too.
Check her out at www.donnagreenberg.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 16, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DUSTIN RITTER BAND -- Dead Airwaves

DEAD AIRWAVES
Dustin Ritter Band
Indie
7-out-of-10

There is nothing more satisfying as a reviewer than cracking the seal on a disk from a Saskatchewan band and truly enjoying what I hear.
Thanks to the Dustin Ritter Band that was the reaction I had from Dead Airwaves.
The three piece unit, Ritter on guitar and vocals, Travis Reshaur on bass and Judd Stachoski, hail from Regina, and their indie rock music immediately caught my attention.
The opening song, No Avoiding This was an excellent intro into the CD and certainly set the scene for the rest of a very fine debut effort.
As you might realize by now, I thoroughly enjoyed this disk.
Not every song is a gem. Let's Pretend, Ltd. and Stuck in the Psych Ward, are not the best, but they are all right.
Broke Feet, Do This Thing and Swing for the Fence by contrast are the better cuts and show the potential of this trio.
Now the DRB is not likely to break huge, but they have a sound that would make them fun live, and will likely get them some university radio play.
The disk might not be on a must buy list, but when you factor in the Saskatchewan connection, I'd suggest you give them a listen.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/dustinritterband
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 16, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MICHELLE OWEN -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Michelle Owen
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

Amazing female vocalists and Canada are almost synonymous, regardless of the genre of music you like. Names from Chantal Kreviasuk, Sarah McLachlan, Celine Dion and K.D. Lang come to mind amid a long list.
Well Michelle Owen hails from Toronto, and if her debut self-titled disk is any indication, she may soon be pushing her way into a listing of top Canadian female vocalists.
This girl is only 18, but two things are clearly evident in this disk, one she can flat out sing. Owen has a voice beyond her years. She knows how to control her vocals, to make them carry the emotion of the music.
More remarkable is the maturity Owen shows in writing both the music and lyrics throughout the 10-cut disk. On many of the songs Douglas Romanow has co-writing credits, but on some she does solo. Impressive indeed.
Songs such as Who Made It So and Holding On are hits among a particularly strong debut disk.
The musicianship behind Owen is also top-drawer, including guitarist Sean Ashby, who has worked with McLachlan in the past, and has played 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer and the Yorkton Legion in the last couple of years.
This is a disk which should be sought out since it is going to be the launch of a very impressive career.
Check her out at www.michelleowenmusic.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 9, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ABSOFUNKINLUTELY -- Blues Kid City

BLUES KID CITY
Absofunkinlutely
Indie
8-out-of-10

If you ever get to thinking Saskatchewan is devoid of diversity on music, then toss Blues Kid City by Absofunkinlutely (short-form AFL) a band out of Saskatoon which really has its roots a long way from the snow-covered Canadian Prairies.
The band tags its music as "stubble-funk, Prairie-disco, reggae-rock and northern soul" on its Facebook.com fan-page, and I would say yep, that about covers it.
Some American funk, is tossed in with disco — yes that horrid mistake in music made popular by the Bee Gees, although why that happened speaks more of a comatose decade of listeners than good music — then AFL adds a reggae undertone and you have it.
The music comes across most noticeably as funk, although the idea of northern soul works on some of the material, like the lyrics of Soul Sucker.
The group includes Geoff Assman on keyboards, Shaun Dyck on bass, Mike Pierce on drums, with Randy Woods the vocals and guitar.
On the disk the sound is enhanced with the likes of Sheldon Corbett on sax, Kevin Marsh on trombone and Adam Streisel on trumpet.
This is an excellent CD, made sweeter because it's sort of an unexpected effort to come out of Saskatchewan.
The best cut is Take Me Back, a slower-paced love song which brings the music and vocals together to best advantage.
What I Want has a bit more of the reggae-feel, at least in certain elements of the piece.
Overall this would be a fun party band, with generally upbeat music, that has an infectious beat.
For sure this is one to check out.
Check the band out at http://afl.fm/
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 9, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ROB MOIR -- This Is The Life

