Sunday, November 28, 2021


The next adventure for some of the East Coast's alt-darlings, the group features former Dog Day and Eric's Trip members, and a surprising new sound blend. Basically you take the straight-ahead pulse of shoegaze, the hypnotic haze of psych and a heaping helping of pop melodies, and you get the candy-coated fizzy sound the group labels dream-rock. Works for me. 

"I just wanna know what's true," sings KC Spidle, echoing many of us, feeling locked down and looking inward. It does feel, I'm sure unintentionally, like a record for our time. it's scary out there, better to be inside where this lovely blanket of jangly guitars keeps you warm and safe. Meanwhile drummer Meg Yoshida (Dog Day, etc.) keeps it all together and smoothly, albeit gently, rocking. Chris Thompson, Kate O'Neill (both from Moon Socket) and Evan Cardwell add layers and breezy harmonies. As the new Omicron variant (and cold weather) chases us all back indoors, please cuddle up with this.

Thursday, November 18, 2021


There are basically two types of Christmas albums. The first, and most common, is an artist putting their own spin on the standards, whether they are fun jingle bell numbers or beloved carols and hymns. Sometimes they put one or two of their own on there but the emphasis is on the familiar.

The other, quite challenging set is when someone writes a whole new collection of songs, treating it like a true, brand new album. Challenging, because you aren't just coming up with a few new songs, you're immediately in competition with all those classics that people love and (mostly) never tire of hearing. So basically you have to write something as good as say, "O Holy Night." And then do it 10 more times, in order to stand out.

Gallant has chosen the latter path, and put all his talents to work. There's no light-hearted throwaways in these new songs. Each one features his great storytelling skills, whether they are about the Christmas story of the Holy birth, the universal theme of being kind to each other, the longing we feel at the holidays, family ties, tradition, and even a little one-on-one affection. Of course you have his heart-tugging voice, with that melancholy edge that adds the needed gravitas, and his usual excellent melodies. 

Among the standouts are "The Innkeeper," a retelling of the Christmas story from the vantage point of an innkeeper with no rooms left, and a late-night knock from a couple, the woman about to give birth. Gallant doesn't have to fill in all the holes, you get the picture. The Innkeeper gets a weight lifted from his soul. "The Gift" is a modern Christmas miracle, subtitled A Nurse Story. Their Christmas Eve is spent on a 12-hour shift, bringing a little bit of love to patients who need it the most. Gallant doesn't forget the festivities though; the cheeky "All I Want For Christmas" is a fun, slightly risque duet with Patricia Richard ("All I want for Christmas is to be a little naughty/That'd be nice!").

Another clever idea on the album features different music settings for several of the songs, to go along with the theme of Christmas Day on Planet Earth. There's a Parisienne feel to one song, a Middle East setting of course, an obvious East Coast kitchen vibe, and on the title cut, the voices of Black Umfolosi from Zimbabwe. Along with Patricia Richard's excellent singing across the collection, and great acoustic tones plus a couple of rockers, it's a well-rounded set musically as well. I always make a point of listening to as many new Christmas albums each year, and this is one of the best I've heard in years, and certainly one of the premiere sets of new tunes in a long time.

Gallant's taking his Christmas show on the road in a few days, covering most of the Maritimes. I hope he's learning every one of these songs for the show.

Nov. 25 - Georgetown, PEI - Kings Playhouse

Nov. 26 - Chester, NS - Chester Playhouse

Nov. 27 - Arichat, NS - The Island Nest

Nov. 28 - Parrsboro, NS - The Hall

Dec. 2 - Saint John, NB - Kent Theatre

Dec. 3 - Fredericton, NB - The Playhouse

Dec. 4 - Moncton, NB - Capitol Theatre

Dec. 5 - Summerside, PEI - Harbourfront Theatre

Dec. 8 - Liverpool, NS - Astor Theatre

Dec. 9 - Wolfville, NS - Acadia University

Dec. 10 - Lunenburg, NS - Opera House

Dec. 11 - Halifax, NS - Spatz Theatre

Dec. 12 - Truro, NS - Marigold Theatre

Dec. 14 - Pictou, NS - deCoste Theatre

Dec. 15 - Sydney, NS - Highland Arts Theatre

Dec. 16 - Port Hawkesbury, NS - Civic Centre

Dec. 17 - Antigonish, NS - PJ Baccardax Hall

Dec. 18 - Charlottetown, PEI - Confederation Centre

Sunday, November 14, 2021


Straight outta gritty Hamilton, Paul Wootten and Stephen Foster first teamed up in the '90's in the bluesy The Crawlin' Kingsnakes. Getting back together in 2018, they put together a solid backing band featuring a revolving crew of folks from Hammer legends Crowbar, Simply Saucer and Junkhouse. Now comes a second album, with a wider release and buzz, enough to get them a recent nomination for a Maple Blues Award, for best new group. 

The concept is simple enough, a love of tight, nasty '60's R'n'B, electric blues that you have to move to. Simple idea, but that means the very best playing, and the ability to put down a groove that won't let up. Then there's the material. You can't just get up there and play covers, and Wootten and Foster write tunes that sound classic but are brand-new.  "Glory Train" has a great theme, jumping on the blues train, playing with Brother Ray, and Sister Rosetta. "Shot'a Rhythm 'n' Blues" makes it even clearer, bringing up the great ancestors like John Lee Hooker and Sam & Dave in a track that would have even the most lethargic tavern-goer rush the dance floor. And "Shotgun Wedding" ("She was seven months gone/and he was none too quick") is in the grand tradition of "You Never Can Tell" and "I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock 'n' Roll)." 

The guitar licks sting, the piano rolls, the backing singers and horns add all the right fills, and every cut feels like a party. In fact it reminds me a lot of Doug & the Slugs if they had been strictly an R'n'B band, and I don't make that comparison to one of Canada's very best show bands lightly.