Lynne Hanson

Lynne Hanson
Just Words
Self-Release

Sweet Change of Direction for Canada’s Queen of Americana.


Singer-songwriter Lynne Hanson has been hailed as “Canada’s own queen of Americana” which doesn’t fully do her justice.
Sure she’s equally adept at folk, country, rock, and blues — all of which are undeniably “Americana” staples, (one day I really need to do an article on just what is Americana, if I can ever figure it out myself) — and her songwriting is improving, even to a point where she seemingly can write satisfyingly about anything, but she’s evolving to a point where if she ever hits the main stream, she’ll be ready.
No, she’s not turning into Taylor Swift, as I believe that Hanson has too much grit and dirt floor mixed in with her blood for her tunes to ever go that route. Lynne Hanson? She’s a real deal, paying her dues, playing her songs, on the road and in the studio.
On Just Words, her sixth full length studio album, she definitely seems more relaxed, her voice stronger and confident, the songs focused and deeper in meaning. Some of this credit could be due to veteran producer Jim Bryson, who was apparently able to get Hanson out of her “comfort zone” and stretch her artistic wings a bit.
Her voice has never been finer, and the ensemble playing here really adds gravitas too. Listen to that compressed electric guitar on several of these songs, adding just the right amount of grit and tension, the snippets of swirling organ, or the mandolin and pedal steel that show up in just the right places.
It helps to have an arsenal of fine musicians playing your tunes, and Hanson chooses them wisely and puts them to good use.
Opening track “True Blue Moon” is a pleasant pop song, as is “Such a Random Thing,” while “Lollipops and Roses” is a bluesy plea for independence, but we also get darker songs such as “Long Walk Home” which deals with heartbreak and the downward spiral of loneliness.
The title track “Just Words” shows how verbal abuse can be just as demoralizing as physical abuse. Hanson takes care in crafting her lyrics and it shows, while her melodies have never been purer.
With six albums under her belt, Hanson keeps getting better. Catch her live if you can, she’s currently touring Canada before heading to Europe.

Review courtesy The Legendary Roy Peak.
Released February 7th 2020
https://www.lynnehanson.com/

Blackie and The Rodeo Kings KING OF THIS TOWN

Blackie and The Rodeo Kings
KING OF THIS TOWN
File Under Music

The Kings of Canada Take Americana to Infinity and Beyond.

While I’ve dipped in and out of the Rodeo Kings back catalogue over the years; it wasn’t until the Kings and Queens album that I really began to see why they are Superstars in their native Canada.
Then, of course their are the burgeoning solo careers of founder members Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing who all feature prominently in the RMHQ Back Pages.
Originally formed way back in 1996 this is the band’s 10th album; and #Spoiler Alert ….. is quite ‘The Zinger’ in many ways, corralling many and various forms of what we know as Rootsy Americana and adding their very own special blend of Canadian Rock and Roll to give us something quite extraordinary in a very ordinary genre.
The album starts with Hard Town, a Blues/Gospel hybrid which appears to tap into the current socio-political zeitgeist in a beautifully dark and moody manner.
Cold 100, which follows is more like what we would expect, a claustrophobic ‘driving song’; but with extra grit and robustness that features some sublime bottle-neck guitar (from Colin Linden).
It would be foolish to describe every single song; but there’s no filler here; every song is a stone cold killer; with the band switching track and mood with the greatest of ease.
There’s even a hint of Tex-Mex and Mariachi on the eminently danceable Kick My Heart Around; and the lyrics themselves ain’t too shabby either.
World Gone Mad is the type of Alt. Rocker that I love; a tightly packed melody, with everyone in the collective adding tiny bits to create a great big racket that needs turning up to 10 to get the best out of it.
As I wasn’t sent a Press Release (#sigh) I’m afraid to tell you who sings what for fear of making a mistake; but it’s evident all three take turns at the mic and each singer brings his very own strengths to proceedings.
Even though they have a Rock & Roll heart, every song here is carefully and calculatedly created to perfection; with the gently introspective Walking On Our Graves sung by Stephen Fearing still managing to have the power to surprise after all these years; as does the jangly Canadiacana of Medicine Hat which has some fabulous guitar breaks that reminded me of Duanne Eddy in his pomp.
With three Award Winning singer-songwriters at their core, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings songs are always not just articulate and grown-up; but accessible too ……. these chaps are educated to to the hilt; but ain’t no smart asses!
Selecting a Favourite Track certainly isn’t easy here; as every single song has it’s own merits that have touched me in one way or another in the last couple of days; but by today I’ve pressed ‘repeat’ a couple of times on two particular songs; Stephen singing the tender Grace is as good as anything on his recent solo albums (which I absolutely adore); and the addition of harmonica makes it sound like they’re sitting around a camp fire thinking of home.
The other is the title track King of This Town which just about shades the award of Favourite Track as it’s a collective effort and has a beat that will have you putting just a little too much pressure on the accelerator pedal when you hear it in the car. Think Tom Petty fronting The Band singing an old Neil Young song and you will be halfway there.
It’s still only January and I’ve already heard some great Roots Music, but it’s going to take something really, really special to arrive at RMHQ for this album not to be my Album of 2020.
In fact I’ll tell you how much I like it …….. I’ve actually bought a copy with my own money!

