Sunday, January 2, 2011



I guess I've developed a special relationship with the far-flung utopia that is Hamilton, Ontario.  Being a small-town lad from the remote wilderness of New Brunswick, the excitement and glamour of the Steel City is something I've grown to cherish in the past few years during my annual November pilgrimage for the Hamilton Music Awards.

Actually, as I've blogged before, The Hammer has one of the best scenes anywhere, thanks to the vibrancy and loyalty of the musical community.  Also, you can find excellence in just about every genre going, plus a great cross-fertilization, with little or no snobbishness.  Everybody pulls for each other.  The clubs and venues are fun, and I always come away with some new finds.

I first met Kim Koren three years ago, and was pleased to find out about this latest CD, her third.  Kim's a fixture in Hamilton, regularly gigs in Toronto, and tours England in acoustic mode.  She's a singer-songwriter, but the kind who can rock out nicely with a band behind her.  For Raven Heart, it's a mix of acoustic tracks with some harder-edged alt-country.  Her voice is not pure, and that's good here, because these tunes are meant to be world-wise and a little weary.  There's a sadness that creeps in, the kind that comes from experience, and the realization that bad and sad things can happen to good people.  This is real life.  Yet there's just as much hope there too, some strength, and contentment.  Yes, she can pack a lot into that voice.

The nursery rhyme-based lyric of Spiders and Snails is a little too precious, but the rest of the disc does that nifty trick; it makes you rock and it makes you think.  With two of the cuts written about the homeless in Hamilton, and another in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, Koren mixes power with empathy.  Also check out the title cut, co-authored by Mr. Hamilton himself, Tom Wilson.

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