Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Here's the debut solo album from this gentle Toronto songwriter, now on tour through the East Coast. Moxam makes crisp, clear acoustic songs straight out of the 70s singer-songwriter tradition, built up with pop melodies and a subtle amount of extra instruments and harmonies. He sounds closest to an updated Cat Stevens, with precise, personal lyrics and plenty of sad chords in those heart-tugging places.

The effect is meditative, soothing and seductive, as Moxam has a fine voice and a great delivery. The slow pace lets the lines hit home: "I am a young man in my prime/wasting away my precious time." The title cut is great little tribute to a peaceful time in the outdoors: "The grass is green, the trees are tall and we should all/enjoy this lovely day." I'll buy that.

You can see Moxam in concert in Fredericton on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at Grimross Brewing, Thursday in Halifax at The Seahorse, Friday at the Tide and Boar in Moncton, and Saturday at the Dunk in P.E.I. All shows also feature Blue Sky Miners, with Moxam on bass, with them doing back-up for his shows.

Monday, October 24, 2016


This Toronto melodic rocker delights in clever moves, both lyrically and musically. Great rhymes are backed up by big hooks and classic pop moments. Clark and producer Moe Berg drop in lots of Beatles references, and each song has a catchy, well-built structure, with bridges, instrumental breaks and ear-pleasing chord changes. It's what Neil Finn and Crowded House always excelled at.

The other joy here is the interesting and off-beat storytelling. Clark draws a parallel between himself and the melancholy character of Charlie Brown in Charlie Schulz Was Always In Love, singing about drawing his life. Monica's Harmonica builds an entire song around that one little bit of wordplay, and some Attractions-like rockin'. Closing cut Dorothy is a touching, personal look at his mother's struggle with Alzheimer's. There's lots going on all through the album, and each song is full of rewards.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


The woman with the golden voice returns with the album she so obviously needed to make. Not since Dionne Warwick has there been a singer with the emotional range needed to convey the range in the Bacharach/David catalogue. Bacharach has been the English singer's biggest supporter, and shows up here with a sentimental introduction cameo to This Girl's In Love With You.

While there are plenty of well-known hits in the set, including One Less Bell To Answer, The Look of Love and What The World Needs Now Is Love, smartly Rumer goes a lot deeper into the famed duo's songbook. The Balance of Nature is prime B&D, but was only an album cut for Warwick. Land Of Make Believe was one of the best cuts on the Dusty In Memphis album by Dusty Springfield, and The Last One To Be Loved was cut by the sadly-forgotten Bacharach/David interpreter Lou Johnson, a great soul voice of the early 60's. Volume 2 anyone? Rumer?

Friday, October 21, 2016


Nelson has been knocking off the pet projects like crazy of late, doing Gershwin songs, recording with pals, pretty much whatever he wants. He's 83, you know. He's just showing off now. Nelson's mentor and friend, the late, great Ray Price is the focus here, and nobody can do Price justice like Willie. Price put so much emotion into his vocals, and Nelson has that in spades, using his own killer phrasing. In fact, I'd say Willie's version here of the great, sad classic For The Good Times (written by another pal, Kristofferson) might just be the best-ever version.

Price, although a country legend, just doesn't get the respect he deserves, and isn't as celebrated as George Jones. Patsy Cline or Johnny Cash. But Price had huge hits (Crazy Arms, Heartaches By The Number, and the Nelson-written Night Life), was king of the rock precursor honky tonk, and smoothly made the transition to ballad music of the 60s, predating the countrypolitan sound. Nelson knows all this, having played bass in Price's group in the early 60s, and here he offers up a bit of both styles. He's joined by the Time Jumpers, Vince Gill's honky tonk outfit for the fast numbers, and for the ballads Nelson uses some grand strings and nifty vocal arrangements, managing to make it all seem undated. It's both a fine tribute, and another fine Willie album, to add to the oh, 200 he's already done.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Most E.P.s are stop-gap releases, a place for a band to put a couple of extra tracks between albums, or a smaller idea between big statements.  Or, they may be used to get something new to the marketplace ahead of a tour, something to attract a little media attention in advance of shows.  On the rare occasion, something full and exciting (albeit shorter) is presented, and this offer from The Once is just such a lucky item.

