Thursday, May 30, 2013


Winnipeg's Ricardo Lopez-Aguilar explains this is his divorce album, but it's neither a downer nor an angry affair.  While it was definitely a major, life-shaking event, he's taken a positive approach to it on this collection.  No, he's not happy about the split, but instead he's learned a lot of things about himself, and used the song writing to get back into shape, and grow as well.  It's a situation and response that many people who have gone through divorce can relate to, at least umm, you know what I mean.

You may hear a lot of familiar lines:  "You need space, you need me/to back off completely."  There's no specific arc of a divorce being followed here, but there are little snapshots taken in the timeline, and they appear in the songs as they progress.  His indie-pop is too breezy and bright to make these scenes tense and dramatic, so it fulfills his desire to accentuate the positive with the album.

So, an album that starts out with "Lately I feel like I want to kill" and goes on to "Listen dear, we're all fucked up", turns out okay in the end.  Kinda like some divorces, at least those where people admit and accept their faults and go on with life.  So that would make this a mature pop record.  Oldfolks Home plays in New Brunswick for a couple of gigs, before heading down to NYC and points east in the U.S.  That's tonight (Thursday May 30) in Moncton at Plan B, and Saturday in Fredericton at Lava Bar.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


This new Toronto band has just issued this debut album, which I'd call new-school folk (a term I think I've just made up).  It's old folk instruments mixed with bass/drums, and with indie words and attitude.  Featuring singer Anna Mernieks distinctive, 60's folk-style vocals, it's an odd hybrid, moving back and forth, and taking surprising paths with almost every song.  You certainly can't compare them to anyone easily, and they have some very particular elements which make them stand out.

Most of the vocals feature both Mernieks and second singer Heather Mazhar, either in harmony or unison, mixed up front with the result a higher, sweeter sound.  Then you have mandolin, banjo and lap steel as dominate instruments on some tracks, while others get some nasty electric guitar.  Again, old and new melding.  It's largely cheery music, with happy bouncing banjo, but that's masking some sort of creepiness in the lyrics.  Lead track Be My Brother is like some old English folk song, with the bass dancing around the mandolin, and then a lead saw break.  Yes, I said saw.

This is a band with a full-time saw player (or singing saw, as it's credited).  Keith Hamilton joins in all the time for solos, with that strange, ghostly sound.  The saw gets quite a work-out on several numbers, sometimes taking the lead, other times becoming the top tone in the mix of guitar, double vocals, banjo, whatever else is going.  The song How Wonderful gets a Western/Morricone feel because of the saw, only at double speed with chugging drums.  Which poses the question, does a saw player refer to his instrument as his axe?

Beams is bringing Just Rivers out east right now, on Wednesday night (May 29) in Annapolis Royal, NS at the West Education Centre, Thursday at Plan B in Moncton, NB, friday in Yarmouth and Saturday in Halifax.

P.S. There's a couple of songs about drugs on here.  I'm telling Mayor Ford.

Monday, May 27, 2013


One could hear the jaws drop of those aging punks upon hearing what Iggy Pop said when asked to name his favourite punk songs:  "I hate punk rock."  Iggy, the godfather, the Stooge, turning his back on the genre that counts him as the figurehead.  Imagine still what they'll think when they hear this latest album from the reformed Stooges, one that sees him back with James Williamson, his shambolic co-star of Raw Power and Metallic K.O.  There are sombre ballads, horn stabs, cheap laugh lyrics, 60's basics, Stax flourishes, Iggy in his deep crooner voice, and an acoustic guitar number with lap steel.  Raw Power, it ain't.

So what is Ready To Die?  Well, it's Iggy in his caustic and cynical role, an observer who points out all the crap, and revels in the negative.  For the most part it does rock, but with a lot more polish than the drug-addled early 70's version.  The cut Job has Williamson loud and basic, as Iggy spouts forth about the fate of the worker,  "I got a job but it don't pay shit/I got a job but I'm sick of it."  It's the U.S. version of the similarly-afflicted Bell Boy in Quadrophenia.  More Williamson revved-up guitar announces the start of Gun, about the type of stressed-out American who's one step away from being a domestic terrorist:  "If I had a fuckin' gun/I could shoot at every one."   But this song is Chuck Berry-garage, smartly constructed ("Freakin' out in the U.S.A."), tight and compact, even in its noisiness.  It's not old punk or new, just rock and roll.

