Craig Cardiff All This Time Running True North Records
Intricately Constructed and Articulate Songs; Which Will Haunt You for Years to Come.
WOW! Apparently Canadian Singer-Songwriter Craig Cardiff has previously self-released 25 albums and EP’s since 1999; but this on the fabulous True North label is his first in 6 years and this is the first time that I’ve heard of him. If ALL THIS TIME RUNNING is the benchmark; then the loss has been mine. First of all I’m not sure I agree with his description of himself as a Folk Singer; I have him pegged as a Singer-Songwriter and I believe there is a very subtle, but significant difference ….. which we can debate at a later date. The title track kick starts the album; and the first thing I noticed was Cardiff’s voice; part gruff and part velvety in texture but incredibly sensitive and expressive. The song itself has an expansive feel to it; and I swear that there’s a banjo in the many layered musical backing to Cardiff’s intense and beautiful tale of love. One of the reasons that it’s taken me so long to actually write a review; is Cardiff’s voice which he uses like an instrument all of its own; it’s like a cloak that wraps everything together in a way you find yourself not always taking notice of the words and stories; but that’s a good thing at times; but you really should pay attention as Craig Cardiff really can write a cleverly constructed and articulate song; the likes of which will haunt you for years to come ……. which has already happened to me with Yellowknife, Fire, Fire, Fire and the meticulous and bouncy Emm & May, which had me humming the melody and mumbling a few words late one night at work! We all know the adage that songwriters should ‘write about what they know’ and Craig Cardiff does this with imaginative and colourful flourishes on Bryant Park, Greyhound SK and Wyoming; truly ‘painting pictures with words.’ My copy has a bunch of Bonus Tracks on it; and I hope yours does too; as the two versions of Moon are both worthy of inclusion; especially the Big Band rendering and the title track All This Time Running comes back with an Explicit Version; which would normally turn me off …… but we ain’t talking NWA here, just a slightly more punchy approach which does a great song no harm at all. For my Favourite Song I’m actually torn between the Bonus Track Dirty Old Town and The American, which appears much earlier. Dirty Old Town confused me at first; as I was expecting the Ewan MacColl song, made famous by The Pogues; but no…. it’s actually a rather lovely Modern Folkie missive with some really sharp and neat guitar work behind a love song we can all associate with. The American, on the other hand is a a cool rootsy, Jazz tinged song; with swooping strings and a drummer who must have studied under Levon Helm (less is more?) making it the perfect accompaniment for a warm Spring/Summer evening preferably sitting on a veranda drinking something quite exotic …. which makes this easily my Favourite Track here; although the competition was very high. Craig Cardiff covers a lot of ground here; dabbling in a variety of styles, that are all woven together to create a genuinely complete body of work; well worthy of his contempories all across North America … and beyond.
It’s all coming along nicely, but it doesn’r get any easier cramming 2 hours of music into 1 hour of radio! This week we’ve got a dodgy balance of old and new songs that will intrigue. fascinate and make you buy some music. The Gateway Record comes from Canadian Singer-Songwriter Terra Spencer who has selected a fellow countryman; and coincidentally ‘Friend of the Rocking Magpie’ ….. Stephen Fearing.
Thanks for listening; stay safe, wear a mask and thanks for listening.
Ontarians Greatest Short Story Never Told Self-Release/Bandcamp
Intricately Dramatic and Romantic Lo-Fi Canadiana.