THIS IS THE LIE
Rob Moir
Indie
6-out-of-10

Rob Moir is one of those artists who really gives a reviewer such as me headaches.
On one hand I can't honestly say his vocals do 'it' for me. The voice isn't one which exactly pleases my ear. That is the reality of reviewing. Sometimes a voice and a listening ear just don't jive.
Then we come to a song like A Love With No Past, and there is some older time country blues going on as an overlay to the song, and suddenly Moir hits a spot that works better for his vocals.
Let Me Down Easy has some '60s country blood too, and again suits the vocal qualities of this Toronto-based singer/songwriter better.
In terms of his own vision of music Moir said, "I love good song writing and artists that take chances, that’s anyone from Neil Young to Frank Turner. I feel that my music is honest and sincere. My lyrics to me are funny is in this subtle way, and very tongue in cheek in a poetic way. I’d say fans of bands like The Weakerthans or Whiskeytown would dig it."
The disk is only a five-song effort, so getting a complete feel for his music is a bit difficult. There are some samples here which suggest if Moir heads down a road leading to more of an old country-blues vein of music he will do well.
If he chooses to go more modern, the vocal style just doesn't work, at least for this listener.
You can of course decide that for yourself Feb. 10, when Moir will play live at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton.
You can also check him out at www.myspace.com/rdmoir
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 2, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CATHERINE LEWANS -- Kickin' Up Dust

KICKIN' UP DUST
CATHERINE LEWANS
Indie
7-out-of-10

For those wise enough to have attended the Saskatchewan Country Music Association's songwriter's circle at the Yorkton ANAVETs Club recently, they will remember Catherine Lewans a country gal from southern Saskatchewan since she was one of the seven musicians taking part in the event. If you like country music it really was the place to be.
Lewans, whose hometown is Shaunavon, is a to-the-bone country girl. Her music leaves you feeling and believing this girl knows how to ride a horse, and what it means to do farm chores. Many can sing country, but fewer make it feel real by having lived it. Lewans is one of those.
In terms of song writing Lewans draws on two areas, both of them long a mainstay of country music, country life and her faith.
In Lewans case both seem rich places to draw from.
It is obvious Lewans draws on her faith in life. While not fully gospel, there are songs here which are at least influenced by songs which praise faith.
It is equally obvious Lewans can look out her window and see songs waiting to be written. She sees the simple things in life, the ones we tend to take for granted as the stuff of a song. She puts words to the simple joys of our lives.
The result is country which should resonate with anyone who had ever been a farmer/rancher. It should make you see a part of Saskatchewan.
This is a nice CD in that regard. It might not have 'hit' stamped on it, but it's still a disk which should make the listener smile.
Check her out at www.myspace.com/catherinelewans
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 2, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SHANE PHILIP -- Life. Love. Music

LIFE. LOVE. MUSIC.
Shane Philip
Indie
7.5-out-of-10

All right I'll admit it, when I saw that Shane Philip was noted because of his use of the didgeridoo in his music, I was immediately intrigued, and curious.
Musicians who are willing to walk slightly different musical paths in this world are always of interest, and generally to be applauded from my perspective.
So when Sacred, the CD's second song started with a somewhat eerie didgeridoo segment, I was hooked. Frankly I would have started the CD with this song. I love it both for its instrumentation, and also for the slightly stark lyrics.
It might be with some obvious hyperbole but Philip's bio on his website at www.shanephilip.com gives you a sense of his music. "Swelling in primordial pulses and wholloping whoops, the tacit tones of Shane Philip's didgeridoo hold the power to still listeners into silence or encourage audiences to rise up in a tribal swell of intoxicating spirit," it states.
However, as much as I love the didgeridoo work here, Philip sometimes misses the mark on the overall song. January 28 is an example where he simply took the entire lyrics and rolled it in the sugar bowl to the point of being overly sweet.
In general terms Philip keeps things very upbeat here. He has a rather sunny outlook on life, which can run a bit counter to a curmudgeon like myself.
Then the Vancouver-based artist tosses in a song like Exodus, and he catches my attention again. The Afro-beat element and instrumentation sell this song.
In that respect there is sort of a taste here for everybody, but maybe the overall effort isn't quite tilted one way enough to completely satisfy the sugar fans, or those liking their music a tad darker.
The CD is one I have to suggest people give a listen, although a point of the rating belongs to the didgeridoo rather than the overall impact of the music.
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan 19, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JEAN BOOTS -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
JEAN BOOTS
Indie
6-out-of-10

