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

Review -- PETE VAN DYK & THE SECOND HAND BAND -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Pete Van Dyk & the Second Hand Band
Indie
6.5-out-of-10

Pete Van Dyk also appeared at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer Oct. 6, and he could learn a few live performance tricks from tour partner Zachary Aasman.
Whereas Aasman toned back his guitar to afford listeners easy access to his vocals, Van Dyk kept the guitar amped up, and that often buried his vocals.
That of course is not a problem on the self-titled CD, where the mixing can keep the vocals and instrumentation in balance.
Of course comparing Van Dyk’s live and CD performance is not a direct comparison since the disk has him backed by The Second Hand Band, whereas life he went it alone.
The disk gives a far better representation of Van Dyk’s music which while folk-based, has a broader feel to it.
The musician himself likes the recording, his first.
“I’m quite happy with the CD, it offers a good representation of our styles from folk, to blues to country to rock with even a bit of soul/gospel,” he said.
There are certainly some good cuts here, Tryin’ to Get Away from the Law arguably the best of the bunch, although Van Dyk himself suggested his personal favourite is Evangeline.
Overall a nice effort which is actually better than his live effort, which is somewhat an exception to the rule.
Check it out at www.petevandyk.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 27, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ZACHARY AASMAN -- Mountain Bluebird

MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD
Zachary Aasman
Indie
8-out-of-10

If you are a regular for music at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton, and you should be if you like alternative folk, you will no doubt recall Zachary Aasman who played at the local coffeehouse back on Oct. 6.
Aasman is a full-fledged folkie. He doesn’t add any additional caveats to his style. He tells stories with his music, in the fine tradition of troubadours going back to Medieval times.
When it comes to folk singers the first measuring stick is how well they write lyrics. The music must at least have a story to it, and often there is a message included in the song too. A folk lyricist must be able to look at the world around him and be inspired by it. The music needs a ring of truth to it.
Aasman does that well.
As the musician said himself, “the writing process is a funny thing. I believe for everyone there is a different process. In my case there is none. Most of my songs just seem to come out of nowhere, or if they do come from somewhere it’s a sight on the road, a line in a song, or a theme in a book.
“I constantly write songs in my head and then if I remember them down the road I figure they are good enough to put out there.”
Songs such as Righteous Man, Sam Hill, Gold Miner and Tombstone Grave are fine story songs. Tombstone Grave is clearly the best song on the disk.
Once a folk musician has the songs on paper, he has to be able to get them across to the listener. That means he has to focus on his vocals. The instrumentation takes a back seat.
Aasman keeps his voice at the forefront on the disk. Live, he was wise enough to keep the guitar quiet enough that his voice was able to reach the listeners in the intimate setting of the coffeehouse.
Check out this fine effort at zacharyaasman.bandcamp.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 27, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- WORKHORSE KINGS -- Carousel

CAROUSEL
Workhorse Kings
Indie
6.5-out-of-1
0
The Workhorse Kings are an alternative, blues, rock unit out of Illinois.
Their CD Carousel didn’t start out as well as it could have. The song Let Me In is not the strongest on the disk. In fact the immediate reaction was sort of hoohum as the first song played.
No Explanation Necessary is a bit more upbeat and toe tapping, and that helps as a second cut, but the jazzy, sort of cruise liner lounge sounding effort is still far from the best cut.
Can’t Look Back, the third song, a cut with something of a salsa flavour, finally gets the disk into a better vibe, although I fear some will have already abandoned the disk as sort of blase before getting this far into the music.
Certainly the Workhorse Kings are solid at their best, but there are still some soft spots here the listener has to endure to find the better cuts.
Songs like Waiting For Love work, and let lead singer Dan Dougherty be a bit angrier at the microphone and he benefits from that opportunity.
Overall, the disk is interesting in place, but falls short a bit too much to be a high recommendation.
Check them out at www.workhorsekings.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 13, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JOHN RUTHERFORD -- Echo Broadcast

ECHO BROADCAST
John Rutherford
Indie
8-out-of-10

The opening strains of Echo Broadcast, the single which doubles as the name of John Rutherford’s debut CD hint at something just a little different from the norm.
By the time you get through the 11-song disk you realize what sets Rutherford and the disk apart from most performers is his vocal style.
It might be best described as a vocal approach owing much to the likes of Hoagy Carmichael, with a bit more gravel in the gullet.
Rutherford blends jazz, folk and blues and delivers it in a near conversational way laid over his music. It’s a style which won’t be for everybody, but I find it freshly different in an enjoyable way.
That conversational style is most evident on Bud’s Guitar Store, a very nice story song. It’s a good one.
This is truly the music of a small dark, smokey bar.
A song such as Hoodoo Man drips with the dark waters of some bayou where the gators are big, and the zombies of some voodoo priest patrol the night. And yet, it is really a love song. Now that’s simply cool. The cut is the best here, slightly better than the fine title cut.
Musically, Rutherford does some sweet things too, in particular on the funky Crows as Big as Airplanes.
This is a disk which impressed from start to finish. You can’t go wrong searching this one out at www.johnrutherfordmusic.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct 13, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CHEYNE KOHL -- I'll Miss You Tomorrow