Yet again, here’s an album that very nearly passed me by. When it first arrived the band’s name Ontarians intrigued me, as I have a soft spot for Canada and Canadian music ….. but, if I remember rightly it arrived on a day alongside 6 or 7 others so got lost in the swell, as you can imagine. Jump forward a month or so and as I was scrolling through my Itunes for something completely different I saw this and thought “Aha!” After twenty minutes I reckon it should have been “Eureka!” Don’t get over excited; as Ontarians certainly don’t; this isn’t the second coming of The Beatles; it’s what we used to call Lo-Fi …… the type Canadians do better than any other nation. Opening track TIME left me totally gobsmacked; somehow merging a melancholic intensity with a laid back attitude. Honestly. Possibly it’s the production; but the way Frank Deresti delivers his lines in slow drawl while the band sound like a post-apocalyptic breeze captivates me every time I’ve played this song. Whoosh! The band crank up the pace and anxiety levels on track #2 No Regrets; still on my Lo-Fi ouvre; but maybe I could call it Alt. Lo-Fi? There’s a lot more of a Country vibe here; but a lot nearer to Wilco than Waylon. Just like their peers, this album was written and recorded separately over the last 12 months; with only one song finding all three band members; Frank Deresti. Jay Styles and Craig Smith in the same room at the same time; the darkly beautiful Photographs and Epitaphs; but you’d never have guessed when you hear the complex Coming To Me Now or Forest to The Trees; or anything else to be honest …… it’s like a 1000 piece jigsaw that appears impossible judging by the picture on the front; but by the time the final notes of the magnificent wheezing harmonica on Satellites drift from your speakers, you will sit back totally satisfied; as the work both yourself and the musicians have put in have come together quite beautifully. To the uninitiated some of these songs may seem a bit ‘wordy’; but that’s the point surely; this ain’t Pop Music; this is music for articulate and thoughtful Grown Ups like you and I; which neatly brings me to the two songs toying for my accolade of Favourite Song. As usual any love song is always going to get my undivided attention; and Born To Love You certainly pays dividends the more I’ve played it; and on headphones I thought I may even well up and cry. A fairly simple and repetitive chorus feels like Deresti is slowly tightening your heartstrings without you realising it; until you find yourself unable to breathe. T’other; Balloon, on first and second listening is another complex; almost poetic tale; with the Balloon being a metaphor for ……… ‘love’ and again; the more you listen closely it unravels like a ball of angora wool; soft to the touch yet as strong as steel. I think I’m going to choose the latter; Balloon as my my Favourite Song; not least because of the stunning and understated pedal-steel that cuts through the rest of the misty instrumentation like a watery morning sun in Winter.
Now I’ve read the band’s accompanying bio I see Wilco actually get a mention …… so I was correct; of course, and I can clearly hear the quality in the bands playing, songwriting and song construction, which only comes from treading the boards from a lifetime on the road learning and listening from ‘the best’ and putting it all together on your own work. The overall ‘feel’ I got was similar to a long lost Canadian band called Ox who I loved and adored; but fell completely off my radar years ago. In a blind tasting I’m sure 9 out of 10 Hepcats would simply ‘know’ that this was a Canadian album, even without seeing the band’s name …… and that’s meant as a huge compliment.
RMHQ Radio Show Jumpin’ Hot Club 35th Anniversary Special Pts #1 & 2
Bringin’ the Jive Since ’85
35 years ago this week in 1985 two young men. Graham Anderson and Adam Collerton booked their first act for the Jumpin’ Hot Club; and now in 2021 they are still announcing gigs from new and ground breaking Roots Acts in 2021.
The list of acts they’ve brought to the North East of England just goes on and on; with many household names in the Roots World making their first tentative steps into Europe courtesy of this nomadic club.
As a very minor cog over the last twenty years I’m proud to bring you two one hours shows highlighting the diversity of acts, if not an actual Best Of …….
