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.
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.
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.
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?
Deeply Felt and Dreamy Canadiana For The Lovelorn Everywhere.
Although I had heard of Gianna Lauren I have to admit to not being an expert on her work; so reviewing a 5 track EP certainly falls into the ‘new artiste’ category for me, even though she has had at least one album released in addition to a couple of EPs. I seem to have become the reviewer ‘of choice’ when it comes to our Canadian cousins recently, as this is the 4th I have listened to in the last month or so, and hopefully this would maintain the high standards of the previous three. As with almost every release in 2020 regardless of the artist or the genre, the effects of the various lockdowns and pandemic have, to differing degrees, had an impact on singer/writers, and Gianna has confirmed she was similarly affected. ‘Spark’ is the opener, and the gentle drum and guitar entrée suggests a very moody Folkie type of Rock in a fairly stripped back arrangement, to accompany a sweet vocal and a female backing before ending on an even more idyllic note. The song was written during a late night studio combination session of both writing and recording, with the aim of Gianna putting forward her views in social injustice and the position of not being able to help to any appreciable amount. ‘Before I die I wanna tell you I love you BUT while I’m alive I’m just gonna hide’. Track 2, ‘Whoa’ is aided by a lovely horn section that works perfectly as the guitar middle section neatly dovetails with a light string accompaniment. Another very articulate and ‘easy on the ear’ track. The guitar picks out the opening to ‘Closed Chapter’ as an attempt to ‘point in the right direction’ always seems to meet a ‘set of deflections – the same old story’. No matter how hard you try sometimes things just don’t come out the way you want. ‘Innocent Tourist’ is for me the track that offers the best way to listen to; and to appreciate Gianna’ distinctive vocal styling – much more of a traditional female working of a song, leading up to a dramatic denouement. The short set ends with ‘Disappear’ and the plea to ‘go get dressed as you can’t wear that tonight as we are going out’ knowing that it’s inevitable that as soon as ‘you get there you go on and disappear’. Very much a late night Jazz trio type of song, with the crowd cowed and silent, picking up and on every word of the song. Possibly one of a couple of songs that aren’t always on the same wavelength, once out of the safe environment of home. There is certainly one thing that both Gianna and myself agree on – listening to music on a walk is the best way to really get into either an album or some specific track. This is exactly how I listened to her delightful set. The nicest thing I can say, is that these 5 tracks have got me looking for some of Gianna Lauren’s previous work(s) – and I am pretty confident I won’t be disappointed. I would like to hear her take on some slightly more upbeat numbers; but I may get that on my next few music walks anyway, but whatever I find out I hope that horn backing is more prominent – it’s brilliant. Canada wins again!!! And without taking days for a re-count.
As my regular readers know; my modus operandi is to play an album a couple of times before reading the attached Press Release, so as not to pre-judge my own feelings about the music. Well; when I did read the PR I had a wry smile, as Maya Rae first recorded an album of Jazz/Pop covers at the tender age of 13 and has subsequently sung and toured with many of Canada’s Jazz elite; which is why this delightful ‘crossover’ album has plenty of Jazz stylings, phrasing and even melodies; but just like RMHQ Favourites Allison Russell and Jeremy Lindsay aka Birds of Chicago who feature on a few tracks; this has just as many Folk leanings and even some Commercial swoops and swooshes too…… making the album very difficult to pigeon hole ….. so let’s go for Singer-Songwriter? The title track Can You See Me? opens proceedings in the most delightful and charismatic manner. Even from her opening bars you know that you are in the presence of someone special, and then the way Maya Rae uses her voice, which can only be described as an opaque mix of satin and lace; is spell-binding at times. When you listen intently to the words in the songs you will be stunned to find that Maya is still by 18 years old and her co-writer brother Gabriel; only a smidgen older. For ones so young their songwriting is very ‘mature’ and Steve Dawson’s sublime production really brings songs like New For Me and Storm Leaf to sparkling life. When you first hear Dawson’s scary guitar breaks on Freedom Fighter you may be forgiven for thinking the song is going into Soft Rock territory; but when May’s tragically beautiful vocals kick in; you are whisked away to the Whiskey – A – Go Go circa 1973 and you are sitting watching the new Reprise or Warner’s act among the musical cognoscenti. I’m still shaking my head at the idea that Maya Rae is still only 18 …….. how can one so young write something as powerful as Lonely Ones or Mountain Angel? Or album closer Here too, for that matter? Presumably Maya and Gabriel’s parents had a great record collection that the pair were brought up listening to; but so did my sons and they couldn’t write a song like The Sun Will Come Out Again; which captures the angst that a teenage break-up causes so intimately …… and beautifully. Which easily leads into my Favourite Song here; Moon Girl. Part of me wants to dissect every single line in this tragic tale for you and another wants to keep it all Top Secret and let you feel the full force of two exceptional songwriters colliding like a Supernova when you are least expecting it ……. trust me this song will take your breath away; just like the first time you heard Beautiful on TAPESTRY or River on Blue; and if you are under 40 and not heard either ……. I urge you to do so, the day after buying this album! It’s bizarre to think that at 18 Maya Rae already has the ‘road miles’ under her belt; but she has and with only a fair wind to ease her along, this album has the ability to blow her out into the Musical Stratosphere in 2020.