I’LL MISS YOU TOMORROW
Cheyne Kohl
Indie
7-out-of-10

Out of Moose Jaw we have Cheyne Kohl, an artist with an easy listening, pop style.
This is music where Kohl delivers his lyrics in a laid back, relaxed fashion. The instrumentation is kept simple, a background support to his vocals. The result is a disk which is easy to grasp, easy to understand, easy to listen to.
The CD starts out with the solid Maybe I Should Leave, a nice opening since it is stylistically typical of the entire disk.
As Kohl progresses, there are subtle changes. On I Won’t Look Down he opens up the playbook a bit and goes with a bigger, near orchestral sound.
Then he immediately down shifts to the slower-paced song; The Rain. This one is a love song which Kohl uses as a calling card for his vocals which clearly carries the emotions of this song. It is easily the best cut on the disk based on Kohl’s voice which carries the emotion of the song flawlessly.
This young man has a knack for using instrumentation to good effect, and balancing it with his vocal capabilities, the result is this is a CD well worth investigating.
Check it out at www.facebook.com/ckohl
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept 29, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ERIN HALEY -- House On Fire

HOUSE ON FIRE
Erin Haley
Indie
7.5-out-of-10

If Canada has a heart of country music is likely beats in Alberta, at least since Ian Tyson has been around.
There are however, certainly many other country voices coming out of Alberta, and some of the new ones are likely to become as well known as Tyson. That’s saying something today when mainstream country radio is enamoured with the latest one-hit wonder, Nashville clone.
There is a resistance from radio to dare to offer a voice which is a little bit different, or forbid the idea of playing a Canadian voice simply because it’s Canadian. They should be the conduit to helping launch careers.
So all that brings me to Erin Haley, a new voice out of Barrhead, AB. Vocally, there is such a bit of a different country twang here, and guess what, it works.
The CD is rather interesting. The lead cut, Waiting For the End of the World, is upbeat, and catchy. Haley has led with a cut which grabs attention. I’ve always said that is critical. In this one, the chorus is catchy. The instrumentation is big. The lyrics painting a picture not usually drawn by country artists.
That Haley has taken the road she did with Waiting For the End of the World, the orchestral violin work is totally unexpected, and broadens the piece so much, let’s you know she’s a bit of a risk taker.
Haley then shifts into Right Where You Left It, a more traditional take on current, upbeat country.
There are 12-songs here, and generally Haley does a solid job on every one. She balances radio savvy, with just enough twists to make it interesting, and with her voice, it all comes together nicely.
Definitely a country effort worth listening to.
Check it out at www.erinhaley.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept 29, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- KILLINGER -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Killinger
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

There is little better in the world of music than good old guitar-driven, in your face rock. I’m not talking about music screamed into the microphone so that you need liner notes to have a clue what the lyrics are, but just good old rock that flirts with the sound of groups ranging from Kiss to AC/DC and Metallica.
Say hello to Killinger, a throwback to the heyday of real rock.
The lead cut, We Are Here could be a Kiss anthem.
Then they blast us with Never Change, this is a cut with a bit more of a symphonic metal undertone.
From there Killinger just keeps at it. This is a band that live would no doubt leave your ears ringing for three days, and you’d love that they did.
The band hails out of Alberta and features Dave Williams on vocals, with Kevin Morin on guitar, R.J. Killinger on bass, and Chris Challice on drums. Remember the line-up, Killinger should break out from among the pack based on this solid debut effort.
I’d mark it a must for cuts such as The Gun and Got To Have You.
Check them out at http://killingerrocks.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept 8, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MICHEAL J & THE BLUE WOODS BAND -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Michael J & the Blue Woods Band
Indie
7-out-of-10

This is one of those CDs which I can honestly say I’ve been waiting for for years. Michael J. (Woods), and his father Will and uncle Michael F., are local Yorkton-connected musicians who I have had the fortune to follow for a number of years.
I can recall doing a story with the band when they played at an event at York Lake years ago, and I did a story with Michael J, when he first penned the song Twenty-Five in response to a murder in our city.
So I’ve known these guys can play music for a long time, and have known they were wanting to finally give their music a wider audience by cutting a disk.
From the perspective of watching a band grow, it has been interesting for me as a writer and reviewer (you can actually find a story on the band and this CD in the Sept. 1 edition of Yorkton This Week).
So has the wait been worth it though?
I’ve given that question some considerable thought, and for the most part I would say yes, although there are some song choices here which I do have to question.
I’ll start with the Potato Song. It’s penned by Barry James Strocen and is one of those humour songs which doesn’t quite seem to fit the rest of the material. As I told the band when interviewing them, I would have suggested the song be included as a hidden track at the end of the disk. It is something other bands have done with fun songs.
Stuck in the middle of the CD I am less impressed with it.
This is also a bluesy/rock-influenced album, but the band ends the CD with Amazing Grace. It used to be the norm for country performers to end a recording with a gospel piece, but on this style of CD it’s a bit unusual. That said, vocally Michael J. is in the zone on the song, and it actually stands out for that reason.
And finally there is the best song here, Twenty-Five. It’s new to a disk, but not new to my ears, which does lessen the impact, although the lyrics are so powerful, and locally relevant it’s still easily the best effort here.
Certainly one to buy to support local music.
Check it out on Facebook under Michael-J-the-Blue-Woods-Band
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept 8, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- KYLER SCHOGEN -- Electric Life

ELECTRIC LIFE
Kyler Schogen
Indie
6.5-out-of-10

It’s been a while since I’ve had a blues CD to review, but this week that changes with Kyler Schogen’s Electric Life.
Schogen is out of Edmonton and offers up a disk of 13-cuts. He has penned 11 of the songs, the exceptions being the inclusion of Willie Dixon’s 29 Ways and Jumpin’ Jack Flash from the team of Jagger and Richards.
Schogen is actually a veteran blues man having played with Slowburn since the mid-1990s and with his own band, having recorded several CDs with the duel units.
The music is that sort of good-timing blues which gets the toes tapping. The music has the sad side of life lyrics, but the music suggests tossing the negativity and having some fun. Schogen does a good job of offering up that take on things.
A fun blues CD disk, which not the best I’ve heard this year, has its charms for a summer drive.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/kylerschogen
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept 1, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CHIN -- D'Tach

