Wednesday, October 18, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: KATHLEEN GOREY-MCSORLEY - MY MADNESS BROUGHT ME HERE

It's hard to change horses mid-stream, so it's wise New Brunswick's Kathleen Gorey-McSorley is doing it at a young age. An East Coast favourite while still in her early teens, she was following the traditional Celtic path as a fiddler, nominated for an ECMA in roots/traditional, touring festivals in the U.S, Europe and Ireland, and eventually going to school in the Emerald Island. But health issues led her to take a couple of years off to regroup and grow, and she's reemerged as a largely different performer.


She's still playing fiddle when it fits, but for the most part she's now working as a singer-songwriter, with piano and ukulele her other instruments, singing her own lyrics her focus. So while this isn't her debut, it's the debut of her roots-indie style. These go from upbeat uke songs such as Brianna, to some hard-won life lessons in thoughtful tracks such as Pamplona, having seen a lot and traveled a lot already in her young life. You can still hear a bit of her folk past in Drunk Words, just enough to set her apart from the rest of the pack brought up on Beyonce instead. In fact, she turned to veterans such as Toronto guitar whiz Kevin Breit and former Cockburn foil Fergus Marsh on bass to thicken up the songs, more with needed heft than any kind of alt-edge.


For those who do miss her fiddle, there's a bonus track, an extended take on Pamplona that sees her jamming, trading licks with Breit, and it's actually the most interesting move on the album. There's a groove that doesn't lose the contemporary feel the rest of the album has, and lets her put her fiddle back in this new setting, away from the Celtic. It may be a good way forward for her, finding more room for that instrument on which she still shines.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: JULIAN FAUTH - THE WEAK AND THE WICKED

Blues and boogie-woogie piano man Fauth doesn't record nearly enough for those who love his unique style. This is the first for the Juno-winner since 2012's Everybody Ought To Teach A Stranger Right. It's his most straightforward and simple release, mostly played solo, and mostly classic blues and folks songs. These are the heroes and villains and sad cases we've all heard of our whole lives, but somehow Fauth makes their stories fresh. Casey Jones, Frankie and Johnny, John Henry, it's like we're getting the real story behind these legends.

Fauth has found some different versions of the lyrics (Frankie gets away with the murder in this one, for instance) but it's mostly Fauth's delivery and arrangements that bring the songs to new life. With his foot tapping like a metronome, his rolling piano is barrelhouse, Bourbon Street and front parlour all at once, always at a relaxed but somewhat fast tempo, given the songs a feeling of urgency. He adds a bit of organ on top of some sadder songs, some harmonica on some of the folk numbers such as John Henry, and some spare guitar, trumpet and percussion on others. Meanwhile, he's spinning the tales in a relaxed voice, as comfortable as a barber chatting to his Saturday morning customers.

Fauth has given us more original tunes on previous albums, and even though the theme here was classic folk heroes and anti-heroes, he did have three originals that fit the bill. And wouldn't you know, they slide in well right between the well-known ones, with only the language giving them away. Dan was about a Canadian soldier off to Afghanistan, and except for singing about Kandahar, it could have taken place in Gettysburg or Ypres. So Far Down is a true story of someone who saw the horrors of WW 2, forever troubled, close to Fauth later in life. The big surprise though, after hearing The House Carpenter and Betty & Dupree and the others, is his remake of a later student of the same classic material, Dylan, and his Blowin' In The Wind. Here, it has a gospel-flavoured ragtime stroll, easy-going, and totally unlike anyone else's cover. It's actually hopeful, suggesting if we pick up on what the wind is blowing our way, we may find a couple of good suggestions for what ails us. Like everything else here, Fauth fills an old favourite with a breathe of fresh air.

Monday, October 16, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: WHITNEY ROSE - RULE 62

P.E.I.-born Rose continues to blossom as not just an excellent retro-country singer, but as a writer as well. Her last effort, the E.P. South Texas Suite, was a love letter to her new home in Austin, with the appropriate local swing, but this full-length is more of a '60's Nashville set, especially the great ballads that were being written at the time. I Don't Want Half (I Just Want Out) is the update of D.I.V.O.R.C.E., Rose's character happy to leave a big mistake behind. Trucker's Funeral is a classic weeper lyric, straight out of the gossip files of the Harper Valley P.T.A. Here, a loving daughter goes to the funeral of her dad who died young, only to discover her trucker father had a whole other family on the other side of the country. Does she walk away with hate? No, she's left with the notion he had a heart big enough for two families. I thought they couldn't write 'em like that any more.

Rose sometimes surprises me, as she doesn't let loose all that much, and seems to prefer the thoughtful ballads and heartbreakers. But when she does, as on Can't Stop Shakin', she has all the goods, and starts edging into rockabilly, along with some country-soul. Wisely, she doesn't lean too hard on her mentor and co-producer, The Mavericks' Raul Malo, who does do lots of backing vocals, but his distinctive pipes are kept in the back, with her in the spotlight. I like the way Rose has slowly but surely kept playing it cool.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: THE GALPINES - TRUCK

Rude, crude, lewd and loving it, Moncton's Galpines take everything one step further than you thought anyone would ever dare. This is the outrageous talk you laugh about, but would never say yourself, the kind that makes Trump's locker room look more like pre-school. And that's part of the point; make all those macho dicks do a double-take and hide before they get embarrassed.