# Amended version

https://www.blackieandtherodeokings.com/
Released January 24th 2020

John Borra BLUE WINE

John Borra
Blue Wine
Cousin Jeb Records

Quality Barroom, Foot Stompin’ Punk Infused Canadian Alt. Country.

John Borra’s Canadian version of alt-country owes a nod to punk rock and that’s a good thing.
It’s interesting to me, as someone who started out playing bass in punk rock bands before gravitating to fronting their own material with acoustic guitar in a folk-rock format (with a hint of country), how many others have gone that same route?  (John Borra played in punk bands in the 1980’s, and has played bass in multiple bands, now fronting an Alt-Country band. Apparently he also sidelines as an audio engineer when he’s not playing music, engineering and producing this album himself. Surprisingly, these are all things which I’ve also done! 
If I find out that he also writes music reviews for online blogs then our lives are indeed mysteriously mirroring one another for sure!)
Is there a sense of familiarity between punk and country that ties them intrinsically together?
Three chords and the truth apply equally, as does a sense of honesty and simple rawness, but there must be something more for artists as far apart as Florida, Toronto, New Zealand, and  Italy to come to similar musical conclusions. 
Whatever it is, John Borra seems to have found his way from punk rocker to Alt-Country frontman and is doing an admirable job of making it work.
Blue Wine, his first solo album since 2002, is equal parts poetic Honky Tonk and revved up Punkish barn burners. Backed by a band of musicians more than capable of pulling off whatever Borra throws at them, he sings his way through eleven well written songs that show off his distinctive voice to perfection. 
Borra’s lyrics sometimes leave a bit to be desired—his rhyming schemes would never be mistaken for Dylan’s or Cohen’s— but he makes up for it with uncompromising grit and a strong sense of melody. And complete props to the unexpected cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Foggy Notion.” Borra’s version keeps the fun urgency of the original and turns it on its head with a bit of barroom stomping and tasty piano. Speaking of that piano, eschewing lead guitar for the standout lead piano of Mike Boguski throughout this album was a wise and crucial decision too, as Boguski deliciously hammers and pounds his way through these tunes as if he owns them, bringing to mind John Cale’s frenzied piano on many of the tunes by the aforementioned Velvets.
“Americana” bands take note: It doesn’t always have to be pedal steel, mandolin, or chicken-pickin’ to set the right mood!
Other standout tracks on Blue Wine are “The Wars,” “Machu Picchu,” and the barroom romance of “Hambre and Dolores” which were all co-written with poet Eva H.D.
“Secret Time” is a sweet and fulfilling album closer, but “Way Back Home,” a duet with Dani Nash, who also wrote this fun, swinging tune, is the track you’ll go back to again and again.

Courtesy Guest Reviewer, The Legendary Roy Peak
https://johnborra.com/

Released February 13th 2020

Catherine MacLellan COYOTE

Catherine MacLellan
Coyote
Self-Release

A Charmingly Simple Production Masks Some Deeply Personal and Intricate Songs.