D’TACH
Chin
Indie
6.5-out-of-10

I have reviewed a lot of disks in what is nearing 20-years as a journalist. So one thing I always appreciate is a CD which makes me go ‘OK that’s different’.
Chin’s D’tach fits that. The guy takes some interesting risks here, like the intro to Julian’s Fiya which has a little child doing the vocal to a song which ultimately comes across as a pop song with that sort of swaying around a campfire singing at night sort of feel.
The solo artist here is Chin Injeti, a native of Toronto, now living on the West Coast in Vancouver and at times Los Angeles.
In Toronto Chin was a founding member of the group Bass is Base, which was a Juno award-winning group which sort of opened the door to many urban artists.
“Having toured and shared the stage with the likes of James Brown, The Fugees, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Nelly Furtado and The Marley Family and also being a recipient of a songwriter of the year Socan award and a Much Music Video Award, Chin has established himself as a mainstay in Canada as both an artist and producer,” explains his Myspace page.
With D’tach you have a definite feeling Chin decided that as a veteran of the music trade it was time to do a disk which comes across as more personal. You have the feeling Chin did this disk for himself, and if others enjoy it, that is simply a bonus of sharing his own musical interests.
The result is a bit of a mix actually.
Separated with The New Royales sharing vocals is a hit in the making.
Don’t Shake It Down on the other hand is at best an acquired taste which may have many clicking jump on the CD player in search of the next track.
Love Is Not War with Zaki Ibrahim featured vocally is another solid song that can find radio listeners.
K’Naan helps out on Mask On My Face.
While there are a few gems, there is a bit of gravel here too, but that should be expected on an album which feels like something as much for the artist as the audience. From that perspective I respect his choices.
Check it out at www.chinschunes.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept 1, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ECLECTRIP -- ... A Musical Journey

… A MUSICAL JOURNEY
Eclectrip
Indie
9-out-of-10

I love it when CDs come across my desk which offers more than I expected. Such is the case with Eclectrip’s offering … A Musical Journey.
From the cover it was rather obvious this was fiddle music, and since it comes out of Alberta I expected some rather traditional sounds. While old-time fiddle music can be just fine, Eclectrip uses that style only as one ingredient in a rich blending of what becomes fiddle-based fusion.
The band’s website explains “EclecTrip is an explosion of sound and energy that explores the essence of a variety of styles including roots, world beat, jazz, folk, Celtic rock, and more!”
The key is how they do it so well.
From the opening French-Canadian Medley, through the beautiful vocals of Allison Granger on Is This Love to the cut Dance From Maramaros, this disk just works the way it blends the traditions of several fiddle cultures with modern music sensibilities.
This one is a definite treat folks.
Check this out at www.eclectrip.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 25, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JAY SEMKO -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Jay Semko
Indie
8-out-of-10

It is interesting how time evolves the music of some musicians.
Saskatchewan’s Jay Semko is certainly one such artist.
Most readers over the age of 40 will remember Semko as one of the driving forces behind the rock band The Northern Pikes, who still do gigs as many of the bands of that era, Streetheart, Trooper, The Stampeders still do filling a thirst for the old rockers out there to recapture a bit of the past.
Aside from the Pikes Semko has had a solo career, while not having him fill stadiums, has meant a series of really fine CDs.
The best of them might still have been Mouse, a CD which really showed the modern poetic side Semko.
It was softer than the Pikes, but still pop/rock/alternative in nature.
With follow-up CDs such as Redberry and International Superstar, Semko began slipping toward the country side of things, a journey now pretty much complete with his recent self-titled effort.
I am not sure what the transformation will mean for some fans. This is not the music of the Pikes, and I’d love him to do Mouse II, but you know, in the end, Semko can do two things; he writes good lyrics, and he can sing.
When you are able to do both with the level of skills, and the input of heart Semko does, the music ultimately wins out.
On this one Semko is helped out on several songs. Kelly Brock chimes in on Nobody’s Watching and Let’s Wake Up the Moon, the latter song being a very nice one. I mention Brock because she is memorable among the hundreds of CDs I have reviewed. I didn’t like her disk, and she was quite upset with the low rating, vowing not to send me her future disks. You know I can’t say I’ve lost sleep over that, but I do remember it.
Then there is Canadian veteran Patricia Conroy helping out on That Kind of Blue. She is a musician always up to accommodate the media.
The same can be said of Semko. We email on occasion on Facebook, and follow each other’s artistic effort.
In this case Semko is solidly country, and not the Nashville tripe either. There is some element of ‘real’ here that works.
The first single release to radio is Comeback Kid, a rockier piece that has a good beat.
For sure one worth having. Check it out at www.jaysemko.net
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 25, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BLAKE BERGLUND and KENNEDY RODEO -- Ends Of The Earth

ENDS OF THE EARTH
Blake Berglund and Kennedy Rodeo
Indie
7-out-of-10

It is interesting how different live performances and recordings can be.
Blake Berglund, a country singer who grew up in Kennedy, SK., but now living on the West Coast, recently performed in Yorkton at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer. It was an acoustic show, with just Berglund and a beat up guitar, complete with a hole in the front and a significant crack from being used as a drum. You could see it being carried on horseback on a ranch, played at the campfire at night.
The show had Berglund paring his music down to its most basic. There was a sort of 60’s feel to the country music, and it was great.
The CD though is a full band effort, leaving the country more ‘plugged-in’. It has a more modern country feel. That isn’t always bad, but I much prefer Berglund and his guitar alone. A recording off the floor in Yorkton would likely have garnered an easy extra point on this review.
Either way, Berglund does write some fine lyrics including Dragging Angels, As Fast As We Can, and Dirty Red Bandana.
A solid country effort from a performer who is very personable when performing live. Check him out at www.blakeberglund.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 18, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE BRAVEST GHOST -- The Sparrow And The Seed

