Cassie Josephine & Gabriel Minnikin
Contemporary Country Duets With a Beautiful Melodic Twist.
Gabriel Minnikin has been on the outer edges of my radar for a few years courtesy of mutual friend Gem Andrews; but it is only with the release of this disc that I’ve actually heard why Gem raves about him.
Aha! You say; but this features Cassie Josephine too…..and indeed it does; which was a wonderful surprise as I was expecting another solo outing from Nova Scotian Mr. Minnikin.
Ooh! My ears pricked up like a meerkats when the soothing Twang of opening track Forever drifted from the office speakers followed by Cassie Josephine’s sweet and expressive voice. It’s sometimes lazy to throw comparisons into a review; but I immediately thought back to those early Nanci Griffith and Laura Cantrell albums as she took us on a Mid-Western Country road trip over the next couple of songs.
Although this is a CD, I’m impressed by the way the album is split into two distinctive ‘sides’ just like olde worlde LP’s used to be with Cassie taking the lead on Side 1, as befits a lady.
What a voice she has…..’like warm honey and butter on a freshly toasted crumpet (ha,ha,ha), but seriously she has a gorgeously sweet voice yet with a slight ‘edge’ to it which comes out in all its glory on the brittle I Don’t Want to Go Anywhere and Through The Blue which made me go weak at the knees whenever the mandolin got played.
Side #2 opens with Gabriel singing the dark and brooding Red Dirt Morning, and the mood immediately changes as he flirts with a sound normally associated with Gram Parsons and Neil Young’s acoustic period.
The highly atmospheric Good Listener appears to pay homage to the Godfathers of Alt. Country, the Band, with Minnikin and friends singing a doleful lament that sound like it was written around a campfire on the Lonesome Trail, as Levon taps out the beat on a wagon wheel.
The songwriting and storytelling is sublime throughout, with Minnikin’s Maid of Honor and St. Genevive trailing a very close second and third to Cassie Josephine’s The Price for the title of ‘Best in Show’ but Cassie’s beautiful rendition coupled with a violin, pedal-steel and piano accompaniment are just exquisite.
Certainly an album of ‘two halves’ but that is the couples intention, and it works very, very well producing a Country album that straddles every permutation that title suggests with ease, from Swing through Country Rock to Alt. and will please fans of Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons, Lambchop and Sturgill Simpson equally well.
Released December 9th 2016
The Heart and Soul of Small Town Canada in Words and Music.
We loved last year’s 7” single Trains, from Toronto band LeBarons and have waited impatiently ever since for the follow up; and whoopee-doo it’s actually a 6 track EP.
The atmospherically claustrophobic sound on that single continues on opening track Think Of You, with vocalist (and songwriter) Chris MacDonald and the band sounding like they were recording in the tiniest booth in the world, creating a song that sounds both intensely intimate and passionate in equal measures.
Track #2 The Brave has a slow and brooding opening with MacDonald baring his heart to a lover who may, or may not feel the same way. Band-mates Evan Levy on lead guitar, Casey Irvin on lap-steel, Po Karim on drums manage to create a pensive almost death-rattle behind him, as Megan Tilston provides ghostly harmonies. Tragically beautiful, is the best description I can come up with.
Things perk up with the inclusion of I’ll Come Back, a rollicking bar-room stomper full of grunge guitar, a fiery pedal-steel and machine-gun drumming rattling along behind MacDonald and Tilston.
That exceptional single Trains, is added and sounds just as wonderful as when I first heard it; but gets overshadowed by two new songs.
The album closes with a mournful and bittersweet Freightliner, that is quintessentially Canadian; effortlessly blending Lo-Fi sensibilities with an Alt. Country freshness and Celtic Folk story telling.
But; by far our favourite track, and the one on heavy rotation this morning is Oh California. The song rattles along like a Classic Muscle car on a sweeping highway, and MacDonald’s way with words (written and sung) is perfectly matched by Megan Tilston’s harmonies and a band playing as one.