I can’t believe that it’s been five full years since Catherine MacLellan released RAVEN …… but it is.
Where does the time go?
Unlike Coldplay and the likes, Cat hasn’t been sitting on a beach contemplating her navel while sipping Champagne Cocktails in-between releases; nope she’s been as busy as ever celebrating the life and work of her father Gene MacLellan in song and on stage. Who he? Only the man who wrote the legendary Snowbird; among many other slightly less celebrated but still amazing songs.
But that ‘break’ and presumably re-discovering her father’s masterworks, has given Ms MacLellan a fresh outlook on her own writing; or that’s how it seems to me on the mysterious COYOTE that opens the album. While a ‘simple’ love lorn Folk song at first hearing; the singer uses the marvelous imagery of the howling coyotes in the hills around her home, for the spirit of love that is missing from her relationship.
“Coyote running through the fields
Followed by the moon
Wild thing you don’t bend or yield
It’s me who gives in too soon”

There’s a charming simplicity to all 14 of the songs here; but don’t fall into the trap that any of the songs are ‘simple’; Catherine has the ability to create beautiful, yet melancholic stories that paint vivid pictures in your head.
Night Crossing; about her travelling on the night ferry from England to Holland is an odd subject; but add a Celtic fiddle and you feel your are standing in her place; and the loneliness she describes in Breath of Wind is heartbreakingly beautiful, in a way that I could never find the words to describe.
That’s the thing with songwriters like Catherine; they have the ability to find light when the rest of us only shade; which is a true gift.
Sweet By and By and Too Many Hearts are two perfect examples of the Songwriters Craft being used in a way mere mortals can never express. The first is a wonderful story of Cat meeting up with an old friend at a bar she was singing in and the cat n mouse interplay that followed; whereas the latter is a dark slice of Alt. Folk describing the confusion we all feel when a relationship ends.
Too many hearts are broken over fear
Too many hearts are broken here my dear
So let’s not break these hearts of ours
Send them up to the moon and stars
.”
Like most of her contempories Cat appears to have given up trying to write a commercial song that will become a radio hit (or should that be Spotify?); she writes from the heart; and whatever will be, will be; try listening to the engaging Come Back In or Roll With The Wind to hear a Master Craftswoman at work …… which also brings me to my Favourite track; Emmet’s Song.
Even without the aid of a crib sheet, you know this is a deeply personal song about a real person; and so it is. ‘Emmet’ is Cat’s ‘troubled’ teenage nephew who came to live with her. This could have been about me during my own teenage years; or at least two nephews and a niece of my own ….. and I’m sure you will find someone close to you who has lived through the same experiences and, mercifully come out the other side without the aid of an Aunt like Catherine MacLellan. 10/10 all around.
I’ve been playing this album amid the hub-bub of the early Holiday season alongside the most spiteful General Election I’ve ever known; and it’s been a perfect antidote to the utter madness that is currently surrounding me.
There are as many fragile songs here as there are optimistic and even empowering songs; such is Catherine McClellan’s wonderful way with storytelling; that she can make them flow like life itself.

Released 6th December 2019
http://www.catherinemaclellan.com/
https://my.labelstore.ca/releases/803057039821-coyote-mp3.html


Stephen Fearing THE UNCONQUERABLE PAST

Stephen Fearing
THE UNCONQUERABLE PAST
Factor

The King of Canadiacana Surpasses Himself.