Iggy Pop's certainly his own man when it comes to his career path, and obviously to him, there are no rules as to what a Stooges album should sound like.  And if punks don't like hearing the country-styled ballad Unfriendly World, with its pretty acoustic figure, that's their problem.  The title cut will keep them happy though, Williamson getting a chance to solo and the whole song features his rough, loud chords.  As always, Iggy can't be put in a box, and if you're ready to drop the romance about the old Stooges days, this is a vibrant album for the 66-year old, and his old partners.

Friday, May 24, 2013


A great favourite of roots performers, Griffin's songs are go-to material for the likes of Emmylou Harris, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Dixie Chicks and even Solomon Burke.  Blessed with the classic Americana voice, she could be Southern, she could be Texan, but in fact comes from Old Town, Maine.  No matter, she has the grand ability to write a timeless tune that evokes the past and tugs at the heart.

This latest is a largely acoustic affair, porch music played tenderly, pushing the ear towards her confident croon.  She comes close to Harris at times, but when she leans into the notes has a blues tone that comes out, to great effect, a very pleasing vocalist.  Backing her guitar and mandolin players that include Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars, and his brother Cody on percussion, although several songs dispense with such noisy intrusions.  It's a brave writer and artist to focus on so many soft numbers, but that's a strong suit with such a confident singer.  Also joining in is the huge presence of one Robert Plant, with whom she works as a singer in Band Of Joy, and is dating/married to/something.  Plant sings so softly here, you can't recognize the famous pipes, but they have a pleasing sound that way.

While Griffin does rev it up a bit in a couple of numbers, the core of the album is found in its calmness, matching the spiritual search in much of the material.  It's a human search for a quiet soul.  Opener Go Wherever You Wanna Go is a song about relief of burdens, those of a soldier who know longer has to fight, a worker no longer sweating or worrying about bills, the singer offering a child-like freedom of a sunny day with no rules.  Ohio, a full duet with Plant, features a touch of the African drone sounds with which he's familiar, and offers up the titular river as a mystical meeting point, where love and blood flow outside of time.  God does show up a couple of times, once as a wild old dog, another time as an old, beaten man cries in fear that he's been forgotten in his faithful, hard-working life.  This is old-time religion in new parables.

Don't be scared though, the beauty wins above all, especially on the lovely duet, again with Plant, Highway Song.  While still an acoustic song, it has a nifty atmospheric bed and some dreamy effects on the organ that add a modern touch.  I'd never once point to this as an old-time listen, but it sure keeps those good values.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Deep blues and hard-hitting, raw electric guitar from the veteran Toronto player and front man (Jake and the Blue Midnights).  This is true grit, power-trio blues that slinks but never plods, getting deep in the groove, and hitting all the important moments. 

Chisholm is a nasty player, always preferring a dirty tone, with just the right amount of distortion, distortion on the vocal mic too.  That doesn't mean he can't play pretty though; the chording on Diamond In A Coalmine has the sweet soul notes of the 60's, on this slow heartbreak tale.  The follow-up, That's All They Could See, has some high-string riffing and slide sweetness too, but it's earthiness of the bass-drums-rhythm guitar groove that makes this song, and several others too.  Just like in baseball, good fundamentals make a great team.

There's a clever remake of The Rascals' You Better Run, and a different interpretation of Traveling Riverside Blues, but the rest are all Chisholm originals.  I really like that several of them are blues ballads, moving into soul.  The finale, When Love Goes Wrong, is the kind of blues not heard enough, a real tear-inducer, no machismo or b.s. or cliches, just the facts and emotions of a break-up, complete with Jimi Hendrix Angel-style guitar.  With this type of material, Chisholm stands out from the electric blues pack.