I have a ‘guilty confession’ …… I think I took a dislike to Kaia’s last album NINE PINS before I’d even played it because she is sporting a banjo on the cover. I remember playing it once, but it never got reviewed…..I guess because of my Anti-Banjo racism at that particular time. I get like that with banjos. Sorry. Now that’s out of the way; let’s get back to today and young Ms Kater’s 5th, album in a fairly short recording career. Opening track New Colossus was released as a single back in October 2018, and as far as I know only got one UK play; on the groundbreaking Leader’s American Pie which is a damn shame; as it’s a luscious modern Folk song of grand proportions that shimmers and shines; and showcases both Kaia’s exciting songwriting ability and her pearlescent voice. I’ve certainly heard a lot weaker songs on Bob Harris’s various shows on BBC Radio 2; and that’s for sure. The accompanying Press Release can be a bit pompous at times; but does go someway to explaining the story behind the short interludes that intersperse several tracks; as it turns out to be Kaia’s father describing the time and events that surrounded his leaving the island of Grenada and moving to Canada……. powerful stuff indeed, especially Death of a Dream and in the same vein a couple of fascinating songs evolve from these stories; most notably the La Misere, an a’ Capella song sung in a French dialect and the title track Grenades; a cool late night Jazz tinged Folk song on which Kaia channels her inner Nina Simone to tell a harrowing story about her father’s homeland of Grenada; as the young Canadian delves into her roots and comes out with two amazing songs. Without knowing too much about Kaia Kater’s history or indeed back catalogue; GRENADES sounds a very ‘grown up’ album; and maybe it’s a Canadian thing; but the way several songs are constructed they remind me of Joni Mitchell post Blue; have a listen to Hydrants or Poets Be Buried and tell me I’m wrong. Selecting a Favourite Track on an album like this is never going to be easy; and as in the case of the Single there’s no real outlet these days for songs like these apart from your home stereo; which is a damn shame; but if you do only download one track let it be Canyonland; which even though has a banjo as the lead instrument (!) is a fabulous example of what is possible and available in the Modern Folk idiom and will make you want to download the rest of the album to see of Kaia Kater can match the quality of this nigh perfect four minutes; and she does! This is far from being a Concept Album; but in light of the world that the current incumbent in the White House is creating GRENADES asks some very fascinating questions and really does show a a young woman at the crossroads of an exciting career.
Another Cool, Classy and Articulate Canadian Singer-Songwriter
Although still ploughing through the backlog of review discs this one from March stuck out of the pile. Partly because the bright colours and use of shadow on the cover artwork intrigued the photographer in me, but more likely because Melanie Dekker looks uncannily like an ex-Daughter in Law (whom we still like btw!)
So with no knowledge of what to expect, into the office CD the disc slid and………..opening track Memories of You was a very pleasant surprise indeed. Sort of Folky, definitely Singer-Songwriter fare but with a melodic edgy Pop sensitivity to it too. Confused? Don’t be, it’s the sort of song that we bought in our millions by Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow and of course Joni Mitchell.