As many of you will already know; I’m a huge fan of Stephen Fearing, but baring in mind he’s a Multi Juno winner and a major part of one of the world’s greatest Rock & Roll bands Blackie and the Rodeo Kings he still manages to fly under the radar.
Why would that be, when you hear opening track on this, his 13th solo album; Break Your Mother’s Heart? In theory it’s simple ‘Rock n Roll’ song about leaving home to pursue a musical career; but this particular song is oh so much more deep and indeed meaningful. The relatively simple construction belies a stunning story that will touch most of our hearts as Fearing’s voice occasionally wobbles in a way that sounds like he’s fighting back the tears.
Phew …….. what a start!
It would be oh so easy for a songwriter of Stephen Fearing’s ‘age’ to follow a succesful formula and keep churning ’em out; plenty others do it; but our Canadian friend constantly seeks to learn from others and challenge his own excellent talents.
I’m pleased to hear a few Rockers in among the intimate musings; with Stay With Me sounding like a wonderful marriage between The Band and Tom Petty, while Christine is pure Sun era Rockabilly that will even have Peg-Leg Pete on the dancefloor!
I’m not sure what I like best; a songwriter using their own experiences to tell a story or when they delve deep into the pits of their imaginations; and sometimes as I suspect with the majestic Sunny the two merge with grace. Stephen virtually whispers this story of a Transgender boy/girl leaving home, only to find love with a heterosexual man. Heartbreaking and powerful in equal measures.
Both Someone Else’s Shoes and the exquisite title track The Unconquerable Past are another two fragile songs that ask more questions than they can ever dare to answer; and more often than not it takes a poet or songwriter to ask these questions; and Stephen Fearing is both.
Perhaps it’s an age thing though; but for me Fearing’s most memorable works are his intimate musings; the ones that go straight to your heart like a stiletto knife ………. Emigrant Song is a co-write with Andy White and muses on Fearing’s young life moving from Canada to Ireland and back again; but this brooding Celtic tune will cause many of us to reflect on our own heritage; and that of the thousands that are making terrifying trips to make better lives for their families.
This is immediatly followed by Fearing alone with his acoustic guitar on the heartbreaking No Country, which deals more directly with the state of the world many people find themselves in as 2019 bleeds into 2020.
For my Favourite Song I’m going to contradict my life long stance against swearing, as Marie is such a ‘song of our times’ perhaps only words such as these can spell out the anger many of us on the Liberal Left feel.
If the opening verse doesn’t reel you in like a big fat fish, then you are listening to the wrong singer and reading the wrong website:
“She said, brave yourself for the shit show coming down tomorrow
Cos I feel it’s going to look a whole lot different to today.”
Is this about Brexit? Trump in the White House? Trudeau’s student ‘high jinx’?
Who knows? But this a song that audiences will sit through in sheer silence then take the roof off at the end.
The Press Release suggests that Stephen is now dabbling in ‘Americana’. PISH!
This, just like his previous albums is …….. pure Canadiacana! These songs and the imagery they conjure up could only be Canadian …… they are all cool, intelligent, descriptive and indeed, articulate …… which is what I expect from my Canadian artists and in particular Stephen Fearing, and yet again he delivers on every single aspect.

Released 15th November 2019 (Downloads and streaming)
Released 15th December (CD’s & Vinyl ……… just in time for Santa to deliver!)

http://stephenfearing.ca/

Jerry Leger TIME OUT FOR TOMORROW

Jerry Leger
Time Out For Tomorrow
Latent Recordings

Classy 60’s and Indie Inspired Contemporary Canadiacana

We only stumbled upon the genius of Jerry Leger in 2018; but are now the proud owners of 5 of his albums and playing any of them couldn’t make us any happier.
Although appearing on the Cowboy Junkies label Latent Recordings and being produced by fellow Canadian, Michael Timmins, TIME OUT FOR TOMORROW couldn’t sound any more different from his previous offerings or those of the Cowboy Junkies by a country mile.
While Jerry says it was Lou Reed’s Coney Island Baby, and Nick Lowe’s The Impossible Bird that inspired him to record these songs in this particular style; it appears to me that Messr’s Leger and Timmins immersed themselves in 60’s Classics before going into the studio, as the shimmering 3 mins and 20 seconds of opening track Canvas of Gold has elements of the Burrito’s, Byrds and even the Beatles circa Revolver in the harmonies and jangling guitars that surround Leger’s dreamy words.
The single Justine follows in a similar vein with an acoustic intro that leads into ever more sweet electrical guitar and Jerry pouring his heart out in a timeless and beautiful love song.
Okay, I’ve repeated myself too much about the 60’s ‘feel’ to these songs; and there’s no denying it; but don’t think this album and the songs therein are ‘retro’ or even a pastiche …….. no sirree Bob; the punchy Read Between The Lines and Corner Light are as contemporary as songwriting gets; it’s just that the delivery of the melodies that will have you tapping your toes as Jerry Leger’s words break your heart.
As he sings in Corner Light,
“She treats me like a person/She don’t treat me like a clown.” Good stuff? Huh?
The enigmatic Survived Like a Stone actually has a Cowboy Junkies back-beat to it; but Leger’s distinctively expressive voice sweeps and soars in a way that makes this song a stone cold killer!
I can’t really express how exciting these songs are to me; Leger’s storytelling just goes from strength to strength, especially with Tell a Lie and Tomorrow in My Mind which are both stunningly outstanding IMHO.
For my Favourite Song I’m erring towards the lovely I Would; but have probably gone for Burchell Lake, mostly because of the fearless melody that has me tapping both feet and fingers in tandem; and Leger’s words, while not actually having a noticeable chorus still had me singing along with carefree glee each time I’ve played it.
I haven’t got all of Jerry Leger;s back catalogue, but have enough to know this is a really classy step up for my Canadian friend and there’s nothing here for radio or national magazines across the globe to dislike; so reviews everywhere should be as glowing as this one and that should surely beget radio plays, which in turn will beget sales.
Fingers crossed.