LeBarons are one of those bands that are probably, sadly destined to be a ‘cult band’ with a hardy bunch of fans who pore over their every utterance…..don’t let that be the case…..buy this EP….tell your friends…..buy a copy for your parents/lovers Christmas Presents….whatever it takes. Make them stars!
Released October 10th 2016
When I was a lad John Peel and Alan Freeman on the radio plus the now legendary Old Grey Whistle Test were the only places to see and hear ‘new music,’ but 40 years on the Internet has the facility to bring like minded people together in a way my younger self could never imagine (even Captain Kirk didn’t have Skype!).
Earlier this year my friend and Rocking Magpie corespondent, Cara Gibney who lives in Northern Ireland linked me to her friend Bernadette who lives in that New York City but loves and promotes Canadian Roots music, who subsequently sent me loads of amazing music…..including Jeremy Nail.
His album review is still in our Top 20
and Cara’s interview with the young Singer-Songwriter is Top 3 in that particular genre;
so it’s with great excitement Bernadette and Jeremy have graciously allowed us to EXCLUSIVELY present this wonderful live performance of Jeremy singing New Frontier featuring Rocking Magpie favourites the Mastersons on guitar and fiddle .
Long Time Leaving
Black Hen Music
Effortlessly Classy Canadiacana.
I first ‘discovered’ the aural delights of Christa Couture in 2012 when I reviewed her previous album, The Living Record; which made it to my Top 10 list at the end of the year.
So it was with mixed emotions when I received my copy of Long Time Leaving; could she match the quality of her previous offering?
Christa has a very ‘interesting’ back story (a teenage battle with cancer meaning she lost a leg and the sad loss of her two young children); which has been well documented in her previous albums; so when this record is described as her ‘break up’ album; my interest was piqued.
The opening track The Slaughter is simply sumptuous; not only washing over you like Summer rain; but also quickly imposing itself on your psyche; as you slowly realise that it is about a number of dalliances she had with both men and women; following ‘that break up.’ For what it’s worth; I can’t wait to use her expression ‘rapturous tongues’ some time soon.
Song #2 Alone in This; takes a more tradfitional Folk path, than I’d expected but nonetheless; it’s another brittle and slightly dark story; set to Producer Steve Dawson’s pedal-steel back drop; and I guess it will make tears well up in many an eye.
As regular readers will know; I’m always going to be drawn to a title like Lovely Like You; and this one doesn’t disappoint; especially when Fats Kaplin makes an appearance on fiddle, as Christa’s exquisite voice soars and glides like a bluebird.
If you don’t already know Christa Couture, she comes in somewhere between Nanci Griffith, Allison Krauss and perhaps, even Mama Cass…..try songs like That Little Piece of My Heart or Michigan Postscript to hear where I’m coming from.
With the divide between this type of (Alt) Country and the CMA type Heavy Metal Country getting wider by the day; it’s harder for songwriter’s like Christa to make the crossover; which is a huge shame when songs like the quirky Zookeeper and definitely When It Gets Dark Again; could and should be a perfect fit for a number of ‘Big Hair’ singers in and around Nashville Town.
Which brings us to my favourite; by far song here….the quaint Aux Oiseaux; which doesn’t sound particularly like anything I’ve ever heard before; and that’s a really good thing. Plus the sentiment really ‘hit the spot’ with me.
Christa Couture is a spectacularly good songwriter; but it’s her voice and delivery that sets her apart from everyone else in the field.
#Footnote. When I played ‘This Little Piece of My Heart on my April podcast; I inadvertently mixed the title up with the Janis Joplin song; which tickled Christa.
Released North America April 15th 2016
Released UK May 20th 2016
April Podcast https://www.mixcloud.com/JumpingHotClubRadio/rocking-magpie-music-hour-april-podcast-2016/
Jumping Hot Club
27th January 2015
For once I actually arrived at the venue early; but when I walked into the larger of the two halls at the Cluny, it was alrfourabout 70% full, which speaks volumes for Lindi Ortega’s current standing in the world of music, and the Jumping Hot Club’s new ‘aggressive’ marketing campaign.