THE SPARROW AND THE SEED
The Bravest Ghost
Indie
7.5-out-of-10

The Bravest Ghost is the current stage persona of Sean Craib-Petkau, one of Yorkton’s more prolific musicians. This is his second ‘Ghost’ recording, and he previously recorded as Welcome to Reykjavik.
The first Ghost CD was reviewed here in May, and garnered an eight. This disk is in the same general range, although at times there is a rawness here which seemed less evident on the first disk.
Craib-Petkau said he changed stage names because his music changed. The music as the Ghost is more reflective of himself. He is holding up a mirror to who he is and sharing some of what ticks inside him with the listener.
That is a big step for any artist, and in this case the music takes on a darker feel. This is a melancholy effort, which demands some emotional investment from the listener. What that means is this is a disk which gets better with multiple listens. The lyrics start to leave their impression, which is rarely achieved with one spin.
This is also something of a mood recording. It takes you to some places you might find cause a tear or two, so beware.
I must also say Craib-Petkau, as a young musician, he’s only 19, is very self-aware in his music. When leaving the disk for review he suggested ignoring Cracked Concrete. It is a song which doesn’t quite fit stylistically.
He also picked the song Three Ghosts as a favourite, and again he got it right. It is the best of a very nice overall effort.
Sure it is self-recorded, and that leaves a sort of earthiness to it, but for a strongly folk-influenced, modern essence CD that is just fine.
This is one well-worth seeking out. Check it out at www.myspace.com/thebravestghost
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 18, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SCOTT BENSON -- Self-Titled

SELF-TITLED
Scott Benson
Indie
9.5-out-of-10

When you put a CD on the player and the first song reminds of Enter the Haggis you should be darned excited.
So when Scott Benson’s self-titled album started with Moshin The Floor, a Gaelic-inspired piece, mixing in a sprinkling of classical guitar, I was hooked, and ready for a great musical experience.
To Benson’s credit he did not disappoint.
I suppose I could sum up this album in one word - Wow!, and just leave it at that, although the review wouldn’t exactly fill a lot of space in the newspaper.
However, I would suggest if you love Celtic music with a bit of an experimental edge, just forget the rest of the review, get on your computer, go to www.scottbenson.ca and order this disk.
For those still reading, when I say edgy, Benson, a fiddler by trade, really does push the musical form at times. As an example Streets of Gold actually has a rap element with vocals from Philly 5. I am so not a rap fan that I rarely review it. Here though Benson makes it work.
The Darkness Befalls the Light and Roses and Reincarnations are more traditional, but Benson, who had his hand in writing both, shows he has a modernistic approach to crafting Celtic music.
Overall, the CD is just plain fantastic. Very highly recommended. Just buy it.
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 11, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CODY PREVOST -- Get Loud

GET LOUD
Codie Prevost
Indie
7.5-out-of-10

I’ve always been a proponent of a musician hitting the listener with one of the best songs on a CD as the lead-in cut. You want to win over people off-the-bat, especially radio programmers and us fickle reviewers.
Apparently Codie Prevost has the same vision, cause he comes out shooting on his latest release Get Loud.
The first song on the disk is the very solid Rolling Back To You, a likely radio hit in terms of the new rockified country.
Then you hit Honky Tonk Groupie. Turn down the windows, hit a country road, turn up the CD player and enjoy. This is a hot summer’s day hit.
Actually Prevost has created a perfect compliment to a summer road trip. The disk for the most part just rocks out on catchy country riffs.
The title cut being another prototypical hit country hit which is infectious. A toe-tapping song.
That is not to say Prevost, now a veteran of three CD releases, can’t slow it down.
I’m Okay eases back on the gas and shifts down a gear, with a slower love song of lovers parted by the miles. It is a great change of pace from the driving country cuts which starts the CD, and is a definite emotional winner. The sentiment is touching, and the artist delivers it well.
In terms of modern country, Prevost does it well, although there are times he does blur the lines between his country and pop rock; in particular on the cut Standing Still.
Then Prevost ramps it up again with Cruising Song, which actually isn’t as good a cruising song as the aforementioned ones, but it does take him back to his high gear where he is very comfortable.
As a bonus on the CD Prevost does give us his take on the classic Cotton Eye Joe, a nice extra track, with the added vocals of Katie Love Hess.
Overall a great country CD for the highway.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/codieprevostmusic
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 11, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ROOT -- "What I Like"

“WHAT I LIKE”
Root
7-out-of-1
0
The man at the heart of Root is Terry Blankley, a bluesman from Ontario who has become one of my best music contacts from afar. I can pop this guy an email and know I’ll get a response. I suppose it has something to do with Blankley’s past connection to our city. He actually grew up in Kelvington and attended St. Joe's in the city in 1964.
It was in April 2009, I reviewed Blankley’s Invitation To The Blues, a disk I enjoyed very much, and Money Talks way back in 2007.
With “What I Like” the disk is more of a compilation, although Blankley takes the lead on the first four songs, then shares performance credits on three more songs.
The disk also includes work by Mike Tabares, Alex Paris, Laura Paris, Paul Schofield and John Meydam.
The CD really seems to hit its stride with the jazzy Jarvis St., a Blankley piece filled with mood.
While this CD lacks the one, or two killer cuts to really get you into it, and has an overall feel of something pulled together by friends as a fun project, it is still pretty solid.
Set You Free by Tabares is an interesting piece, and Oshawa Blues, which bring all the players together is kind of cool too.
Overall, not bad at all, although not a top-10 of the year either.
Check it out at www.adsavs.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 4, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ZACHARY LUCKY -- Come And Gone