From Canada; Life’s Happiness and Sadness (But Not in Equal Measures)
Quite a few years ago I read an article extolling the virtues of the number of successful Canadian bands on the Indie/Rock scene, so not long after; I took the chance to see a few bands from this ‘new scene’ whenever they visited my Home Town of Newcastle. Two of the earliest I was able to catch up with were Woodpigeon and Wintersleep. Both were excellent, so I have CDs from both in my collection (something that definitely needs to be tidied up ASAP). In the latest edition of MOJO Magazine, is their small review of ‘Twin Flames;’ the band were described as ‘inventive envelope-pushing indie rock’. The link between the two points? Paul Murphy that’s who; and POSTDATA is his side project to Wintersleep; and is releasing this album under the expert production of Ali Chant (Perfume Genius, Portishead and P J Harvey). In addition; among the performers offering quality helping hands are Grant Hutchison and Andy Monaghan from Frightened Rabbit, one of my favourite UK outfits. Having set out with the aim of producing a more intimate offering Paul has managed to to manufacture an album that not only reflects that, but also suits his quite distinctive voice quite perfectly – the end result is his best release so far, in my opinion. Nine tracks that retain the dual target of an excellent album filled with excellent individual songs. Sadness and happiness abounds; albeit in unequal measures. ‘Haunts’ drifts in slowly and gently behind Murphy’s vocals ‘you were the first to say I love you,’ backed by percussion and bass to start us off on the road through ‘Twin Flames.’ This is followed by a dreamy pop style ‘Inside Out’ and one that Murphy maintains he has left in its ‘poppy’ state. Catchy is the ideal adjective for track #3 ‘Nobody Knows’ where he is backed by friends and family shouting ‘not good’ behind him. This is the track that Murphy has modelled on the musical leanings of the late Scott Hutchison. The title track is delivered in a cool spoken manner and is certainly the darkest song here, in terms of meaning and lyrics ‘holding you tightly in the endless night til there was nothing left’. The beautiful horn backing offers the ideal back set to this track. Favourite track? For me? ‘Kissing;’ about a relationship that is so alive, you can literally feel the Frightened Rabbit influence in here – sadness is always just a heartbeat away. Brilliant. The last few tracks offer Paul the chance to demonstrate his ability to mix the upbeat ‘Behind You’ and the need to just get through tough times and make the most of life with ‘My Mind Won’t,’ dealing with love in its many complicated ways, not least being the difficult part of simply staying together; ‘I don’t want to let you go but my words are meaningless.’ Another great song ‘Tomb’, the finale, covers the aftermath of a death, with the memories that are so clear yet all they do is to bring these almost to life, so he can’t get away from them in real life. An album of happiness and sadness (not in equal measures) that does definitely reveal the friendship and influence that existed with the members of Frightened Rabbit, but overall it is a tremendous set, one that will go down a bomb in a smaller more intimate venue. My ‘test’ is to listen on the daily morning walk and this one got regular re-plays and I even found myself looking at the lyrics, something I very rarely do. Did I mention that Canada have more than a few decent indie/rock outfits? POSTDATA are well and truly in that category.
Well; it all seems to be going quite well with our Music Hour and it’s proving to be a bit of a success! As you will see this week’s episode is another groovy mix of Old New, Borrowed and Bluesy Americana and Roots Music. There are some brand new tracks, a couple from albums due out and some oldies too …… but; for me, most importantly we have our first Gateway Song from one of our favourite musicians; Stephen Fearing. For the foreseeable future we will be showing you the list of songs on the show (would you prefer it if we left it ‘as live’ and more exciting?) but I’m not telling you which song and album ‘changed’ Stephen’s musical leanings ….. you will have to listen … and learn.
Peach & Quiet Just Beyond The Shine Peach and Quiet Music
Canadian Cool and American West Coast Charm Collide in Glorious Harmony.