Monday, May 20, 2013


A Baz Luhrmann film is always filled with music, and his Great Gatsby adaptation continues his usual flair.  This time, Jay-Z is drafted to put together the ultra-modern soundtrack to accompany the period visuals and costumes, another of Luhrmann's trademarks.  That means heavy on the hit r'n'b/hip-hop blend, and Mr. Z drafts an A-list, including Beyonce, Andre 3000, Will.I.Am, Fergie, Kanye, Frank Ocean, and such.  There are big party songs, including the fun A Little Party Never Killed Nobody, as Fergie and Q-Tip bounce it up, and Beyonce and Mr. 3000 remake Amy Winehouse's Back To Black to good effect.  Will.I.Am appropriates the old Sonny and Cher hit Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) for his new Bang Bang, complete with a Dixieland band remixed into dancefloor pounding.  It's all over-the-top, senses-twisting stuff that must work well on the screen (haven't seen it yet), and certainly has the cool factor pretty high.

But the Jay and Baz show doesn't just rely on the star power of today's pop heavyweights.  Jack White was drafted for a echo-heavy, very dramatic reading of U2's Love Is Blindness, sounding remarkably like Bono at times, with this year's nastiest guitar break.  Gotye up the atmospheric quota, and Florence & the Machine get moody, like those bands do.  Then there's the appearance of Brian Ferry's latest project, his period jazz band, which of course fits in perfectly with Gatsby.  Ferry arranged the first cut, which is a re-make/re-model of Crazy In Love, that hit Beyonce/Jay-Z number from years back, here with the jazz group backing singer Emeli Sande.  It's interesting, but I enjoyed the Ferry-sung arrangement of his own Love Is The Drug even more, banjo, cornet, tuba and all.  I was pretty skeptical of this whole jazz project of Ferry's, which is his new album, but the results here are impressive.

Anyhoo, it's quite the production, weighing in at 75 minutes or so, and with a lot more going on than the average tossed-together soundtrack collection.  I wonder what a Baz Luhrmann film about the Civil War scored by T Bone Burnett would be like?  Nah.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Every time I think that's about all the Marley reissues there can possibly be, they find another one.  Best-of's, soundtracks to documentaries, live albums, boxes, dub collections, remixes, the list goes on.  This one, however, at least makes sense, and gives us something new and pretty good, too.  It's the 35th anniversary of the Kaya disc of 1978, not one of his most celebrated albums, but stronger than its reputation.  Kaya was the second album Marley made after retreating to London for a couple of years, after the assassination attempt that left him and his wife Rita wounded.  The first album was Exodus, one of most revered in his canon.  Kaya, by contrast, is often thought of as the soft, almost apologetic disc, purposely made as a step back from his aggressive work.  Marley said he knew he had made music that was too militant for some in Jamaica, and wanted to mellow out.

Is that a bad thing?  Well, not when you look at the quality of his love and happiness.  In a fine mood, he spins easy, soulful reggae, leaning heavily on the I-Threes for back-up la-la-lovin', and smooth horns, as befit a fellow who was inspired in the '60's by U.S. soul.  Songs about spliffs are as controversial as it gets, but by this time, if you knew Marley, you knew about the ganja.  No, life was cool for him now, with Easy Skanking leading things off, and the inspirational Is This Love the big cut.  While he's known for speaking out about his people's suffering, what's made his legacy decades later is his peaceful message, either love for one or for all, Is This Love joining One Love as more powerful statements than the politics of that day.  Such was his keen interest in the peaceful theme that he went back into his deep catalogue of songs, re-recording numbers from his earlier career, old for Jamaica but brand-new for his international audience.  Sun Is Shining and Kaya itself are early 70's tunes  first done with Lee "Scratch" Perry.

The live disc included as the deluxe bonus is a concert from Rotterdam in 1978, during the Kaya tour. It's not heavy on the new album tracks, featuring only Is This Love and Easy Skanking over its 76 minutes.  It's more of a greatest hits, mirroring six cuts off the famous Legend collection.  With a loving crowd locking in to No Woman No Cry, Jamming, and Get Up, Stand Up, this is one of the best of the several Marley concerts available.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Okay, the buzz on this one is that Rod returns to rock after a decade spent murdering the Great American Songbook.  Even more, this time he's not going to plunder the catalogues of fine modern songwriters (Ron Sexsmith, Tom Waits, Dylan, Sam Cooke), but would write for himself again.  And, get this, he was talking about those glory days of the early 70's, wanting to get back to the writing style of Every Picture Tells A Story.