COME AND GONE
Zachary Lucky
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

Zachary Lucky is a performer who comes by his talents honestly. It is literally in his blood. Lucky is a grandson of Smiling Johnny who along with partner Eleanor have performed one end of this country to the other for decades. Johnny passed on earlier this year, but I am sure he watching his grandson’s music career grow.
Johnny would have reason to smile listening to Come and Gone.
As stated in an earlier review of Lucky’s Maps & Towns which earned an 8.5, he “is a performer who combines a sort of folk-based approach, with soft rock, and at times a sort of country song writing sensibility. The results are songs which catch the listener as they are delivered by Lucky's fine voice, and simple acoustic guitar work.”
Lucky continues to show those same elements in Come and Gone.
The true key for Lucky seems to be his relaxed delivery. The music comes across with a simplicity which has you feeling he is in the room with you, or that you are both sitting around a campfire, and that Lucky is simply sharing himself with you through song.
As an example the song Sins of My Father feels deeply personal, like a secret shared between close friends. For a performer to accomplish that is rare, and Lucky does it throughout the CD.
As a favourite, I might choose O Ontario, which could be a theme song for the province. Very beautiful piece.
Local music fans will want to be at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer Aug.6, where Lucky will be promoting the new CD. Check it out.
Lucky’s website is www.myspace.com/zacharylucky.
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 4, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- B.D. GOTTFRIED -- The Warden's Picnic

THE WARDEN’S PICNIC
B.D. Gottfried
Indie
8-out-of-10

The Warden’s Picnic is the latest release from B.D. Gottfried, now a seasoned veteran of the recording studio, it being his fifth disk, and a follow-up to the 2008 release The Element of Left. The Element was given a 9-out-of-10 here in April 2009.
The newest effort might be a touch off the lofty brilliance of the earlier effort, but only marginally so. It may also be a case where I now have a higher vision of the artist he has to live up to.
Gottfried has also proven a prolific music maker, his first solo effort Disrythmia having released as recently as 2004.
The strength of Gottfried’s music is the lyrics. They’re written with a straight ahead, in-your-face, sensibility. They are also written in a heavier vein. Gottfried may like butterflies, but he realizes they often ended up splattered on a car windshield, and he’s not afraid to tell that tale.
The result is a rather deep and dark album with wonderful songs such as Madeleine. While I might rate this song the best, by the thinnest of record grooves, (for those of us who remember records), it really is one of 10-strong efforts.
Gottfried delivers his lyrics with clear, vibrant vocals. He clearly has written words he wants listeners to hear and he makes sure he delivers them that way.
I have grown to appreciate Gottfried’s music which in approach at least reminds of Meatloaf, a huge favourite of mine.
Mark this one a winner and must have.
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 28, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE ARBITRARYS -- Anticipation Is Our Destination

ANTICIPATION IS OUR DESTINATION
The Arbitrarys
Indie
8-out-of-10

Some of you will remember The Arbitrarys from a recent feature on the band in these pages.
Others will be among the fortunate to have attended the band’s performance at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in the city.
For the rest, the band’s CD Anticipation Is Our Destination may well be the entry point to experience this band which hails out of British Columbia. The disk has actually been out a while, but like a lot of indie music is not as well known as it should be based on its contents.
The Arbitrarys tag their music “melodramatic popular”, which I suppose is simply their way to focus attention on the fact the music is a little darker, the lyrics a little more of despair than rainbows.
There is nothing wrong with looking at the world with a slightly darker tinted pair of glasses, and The Arbitrarys have a knack for doing it well.
The band is made up of Naomi Kavka on guitar, piano, vocals, and even cello; Josh Sandu, guitar, vocals, piano; Justin Arding, drums; and Robyn Miller on bass.
Having both a male and female vocal lead certainly adds something to The Arbitrarys.
Both Kavka and Sandu bring a strong presence to their individual vocal work, and their voices blend nicely for harmonies; such as on So … and I Don’t Know, the latter being maybe the best song among the seven here.
This is a CD with a darker mood to it, without being obsessed with death and destruction, the mood coming from the general vision of our world complete with its warts. It is also a fine effort, well worth mixing into the collection.
Check them out at www.myspace.com/thearbitrarys
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 28, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DENNI LEE HAYES -- Reflections

REFLECTIONS
Denni Lee Hayes
Indie
6-out-of-10

Denni Lee Hayes is a country singer out of Calgary who has recently released her debut country album Reflections.
This is an album which you can tell has been a long time dream for Hayes. The music has that feel of being heartfelt to the artist, although it doesn’t necessarily resonate with the listener in quite the same way.
As regular readers will know I am a huge proponent of a performer putting their best song at the start of a CD, to make sure listeners are hooked.
Well sadly Just A Cup of Coffee, the lead cut here is not that particularly strong, or memorable. A far better choice would have been Little Black Dancin’ Dress, a song with some old style fiddle work. It’s a throwback number which has radio airplay potential.
I Promise You This, with Stan Hitchcock adding some male support vocals, is another older-style country song which is among the best on the album.
The country music field is a crowded one these days, and a singer/songwriter really needs to find a way to carve out a niche and Hayes hasn’t really done anything here which will make her memorable beyond the general masses of country music.
Check it out at www.dennileehayes.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 14, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CELLESTE -- Ready To Fly