As for the rest of the audience, they can simply have a whole lot of fun, if they don't mind a few (well, a lot) of F-bombs and S-bombs and P-bombs and C-bombs and even the occasional Q-bomb (if there is such a thing). The four Moncton women who make up the group were one of the hits at this past weekend's Music New Brunswick conference, winning Emerging Artist of the Year, this debut EP coming out last year.

Red neck culture is the target (not lower class, let's make the distinction), but rather those that can afford an expensive truck purely to "fuck shit up," as they sing on Truck. Drunk Tank is the big crowd favourite, the tale of one woman who goes out drinking, gets loaded and mean, beats up a guy, the cops come, she berates them and by 8 a.m. realizes that she's probably going to be late for work, since "I'm in the drunk tank." I'd call it a cautionary tale, but in truth, they'd do it all over again, and probably will.

There are five tracks on the EP, and the group is getting ready to record a full-length, with the songs already in the set list. That includes a true number aimed at a douche who threw a Tim's coffee cup out the car window at them, and the promise none of them will ever sleep with a litterbug. There's also a crowd-baiting tune about the world's number one problem, which is apparently the restrictive nature of pants, and how everyone should not have to wear them. The audience is instructed during this number to participate in the "pants-off dance-off" in front of the stage.

Intrigued? Not easily offended? The Galpines appear at Grimross Brewing Co. in Fredericton on Saturday, Oct. 21.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

MUSIC NEWS OF THE DAY: CAVEBOY HOOKS UP ON RIA MAE/SCOTT HELMAN TOUR

Montreal's Caveboy just jumped a level in the pecking order of up-and-coming Canadian bands. The trio was one of three acts selected as this year's Juno Master Class winners, by a jury featuring Lights, Kardinal Offishall, Max Kerman of Arkells and others. Essentially the group, along with co-winners Quake Matthews and Ivory Hours, have been judged Juno-ready.

It's an honour that has immediate results. The group has been added to some dates on the current Ria Mae/Scott Helman tour, a couple in Quebec, and two in the Maritimes, their first band trip to the East Coast. Lead singer, guitar and synth player Michelle Bensimon says the award is one that's taken seriously.

"Our name is being passed around now, and people are seeing it more and more," she said from Montreal, taking a break from rehearsals for the shows. "Hopefully that sparks something so when we try to make contacts in the near future, people will go, 'Oh I remember that name.' It's something that gets spread around in the Canadian music industry."

The group has just released its latest video and single, Raconteur, seen here, which features their unique mix of '80's synth, a bit of dance pop, and a definite dark edge as well. It's a combination that sets them apart.

"When I think about it, I wonder how did our brains come together and decide this was what we were going to do?," says Bensimon. "Because there was no real conversation of being like, 'Yeah, we want it to be super '80's or super dancey or super intense.' We just started writing together and this is what came out. It really is just a combination of the three of our brains."

Caveboy can trace its emergence back to an unlikely Genesis. "We were actually playing at my little sister's birthday party," says drummer Lana Cooney, of her first gig with bass/synth player Isabelle Banos. "When Isabelle and I got together to play music, it was for covers at first." That included anything from Metric to Pink Floyd.

The band formally came together when Bensimon, who had been living in Toronto, moved back to Montreal's West Island suburbs, where they all were from. "Michelle and I knew each other as kids, played soccer together, went to same elementary and high school," says Cooney. "Michelle moved back, jammed one time with us and never left."

While the recordings and videos have attracted attention, it's the live show they all feel is their biggest strength. "It's definitely a drug that we're addicted to," says Banos. "We come alive on stage. All of our energy goes into our live set, and making it as enjoyable and contagious for the audience, to just forget whatever's been going on that day and just be in the moment with us."

While the synths play a big role, the group is just as happy to switch to a guitar/bass/drums lineup, which lets them mine the dark '80's minor chord/punk rock element more. "Just all sorts of ways for our six hands to play these things," says Bensimon of the instrument switching.

Caveboy will be featured on the Helman/Mae dates starting in Montreal Saturday, Oct. 15, at L'Astral, then Monday at Salle Multi in Quebec City, Tuesday, Oct. 18 at Boyce Farmer's Market in Fredericton, and then Friday, Oct. 21 at the Charlottetown Beer Garden.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: GABRIELLE PAPILLON - KEEP THE FIRE

Nova Scotia's Papillon continues the work she's been doing with producer Daniel Ledwell, but there's been quite a dramatic shift in her music. Previously you could have called her a folk songwriter at heart, yet willing to embrace production and soundscapes. Now her songs are filled with pop, heartfelt intensity, and most dramatically, lots of strings.