Okay, you know not to believe that stuff, right?  We've spent twenty years hearing Elton John tell us he was making another Tumbleweed Connection.  If Rod could write another Maggie May, don't you think he would?  You make a lot more money that way, plus it would restore his shrunken manhood.

So, what you do is pretend to make that album, and hope enough people believe you.  Rod did indeed have a hand in writing each track here, except one Waits cover, and he found a couple of places to put on a mandolin.  But despite up to five co-writers on some tunes, nothing comes close to his old tunes.  Heck, nothing comes close to actually being good, either.  Blame Rod for all of it, since he's also taken on the producer role here too.

The worst offender here is the autobiographical Can't Stop Me Now, where our hero is at first rejected by the evil record company men, who mock his nose and clothes, but "They can't stop me now, the world is waiting".  Well, he tells us "It was rough and it was tough... Then along came Maggie May."   On the equally nostalgic Brighton Beach, we here about the 60's in cliche:  "Oh what a time it was/What a time to be alive/Remember Janis and Jimmy/Kennedy and King, how we cried."  Umm, do you mean Jimi perhaps?  Never mind, I quibble.

No, there are far more grievous complaints to lay, including this lyric:  "Time waits for no one/That's why I/Can't wait on you."  He thought so much of that chorus, he made it the title cut on the album.  The song Sexual Religion, itself a blatant attempt to raise interest by hinting at his huge 70's hit Do You Think I'm Sexy, offends me more for the line "You're a Jezebel of Eden".  While attempting to work the religion theme into the lyric, he's mangled up the Biblical references, as Eden was way back at the start of things with Adam, Eve and the snake and apple and stuff, but Jezebel was a 9th Century BCE queen of North Israel, thrown out a window and fed to dogs for turning her husband and the whole kingdom onto false gods.  She could never have been in Eden.  C'mon Rod, it's all there in Wikipedia, you couldn't just check?

I'm getting picky.  There's no need, it all sucks.  The one thing about all those years of doing cover versions was that Rod actually has pretty good taste in songwriters, and sometimes he'd actually make a pretty good record if the tune suited his voice.  The truth is he lost the ability to write songs a long time ago, and the news that he has started again should have been taken as a warning similar to a severe weather bulletin rather than a harbinger of good news.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Sometimes, everything coalesces on an album, and that's what we have here from Feuerstack.  It's his most focused work, a distinct style for his writing, and therefore, not surprisingly, the first collection he's decided to put out under his own name.  The Montreal native (with loads of pals and a label in the Maritimes) has in the past recorded as Snailhouse, was a Juno winner as part of Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars, produced Paper Beat Scissors, and worked with The Luyas, Bell Orchestre, Bry Webb, and more, so it's not about getting noticed.  I think it's more likely this album is where and what he wants to be.

It's all in the songwriting, always his forte, and stronger than ever.  There's a lot of beauty in the tracks, music and words, but always with rough edges.  You have to look for it, as he points out in Flowers In The City:  "Flowers in the city, staying pretty, even in among the weeds/soaking up the smog, turning into something we can breathe."  It's an apt metaphor for the whole album.

The album opens with the prettiest sounds you can imagine, a lightly plucked acoustic, and whispy vocals as Feuerstack is joined by Laurel Sprengelmeyer (Little Scream), singing "I've been under dark clouds, and I've been under clear/scavengers and doves use the same sky."  The calmness and sweetness of the performance mask the reality of taking the bad with the good on the journey.

And so it goes in this collection of gentle songs, at least on the surface.  The dark clouds are there, he never ignores them, but makes them smaller by acknowledging them.  And its quiet presentation is merely a front for songs of great strength.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


The on-going, chronological reissues of the R.E.M. catalogue continue, and the good news is that even a switch of record labels hasn't changed the program.  For 1988's Green, the band jumped ship from indie status (I.R.S.) to major label Warner. That means the reissues also switch, from the EMI banner to Warner, but Green continues the same exact format.  The original album is on one CD, there's a bonus disc #2, a huge poster, postcards of the band, and an over-sized box to hold it all.  So for those collecting them all, this fits nicely alongside. 