Sadly in these modern times the artwork on an album may not ‘mean’ as much as I think it should; in this particular case someone has decided to take the duo’s name Peach and Quiet (which I’m also not keen on!) and tried to turn it into a literal format; but ended up with something pseudo-sexual that wouldn’t have been out of place on a 1980’s Soul Compilation. Mercifully, the music of duo Heather Read and Jonny Miller; from Canada’s West Coast bares no resemblance to that much maligned genre at all. With the legendary Steve Dawson at the helm and occasionally adding guitar; Jonny and Heather make some rather divine harmonious Canadian Folk Music, with a nod towards the American West Coast. I’d put off playing the album, simply because of the artwork; but thankfully (yet again) my IPhone has no such qualms and opening song Empty To Fill serenaded me one crisp and frosty morning, a couple of dawns ago. With Miller on lead, his rich voice aligned to a rather tight backing band that errs on the side of Folk Rock took me away to much warmer and far more interesting climes. The second song; For My Love features the couple in sympatico harmony …… wow! There are plenty of lazy comparisons I could make; but won’t as together Miller and Read sound like more or less no one else other than themselves; it’s beautifully crafted and quite distinctive; and that guitar picking will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. The first few times I’ve played the album I struggle to get past wallowing in the couples voices; both individually and together; plus the arrangements flit seamlessly between West Coast USA and Canada with simple ease. But, today I’ve put the headphones on and listened a bit more intently to the songs and the stories therein; and they actually match the quality of singing; which isn’t always the case …… trust me. Lucky In Love is pretty much what you’d expect; but the rasp in Jonny Miller’s voice gives the words an extra edge that many won’t achieve; and on the flip side the swoonsome, There’s a Very Good Chance has a fabulous melody which will mean most listeners will miss the actual message of a strong bond and love that the couple are singing about. When you see a song title like Seven Daffodils, it’s quite likely you will presume it’s going to be some Hippie-Drippy nonsense, but this love song about longing is far more than that; and again is given a certain ‘darkness’ by Miller’s tones and some electric guitar from the dirty end of the fretboard. There’s even a song that will make lovers of a certain vintage go Oooohhhh …….. Will You is a Love song from one to the other as they/we grow old together, worrying that the ‘spark’ is still there; when we know fine well it is; and always will be. The whole album has been both a delight and a basket of surprises from start to finish; which brings me to one song in particular; Shoreline After The Storm which finds Heather taking lead vocals; and it totally blew me away the first time I heard it and just about everytime I’ve played it since. While I know it’s Canadian; I can hear that Canadian ‘cool’ in there; but first and foremost this song is Celtic in origin with a fair smattering of Gothic charm in there too ……. making this by far and away my Favourite Track. With a deep breath I can probably forgive Jonny and Heather for the twee name they’ve selected for their duo; but that CD cover is genuinely going to put off the actual people who will buy and cherish these songs ….. hopefully it’s not too late for a change; they and their songs deserve better.
Here it is …….. scientifically based on statistics (i.e the number of times each review has been read!) THE OFFICIAL MOST FAVOURITE REVIEWS on RMHQ across the whole of 2020. It’s as eclectic as ever, and there are plenty of surprises too; but not a single duffer among them; although there really are some surprises!
A Reverently Irreverent, Lyrically and Musically Superb Collection of Modern Classic Country.
Prince Edward Island on Canada’s east coast is becoming a veritable factory of class roots music acts these days – and Scott MacKay on this, his third album, is going to cause a significant number of heads to turn again towards that direction, with this beautifully crafted collection of intelligent Country tunes. He’s obviously done his homework – taking actual, in person, real life classes in storytelling, creative writing and songwriting (in Nashville, naturally) and he’s been able to observe and process all that he’s loved and learnt to create a fine body of work. It’s not a cold, intellectual paint by numbers job though – far from it. Opener “Stupid Cupid” (NOT a cover of the old Connie Francis number btw) is a pedal steel driven boom-chick singalong with classic, yet sharply crafted and lean lyrics. It’s a two-stepping delight. “11 Yellow Roses” is lyrically in George Jones territory and musically Merle, with McKay’s melodious timbre reverberates in telling a classic tale of telling detail. Things take a bluesier turn on a traditional opposition tale “Opposites