There’s an effortless grace to songs like Try Me (The Basket Song) and More Human, but when you listen closely Melanie’s storytelling drifts into an area of eloquent melancholia normally associated with writers like Beth Neilsen Chapman or Gretchen Peters and they are just as beautiful too.
While most songs are guitar led, one jarred the first time I heard it, but thankfully Better When We Do with it’s Wurlitzer piano ‘beat’ and Jazzy trumpet has finally grown on me and now it’s become a challenger for ‘Favourite Song’ status.
Melanie Dekker can certainly ‘tell a story in a song’ as the uptempo Ginned Up proves and will appeal to housewives across the globe who occasionally need to be told “you’re my sugar baby, darlin’, sweetie/you’re my sunshine when it rains,” even if they do have a real name.
Two songs here tie for the title of RMHQ Favourite; and both are intrinsically different but both come from the same deeply private parts of the Vancouver Songwriter’s life. Te Amor Mucho, as the title suggests has an almost Country sensibility to it, and Melanie’s love song to a music loving father on his death bed will tug at even the tightest of heart strings. The other, Always Gonna Be is a tale of a Mother passing on her own Mother’s words of wisdom as the third generation is about to make her own way in the world and actually reminded me of a conversation I had with an elder brother the night before I got married……therefore bringing unstoppable tears to my eyes.
Album closer When It’s Over also finds Melanie at the piano; but this time a traditional Rhodes which is more suited to the fog of sadness that the lyrics project making it a perfect way to close this very personal record.
SAME AS I EVER HAVE BEEN
Black Hen Music
Southern Soul and Gritty Americana From Arcadian Canada.
My trusty I-Phone has done it again! As I was driving home from work late last Wednesday a beautifully sad and soulful song randomly purred from the car speakers and I had to immediately press ‘repeat’ as soon as it finished; then sat listening to the final minute on my drive as the song played for the fourth time in twenty minutes, before going into the house.
At this stage I won’t say what that song actually was; as it takes on ‘favourite track’ status further down the page.
The following day I quickly cleared my to-do list and settled back to listen to the rest of Matt Patershuk’s third album.
Even before I heard the cranky guitar and Matt’s world weary drawl, I knew I was going to love any song called Sometimes You’ve Got To Do Bad Things, To Do Good; and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. For a Canadian in a Cowboy hat; Patershuk gives a Southern Soul feel to this sweet, sweet Country pearl, and that goes for the majority of what is to follow too.
Recorded in Superstar Bryan Adam’s Vancouver studio; Steve Dawson’s production is flawless from start to finish, even managing to give an authentic ‘first take’ rawness to songs like Cheap Guitar and the effervescent Hot Knuckle Blues.
I still find it funny that Canadians are writing and recording some of the finest Americana music that I hear these days; as the slow and Good Luck proves in spades; and Atlas couldn’t have come from anywhere other than the American Rust Belt, could it? But it certainly does…….Rural Alberta to be precise.
Patershuk’s songwriting and storytelling is quite extraordinary at times with the Country-Funk of Blank Pages and Lost Wages and the waltz-like title track Same As I Ever Have Been being prime examples; but you could throw a dart at the track list and hit a doozy of a song.
Which all brings us to ‘that song’ that first caught my attention; Swans, which actually closes the disc. Regular readers know that I’m a sucker for a Love Song and this one came to me not long after Don Williams died; and could be the best song that ‘the Gentle Giant never wrote.’ A pair of endearing worn and sad voices coupled to an acoustic guitar you can barely hear make for six short minutes of perfection.
Subsequently there’s been another contender for that prestigious title; Memory And The First Law of Thermodynamics may be an absurd title; but the intricate and delicate story, about and dedicated to his late sister Clare is straight from the Guy Clark songbook and will surely bring a tear to a glass eye.
Discoveries like this is the reason I spend far too much time listening to albums by people I and you have never previously heard of, but deserve a huge world wide audience, when their music is as good….nay, great as this collection is.
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.