At the time, the cool kids warned that moving to a major would be the demise of the group, going commercial and all that.  But it really had been a steady progress for the group, from minor-key mumblers to crisp and clear hit-makers.  Their previous disc, Document, had delivered The One I Love, and It's The End Of The World As We Know It, the crowds were bigger with each tour, and people could actually sing along.

Green did shake up things even more, with some deceptively poppy numbers, notably Stand, as light-hearted as they'd ever been.  The addition of mandolin on several tracks lightened things further, although lyrically for the most part the topics were still tough and more direct.  Orange Crush and World Leader Pretend saw Stipe taking on the big boys, the ones who send kids to war.

But even with weighty topics, Green didn't blast.  That came on the road, where these songs got the full treatment, especially from Peter Buck.  Often these reissues include a live concert as a bonus, which is nice, but I'll listen once and file it.  This period set is R.E.M. at its peak though, playing to big crowds and inspired by it.  They turn out the Green material with an intensity missing on the album.  The light stuff gets dealt with off the top, which turns out to be a fun way to start a show:  Stand, into The One I Love.  But then comes Turn You Inside-Out, now menacing and powerful.  Although it would be their next album, 1991's Out Of Time that took them to the top, Green, especially live, may be the best representation of the band.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


So I just got around to reading Neil Young's autobiography lately, and near the end, he talk about driving in one of his many cars on a long road trip to L.A.  He enthuses about listening to the Pistol Annies debut album.  Coincidentally, the new album by the trio arrived this week, so I figured I'd better see what old Neil is hot on.

Young mentions many times in his book that he's recently given up smoking dope.  So that doesn't explain his attraction to the band.  Of course, he's always loved country music, so there's that.  And he loves loud drums, and I don't think I've ever heard a country album with bigger bangs than this one.  Really, except for the overly-twangy voices, it's often hard not to call this a rock album.

Young also famously joined a supergroup, CSNY, and still plays with them when the feeling is right.  Pistol Annies are kind of like that.  There's Miranda Lambert, who came to fame via Nashville Star, and has a pretty successful career.  Then there's Ashley Monroe, still climbing in her career, a bit of a name.  The third member is Angaleena Presley, who has the required glamorous looks and strong voice required for this trio.  Young enthuses about their voices, which are fine, and they do mix together well.  But it's the same old stuff about cowboys and wanting to be loved by a working man.  Then there's the downright offensive Being Pretty Ain't Pretty, where we're supposed to feel sorry for them because it's such a drag having to put on lipstick and wear high heels.  I think they're trying for irony there, but one look at the booklet photos shows they don't have any problem showing off.

Funny thing is, Young's book had me convinced he was actually on the ball with his thinking.  Now, I'm questioning that.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Oh, it's that classic music story; boy grows up in Austin, Texas, surrounded by all that history and Americana hipness, becomes a songwriter, then strikes out on his own.  Along the way he moves to London, becomes a studio boffin, and re-works the 80's in dreamy synth-pop of today.  Okay, Alejandro Escovedo he ain't.

He's Greg Hughes, the main man behind Still Corners, and after a decade in Jolly Old, he's very much Jane Austin, not Texas Austin.  He does pretty much everything here, except sing, and that's accomplished by Tessa Murray, with appropriate detached, languid ease.  Album #2 sees the duo fall further into the feathery pillows of calm, catchy synth lines, with beats that move it near, but never quite onto the dance floor.  Well, unless it's one of those really cool places where everybody just chills and sways by themselves, hugging themselves.

Hughes keeps things rather simple and clear, choosing not to layer too much, and let the main sounds shine through.  Murray's vocals are up front as well, and that's where the ambiance and mystery comes from.  She's a spectral presence throughout, gliding on top of the pop.  Despite the 80's references on the tech side, overall it's much more modern and highly focused in the production.

Monday, May 6, 2013


While her studio albums have wowed fans, Gauthier is even more powerful live.  With just a stripped-down trio, the focus is on her gut-punching lyrics.   Plus, add instrumental breaks from Tanya Elizabeth's scratchy, echoed fiddle, and this is a soul-searching, and sometimes heart-breaking listen.