Attract” which is in the mould of songs like Tim Carroll’s “Every Kind of Music but Country” – again the lyricism is clever and tight, with smart couplets neatly avoiding cliché at every turn. “Romance Novel” is a further Possum-styled ballad and benefits from spacey reverb and squelching rhythm that says “Classic – but modern”. There’s a shift in tone mid-album on “They’re Making Love Below Us” which is a richly sung cathartic confessional, about a love gone cold – the preparation that Scott did in polishing his craft is abundantly clear here – setting, voice and character are all combined with care and there’s not a wasted word – and as is becoming rarer – there’s no resorting to standard worn-out lyrical motifs; this goes the extra yards in creating something fresh and original – and it makes such a difference. “Half of Everything” kicks the second half of the album into gear with some baritone Twang and slide, in a tongue-in-cheek tale of divorce with the best holding of a long note you’re likely to hear outside of the niche yodelling community. My air guitar game was strong on this too…. “Brand New Heart” employs MacKay’s vibrato to quip some great lines like “ever since the surgery I’ve been feeling kinda strange” and employs a key shift to introduce its spectacular denouement – I won’t spoil it, but think of “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes.” When She’s Sleepin’ She’s Cheatin’” is an old tale of imagined jealousy “she even started putting lipstick on in bed”… “so she’d be good and ready for the man inside her head.” It’s in the best tradition of clever country novelty that Robbie Fulks is such a proponent of. Penultimate track “Breakup and Makeup” doesn’t pull any lyrical punches in its walking blues – “call me an arsehole – a no good prick” in a song about a lustful relationship fired by conflict and attrition “talking real dirty to one another.” The album ends bravely and unexpectedly with a Luke the Drifter styled monologue for modern times – the full gamut of Country styles have been covered and every box ticked – but as I said earlier, this is no box-tick pastiche – it’s a reverently irreverent, lyrically and musically superb collection of classic country for modern times. When’s he touring over here? Or do I have to fly to Canada again?
Chairmen of The Boards Surfin’ Apocalypse Weewerk Records
Wayfarers On, Wax The Board We’re Going Surfin’ Canadian Style!
I doubt I’ve heard or certainly actually ‘listened to’ Surf Music since I received that fabled box of Olde Records, that included two Surfaris EP’s back in 1970! Yet, only a few weeks a weeks ago I reviewed the Neptunas and now; it’s The fabulously monikered Chairmen of The Boards from Toronto Town in Canada. Surfing in Canada? Lake Ontario it appears; who knew? Let’s not let the esoterics get in the way of a damn fine record; let’s just open a cold ‘un and slip on the Clubmasters; Surf’s undoubtedly Up; Dude. With instrumentals it must be difficult choosing something to open an album with; something to capture the imagination right from the off; and COTB do that perfectly with the intense Stormy Monday Payoff; which sounds like it was culled together after a 24 Hour session watching Tarantino movies. This is followed by Run-A-Wave; which while not up there with Apache, certainly sounds as if Rob Hiemstra had spent a long Zen like Summer studying at the feet of Hank B Marvin; and that makes for some truly simpering guitar licks. A Classic Guitar, bass and drums trio at heart the Chairmen aren’t afraid to add and subtract when necessary, with the judicious use of pedal-steel on the smoocherific Moonlight Beach, to give it a Hawaiian feel and several times across the rest of the disc a horn section and tinkling Hammond organ gives us an authentic 60’s vibe too. Another problem bands must have with instrumentals; is naming them …… but here Dirty Grind, Booty Wiggle and Beach Bang are just as salacious as the titles suggest; but only in an innocently naughty manner. I can’t help thinking that this is a mysterious Soundtrack to Quentin’s unreleased film; Point Break II (Waikiki on Fire) or the likes; so choosing a Favourite Track has been very difficult; as while very few tracks stand out from the crowd, with the whole concept neatly blending from one track to another; but the version of Dick Dale’s Taco Wagon sounds great when cranked up to 10 in the car; as does Danger in The Way which would surely be the police chase in my imaginary movie! But then again the title track Surfin’ The Apocalypse; which just may be the Soundtrack to 2020, has me shaking my shoulders and shuffling my feet every time I play it; so let’s go their for the RMHQ Favourite Track. It’s not really clear why Chairmen of the Boards eventually went down this quirky musical route; all the Release says is that they kept adding self-penned Surf tracks to their set-list many moons ago during a residency at Grossman’s Tavern in Toronto; but on these dark, cold and lonely days at the tail end of 2020 I’m bloody glad they did!