Thursday, October 28, 2021


"That fierce love" Ramolo sings about in "Quarantine Dream" is not something to take lightly. Raw emotion is soaked through the whole 10-song set, our searches and hopes, the desire to feel as deeply and bravely as we can. Dreams are referenced throughout, but there's no difference between the waking and sleeping ones, they are all about what we truly long for, intimate connection, fulfillment.

Maybe it's her Mediterranean passion. She sings about coming alive in "Italian Summer," for her that special place where everything comes together, "that sweet sunkissed beauty." Bliss slips out of the sensual pop of that song, but others are more haunted folk, that dream state, where her vocals become ethereal. There's even a splendid and very different take on the common theme of being a musician on the road. "Road Kill" is an eerie, middle of the night trip to the next show, and the other-worldly feel of darkness alternating with the white lines, like a scene from a David Lynch movie. The songs leave one unsettled and inspired, each in the best way.

Thursday, October 21, 2021


Canada's progressive string quartet The Fretless aren't the first such group to do an album of modern covers, or add guest vocalists. But often those sets are larks, a bit of fun, and a way to draw attention from the pop audience. You're not going to find such stunts here, no novelty string arrangements of "Highway To Hell" or a set of beloved Fleetwood Mac classics. Instead, the singers are interesting experimenters, and the songs are for the most part somewhat obscure. They were chosen from a list the group had of works they felt would benefit from their particular style of arrangement, and a strings and vocals-only treatment.

Even if you do know the song, you'll barely recognize it, which is a great thing. Feist's "My Moon My Man" has an otherworldly quality here, with Scottish folkie Rachel Sermanni accompanied by some delightful swirls. Nashville couple Freddie & Francine match the beauty of the moody melody from Steely Dan's "Dirty Work" with their fine vocals. And the group, along with Lady Phyl, turn "Wondering Where The Lions Are" into something unrecognizable but wonderful, retaining only the lyrics as the strings sail into eternity. 

Both Dan Mangan and the Bros. Landreth got to work with the group on reimagined versions of their own songs, Mangan on "Troubled Mind" and the Bros. with "Let It Lie." For my ears, it's great to hear songs stripped of beats and 2020 cliches, and brought back to a more musical place; witness the version of Alessia Cara's "Stay" with Nuela Charles for that. There's a little bit of me wishing The Fretless would remake, like, everything. 

Monday, October 18, 2021


A significant step forward for this New Brunswick singer-songwriter, who put out an album and an E.P. in the 2010's. Now with a lot more confidence and development, Reinhart has worked hard finding the right framing for her personal lyrics. The result is a rootsier sound with tighter arrangements and some fine hooks and catchy choruses.

The songs on this five-cut E.P. tell of bad, regretful relationships and coming out the other side stronger. No tears needed now, she's got this covered: "You'll only see one finger when I say goodbye, in my rearview," she sings goodbye to a loser in lead single "Rearview." In "Last Disaster," she adds this bit of muscle to the same topic: "This story's over, I can close this chapter/you should know you'll be my last disaster." And she saves her most heartfelt words for her own healing, in "Apology": "Now I'm sorry -- this apology is for me."

Recorded and mixed by fellow N.B.-er John McLaggan of East Coast favourites Tomato/Tomato, this feels like a whole new start for Reinhart.

Friday, October 15, 2021


From the fertile Hamilton music scene, Wiles is a strong singer-songwriter who has the added blessing of a killer voice, emotive and rich. The leads and harmonies here are exceptional, and are wisely highlighted in the mix throughout. She has a voice you want to hear.

Her pop-folk material is lyrically strong as well, straight to the point, emotional and empowering, and the upbeat numbers like "Make A Memory With Me" are tailor-made with big hooks. They do tend towards '70's and '80's clean production, somewhat dated at times, but no problem if that's your era. Some more country-ish numbers later in the album, "Lovey Dovey" and "Old Country Song," benefit more from that approach, good ol' throwback country with a big voice and lots of fiddle. 

Catch her Saturday, Oct. 16 at the Moonshine Cafe in Oakville, ON.

Friday, October 1, 2021


I haven't heard an album like this in awhile. Each song is simple, easy to take in, and utterly charming. They're built on clever lines, great humour, touching moments, worldly wisdom and sentimentality. Life, in all its beauty, confusion and irony. It's just the kind of record we loved John Prine for.

Hannam of course is no slouch as a writer. The Alberta troubadour has two decades worth of carefully-honed roots albums, but this one stands out. Not that he's reinvented the wheel, it's just that each song is bang-on, a collection where you go "Now that's a good one" with every new song. And you don't get used to them. Each time I've played this, the same thing has happened, where every one of the eleven tracks grabs my attention is some way.

It starts out that way with a great couplet, on lead track "Long Haul": "I ain't in it for the short term/I'm in it for the slow burn." In "Beautiful Mess," a duet with Shaela Miller, is a classic "We can't break up, who else would have us?" tune: "Oo wee baby, you and me are a tragedy/a shipwreck and a house ablaze/an earthquake and a tidal wave." And lines that might be too much like a Hallmark greeting card in a lesser writer's hands come out sincere and important from Hannam: "May you die young at heart at a ripe old age." Ain't life something? Don't overthink it.