All right I'm going to start this week's review with a little beef about some CDS and suggestion to artists.
Jean Boots (aka Jeanette Stewart) has a CD with a really nice CD cover, a painted piece of a girl and a dog. The trouble is there is nothing on the cover which suggests the CD title, or artist.
If you are hugely famous that can work because you have a media engine and promotions crew to let the world know who you are.
But put this CD into a store, and a casual music shopper can't pick it up, read the name and go 'oh yes Bill was talking about this artist the other day'. When you're trying to carve out a niche, don't create barriers to finding your music.
Now back to Jean Boots' CD. Once you open the package you will find a six-song effort by this Saskatchewan singer/songwriter, who performed live in Yorkton recently at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer.
The lady can write a nice song. She certainly has a modern poet's heart.
The lyrics on this pop-folkish CD are quite good. A listener wants to take the time to really get into the words of the songs here.
Vocally, Jean Boots seems to be finding her way on that side of the CD equation. There is a tentativeness here which at times seems to hold the music back. At times she lets it go, and the songs soar, but at other times she seems to pull back, and hides her voice away. It's as if there is still some fear in just trusting her own voice.
Wishing Well is best vocally here, although I like the lyrics to Postcard and Hopeless.
On a follow-up CD Jean Boots just needs to let it all out. It will help the finished product.
Still this is a simply produced, sweet musical endeavour which is worth a listen.
Check her out at www.myspace.com/jeansboots
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan 19, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- STEVE WAYLON -- State Of Mind

STATE OF MIND
Steve Waylon
Indie
7.5-out-of-10

I suppose if you are going to be a musician and your name is Waylon you are pretty well guaranteed to be a country singer.
And so it is with Steve Waylon who comes to the country scene from his small town roots in New Brunswick.
Now this was an interesting CD in the sense I gave it its first listen while plugging away at a story on the Yorkton Terriers. I mention that because sometimes you get a feel for the impact of music when multi-tasking. Does a new song suddenly have you stopping whatever else you are doing because it completely catches your attention? It has certainly happened to me over the years, although not with State of Mind.
It was actually a case of when the CD finished, I made the mental comment 'is it over already?'
That might sound like a bad thing, and in some respects it is. The songs here are all in tight formation regarding their style. This is country which owes much to the likes of Waylon Jennings and as such one song follows in lockstep with the next. There are no hairpin curves where Waylon shifts up or down several gears. He just finds a nice country pace, and stays with it.
When played as background to other efforts, nothing stands out too much.
But, Waylon wants you to spend time with his music. His strength is his lyrics.
Waylon can bring out the emotion on a song such as To Have That Dance, the best cut on the disk, but you need to let yourself into the song. You have to be there with Waylon listening to the words.
Songs such as No Deposit No Return and Big Train kick it up a bit, and require less emotional involvement because of that fact, but they are also not the top songs either.
Certainly when Waylon has a sad story to tell, when he slows it down a bit, when he goes a little less 'radio-friendly', he is at his best.
Still overall, I like this disk. It's straight ahead country, and shows a lot of promise in the newcomer from the Maritimes.
Check it out at www.stevewaylon.ca
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan 12, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JONATHAN SEET -- The End Of The Beginning