Opening act; the fop-haired Jordan Klassen could have passed for Jack Black’s younger brother and his very dark, introspective songs and intricate guitar playing kept the ever growing crowd enthralled from start to finish.
Klassen has something of an ‘interesting voice;’ and I can’t think of anyone else whom he particularly sound like apart from rising Geordie singer-songwriter Richard Dawson. While obviously there to see the headline act the audience so reverential, you could even hear the clinking of beer bottles behind the bar; and for the first time in years there was almost no chattering while the young man from Vancouver performed his intense and occasionally poetic songs.
Two songs in-particular stood out; Gargoyles (which was much nicer than the title would suggest) and Firing Squad which closed the set.
Remember the name; Jordan Klassen, you will certainly hear it again in more exalted circles than this.
The last time Lindi Ortega performed at the Jumping Hot Club it was in A a less than full Cluny II; but by the time she came on stage with her band; all clad in black apart from her ruby red cowboy boots; the House Full sign was put on the door, as the 350 capacity had possibly already been exceeded; but don’t tell the man from the Council.
To a huge cheer she opened the show with the cryptic Run Down Neighbourhood and followed it with Dying of Another Broken Heart; and the tone was set for a night of ultra-cool Alt. Country that was one part Southern Gothic, one part Classic Country, one part Bobbie Gentry, two parts Dusty in Memphis and all swirled around in a glass full of melancholic Durham gin.
I’ve got three of the Canadian’s albums and love them dearly; with songs from Cigarettes and Truckstops and being very popular when I had my radio show; but nothing prepared me for hearing her sing them live.
It helped that her band were excellent; especially ‘Champagne’ James Robertson, who made his Fenders, sizzle, howl and moan like a ten bob whore, whenever necessary; but the tight drumming and mellow semi-acoustic bass kept the backfield in motion too.
The first time most people heard of Lindi Ortega was probably because the good people of Nashville were aurally shocked that this young lady had the audacity to mention…..marijuana in her lyrics! Well I ask you; how dare she? George Jones? Willie Nelson? Hank II anyone?
Anyway; the references were there tonight; but no big deal was made of it; why should there when the songs are as good as Demons Don’t Get Me Down?
There wasn’t a lot of chit-chat; but Lindi did introduce the title track from Faded Gloryville by explaining it was a fictitious town with a fictitious hotel that ‘tired and emotional’ musicians and actors visit when things aren’t going too well in their careers. Some stay longer than others; and some stay forever – the song itself was as gloomy and beautiful a piece of Southern Gothic as you will ever hear; and I’m a fan of both Nick Cave and the Handsome Family!
With four albums to choose from; it was possibly surprising to hear three cover songs included tonight; but fans who follow her on You Tube will know she is quite prolific in this area and her choices tonight were exemplary. Cher’s Bang-Bang was particularly eerie; and the Bee Gees To Love Somebody has been covered by some truly great singers; but I can’t imagine anyone has made it sound like a stalkers mantra before.
Another song from the much maligned Faded Gloryville album; Tell It Like It Is; took on a whole new life tonight; with Lindi becoming a predatory temptress as she inhabited the character she was singing about.
The near two hour set; flew by, and the three encores were all highlights of an exceptional concert, with her take on Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home (To Me) making tears well up in my eyes, and Tin Star was almost anthemic; but the song that ended the evening was an absolute doozy. It’s a brave singer who takes on Ring of Fire; and then have the audacity to change the tempo so she can wring every last drop of pathos out of it; but Lindi Ortega did just that and made this tired old song as sharp as a tack and pretty damn beautiful.
Lindi Ortega – watch this space; as she is about to take a leap into the Big Time very, very soon.
Photo-set courtesy Harrisonaphotos http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Lindi-Ortega/
Canadiacana of the Very Highest Order.
Not necessarily for public consumption; well certainly not on a grand scale, Thompson Wilson only intended selling this disc at gigs; but The Rocking Magpie’s very own Canadian AR person, Lorna has come up trumps yet again. Following a recent show in Toronto, Lorna cornered young Mr. Wilson and purchased a copy for us, and you.