Gauthier's own story is always up front in her material, her days of drugs, alcohol and jail long in the past but reflected in her sympathy for her characters.  Listening to her autobiographical Drag Queens In Limousines, about being part of the street life of New Orleans is a poignant life-lesson for parents, to let their kids find their way instead of making them run away.  The stunner, the song championed by even Bob Dylan, is I Drink, with its "fish swim, birds fly/Daddies yell, Mamas cry" chorus, delivered here to the hushed crowd.  Bravely facing a Texas audience, she delivers her song Karla Faye, about the woman famously executed for murder in the state in 1998.  While most attention focused on how Texas hadn't executed a woman in over a hundred years, and how she had become a Christian on death row, Gauthier focuses on the need to understand the horrors of drug addiction and teenagers living on the street.  Oh, and sympathy.  There's almost always a call for sympathy in her songs.

She's also a fan of Canadian songwriter Fred Eaglesmith, with three of his songs included among the eleven here.  There's certainly a similarity in their approach and mood. In his The Rocket, there's an old man left alone to watch the trains, a war vet not even appreciated by his grandkids.  It could be the same old man that sits and thinks in I Drink.  With tracks that cover her whole career, this is a must for fans, and a fine place to start for newcomers.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


It's been awhile since we've heard a new disc from Olson, but she's quietly carved out an interesting roots-rock career, as a performer and producer.  Along the way, she's teamed up with ex-Stone Mick Taylor, ex-Byrd Gene Clark, ex-Mannfred Mann Paul Jones, and proved a strong collaborator.  So this album of duets and partnerships is an inspired choice.  Olson has found a dozen lesser-known but excellent tunes, and teamed up with lesser-known but excellent co-vocalists to do them.

Producing herself with top-notch players such as Cindy Cashdollar (Ryan Adams, Dylan), Barry Goldberg (Super Session, umm, Dylan), Clem Burke (Blondie), and others, the disc has a robust, vintage sound, a tribute to the songs and the eras represented here.  We go from 50's rock to 60's pop to classic country to garage to modern folk, with the musicians showing their love and having what sounds like a blast.  Check out Del Shannon's grand Keep Searchin' (We'll Follow The Sun), a track that shows glows with 1964 energy, as Peter Case and Olson do it Beatles-style, Goldberg drops in a classic Hammond B-3 line, and you wonder where this song has been all your life.  Olson brings back her old partner Clark's Byrds favourite She Don't Care About Time, with Buffalo Springfield's Richie Furay handling lead, and Olson giving it a sweet harmony line.

There isn't a weak track here, even when the surprises come out.  The Jersey sound gets feted with a Little Steven cut, All I Needed Was You, with Del-Lord Scott Kempner giving it the garage growl.  Perhaps the most left-field choice is Moby Grape's 8:05, again a Peter Case duet, this time finding them in slowed down and sweetly harmonizing.  And answering the trivia question, Whatever happened to Juice Newton?, she shows up here for two numbers, trading leads with Olson to great effect on Radney Foster's You Can Come Cryin' To Me.  In a music world that seeks out and celebrates stars, Olson shows it serves the song much better to put together a great team.