THE END OF THE BEGINNING
Jonathan Seet
Indie
6.5-out-of-10

Jonathon Seet has one of those mellow approaches to music which really relaxes the mind as you listen.
In some cases the music has a sort of classical / Queen-esque feel, such as the song Who Is The Man, but generally you can label this pop / rock, although the artist himself adds the adjective 'melodramatic' to his description of his music on MySpace (www.myspace.com/jonathanseet ).
Born in Canada, and now living in London, UK, Seet's music is a tad heavy in mood, all of it rather like a cloudy day. Maybe the famous fogs of London influenced his writing.
That is not to say the music is bad. In fact the title cut and If the Last Kiss Made You Cry are fine tunes. The problem, at least the potential problem is that by the eighth song you are so far down the emotional scale you just crawl into bed and stay there for the rest of the day.
The lyrics aren't actually that dark, but Seet can compose some dark musical canvasses. In that regard you really have to credit Seet. There is something of a classical mentality to his writing, and that is encouraging.
The aforementioned title cut is the best effort on the disk, although there are no real weak spots either.
An interesting CD worth a listen.
Check him out at www.seet.ca
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan 5, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- PIRATE FRIDAYS -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Pirate Fridays
Indie
6.5-out-of-10

Pirate Fridays is a band out of Saskatoon with a sound I'm still trying to put a reasonable label on.
Money But Monsters and Monsters are examples of songs which really mash several styles together into something which still works musically. There are strong pop and electronica elements as a foundation, although you get a little dash of Celtic somewhere in the undertones, and the band itself has tagged itself folk / hip hop on its MySpace page and that sort of fits too. (www.myspace.com/piratefridays)
Then we hit Aquaphonix and hip hop clearly takes the lead, although they sprinkle a dash of jazz into the mix.
The lyrics of Aquaphonix are interesting, and a long way from the suggestion of folk the band makes.
If it sounds like Pirate Fridays is all over the board on this seven-song debut, you'd be partly correct. The band certainly pulls from a lot of different musical covers, yet they do mange to keep it a cohesive effort.
In general terms I sense some Captain Tractor / Arrogant Worms musical mentality here, albeit less Celtic and more pop / hip hop at its heart.
The sound while, not completely unique, I doubt any music truly deserves that label anymore, is still quite different. For that alone Pirate Fridays is worth a listen.
This isn't going to blow to the top of any chart, with the possible exception of some college stations, but it's still a rather refreshing musical effort.
Check them out of MySpace and Facebook.
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan 5, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- LINDSEY WALKER / DREW MALCOLM -- Prairie Nights

PRAIRIE NIGHTS
Lindsey Walker / Drew Malcolm
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

Ever put a disk on the player and with the first strains of a singer you were beforehand unfamiliar with you knew you were in for something special?
That was really the case when I played Prairie Nights for the first time.
When Lindsey Walker first released her voice on Living On The Floor, I was pretty much sold on her as a singer. This girl flat out has a great set of pipes.
The duo of Walker and Drew Malcolm hail out of Edmonton, and they play music which has elements of folk/roots, particularly in the lyrics, with a blues heartbeat.
After the stunning opening cut it would have been easy to say this was Walker's show. However, when you hear the guitar work carrying elements of Crawling Back To You, the CD's second effort, you see this is a full partnership effort with both adding the enjoyment. That of course stands to reason considering they partnered on writing five of the six songs.
Yes, sadly this is only an EP effort. When the music is this good you quickly find yourself wishing there were a few more songs.
This is a hugely satisfying disk, and most certainly a duet worth listening too.
Check them out at www.myspace.com/thelindseywalkeranddrewmalcolmband
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec 22, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CORY WEEDS - The Many Deeds Of Cory Weeds