READY TO FLY
Celleste
Indie
8-out-of-10

I suppose Celleste might best be described as something of a throwback, at least in terms of her approach to music to her debut album.
When she moves into a slower, moving song such as Best I Can, there is a definite touch of Blondie in her vocals. This is a true gem of a song. There is a ton of emotion in the way this lady carries the moving lyrics.
In generalist terms Celleste’s style is an older rock one. There are elements of blues, folk, pop and straight ahead rock, which is reminiscent of the tunes of the 70s.
Take the song Drive. There are riffs here which speak to the Eagles in their hey day.
This lady has obviously spent a lot of time in her Montreal home listening to old 8-tracks, or at least disks of older rock, and she has done a nice job of making that older style her own.
Interestingly, enough years have passed that now the approach comes across as rather fresh.
Falling has a bit of a Whitney Houston thing going on, and is another song where Celleste really lets loose with the emotion of the music.
It is also impressive Celleste has chosen to record four songs which extend more than four minutes, including the CD title cut which wraps up the album and rolls out at more than eight minutes. Such songs speak to wanting to play the music, and not worry about being radio friendly. I like seeing that from an artist.
As for the cut Ready To Fly, the artist release talks about it having a Supertramp element to its approach, and she is right. An interesting effort indeed.
Overall Celleste has a definite throwback feel to her music, and that works just fine for me.
Check her out at www.celleste.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 14, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CHAD EBY -- Broken Shadow

BROKEN SHADOW
Chad Eby
Cellar Live
7.5-out-of-1
0
I have come to realize anytime I see the Cellar Live label on the back of a CD it’s likely to be a fine effort.
I can ensure you Chad Eby’s Broken Shadows does nothing to change that view of the label.
If you like saxophone driven jazz, you are going to like this disk. Eby handles a saxophone in a smooth, pleasing way.
Joined by Steve Haines on bass and Jason Marsalis on drums, the trio is solid, but the disk gets ratcheted up a notch as it features the fine guitar work of Doug Wamble on I’m Still Here.
Branford Marsalis is on board with tenor saxophone on Epitaph I (For Dewey Redman) and Sentinel. It’s a nice touch, not surprising when you consider Marsalis penned Sentinel.
Eby has his hand in writing some of the material here; Mira, Little You and four Epitaph titles. He then mixes in work such as Duke Ellington’s Sunset and the Mockingbird and The Single Petal of a Rose to good effect.
As a complete work this is a fine saxophone jazz effort which is well worth adding to a collection.
Check it out at www.cellarlive.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 21, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canad
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Review -- DAVID MYLES -- Turn Time Off

TURN TIME OFF
David Myles
Indie
6-out-of-10

There is a style of music which comes across a little bit like cotton candy at the fair. It’s sort of fluffy, generally sweet, and you generally only want a taste once in a while. The style usually comes through when a performer marries pop and jazz.
And that is just what David Myles does on his latest release Turn Time Off. The disk is not Myles first as it follows Things Have Changed (2006) and On The Line (2008).
As one conversation noted as I was working on this review, Myles works are going to at least draw some broad comparisons to current sensation Michael Buble. Myles isn’t quite in that same category in terms of power and charisma in his music, but the styles are at least residents of the same neighbourhood.
The music here deals with old, tried and true themes for the jazz/pop genre, those of love and relationships, both successful and failed. That’s where songs such as Out of Love and Run Away find their roots.
In some cases the songs have an infectious nature. Gone For Long has some nice guitar work, and arguably the best lyrics here, raising it above the norm among the 11-cuts.
That said, there is a general ‘sameness’ to the work here. The material all stays on theme, almost too much so, leaving it difficult to remember one song above another.
So Far Away does stray off the general course of the CD with a more bluesy sound, but the song isn’t particularly strong.
Overall this is an OK disk, if you like poppy jazz, but like the aforementioned cotton candy it is not something you are likely to want everyday.
Check it out at www.davidmyles.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 21, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- FIRE NEXT TIME -- Wild Rose Sorrow

WILD ROSE SORROW
Fire Next Time
Indie
8.5-out-of-10

Fire Next Time were also at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer June 27, and while they played first, usually suggesting the later band was the night’s highlight, these guys stole the show for me.
Normally a five-piece band, in the confined quarters of the coffeehouse Fire Next Time pared down to a three-piece acoustic unit for the night, and I tell you it worked.
The CD has a fuller sound, as they rock it up with bass and drums which had the night off in Yorkton, but the lyrics really came to the forefront with the limited band.
James Renton, who is the band’s lead vocalist, also is the band’s main writer, and he can write folk-inspired, dark imaged lyrics with the best of them.
River City Blues, a song they said is about Edmonton is a gritty piece with the essence of Bob Dylan in his hey day. To me it is the highlight of the 10-song CD.
Of course if you are Irish, you might tip your hat to Black and Tan instead. It’s a dark ballad that is a fine effort.
Mexican Train is another outstanding song on the album, as is Chorus of Crows.
These guys may not be the most radio-friendly band, but darn they play outstanding music, and this is a CD to find and own.
Check them out at www.myspace.com/firenexttimemusic
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 7, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review - AUDIO/ROCKETRY -- Eastward + Onward

