Wednesday, February 16, 2011



Theatricality is nothing new in music; in fact, it's a lot older than rock and pop and such, what most of us now talk about. Songs in theatre, opera, vaudeville, movie musicals, freakin' Spiderman and Bono on Broadway, it's always been there, yet these days when somebody puts a little show in show business, it's viewed suspiciously at best.

Halifax's Ryan MacGrath isn't trying to turn the pop world upside-down, but he's certainly not shoe-gazing on his first full-length disc.. MacGrath is on-stage, singing to the audience with his new disc, Cooper Hatch Paris. He's playing himself, or a version, with the songs about I and Me. The music is often big and fun, with old disco beats and modern cabaret, soul and pop, and some big ballads too, heart-tuggers with piano and strings and backing singers. You can't help listening to this without visualizing MacGrath on stage, a gentle tear falling down his face in the spotlight.
Theatrical can also be another way to say melodramatic, and MacGrath is happily guilty as charged. Everything is played as a big, life-wrenching moment, sad and confessional. And if it's not serious, it's charming and fun. In "My Boyfriend", he sings "and he'll never come to bed with his socks on". In Celebrity Death, he croons "All Iever really wanted was the lights of Broadway/but instead I'm pushing daisies." Yes, this is impinging on Rufus Wainwright's gig a bit, but MacGrath has also created a unique sound for himself. The disc is produced by Jason MacIsaac (Heavy Blinkers, Jenn Grant), a known pop experimenter, and features the talents of the Halifax group Gypsophilia, the Django-and-jazz mini-orchestra. Plus, Chantal Kreviazuk drops by for an excellent duet, as do several other fine female singers. There's probably some Rufus influence in there, but MacGrath has made his own style from it all.

MacGrath has made quite a splash with his work so far. This debut disc has grabbed three East Coast Music Award nominations. His shows are equally intriguing, with a recent "Hawaiian Valentine" performance, and
a tour on the cross-country train, backed by a barbershop quartet. Next up are a couple of New Brunswick dates, at the Vintage Bistro in Hampton Feb. 19th, and Wilser's in Fredericton on the 20th.

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