REVIEW: Lianne La Havas is not Unstoppable; she is much, much more than that

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Lianne La Havas – Blood  (2015)
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Lianne La Havas’s English grandparents raised her right. She is an independent young woman of the world, mindful of her Greek-Jamaican bloodlines (hence Blood) and determined to deflect any hijacking of her sweet, neo soul voice for profit.

A lot of big names can be bandied about in describing Blood: Beyonce, Sade, Lauren Hill, Florence Welch, Adele, the lesser known Diane Birch. That’s not wrong, but what separates her is a Hepburn-like grace audible in the quiet spaces, like a more assertive version of countrywoman Corinne Bailey Rae.

La Havas sought an allspice of collaborators to flavour (doo wop, funk, gospel, rock) the follow up to her triumphant 2012 acoustic jazz/folk debut, Is Your Love Big Enough? Her new collaborators range from pop hitmaker Paul Epworth (Adele, Florence), who co-wrote the single, Unstoppable, to Jamaican reggae legend Freddie McGregor’s son Stephen to the underappreciated Jamie Lidell’s experimental urban sounds of London and Nashville.

The result is breathtaking; sensual, aching but hopeful. The folks will be proud.

Be Mindful: This is what brings peace in 24 Frames to Jason Isbell

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Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (2015)
 

jason isbell 2015Jason Isbell’s last album, Southeastern, was a brave reckoning of his drinking, drugging and catting around and the pain of quitting. The songs were raw, bold and deservedly celebrated.

So now what? You’ve reformed and repented. What does life look and sound like now? Better than Southeastern, Isbell has notably tweeted.

‘Now what’ is living mindfully, as it is popularly known, or with ‘bare attention’, as it is known to meditating Buddhists. Psychiatrist Mark Epstein explains: “It allows us to observe the many individual ‘frames’ that make up the self-created movies in our minds, to separate one’s reactions from the core events themselves.”

This is how you savour life. This is how you face challenges. This is how you connect, really connect, with others.

This is how you learn to live.

This is 24 Frames – the speed (per second) you film at to make people look the most ‘real’, and the album’s lead single.

Neil Young lights a spark under Randy Bachman on Little Girl Lost

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Randy Bachman – Heavy Blues  (2015)

Randy Bachman neil young 2009Old 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.

The Lowest Pair aren’t the banjo rubes they appear. And hee haw for that

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The Lowest Pair – The Sacred Heart Sessions  (2015)

lowest pairKendl 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.

Review: Glen Hansard has more love for Jason Molina than the man ever had for himself

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Glen Hansard –  It Was Triumph We Once Proposed (2015)

Hansard

Hansard

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)

It’s funk. No, it’s pop. Soul? Lyrics Born calls it “alternative hip hop”, and its refreshingly fun

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Lyrics Born – Real People (2015)

Lyrics BornReal 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.

Joe Bonamassa in Vancouver: How NOT to give a concert

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joe bonamassa.phone.van.may 2015I’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.

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