Released November 8th 2019
https://jerryleger.com/
Buy it here https://jerryleger.com/merch/

Bruce Cockburn CROWING IGNITES

Bruce Cockburn
Crowing Ignites
True North Records

A Guitar Masterclass That Defies Description.

There are quite a few ‘instrumental albums’ in my collection; predominantly of the Jazz persuasion, but one or two Delta Blues ones for good measure (one has 17 harmonica tracks on it!) plus a couple of ‘Experimental’ type things from Mahavishnu Orchestra among others; but nothing in the Folk idiom.
I say ‘Folk’; but that moniker doesn’t do justice to what Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has created here alongside a handful of friends.
The quality throughout Bruce Cockburn’s 35th album CROWING IGNITES (and second one of instrumentals!!) is of such a high standard I don’t want to just call them ‘tracks’ …… how about opuses?
The first of these ‘opuses’ is Bardo Rush and I was left spellbound the first time I played it; and again tonight Cockburn’s dazzling fretwork is almost peerless in the musical world I inhabit.
Okay; this was all recorded in a studio; with plenty of time for Take 2’s; but the playing on each and every track is absolutely flawless and, it has to be said exemplary too.
There are flourishes in Easter and The Groan* that will send a shiver down your spine as your lips break into a stupendous grin; such is the way Cockburn delivers a Masterclass in Acoustic Guitar playing.
Perhaps what has impressed me most here is that Bruce Cockburn manages to create music that could and should be in very different genres; but somehow manages to make the intriguing Jazz opuses Angels in the Half Light and The Mt. Lefroy Waltz sit comfortably alongside the delightful Ragtime ditty Sweetness & Light; a raw Blues tune like Blind Willie and the transcendental (?) Seven Daggers and make them all sound cohesive.
What a rare talent this man really is.
Selecting a single Favourite Track (or should that be opus?) is almost futile; but then again two tunes really do manage to stand out here.
April in Memphis is quite staggering in its very own rite; with Cockburn playing his guitar in an almost Classical fashion; and then I read that it was written on MLK Day 2019 and is dedicated to Dr. King; my heart skipped a beat.
The other is also a tad on the Classical side; but with a dramatic Celtic spine too, which combines to make Pibroch, The Wind In The Valley quite remarkable in many ways; which is why it’s probably taking the accolade.
For an album as beautiful as this, there were very few people involved in the making; all of whom; including Iona Cockburn; 7 year old daughter of Bruce who helped supply handclaps on The Groan; deserve a huge round of applause for creating such a magical and majestic body of work; that will certainly stand the test of time.

Released September 20th 2019
http://brucecockburn.com/

Jerry Leger TOO BROKE TO DIE

Jerry Leger & The Situation
Retrospective 2005-19 Ltd Edition
Golden Rocket Records

The Best of the Best of the Canadiacana New Wave.