The seven track EP opens with the stunning Bang, Bang Boom. I could be wrong; but Wilson’s warm and dreamy voice will make ladies of all ages go weak at the knees; and with lyrics as sharp as this – ‘you won’t let me in/you won’t forget my sins’ and ‘its hard for me to stay here/when I see you every day/my heart is clenched like a fist/no matter with who I lay.’ Organ worthy of Garth Hudson and some sublime slide guitar lift make this ‘demo’ sound as good as anything coming out of East Nashville or surrounding area.
On I Came Home; Wilson’s voice sounds haggard and weary on a tale of sorrow that will tug at your heartstrings like a puppy in the rain. Yet again Wilson’s way with words is simply outstanding ‘I will see you down on James/Where this singing heart remains’ – come on ‘Singing heart’? What a brilliant phrase.
There aren’t many laughs on these tales of lost love and just loss in general; but who among us wants ‘happy songs’? Not me, that’s for sure – I love wallowing in misery; especially someone else’s.
Another stand out song is So Long; something of a truck-driving song, but one that has Wilson sounding stark and contemplative; and when he howls his rage you can actually feel the pain yourself.
One of the few up-tempo songs Cold Hearts features some sweet guitar picking and cool tsch-tsch drumming in the background; but much like in the 1970’s he-day of the singer-songwriter this song is very much about the voice and words; and both marry together like teenage lovers 40 years on.
I know very little about the 24 year old Canadian apart from he used to be in a band called Harlan Pepper, he’s written songs for Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and his Dad is Tom Wilson aka LeE HARVeY OsMOND; but these seven songs showcase a talent that won’t be in those shadows for very much longer.
Listening to these raw and emotional songs now for the fifth time in 24 hours; I wouldn’t want a producer to fiddle about with them too much. When Thompson Wilson finally goes into the studio to record them; just a thought, but someone like Nick Lowe could be the man to handle them in just the correct sensitive manner.
LeE HARVeY OsMOND
Scarily Atmospheric Canadiacana
I had only previously been aware of Le Harvey Osmond because of the wacky way he spells his name; but during my recent convalescence my friend Lorna in the colony of Canada inundated me with You Tube videos to aid my recovery; and once I’d made the mistake of saying I ‘liked’ one of Osmond’s songs I went on to receive pretty much his whole back catalogue; so perhaps by the time I received this actual album I was already brain-washed.
Halfway through opening song Loser Without Your Love it’s evident that LHO aka Tom Wilson from Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, ain’t no ordinary singer-songwriter. The lyrics alone are rather lovely; but the instrumentation glides between Van Morrison, Chris Isaak and; if you were lucky enough to hear his albums, Billy Bob Thornton.
On Blue Moon Drive there’s even a Nightclub-Jazz feel as Osmond’s vocals are smoky and breathless as a funky bass, brass section and even a xylophone tinkle away in the background.
I even found myself doing a little shuffle as I made a pot of tea when listening to the enigmatic Black Spruce; and the occasional flute solos have to be heard to be believed.
The only track here to hint at Osmond’s day job in Blackie and the Rodeo Kings is Hey Hey Hey; but that’s only because I know that fact, otherwise it is just a great piece of atmospheric Alt. Country done in the way only Canadians know how to do.
Shake The Hand opens with some feedback before a band slowly drifts in as Osmond uses echo on his voice in a way that will scare small children; but not me – I love it and could listen to a whole album in the same manner.
Billy Bob Thornton again springs to mind on the dark and menacing How Does It Feel? Osmond’s deep voice, piano and the piercing slide guitar juxtapose in an intricately clever way; making the song especially memorable.
On the final track Osmond almost drifts into bedsitter-songwriter territory on Bottom of Our Love; but his warm baritone voice and gorgeous duet with Andrea Ramolo makes it extraordinarily good ; and had me gagging to hear more.
LeE HARVeY OsMOND ? Well worth seeking out in my humble opinion.
Released Canada 8th June 2015
Released USA and the Rest of the World March 25th 2016