Thursday, March 28, 2019


Dartmouth hero Baldwin continues to forge his own solo path apart from his duties in the Matt Mays band. On his latest six-track EP, he vividly describes the price rock 'n' roll can extract. The songs come from a dark place, as he was kicking the destructive habits of substance abuse, and he poured it all out, not holding back in his words or intensity.

Able to view his addiction from the outside, Baldwin gives the other guy, his dark side, a voice in the story as well. In Salvation, he tempts Baldwin in the cold church basement, while he sits at a 12-step meeting. It's raw, loud and scary, like the stories the members were telling, and that constant voice in the back of his head.

True to form though, Baldwin's songs dark songs have strength imbued throughout as well, guitar epics that drive the words home with grandeur. In the best Springsteen/Petty tradition, there's defiance in the voice, guitar and drums, the rock 'n' roll a metaphor for survival. But there are no simple victories. As he sings in the closing cut No Rest For The Wicked, "Hope is a deception of the weak of mind/I'm here to tell you gently there's no peace to find." In other words, this work isn't going to end soon, and the dark guy will always be around, hard to keep at bay. The music alone here will inspire you, but so will Baldwin's honesty and humanity.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


Our old Nova Scotia pals Wintersleep unleash their latest on Friday, March 29, so it's more than fitting they kick off an East Coast tour tonight (see dates below). In The Land Of contains songs from on the group's two great strengths, extremely catchy tunes albeit slightly unsettling and eerie ones. Check out Beneficiary for instance, with its disco-beat chorus and downright happy-sounding verse, until it sinks in that it begins "All my days I open up my eyes/Beneficiary of a genocide." The point is don't get too comfortable, remember how you got there.

Land is the theme of the set, how we relate to our surroundings, and how we can feel out of place. And isn't that perfect for this band, which always make songs where singer Paul Murphy seems at odds with the happy tune the group has concocted. Never Let You Go has a cheery Paul Simon/Me & Julio rhythm going on, but the lyric relates, "I can't communicate with friends and family/I can't communicate with anybody." Other cuts, such as Soft Focus, are tougher, with crunchy and angular guitar chords, but still have lots of uplifting melody to lean on.

Don't fear the themes though, this isn't some hackneyed prog concept album, Wintersleep is too experienced and thoughtful a group to fall for anything trite. They've made every song captivating and a listening pleasure, and having the lyrics so thoughtful is a gift that keeps giving each listen. A pleasure all around.

Catch some 'Sleep at the following:

Wednesday, Mar. 27 - Moncton, NB//The Tide & Boar
Thursday, March 28 - Fredericton//Boyce Farmers Market
Friday, March 29 - Halifax//The Marquee
Saturday, Mar. 30 - Halifax//The Marquee
Sunday, March 31 - St. John's//Club One

Monday, March 11, 2019


David Byrne's quirkiness made for great, original music during the '70's and '80's with Talking Heads. That same oddball artiness didn't quite work out when he moved into film. After the surprise success of the Stop Making Sense concert film Byrne was given a budget and free reign to make True Stories, the 1986 movie that failed to find an audience. It was a musical comedy set in a fictional town, Vernon, Texas, with a series of stories Byrne took largely from tabloids, imagining what it would be like if these wild yarns were true. Music played a big part, with new songs written by Byrne sung by the actors or himself and Talking Heads. 
There was a full album of the same name by the band that year, a strong seller that included the hit Wild Wild Life. But it wasn't the soundtrack, it was the band versions of the same songs. A soundtrack album was released, but it just included the instrumental portions. For the first time, to coincide with a Blu-ray reissue of the film, the full soundtrack has been compiled, all the songs by the actors, and the incidental music and themes in one place.

The music is better than the movie for sure. The eerie ballad City Of Dreams, the driving Puzzlin' Evidence, and the punchy Love For Sale are all highlight tracks, and Byrne certainly put together a fine set of material, much better than the next and last Talking Heads album, Naked. But having the actors sing didn't always result in appealing versions. Dream Operator, for instance, is a bit annoying sung by Annie McEnroe, when compared to the Heads version. And even a legend, Pop Staples, doesn't really have the right voice for Papa Legba. Surprisingly, John Goodman does a fantastic vocal on the highlight People Like Us, sounding more believable than Byrne delivering this outsider anthem.

As for the instrumental sections, that's a real bonus here, with some very imaginative themes and off-kilter creations. Best are the tracks recorded on a cheesy Casio keyboard, complete with '80's drum machine, meant to be a hip version of Muzak. While it's not overall as strong as the Talking Heads album of the same name, it's a different animal, and as a soundtrack, its really quite novel and enjoyable. You might want to pass on the film, I haven't seen it since it came out, and I can wait another 33 years.

Thursday, March 7, 2019


Here's a big, and exciting surprise from the New Brunswick folk duo. The couple (John and Lisa McLaggan) are fun and full of happy energy, and have rightfully won a strong reputation for their positive, upbeat tunes and performances. However, they were also in danger of becoming a novelty act, with their bare-bones setup; just the two of them, his guitar and her washboard, plus that unending cheerfulness. But as this new album shows, there's lots more depth coming to the fore these days.

Enter Nashville producer Jon Estes, who has worked with everyone from Kesha to Dolly Parton, Robyn Hitchcock to Loretta Lynn. He brought the duo into his studio, and brought a whole new light on all their considerable talents. It wasn't a case of Nashville pros propping them up, but rather a sympathetic producer recognizing their unique abilities, and challenging them to do their best work yet. Lisa McLaggan has stepped up with her best-ever vocals, signing with power and confidence. Her husband's songwriting has never sounded better and more varied.

Variety is a key on the release, with the songs going in several directions, from the thumping rock of You Don't Know Anything to the soulful twang of the title cut to the breakup ballad I'll Keep The Frame. John McLaggan's lyrics have followed the cheerful path in the past, but there's a new edge in several of the songs. The couple arguing in a hotel lobby in You Don't Know Anything are truly pissed, he's abusive, but her resilience and courage wins the day. It's about as far from the couple's real life as we can imagine, and good for them, stretching to show there are a lot more tricks to this pony.

While they brought all the goods needed, it is great to hear them surrounded by some fine Nashville players, and all manner of roots instruments. Estes could have gone for a mini-Mumfords sound, slapping on the banjo and organ and made it like a thousand other bands, but instead the 12-track album keeps surprising, even including some searing electric leads.

All that, and there's a couple of attention-grabbing covers too. Their cover of Take On Me has already made the rounds and won smiles and even the kudos of A-ha themselves (I believe it also predates Weezer's current cover). John singing The Band's Ophelia will certainly help endear them to the festival crowds this summer as well. But it's all about the band growth on Canary In A Coal Mine, which has redefined the band.