It’s very easy to criticise the internet and everything it stands for; but for every bad deed it is responsible for there is also a Good Karma opposite reaction too; and my discovering Jerry Leger in 2018 is one of the latter, via his recent Early Riser and From Nonsense and Heartache albums.
So it was with heightened excitement that I recently discovered that not only is Jerry Leger & The Situation returning to these fair shores in April and May but to coincide there will be this *Retrospective album culling together The Best Of his 9 albums!
Being a newcomer to the World of Leger my heart skipped a beat when I heard him go all Rockabilly on opening track Red City with it’s chunka-chunka guitar and rinky-dinky piano beats as Leger twists his vocal chords inside out on a really danceable tune.
I won’t bore you with listing the albums that the songs are from, as a) fans will already know and b) new purchasers can easily find that out from the album sleeve!
It’s a personal thing on my behalf, but I love Leger’s nasally vocals even more than his clever songwriting style; and the band aren’t afraid of a melody either; which is always a plus point.
I guess if I was dissect these 20 songs like a Bob Dylan fanatic discovering another 37 versions of Hard Rain; I’m pretty sure that I would find that Jerry Leger’s writing skills have evolved and matured over the last 15 years; but I’m just taking this collection at face value and loving every single moment.
For a Canadian singing Americana; there’s a decidedly Britishness to several songs here; with hints of The Kinks, Squeeze, Graham Parker and even Scotland’s finest export Orange Juice in the likes of See My Baby Run, Beating The Storm and the exquisite Wrong Kind of Girl ; and there are plenty of others in that vein too.
For existing fans there is the inclusion of two ‘outtakes’ to get excited about; Beating The Storm with it’s beguiling guitar work and pleading vocal performance and also You Really Got It Bad which with nothing to compare it to; made my heart flutter anyway.
Of the newer songs that I already knew; Another Dead Radio Star, Factory Made and It Don’t Make The Wrong Go Away sound even crisper than I’d remembered now they sit alongside their musical heritage.
I know for once that I haven’t given this album enough time to genuinely select a Favourite Song; but I’m going to throw a couple of contenders into the ring and see what happens; Den Of Sin with it’s sleazy bottle-neck opening, and raggedy chorus is quite special; while any song titled Wrong Kind of Girl is always going to interest me; and this one actually lives up to it’s enigmatic title and the feisty New Wave meets Country-Rag influenced Americana of Too Broke to Die has to be one of those songs that will be an ear-worm for days after hearing it, and also a highlight of any drunken night out if you ever find it on a Jukebox.
*The first issue of RETROSPECTIVE 2005-19 is only being made available for sale at the imminent European Tour, but this album is so damn good I’ll be disappointed and surprised if it’s not going to turn up on the website soon afterwards; and will be the perfect introduction to the Leger World that I’m already immersed in.

Released March 22nd 2019
https://jerryleger.com/about/





Gordie Tentrees & Jaxon Haldane GRIT

Gordie Tentrees & Jaxon Haldane
Grit
Greywood Records

A Sparkling Live Album From Two Wonderful Troubadours.

I remember being pleasantly taken aback by Gordie Tentrees 2015 offering, LESS IS MORE and here I am 3 years later taken aback again!
Why?
I guess it’s the timeless yet contemporary way Gordie alongside Jaxon Haldane build so much into their simple sounding Folk songs, which were recorded across five nights at gigs across Western Canada; so much so I found myself checking the CD cover several times to confirm that there really were only two people and their myriad of acoustic instruments were on each song.
The opening song Armand, a Haldane/Tentrees co-write is powerful stuff indeed as Gordie sings about his friend the Dutch Folk-Singer and political activist Herman George van Loenhout aka Armand. Spiky and tender are very rarely used together; but that’s the best way to describe this thoughtful song.
This the type of Singer-songwriter/troubadour fayre that I was first introduced to in the early 1970’s by my big brother Brian and even now it never fails to impress me the imagination and creativity musicians have to enable them to create songs like Bottleneck to Wire and the wonderful Holy Moly (not least for its musical-saw solo); both of which are older songs from Tentrees lovingly dusted off and tenderly sung for the delectation of people across the world.
Some people think that these records are just slung together; but nothing could be further from the truth as the 2004 Tentrees song 29 Loads of Freight, which was inspired by his love for Fred Eaglesmith’s songs leads straight into the Tentrees/Eaglesmith co-write Craft Beards and Man Buns which in lesser hands could have been syrupy twee; but here it’s almost a protest song! Certainly the deadly duo seem to feel the same way about trendy-bendy things that some deem ‘cool’ annoy them as much as they do me.
There are two ‘muso’ songs here too; well songs written about the sad and lonely life of the touring musician, and both will appeal to all of my musician friends, with Sideman being a 70 mph Bluesy blast on the banjo and National Steel and the sad ode to missing your children growing up, Junior will surely bring a tear to a bass players eye.
Selecting my Favourite track here was a straight choice between a Willie P Bennett song Willie’s Diamond Blues, which is as sharp as a razor and as dark as night, and Tentree’s own smart, slick and savvy love song Lost; and I’m tempted to go for the latter as it’s the type of song I mostly associate with Gordie Tentrees (and now Jaxon Haldane too).
Cleverly recorded with occasional applause and laughter, this album really does capture the magic that these two musicians create on stage; yet unlike ‘live albums’ of old won’t date.

Released UK January 11th 2019
https://www.tentrees.ca/

Kaia Kater GRENADES

Kaia Kater
Grenades
Smithsonian Folkways

Very Grown Up Modern Canadian Folk Music.

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.

Released UK & Europe January 11th 2019
OUT NOW USA and Canada
https://kaiakater.com/home