THE MANY DEEDS of CORY WEEDS
Cory Weeds
Cellar Live
8.5-out-of-10

When it comes to jazz music in Canada few artists are any more prolific than Cory Weeds on the Cellar Live label. It no doubt helps with recording that Weeds is the man behind the label, but in this case self-promotion is a good thing.
The Many Deeds of Cory Weeds is the fourth recording of this fine saxophonist I have reviewed in this space since mid 2008. The previous disks, including the most recent Everything's Coming Up Weeds, reviewed almost a year to-the-date ago, have all been impressive, scoring consistent eight and higher scores.
There is certainly nothing about The Many … which is a step backwards.
The disk starts off with a near 11-minute ride called Juicy Lucy, and it sets the tone for a very upbeat, joyful and entertaining jazz effort.
One of Weed's strengths here is creating long winding musical tapestries. There are only eight cuts on the CD, but six of those venture over the eight-minute mark, and four push on to eclipse 10-minutes. The listener is allowed to sit back and really get into the flow and mystery of the music.
Weeds is still only 36, but clearly a jazz veteran. Listening to The Many … I have to wonder just what might yet be coming from this talented musician? After this effort, wherever he chooses to take his jazz, it's likely to be a good destination.
With Weeds it is rarely easy to pick a favoured tune. This guy really is a poster boy for consistency. This time around is no different, although Fim De L'Affaire has that smoke-filled bar-feel that perhaps sets it just a bit above the rest.
Weeds and his tenor sax are joined here by Chris Davis on trumpet, Joey Defrancesco on Hammond B3 organ and Byron Landham on drums.
Definitely a disk work having if you like jazz.
Check it out at www.cellarlive.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec 22, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DRIVE SHE SAID -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Drive She Said
Indie
6-out-of-10

There is no music I would rather review than that produced here in Saskatchewan. There's a certain level of pride in spreading the word about musicians trying to carve out an audience in a province of only one million people.
That does not mean every disk from Saskatchewan is golden.
Drive She Said hails from Moose Jaw, a four-piece alternative band which has released a five-song EP as a calling card.
In some respects this disk is one which could be held up as an example of what's going on with the industry these days.
CDs are far easier, and cheaper to produce than a decade ago, so bands often rush to get one out. That is not surprising since artists like to share their work, as a writer I appreciate that, and CD sales after shows are often the gas money to the next gig.
However, that doesn't mean the music is always quite top drawer quality.
There is nothing startlingly wrong with the five songs here, but then again there is nothing that has the listener getting anywhere near going Wow!
The overall sound is sort of, well OK comes to mind, but if you are a radio programmer OK probably won't get you airplay outside your hometown either.
Yes, this is a first disk, but in some respects that makes it the most important disk a band ever produces. It's the one handed out to promoters and reviewers and station DJs. It's the first impression, and the line between hot new band to watch and OK but rather generic is often a fine one, and you want to be on the right side of that line after the first CD is cut.
So what we have here with Drive She Said are some OK cuts, such as Choose Your Poison, Sunday and Another Shade of Grey. None are going to chart, but they aren't terrible either. They are 'OK'.
Still to support Saskatchewan talent I'd say pick up the disk and hope Drive She Said gets on the road to a stronger second disk.
Check them out at www.facebook.com/DriveSheSaid
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec 15, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SCOTT DUNBAR -- Philosophies Of A Moth Vol. 3

PHILOSOPHIES of a MOTH Vol. 3
TWO YEARS TO LIVE
Scott Dunbar
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

As a reviewer I have come to appreciate the quirky, different, strange, whacked and wonderful, in part because the idea of becoming 'normal' scares the joy of life out of me.
So when a CD arrived in a cloth sleeve my interest was pretty well peaked.
That the artist Scott Dunbar, out of British Columbia termed himself a one-man band also created interest.
Now I recognize many indie artists are multi-instrumentalists on their CDs, laying down the different tracks in small indie studios as they create works of passion, but most don't broadcast it as a calling card the way Dunbar does.
So I slide the disk in the laptop, plug in the earphones and wait in anticipation of something good.
There are two disks here, My Boy's Gonna Play in the Big Leagues, the first into the player, and then One Man Band, and they did not disappoint.
Dunbar is a gravely-voiced folkie, whose vocals grab you pretty quickly. There is definitely a touch of Bob Dylan going on here.
Even the lyrics are a bit Dylan-esque. Rocking Chair is an example.
"They're gonna tell you that life is a rocking chair
So they can leave you chained up
At the bottom of the stairs."
Dunbar is like that. He paints stark pictures with his words, making commentary on our world in the process. He gets what being a folk artist is all about.
So through songs like Ain't Mama, Dance Like A Devil, and The River, he simply gives us what is the best elements of his craft, throaty folk with a message.
If you like folk, or want to find out what makes the genre one to withstand the changes of time, look up this artist. Very good indeed.
Check him out at www.scottdunbar.wordpress.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec 15, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ANNIE GALLUP -- Weather