EASTWARD + ONWARD
Audio/Rocketry
Indie
7.5-out-of-10

A few lucky people in Yorkton who were at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer June 27, know first hand just how good Audio/Rocketry is. The band headlined a three-act show that night, and showed a stage energy which was infectious in the intimate coffeehouse atmosphere.
What those who were not out for the Sunday night show missed was a band which had a sort of ‘Prairie-fied’ Great Big Sea sound.
In talking to the band after the show one other reviewer had drawn the comparison, and had suggested that was a detriment.
To me it is not.
The band, which hails from Alberta, has a sort of East Coast sensibility to their sound, and the energy of Great Big Sea, and that means they’re fun.
The Prairie aspect comes at times from elements which remind a bit of the Corb Lund Band.
Now if you think about the two aforementioned bands, a common element is energy, and Audio/Rocketry brings that by the bushel. I’m sure there was a scuff mark or two on the floor from the foot stomping of lead singer Joe Vickers.
Vickers has a nice folk/indie/punk voice, and really carries the music with its generally upbeat approach.
The CD has 14-songs, so if you missed the show you can get a great feel for this energy band by grabbing the disk.
Favourite cuts include Gypsy Gal, Hallelujah Halifax (for its pure energy), Ramblin’ Shoes and Two Chords.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/audiorocketrymusic
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 7, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ALLISON BROWN -- Viper At The Virgin's Feet

VIPER AT THE VIRGIN’S FEET
Allison Brown
Indie
9-out-of-10

Bluegrass seems at times to be a lost form of country music. Well from the opening strains of Viper at the Virgin’s Feet you learn it’s alive and well, and in good hands with Allison Brown.
All the Birds opens the CD and it’s simply a great folk/bluegrass penned by Brown, who has her hand in writing five of the songs here, as well as arranging a few of the traditional songs among the 12m including In My Time of Dying and Calling My Children.
I also like The Nice Guy and When Will I Wake Up by this talented lady.
For a bit of different element, Brown also offers up her rendition of the country classic Pancho & Lefty. It’s a nice addition to the mix here.
Mr. Valentine’s Dead by Kevin Quain is a great cut here too.
Brown has achieved a good mix of music here, giving us something new, something familiar, and then the traditional material which has Brown’s own twists.
Overall this is a truly amazing bluegrass disk. I look forward to hearing this lady live. It should be a true treat. Mark it as a must have.
Check it out at www.allisonbrown.ca
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 30, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- HAL BROLUND -- Little Box Of Sadness

LITTLE BOX OF SADNESS
Hal Brolund
Indie
8-out-of-10

If you are a blues fan in the Yorkton area you likely recall Hal Brolund. He used to be better known as Manitoba Hal, and performed at the Painted Hand Casino back in the day they offered blues nights.
Well, Hal has since moved to the East Coast, dropped the ‘Manitoba’ for obvious reasons, and has also found a new love, the ukulele. Yes I said the ukulele. For most of us the small stringed instrument conjures memories of school, where the ukelele was used as a sort of primer to the guitar.
In terms of musicians who play the ukulele professionally, well there was Tiny Tim and the Hawaiian star Don Ho, but generally we think of it as something of a novelty instrument.
Well listen to Little Box of Sadness and you find out a couple of things rather quickly. To begin with Brolund takes the music he plays with the ukulele pretty darn seriously.
And, secondly, the ukulele works nicely for the sort of roots blues music Brolund performs. I suppose that should be obvious when you consider the music is generally a music of the common people, and the ukulele would be an affordable, easily carried instrument.
The CD has eight songs, six by Brolund, including the best of the bunch Call of Angels, and the fun Line & Pole.
Built 4 Comfort by the great Willie Dixon is also included, as is the traditional Somebody On Your Bond.
This is a real solid, enjoyable roots blues CD, played with an instrument not often thought of, giving it something of a unique feel.
Definitely worth checking out to add to one’s CD collection.
Check it out at www.manitobahal.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 30, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BIRDS OF WALES -- Belgravia Hotel

BELGRAVIA HOTEL
Birds of Wales
Sparks Music
9-out-of-10

When you see a band which states on its MySpace page it is from Toronto and Vancouver, and then lists its music as indie / folk rock / regional Mexican you immediately wonder exactly what you might be listening too.
Well folks you get a rather intriguing musical sound, and you hear that immediately with the opening song My Lady In July. It’s a love song that I know belongs to those special women out there, like my wife Dixie. Yes a selfless plug, but she deserves it. We men often don’t tell them that enough. I know that is the case with me, and this is a little something for the special lady.
But back to Belgravia Hotel. The music is often moving, and the vocals of Morgan Cameron Ross are powerful in the level of emotion he puts into songs such as Uninteresting, another beautiful song from the Birds of Wales.
Actually the Birds have a knack for lyrics which are filled with love and heart-tugging lyrics. Winter Reminds Me of You is another song which could be an anthem for love lost. Cameron Ross is the songwriter too, and it’s a sure bet he loved, lost and felt the lost deeply -- we all seem to end up there sometime -- and he captured it in this song.
Emotionally the Birds of Wales do ask the listener to invest, but then again that is what good music is supposed to do.
Belgravia Hotel is for rainy days, and the longing of love. For such occasions it’s perfect.
Check them out www.birdsofwales.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 23, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE WARPED 45s -- 10 Day Poem For Saskatchewan

10 DAY POEM FOR SASKATCHEWAN
The Warped 45s
Indie
8-out-of-10

The Warped 45s come out of Ontario with a rock sound heavily influenced by Americana-folk, the result being a very easy to listen to sound.
Yorkton music fans will have the opportunity to learn that for themselves if they head down to The Spot June 25, as the five-piece band is booked into the local venue.
The band’s CD 10 Day Poem for Saskatchewan, a near five-minute cut which is the lead-in song on the disk, is a great effort.
There are 13-songs on the disk, and frankly they are all very solid rock efforts with a style which reminds a bit of some of the best CDs from the Eagles.
The music has a rock sensibility in terms of how the 45s approach things, but they let folk control the lyrics.
The combination results in well-written songs with a solid beat to keep the listener tapping toes to the music, while digging into to the vocals to here the stories laid out through the lyrics.
As far as top cuts, it’s hard not to point to the title based on its Saskatchewan ties. However, there are a number of good songs here. Leader of the Lost Expedition, Two Month Old Apologies and Why Oh Why are a few to pay a little extra attention too.
A definite must.
Check them out at http://thewarped45s.com/wordpress/
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 23, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- FIVE STAR TRAILER PARK -- Dark As The North Atlantic