Friday, May 3, 2013


It shouldn't come as a surprise that David Francey has made another album of perfect, poignant songs.  Now on album ten, his masterful songwriting never fails to stir, to hit hard, to deliver the perfect rhyme or image.  Yet, it's still a tremendous thrill to hear that happen again, song after song, on his latest disc.
Hyperbolic?  Moi?  Over the top?  I'll admit to fan status, but I've been a fan to plenty of others along the way (the long, long way), and had my loyalty betrayed, or at least deflated by most.  Francey's still on the same roll that started with his late emergence in the recording game in his 40's, that propelled him to the top tier of the folk world. 
There's a connective tissue through this release he tells us in the booklet.  Looking back over a tough personal year that including grieving, and a long spell of depression, but also times of joy, he came away with a new appreciate for each day spent alive.  The songs speak of moving ahead, no matter the challenges.  Some of those roadblocks are personal, some man's foolishness, but none are too big to climb over or avoid, or to make smaller with the right lyric.  Because of that inner strength, these are never negative songs, or down.  Instead, we move forward with him, sometimes pausing to reflect on lessons learned, but never held back in the hurt.
Key to this period is the song Harm, which Francey tells us is about his depression, and how writing helped him get out of it.  The opening verse gives us the problem, "Every dread that you can name/It rattles around inside my brain."  The chorus lets us know he's not happy to be there:  "I want to see the sun again/I"m getting tired of the rain."  And the last verse figures it all out:  "Cause I know the past is real and how/But it's in the rear-view mirror now/It's been and gone and there's something new/Up ahead and out of view."  Anyone who goes through the cycle of depression will relate, and marvel at how clearly he's described the journey.
Francey doesn't dwell on this dark time, but instead turns his pen to several unique observations, topics and thoughts.  Lots of musicians have written about their lives on the road, but Cheap Motel gives us the full picture of what it's really like going from Super 8 to Super 8.  Pandora's Box looks at the internet, and how giving everyone a voice means a lot of crap gets let out:  "The din of a million million words/Better left unspoken/Pandora's box wide open."
Francey's ability to give voice to fears and frustrations and deal with them in public is the mark of a brave and true songwriter.  If it bothers him, he writes about it, coming up with a way to make it at least a little more understandable.  That helps us deal with it too.  A grand example of this is American Blues.  Our good neighbours to the south can be a drag.  Their idiotic refusal to get past the "right to bear arms", the corporate culture that runs roughshod over societal and environmental concerns, it's starting to wear on most Canadians.  Francey taps into that with brave lyrics that would get him kicked out of most U.S. towns, even though it's not the people but the greed he's attacking. 

Endlessly rewarding, Francey's songs give us hope in troubled times.  Quite a gift, that.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


It's all Good.  I mean, so many Goods, it's hard to keep track.  You have the two Good brothers from the Sadies, two of the Good Brothers, included the Sadie Good's father Bruce.  There's the Good Mother, Margaret, who sang in a pre-Good Brothers lineup.  Then there's a new (to me) Good, nice and cousin D'Arcy, perfect in the mix as they needed a fiddle player and another female voice.  So, what you have here is the long-anticipated and hoped-for full disc from The Sadies and The Good Brothers, plus more family, as has been seen on stage at lucky times.  I'm so glad they did get it done, and I'm even more glad it came out so incredibly well, as these things almost always seem better on paper.

Although linked strongly, The Sadies and The Good Brothers have existed in separate worlds until now.  The Goods make fine music, more live than recorded these days, but its old-school sound has never been picked up on by the same crowd that revere the eclectic electric Sadies.  This then, will show everybody how it meets, and it meets most wonderfully.  Folk, country, Bluegrass and rock all get a turn here, everything from banjo boogie to down-home ballads.  The young boys handle the guitars, the older ones dobro, autoharp and banjo, the non-Good Sadies (Mike Biletsky, Sean Dean) take their usual place behind drums and bass, D'arcy's fiddle is all over, and Mom and the rest share the vocals.  The vibe is rural, the values are older, country is foremost on everyone's mind, but it's that smart, philosophical country writing.  When Margaret sings "Oh, sweet oblivion" in Paradise, we knew we're talking deep truths here, not tossed-off corn.  That's one of two Greg Keelor co-writes here, a family  friend.  True country traveler Daniel Romano also contributes a co-write, and the rest all come from various family pens.

The playing is, of course, exceptional, as are the performances, unpolished but true singing throughout.  It's the songs though that make this such a standout.  Bruce and Larry's Outside Of Saskatoon is a great romp, a classic tale of someone who left the farm young, and is now realizing it's time to come back, that home is where the heart is.  Margaret's Secrets, which she wrote with Keelor, is folk rock from the 60's, an Ian and Sylvia hit that never was, about the distance between two lovers.  Bruce's Restless River is the sad tale of a young Ojibwe girl taken from her home, maybe to a hated residential school, a topical song that shows the Good family doing what folk performers do well, telling our important stories.

There's something magical about families making music together, because that's how they started out, and probably what they love doing best.  It sounds like they've been leading up to this album since the kids were born.  Thanks for sharing.