WEATHER
Annie Gallup
Waterbug
8.5-out-of-10

Annie Gallup might not be a familiar name to many, but what she is a veteran musician.
Weather is actually Gallup's eighth disk dating back to 1994. That is a rather substantial resume for any musician.
Weather is my first introduction to Gallup's music, and I will say the immediate reaction is that she is a songwriter first.
Late is a prime example. It is a poem set to music, a poem filled with emotion, pictures painted by the words. It is a delectable piece. It is easily my favourite song.
On a song, or more accurately, a voiced poem set to music, Gallup has a nearly ideal voice. A tad dark, sort of sultry, yet clear. She delivers the words flawlessly, clearly, perfectly.
Unmapped World has some of the same elements as Late, although she mixes the poetry with more musical elements. Again the pictures she creates are compelling ones.
Gallup has things of consequence to say, and she delivers her message through her lyrics, poetry and music. As a listener you can't help but listen and enjoy.
Check her out at www.anniegallup.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec 8, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- EVAN WESTERLUND -- Stir Crazy

STIR CRAZY
Evan Westerlund
Indie
8-out-of-10

It was back in March 2008 a country album; Howlin' At The Moon, by Evan Westerlund impressed me to the point of earning a 9-out-of-10.
Westerlund is one of the more interesting musicians I have been associated with through years of doing reviews.
To start with, locally people might recognize the name since he is a former Yorkton Terrier netminder, having played with the Junior franchise back in the 1980s.
Of course Westerlund is a long way from Yorkton now. He lives in Sweden. Yes that's not a misprint. He is in Scandanavia, not exactly where you expect country music to come from.
But, that hasn't stopped Westerlund who channels his Western Canadian roots well in putting together his sophomore recording effort.
In many instances musicians often fall off a bit with their second CDs. After a lifetime of music to draw a debut disk from the cupboard gets a bit bare for a follow-up.
Westerlund, who pens a fine country story song obviously has a rather full shoebox of material to draw on.
No, Stir Crazy may not be quite as good as the debut disk, or at least not to my ears two years later, but there is still plenty to enjoy here.
Who's Gonna Take Care of The Horses? is one of the best songs here. It has some nice additional vocals from Amy Courts, and the pedal steel work of Robby Turner takes it a step above the average.
I love the intro to Springtime in Nebraska, and the story of a twister the song tells is well put together. It is simply a great song.
The title cut is a radio-friendly, hit in the making.
Overall an excellent effort by Westerlund.
Check him out at www.evanwesterlund.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec 8, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE KERPLUNKS -- Walk On

WALK ON
The Kerplunks
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

Talk about a quick turn-off on a CD. The opening 1:30 cut on Walk On sounds like an extended radio advertisement for the band. I’m not sure what they are trying to accomplish with a self-serving piece called The Kerplunks, but it misses the mark for me.
Yes I do realize The Kerplunks are a band performing for children, but even with that audience Swim Like a Salmon, Eggs, Dino Rap, or Horns? would all have been far better choices to open the recording.
To the credit of The Kerplunks, many of the songs, including Swim Like a Salmon are ideal for active participation, which is a great way to keep children moving. That’s a plus.
The Kerplunks also don’t skimp on instrumentation here just because it’s a CD for children. There is the upright bass, highlighted in the catchy, jazzy Big String Bass, banjo, the trumpet, trombone, clarinet, baritone and drums.
There is a touch of education here, such as Dino Rap, which is catchy, active and mixed in are snippets of knowledge.
And of course kids will be singing along rather quickly here, especially on songs such as So Many Bugs.
While my kids are past this music, I can say I wouldn’t have minded it being played nearly as much as many of the limited children’s efforts out there.
Check them out at www.thekerplunks.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 24, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- Q.E.D. -- Sometimes A Cigar ... Is Just A Cigar