DARK AS THE NORTH ATLANTIC
Five Star Trailer Park
Indie
8-out-of-10

Last September I reviewed The Fight That Broke Your Heart from the Toronto-based band Five Star Trailer Park, and enjoyed the fact they were a rock band which played rock, not some derivative of the genre chasing a niche listening market.
Well the good news here folks is the band has stayed the course and are still just a good rock band,
There may be a touch more polish here than on the previous effort, but then again you would generally expect that based on the experience gained with the earlier disk.
Dark As The North Atlantic starts off with the solid Set Fire To Me, a catchy rock song.
The band shows a touch of Celtic heart, sort of a Captain Tractor-ish feel on Two Shots Across My Bow, the song from which the CD’s title is drawn.
This disk is a little slower than the earlier work. Five Star has infused a bit more emotion into the work here. Where Were You? is an example of the passion of the album. A very solid cut. The song really shows off Nick Spence’s vocals, the front man for the band.
The disk offers only eight songs, but they are a solid eight, and in a world were rock usually comes tinged in some fashion, this band is a great listen simply because you get lyrics you can hear vocally and music that has some rock passion to it.
The band is a six-piece unit, so there is a big sound when they want to put it out there.
Check them out at www.fivestartrailerpark.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 16, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- AARON PRITCHETT -- Thankful

THANKFUL
Aaron Pritchett
OPM Records
8-out-of-10

In the realm of Canadian country there are lots of solid performers, but none rate much higher in terms of solo acts than Aaron Pritchett.
Give a listen to his latest disk Thankful and you will understand why.
This guy just has those smooth-as-silk vocals which make his music special. As they say this guy could sing a grocery list and make it sound good. It’s just that he has a voice made for music.
Surprisingly though it’s not a voice which is memorable in some respects. Often the voices we best remember have a few warts, Waylon, and Johnny Cash coming to mind.
That said, every time you spin this disk you are going to be -- yes Thankful (I had to write it).
There are some interesting takes on familiar themes too. Hell Bent For Buffalo is a love song which revolves around the theme of driving through a snowstorm. A bit out of season right now here, but something we can relate to as well.
The smooth vocals Pritchett offers up so easily does fit the love song, so he does offer up several cuts which track love in different ways, as example the radio-friendly Unraveling.
Speaking of radio, September will get lots of airplay I would think. A nice tune.
The good news here too is that there are no weak spots, and with 13-songs that says something.
Check him out at www.aaron-pritchett.com where he actually has a forums section to allow fans to interact. While forums are widely used on the Internet, it isn’t often musicians and bands use them as a way to connect to fans and allow those fans interaction with each other. A nice bonus which shows Pritchett’s support team is thinking about their followers.
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 16, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MARK STERLING -- Take From It What You Need

TAKE FROM IT WHAT YOU NEED
Mark Sterling
Indie
8-out-of-10

Edmonton has a vibrant blues community and Mark Sterling is one of the proponents of the sound.
Take From It What You Need is a 13-cut effort which shows Sterling has a good handle on blues with a folk/roots feel. This is that slow, get down into the feel of the music kind of blues which is perfect for those smokey nights when you just want to ‘feel’ what the music is all about. If that is the case you are going to love I Should Have Seen It Comin’. Very nicely done.
Of course you could make that statement about just every song on the recording. Sterling really never has a misstep here. He knows what he is good at, and he plays to those strengths throughout, with a focus on slow, soulful blues.
On occasion he takes it up a notch, like the sing Keep Your Hands Off Her, but it’s still heartfelt blues.
No One Home, one of Sterling’s own compositions, takes the disk more toward the folk/roots side of his music, which still works.
Sterling has a voice which really fits the laid back music he plays, very relaxed and enjoyable.
Sterling mixes some of his own music, with a few standards, to create a nice solid disk which is well worth searching out.
Check it out at www.myspace.com/marksterling69
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 2, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MARSHALL LAWRENCE -- Blues Intervention

BLUES INTERVENTION
Marshall Lawrence
Indie
8-out-of-10

Marshall Lawrence brings his blues out of Edmonton where he has been honing his skills for some time.
Regular readers may recall the review here in September 2009, of Lawrence’s The Morning After, a solid blues effort which pulled a 7.5 here.
Well Lawrence is back with the 13-cut Blues Intervention, including nine songs he has penned himself.
It is great to see an artist creating on both sides of the business, performing and writing.
The disk kicks off with So Long Rosalee a nice solid first song. The CD then winds through Lawrence’s own material, ending with a couple of old songs, Walking Blues by the great Robert Johnson and the traditional Going Down The Road Feeling Bad.
Lawrence provides the guitar, banjo and mandolin work as well.
There is some nice harmonica work added by Sherman ‘Tank’ Doucette and Russell Jackson is along to provide bass.
Overall Lawrence keeps the music nice and basic here with the instrumentation, but that is fine since it really allows the soul of the music to come to the forefront. In Lawrence’s case its Delta Blues that he serves up.
The best cut might be If I Had a Nickel. A nice self-penned cut for Lawrence.
Vocally, this CD comes across as just a little more polished than his earlier effort reviewed here. That’s a good thing. You’d expect it too with this being his third disk, his debut Where’s The Party was released in 2003.
This is definitely a disk for blues fan to search out. Hopefully Lawrence will keep pushing out the blues for years to come.
You can check the disk out at www.doctorblues.com
— CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 2, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada