Tuesday, November 5, 2019


Looking back, I concluded my review of the first Sussex album, Parade Day, from 2016, with the words "This is new, I want more." Yay then, there's more, and it's even more enjoyable. Sussex is a group made of two old musical friends from New Brunswick, who played in the same high school band, and rediscovered each other a couple of decades later, both living in Montreal. Rob Lutes is a nationally-loved roots singer-songwriter, and Michael Emenau a respected jazz vibraphonist. Magically they found a common ground musically, a mysterious and stirring combination of their talents, along with fascinating musical colours and some of Lutes' fine road stories.

For the second album, the pair have stretched even further, throwing out the boundaries. The songs go anywhere, from jazz to bluegrass to blues. With each song, surprising sounds make them sound unlike any of those genres though. It's not just the gorgeous tones from Emenau; this time it's basically a quarter album, with guests Ivanhoe Jolicouer (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Bruno Lamarche (clarinet, sax) adding major parts. Opener "Everything I Wanted" would make a great folk-blues tune on its own, sung by Lutes with his nearly-gruff, but very melodic bluesman voice. But it becomes a wonder of tones and notes with Emaneu's good vibes and some perfectly placed brass. And as always, you get Lutes' fine wordplay. New Brunswickers, or any who've traveled the remote cross-northern road will recognize this feeling: "The Renous highway will get you here to there/If you're looking for the middle of nowhere." In "Kite Strings" the punch line is everything: "I'm leaving you, and you're coming too."

Sussex has some upcoming dates in and around Montreal, and in the meanwhile, Lutes continues his usual road warrior activities, including stops back in the home province.  He's playing at the following:

Wednesday, Nov. 6 - Salty Towers, St. Andrews, NB
Thursday, Nov. 7 - The Tipsy Muse, Fredericton
Friday, Nov. 8 - Shadow Lawn Inn, Rothesay, NB
Saturday, Nov. 9 - Temple on Queen, Bridgetown, NS
Sunday, Nov. 10 - Petite Riviere Vineyards, Crousetown, NS

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