Always a strong lyricist, she's proving herself an emotional heavyweight here, lots of turmoil to examine, "trouble around the corner." We don't get the details, but all the mood, and lots of inner strength in the aftermath. With such subject matter, the set tends towards the introspective, and we get beauty in spades, from her haunting vocals to the strings to the fabulous aural softness of the production. Rather than push the elements, everything is placed with great subtlety around Papillon's voice, and when the disc ends with No Paradise, we've been on a pretty fulfilling trip.

You can see Gabrielle Papillon Thursday, Oct. 12 at the Trailside Music Cafe in Mount Stewart, P.E.I., Saturday at the Roots and Soul Music Room in Fredericton, Sunday at the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec, Monday at the Burdock Music Hall in Toronto, and on an on.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: THE NORTHERN PIKES - BIG BLUE SKY (SUPER SIZED)

In an unlikely spot, the bucolic Nova Scotia port town of Lunenburg, the quintessential Prairie band, Saskatchewan heroes The Northern Pikes, have been squirreled away for several days. They are in intense rehearsals for their national tour since the early 2000's. It's actually a convenient space, as the town is now the home of Pikes guitar player Bryan Potvin, and the first dates are on the east coast, beginning Thursday, Oct. 12 in Saint John N.B.

The band, which came to fame in the late '80's, has been active the past 15 years in a limited way, playing perhaps a dozen shows a year, usually festival, casino or corporate gigs, keeping the name alive while working on their own projects. But it wasn't enough, says Potvin. "I found it for years kind of unsatisfying. If we're lucky enough to do two shows in a row over a fly-in weekend, the second night is always dramatically better, we're more cohesive as a unit. I'm intensely curious to hear what we're going to sound like after show 25 on tour."

The other major factor in play is a pretty impressive anniversary. 2017 marks 30 years since the band's debut album, Big Blue Sky, was released, putting them on national radio and MuchMusic, going gold with the help of the hit singles Teenland and Things I Do For Money. Over a few months, a big plan came together. The Pikes put together a plan not just to tour, but also reissue the album in a glorious way.

Big Blue Sky - Super Sized (love that title) is a two-CD, or even better, 3-lp reissue out Friday. The vinyl edition features three different colour albums. The original release is on the first, the second features 10 brand-new to us demos from the period, in effect an entirely new album, and the third is a concert recording in 1986 at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern.

The demos had been carefully compiled and saved over the years by drummer Don Schmid. On his own, he has acted as the unofficial band curator, saving 30 years' worth of Pikes paraphernalia and those all-important recordings. As the one least involved in the songwriting, he always saw the value in what the others had forgotten or discarded.

"I guess I was probably the biggest cheerleader for those songs all these years, because just being an outsider in some ways, I could look at them differently than the other three guys, is probably the best way to put it," says Schmid. "I always felt strongly about hooks and what makes some songs memorable, it's a hidden ingredient, either it works or it doesn't."

The ten cuts are no mere throwaways, or even early versions of well-known cuts. These are gems, pretty much in finished form, that sound so good today it's a wonder they didn't come out then. The band had a backlog, thanks to working hard for two years before getting the first album out, plus a parcel of tunes from their previous Saskatoon bands, The Idols, Doris Daye and 17 Envelope. The stand-out Look Out Below is a Jay Semko tune from The Idols, that goes back to 1982. The ballad Stay With Me Now is Schmid pick for the single that never was, a track he still thinks could have been a hit.

The Horseshoe tape came from a different source. "We'd never heard that recording for all those years until just a few months ago, it was just silent all those years," says Schmid. It came back to the group thanks to recording engineer Doug McClement from Toronto, who recorded them 12 separate times for radio broadcasts and specials.

"He contacted Bryan roughly ten years ago, and said 'I've got these tapes kicking around, I'm trying to clean house, would you like them?' But Bryan didn't have any way to play them, they are on quarter inch master reel-to-reel, so he hung onto them all this time, and thought some day there will hopefully be a chance."

Once the tapes got fixed up, the band realized they had a vault filled with high-energy performances that shows the group's well-loved potency as a live act. "We've always been that kind of a group," says Schmid. "Our live show, the adrenaline in front of people, it's always way more aggressive, and usually the songs are played faster."

So, a tour, the new album, that's this fall, but then the question remained as to what to do after that. Once again, the vaults gave them the answer. It turns out those ten demos were just the tip of the iceberg, and they'll put out another anniversary set for each of their original albums over the next five years, plus take them on tour.

"We have a lot more, that's the interesting thing," says Schmid. "We tried to keep all these ten songs on the unreleased album around that era of Big Blue Sky, 1986 - 1987. Then in the next years to come, with Secrets of the Alibi next year, we're going to pick another ten, then Snow In June and Neptune. It's a five-year plan."

The Big Blue Sky 30 tour will see the group go coast-to-coast, performing the entire album, some of the demos, and lots of their other hits as well. Tour dates can be found on their website, thenorthernpikes.com/gigs/.