SOMETIMES A CIGAR … IS JUST A CIGAR
Q.E.D.
Indie
6.5-out-of-10

In interviewing Q.E.D. front-man Ra for a feature in the Nov. 17 edition of Yorkton This Week, I found out the band has a rather diverse range of influences, although with the common thread of rock. Their stated influences included; the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Tool, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, U2 among them.
However, Ra himself said as a band they simply “play rock and roll.”
That was good to hear. I rather like the idea of rock bands which aren’t looking to add some adjective to the term rock to describe what they are doing musically.
Q.E.D. also has an international flavour. Both Ra and percussionist Sandy Fernandez were born in India, and the band’s bassist Lance DeLeon is originally from the Philippines, with Shawn Nelson, lead guitarist from Terrace, B.C.. The diversity of home country had me hoping there would be more cultural elements to the music, but in the end Sometimes a Cigar … Is Just a Cigar comes across as very North American-sounding.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with having a North American rock-style, Q.E.D. could benefit from offering something a little different. As a typical rock band they come across as somewhat ordinary, and rather uninspired to my ear.
Floating On Freud comes closest to rising above the rest in terms of pushing the packet just a bit musically, but one song can’t by itself lift the CD to move than average status.
The Glitch, the first single release from the CD is likely the most marketable of the tunes, although I personally like Thinking About You as best on the recording.
Check them out at www.qedmusic.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 24, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- KIM FONTAINE -- Blue Sky Girl

BLUE SKY GIRL
Kim Fontaine
Indie
9-out-of-10

I have enjoyed Saskatoon’s Kim Fontaine's music in the past. Her Life Happens CD was an 8.5 back in June 2007. At that time I was rating her CD among the best Saskatchewan artist efforts in my collection (one day I need to do a top-10 list).
So, given enjoyment from the Life Happens CD I was very curious to listen to Blue Sky Girl, a disk Fontaine had more than three years to put together. I was intrigued by how she may have evolved as an artist in that time, and whether she could punch a second CD into the top ranks of Saskatchewan music.
So I spun the disk with some rather heady expectations.
The first song on the disk was interesting given my thoughts on this artist.
I was impressed with her vocals on the earlier disk, but less so with the lyrics. On the opening cut Puzzles & Pieces I thought the lyrics were a pretty honest poem regarding someone giving themselves over to another; “giving you all my pieces tonight - every little part of me is coming your way tonight.”
Vocally though, I thought Fontaine was off just a bit on the opening song.
The good news by the time song two starts; Never Too Late, the vocals I fell for in 2007 are back.
And with song three; Help, Fontaine is back in the pocket. Her vocals are fantastic, and in my mind she shows her growth as a songwriter too.
Still overall, it’s Fontaine’s voice that I like most here. She has a voice that at times is less feminine, and that gives it a uniqueness that is enjoyable.
There are improvements here, although she can still grow as a writer. I was impressed with the words to Things I Do For Money, then looked to see Jay Semko was among a quartet of writers on the song, so that pretty well explains that.
Still the lyrics of Postcard From Pincher Creek shows she is growing in that skill.
While overall Blue Sky Girl rates near her earlier work, it doesn’t quite give me the same WOW!, perhaps because of anticipation. Very good, and worth having, just not quite a top-10 pick.
Check Kim out at www.kimfontaine.ca
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SHELI STEVENS -- Come Home