While the trio have come from a folk place since starting, with a nod to modern songwriting (Leonard Cohen covers next to traditional Newfoundland songs such as The Valley of Kilbride), as they have developed as songwriters they have explored new sonic and harmonic places.  With this release, they've pushed the boundaries further than ever.  It's no surprise that ground-breaking East Coast producer Daniel Ledwell was a fine match for the songs, having already helped shepherd albums by explorers Jenn Grant and Gabrielle Papillon.  On five studio tracks here (there are also two live versions), traditional lyrics and arrangements are swapped for echoed keyboards and vibes, airy textures, and above all, grand sweeping and ringing vocals.  Lead singer Geraldine Hollett, already widely acclaimed, has never sounded so, well, heavenly.  From her double-tracked vocal on the opening track The Blood Inside Your Heart to the choral highs of Tell Me Something I Don't Know, Hollett's singing is soul-warming.  The harmonies and arrangements are just as special, and the boys join in more than normal, giving the cut Last Lemonade lots of playfulness, a merry-go-round of vocal interplay helped along by banjo, oboe and who knows what else.

Lyrically the songs (all originals these days) are equally compelling, and come from a pretty elevated emotional place.  Gonna Get Good is a growing older pep talk, "it never gets easy, but baby, it's gonna get good."  It even has unveils a piece of wisdom: "Go and free the boy you used to be/He knows all broken bottles become sand at the sea."  Not bad at all.  In We Are Love, this time the partner provides the positive words:  "I don't believe you're a liar, I never cared what you think you are."  I'm glad these tracks didn't get diluted in an attempt to fill a full album, there's so much to explore in them, that having some less-powerful work would take away from the listening experience.  The two live versions at the end add nicely as well, showing that other strength of the group, the stage.  This E.P. is as substantial as any album you'll hear any time soon

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


The Ottawa-based Alguire has developed into a strong country-flavoured singer-songwriter over the course of six albums  This one delivers a batch of top-notch songs, with no fancy tricks and everything put in the quality of writing and honest performances.  Aided by a set of top players, including Chris Gauthier (Catherine MacLellan) on lead guitar, Miranda Mulholland (Great Lake Swimmer) on violin, Bob Egan (Blue Rodeo) on pedal steel and P.E.I.'s Meaghan Blanchard on backing vocals, there's an easy, solid confidence to everything, from 70s-era country rock (Long Way Home) to the harder-edged You Don't Write Anymore.

My Sweet Rosetta is a stand out, a haunted ballad with Mulholland's eerie ache and a guest-star duet vocal from MacLellan, in the Emmylou role.  Wasted Ways has the boldness and strength of a fine outlaw country number, with that undercurrent of sadness:  "When the wine tastes like water, then you'll know/and the whiskey's just not doing what it's been told."  More carefree on the surface is Wasting My Time With You, a reminiscence of better times in a romance, a sneaky number where the upbeat tune covers up the hard truth in the lyric.  I really like the mix of honest, classic music and thoughtful lyrics, and the strong ensemble at work on this set.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Leaning left? Looking for the band to soundtrack your protest march/pipeline blockade/yoga class? Perhaps you're a Green Party candidate in need of a theme song? Here's your band. Actually, you don't have to be a full-time activist to love Communism. Anybody with a love of brilliant, fun guitar rock, happy harmonies and crazy chord changes will want to burn their draft cards, or whatever we do in Canada these days, and dance like crazy to this New Deal.

Communism is the project of beloved drummer/producer Don Kerr (Ron Sexsmith/Rheostatics), teamed up with fun-loving fellow travelers Kevin Lacroix (bass) and Paul Linklater (guitar), currently tearing up certain southern Ontario clubs and public broadcasting airwaves. Kerr's harmony/beauty credentials were firmly established in 2005 when he and Sexsmith did the duo album Destination Unknown, northern Everly Brothers. Here, with his own pen, Kerr creates an entire sub-genre of his own, basically a bunch of songs that say what all the sane people have been thinking for a long time: Be nice, for God's sake! Be better to each other, the planet, stop being so greedy, and come on, quit killing all the bees.

Kerr and co. use the vocals as the lead instrument, and the rest of the playing is crafty and quick, bobbing and weaving, with huge HPM numbers (hooks per minute, I invented that, thanks). There's so much great power pop and smarty-pants rock going on, the message goes down smoothly, mixed with so many spoonfuls of sugar.