June 3, 2015
Randy Bachman – Heavy Blues (2015)
Old Winnipeg friend Neil Young told Randy Bachman to get risky for his new album. “Don’t do the same old shit and call it new. Do something scary. Scare yourself.”
Good advice that Neil famously follows himself, but Randy just doesn’t have that kind of imagination. Heavy Blues isn’t particularly bluesy, but it is heavily laden – with vapid lyrics and well-meaning guitar friends (Bonamassa, Frampton, Gibbons…).
BUT, it also has Little Girl Lost, a driving, must-buy collab with Neil Young. It’s like Guess Who on PEDs – complete, of course, with cowbell.
June 2, 2015
The Lowest Pair – The Sacred Heart Sessions (2015)
Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee are an unlikely banjo duo, living five states apart in cities (Olympia; Minneapolis) not top of mind for bluegrass.
Yet their sophomore album ambitiously invokes legendary banjo-poet John Hartford in name and style, and at times there’s hints of the eastern mysticism that can inform the royalty of banjo duos, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn.
The Lowest Pair only need their voices and two banjos or guitar and banjo, and harmonize in true duet form.
Disabusing the notion that only rubes play the banjo is a long row to hoe when you dress like they do, but they’re ambition is clearly not perching on hay bales at country fairs.
May 27, 2015
Glen Hansard – It Was Triumph We Once Proposed (2015)
It can get awkward listening to the music of a Kurt Cobain, a Daniel Johnson or so many others who have struggled with mental health and/or addiction. It’s like reading someone’s diary after a tragedy; as much as you’re drawn to the raw emotions, it feels invasive and maybe disrespectful.
Triumph, a 5-song EP, works because Jason Molina’s words written in personal torment are sung back to him with love by Glen Hansard.
No one should have to be that strong
But if you’re stubborn like me
I know what you’re trying to be
Those who know the gentle Irishman by his covers and movie work may be surprised to learn he was a Jason Molina fan before almost anyone else. They became friends and toured together, but behind Molina prodigious talents was a deeply troubled alcoholic and despite their best efforts, all the music world’s kings and horses couldn’t hold him together.
BIO: Jason Molina (1973-2013)
May 21, 2015
Lyrics Born – Real People (2015)
Real People is a bright, catchy and playful album that will pair well with summer BBQs.
Lyrics Born’s warm, smooth voice is nicely offset by a variety of guests and fantastic New Orleans horns. Listening becomes a bit of a – sometimes infuriating :) – mind teaser; who does this chorus remind me of?, is that a Sly Stone guitar?, oo oo it’s Tom Jones, no Barry White, no wait; did that come from The Tubes?, Beastie Boys?, hey is that Cee-Lo (no, It’s Ivan Neville), oh wow a Fine Young Cannibals song (it isn’t), OMG Bill Murra..no
The Japanese-American Lyrics Born and his frequent partner Lateef are ‘alternative hip hop’ upstarts from California, and true to their state’s reputation, aren’t fussed much about boundaries or labels. Good one, fellas.
May 13, 2015
I’m not a guitar solo guy, but I enjoyed concerts by SRV and Buddy Guy (and Quinn Sullivan!) and have been listening to Joe Bonamassa for years so I was excited to see him despite the premium price.
He started with a blast of light (right) and a blistering guitar solo. Very good start; glad I was there. We got a quick “Hello Vancouver” as he launched into song #2, song #3, song #4….and so it went for exactly an hour. Not one bit of audience interaction. He played like we weren’t even there. At the end of the hour we got a “thank you Vancouver”, band introductions, and one last guitar solo.
I recognized one song despite knowing his catalogue pretty well. If the man has any warmth or charm to him, he sure didn’t share it with us. Being a guitar wizard doesn’t cut you enough slack to mail one in for the paycheck.
May 13, 2015
I remember 1984 for three things musically: 1) his Purpleness became larger than life 2) ex-Buggle Trevor Horn (‘The Man Who Invented The 80s’) charted with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art of Noise and Yes), and 3) The Replacements broke through with Let It Be. Wish I coulda said The Smiths instead of Trevor Horn, but they had barely troubled North American shores.
1984 was the pinnacle of pop, shaking off the pretentious over-indulgence of the 70’s; the airwaves carried the most diverse array of genres and cross-genres in pop’s history or future. Look at the charts from five years earlier or later or today and you see three or four styles at best, most of it derivative of itself.
Here’s my salute to 1984:
Replacements – Answering Machine. Never a commercial success, Paul Westerberg and enemies (alcohol-fueled tension drove the band) nonetheless had a fervent cult following that continues to grow (or balloon might be a better word given the middle-aged midriffs at their reunion shows).
Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart. Trevor Horn said everything he had been trying to do with his other projects came to perfect pop fruition in this one song.
Prince – Purple Rain. Like Robbie Robertson’s Last Waltz suite and Genesis’ Suppers Ready, I go “aha. Now I get what you’ve been trying to do here.”
* No accident two of these are from Minnesota. Often called Canada’s other province because its terrain, climate and social mores mirrors that of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the north, like Canada the state has always punched above its weight musically. Prince-Replacements-Dylan vs Young-Cohen-Mitchell? Tough to call. (Also, to complete the comparison, Canada has afflicted the world with Bryan Adams, Nickleback, Celine and Shania). Yanni’s formative years were in Minnesota. Call it a draw.)
BONUS: Ryan Adams – Change Your Mind. The alt-country rebel paid homage to The Replacements last year with his album 1984. Dated? Passe? Ha!
May 10, 2015
Pre-releases from Florence + the Machine’s new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, show British critics weren’t wrong lavishing praise on Lungs (2009) and Ceremonial (2011).
FLORENCE WELCH compares easily with the artsy Kate Bush, but is more direct like P!ink than nouveau like Bjork. Her work explores how tension in relationships is expressed and released, which she acts out in pantomimes of physical force (i.e. If her videos get you hot, you’re in the wrong place)
The Machine’ is a road-tested band that co-founders Welch and BFF Isabella ‘Machine’ Summers have nurtured into a creative community. That makes the writing richer, plus, it’s not safe to go where Welch goes alone.
How Big is due out later this month but here are links to pre-release videos of What Kind Of Man and Ship To Wreck. Clear the room and crack the volume :)