COME HOME
Sheli Stevens
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

I was not familiar with Sheli Stevens until the disk arrived and went into the player.
I must say from the opening cut; Still the One, Stevens vocals caught my attention. There are some voices which simply put are easy to listen too, and I have to say Stevens’ is one of those.
That’s a good thing, since she really holds your ear through the 11 songs here.
Certainly some songs catch your attention more. In particular Where Does It Go? struck me. It has a catchy hook, the song title, and you are quickly part of the performance.
Stevens is a pop performer, although really pop today means something of a melting pot-style music.
As an example Lucky Man could be on country radio with about two pen strokes to change a note here and there.
There are also definite elements of jazz, or show tunes here too. That isn’t bad, it’s just what pop is these days.
As a pop effort Come Home has a lot of songs with catchy melodies. That too is sort of a foundation of the genre.
So it takes about one spin for you to be singing along with songs such as Too Late. That immediate familiarity is generally a good thing. When a song has a hook which gets the listener involved, it creates a connection, and music should connect to the listener.
When you take hook-laden songs and a voice that is a joy to listen too, you pretty much have a winning pop effort, and Sheli Stevens has both.
There might not be a song here that will be remembered a year from now, another trend in pop, but for the time you spin it, you will enjoy it.
In the terms of pop, this is good pop.
Check out the CD at www.shelistevens.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JIM BYRNES -- Everywhere West

Everywhere West
Jim Byrnes
Black Hen Music
8.5-out-of-10

Since his 1995 release of That River, Jim Byrnes has been a favourite of mine. I totally loved that CD, and still rate it among the best blues disks I have reviewed.
Now Byrnes is a versatile performer, and his 2008 release House Of Refuge was more gospel in nature, and still earned a 9-out-of-10.
Last June Byrnes was back on the review pile with My Walking Stick which was and eight.
Which brings us to Everywhere West, Byrnes newest release.
The disk seems a little bit between pure blues and gospel, two musical styles which actually have a lot in common.
Hot As A Pistol starts the disk, and it’s certainly blues.
Then Byrnes switches gears a bit, and gives us Yield Not To Temptation, a song while bluesy, is also very much a gospel effort.
Then it’s back into pure, old time blues with Bootlegger’s Blues.
Overall the new effort is more a blues album. In that respect it might be most closely related to That River among Byrnes’ recent efforts, and for me that is a good thing.
I truly enjoy Byrnes clear vocals, and relaxed approach to the blues. It comes across like he’s sitting across the living room strumming his guitar and singing to the listener directly. That sort of musical intimacy is not always easily achieved, but Byrnes seems to pull it off effortlessly.
As I stated to start, I was a fan from the time of listening to the first disk I heard from him, and now into the fourth solo CD I have reviewed from this Canadian artist, my view has not changed. Still a favourite.
Check him out at www.jimbyrnes.org
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 3, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DAVID NEWBERRY -- When We Learn The Things We Need To Learn

WHEN WE LEARN THE THINGS WE NEED TO LEARN
David Newberry
Indie
9-out-of-10

There is always greater interest in doing reviews for musicians I have been lucky enough to see live, so David Newberry’s disk was one I was definitely looking forward to listening to. In this case it helped that Newberry’s performance Oct. 21 at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton was one of the best nights of live music that has occurred in Yorkton, at least those shows I have seen, in months.
Newberry has a friendly approach when performing live with stories connected to many songs which allow him to interact in a natural way with the audience.
Musically, Newberry is a minstrel of old seemingly reincarnated for today. He is a natural poet, able to capture stories and emotions easily with his words. You can mark this guy as one of the better songwriters of the current folk world in Canada. Truly excellent with songs such as All of My Friends are Famous, a song with a political message that speaks back to songwriters of the 1960s.
Performance wise, Newberry can deliver his songs as good as it gets. I was talking to Dale Winnitowy after the show, who himself reviewed music for years, back in the ancient age of LPs and 8-tracks. He has been a music fan for decades. The conversation soon had Newberry’s performance likened to Bob Dylan when you could still understand the words Dylan was singing.
Now I’ll admit comparing someone to the great Dylan may be a surprise for some, but Newberry can wear the mantle easily. You hear the similarities in the lyrical approach, the vocals and the way both artists speak of the world they see around them.
This is without a doubt a disk worth owning, and if Newberry is playing near you in the future, take in the show. You will be glad you did.
Check him out at www.davidnewberry.ca
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 3, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada