Seven Music Fest

2012-07-08 13.16.01Saturday, July 8th was a day well spent. We arrived at the drop-off point in St. Albert an hour before the gates were scheduled to open and I was mildly surprised to find very little congestion, in fact, there was none. Walking the short distance to the festival site we encountered almost no other concert goers and upon arrival at the gate, we were only about a dozen back from the front of the line. I had been expecting a longer line considering the depth of talent scheduled for the event, I will tick them off one by one as this blog moves along, but there were only a few diehard queuers ahead of us.

Promptly at the hour, the gate opened the security was immediately overwhelmed because the first few people in the queue had packed for a camping experience as well as a music festival. They had wagons filled with coolers, umbrella’s, chairs and enough food to feed a small refugee camp for a day. It turned out to be largely a non-event as security was rather quick and within a few moments, we were heading for the grass in front of the stage where we quickly set up our brand new festival friendly lawn chairs about 10 meters back of the stage, dead center. The rush for real estate also proved itself to be a non-event since there was only a modest line behind us and many of them chose spots further from the stage where they set up camp for the day. Some even went so far as to bring cabanas, which was probably a good idea if you didn’t mind sitting further back because the sun was blistering hot all day.

With an hour to spare before the first set began we settled in, surveyed the land for amenities such as portaloo’s and food trucks and got as comfortable as is possible in festival chairs in 30-degree direct sunshine.

Up first was the M.C. to introduce the mayor of St. Albert, a few other dignitaries as well as the people responsible for organizing and developing the festival, well-done everyone and thank you for doing what you did to make it happen.

First up for entertainment was Hailey Benedict who gained instant star status when Keith Urban invited her to join him on stage at his Rogers Place concert in September of 2016. She then performed a song that she had written herself and not only wowed Keith Urban and his fans but went viral on YouTube as well. Hailey’s song, My Sweet Alberta Home, was a finalist in the 2013 All-Alberta Song Contest so she came on stage with an already impressive resume despite her young age, and she did not disappoint at Seven Music Fest either. She only did a few songs but I heard a great voice and very nice guitar playing that bode well for her to have a great future in music if she continues to pursue it. I was also impressed with her stage presence.

And then came Paul Woida who calls himself a “one-man band” who replicates the full sound of an entire band all by himself by using loops played and recorded live on the spot. OK, enough about Paul, I am not a big fan of his process. He is good at what he does but it’s not my thing.

Next up was an artist who impressed me when I reviewed her material in prep for the festival, and Sykamore did not disappoint me. Her playing, on what appeared to be a parlor guitar, was quite good and she has a pleasant voice that complimented her lyrics.  What did disappoint me was her accompanist, who attempted to play electric guitar and lap steel as well as singing backing vocals, all of which was a dismal failure. Sykamore solo would have been a treat. Sykamore with this person was a disappointment. Sycamore has a penchant for wearing plaid shirts in place of a skirt, but this isn’t a fashion column so we will move right along.2012-07-08 15.18.17

The Provincial Archives were next to grace the stage and they knocked my socks off, which is a huge compliment because I wear cowboy boots and it ain’t easy to knock my socks off. The Provincial Archives rocked it old school punk and grunge and I don’t know what else, they just plain belted it out and left nothing in the tank. They are advertised as an indie pop trio but I think that does them a disservice, they are so much more than just another indie pop band. They are a trio and they work well together, the drumming was tight and not excessive, the bass backed everything up and still managed to keep it all chugging along and the lead guitar blazed, jumped and boogied. Do you think I liked them? Well, I did. I will be hitting up the local record store for some of their vinyl for sure.

The Royal Foundry, yes we do have a theme going here with names that start with “The” as well as being a bit geographic in nature. I will destroy this concept later. I totally enjoyed The Royal Foundry, that’s what my notes from the show say. And I did, I totally enjoyed their natural stage presence and how they engaged the audience and developed an instant rapport. The music was good as well, they are electric-alt-pop-art- rock or something similar. Whatever the music is called, I call it good. Another want list item for the vinyl vault.

The Royal Foundry won points with me for their rad instruments: a St. Vincent guitar and a glossy black mobile cello:

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The Elwins were up next and after the Royal Foundry had pumped me up it was difficult for the Elwins to sustain my adrenalin. They were good, they had energy, they put out a good sound, but they didn’t make my day. Maybe they changed instruments one too many times and lost me in the shuffle, or maybe it was too high of expectations for me. Whatever it was it didn’t happen with the Elwins or with Frazey Ford.

Frazey Ford, not just another name to make auto correct go crazy. I really wanted to sit back and relish the sound of Frazey Ford and her band. I have been listening to her sing since I discovered The Be Good Tanya’s song Rudy on a Christmas album called A Winter’s Night: The Best of Nettwerk Christmas Album., and I really liked what I heard so I bought The Be Good Tanya’s albums, and I still liked what I heard. So I sat in the sun at Seven Music Fest and really tried to like Frazey Ford and her band, but it didn’t happen. I don’t know why it just didn’t happen. Maybe it was too much sun, I don’t know why but I do know that we didn’t connect. It wasn’t bad. It just didn’t connect with me on that sunny Saturday afternoon in St. Albert and it’s a shame because I know that she has the talent and the band was good with their soulful horn driven sound, but it just didn’t connect.

And then came the Rural Alberta Advantage. Remember a ways back in the blog when I said that I would destroy the whole band name thing? Well, here it is, the Dad joke of the blog: If we put The Royal Foundry in The Provincial Archive would it be an Advantage to Rural Alberta? OK, let out a collective groan and we will move on.

This is Joel, the 4th member of Rural Alberta Advantage.joel and RAA

I have seen The Rural Alberta Advantage several times and we have their entire catalog, I wasn’t even tempted to visit the merch table to see if they had anything out because we have stuff that they don’t have like test pressings. But here’s the thing, I really like their music. I really like their sound. I really like the lyrics, even the one’s that aren’t about Alberta. I really like their energy and I feel like I can feed off of it and they get it back because they don’t leave behind when they do a show, it’s all or nothing and they do it all out. Consistently too, show after show. Venue after venue. The Rural Alberta Advantage did have an advantage at this festival because I am biased and really like them. Heck, when I was in a cover band we even did one of their songs so yes, there was a Rural Alberta Advantage in St. Albert at Seven Music Fest.

Rural Alberta Advantage easily could have been the show closer, but Seven Music Fest saved The Strumbellas for last, desert if you will. I saw the Strumbellas at the Winspear back on October 20th of 2016 with another favorite band of mine: The Zolas and the Strumbellas had the audience in the palm of their hands. They whooped and hollered and rocked and rolled and brought the house down, down to the front of the stage, which in the austere setting of the Winspear is something of a no-no. But they did, and they did it again at Seven Music Fest. The crowd gathered at the foot of the stage and were engaged with and enthralled by The Strumbellas. It was an interesting contrast from the Winspear stage to Seven Music Fest. A different crowd, a different vibe, and a different set. Oh sure, they did most of the same songs but they were different. For one thing, Jon Hembry, the lead guitarist, was playing a Gibson that looked like an ES335 when they played the Winspear and at Seven Music Fest he as playing a Fender Telecaster. Different guitars and a different sound. It was a bit grittier, a bit more driven, a little dirtier sound which was appropriate for an outdoor festival and it fit the mood of the night. And it was a beautiful night, the skies turned a brilliant shade of pink and competed with the stage lights for attention. The stage won because The Strumbellas were playing and it’s hard to not pay attention to them, they are that good.2012-07-08 21.37.27

It was a good day all in all. I heard some new music and reheard some old music in a different light. I burned my nose and I think I tried to burn my candle at both ends because I am in pain today but it was all worth it because the musicians we that good. Thank you to St. Albert and the festival organizers, I can’t wait to see what next year brings for musical treats.2012-07-08 21.08.44

1967 Remembered from 2017

July 1, 2017, will be celebrated across Canada as 150 years since we, Canada, became an independent nation. There are no doubt many, besides myself, who have lived to witness not only our Centennial in 1967 but the sesquicentennial in 2017, and will no doubt look back at 1967 with fondness. I have compiled a loose list of people, places, and events from 1967 that were relevant to me and probably to many others. I hope you enjoy reading this trip down memory lane as much as I have enjoyed preparing it.

This is a composite of album covers from 1967, a very good year for new music and many of these have held up very well despite being 50 years old. For example, Joel blessed me with a copy of Sgt. Peppers remastered on CD for Fathers Day and the music still moves me much as it did 50 years ago when it was first released.

1967 albums

What we listened to:

“I’m a Believer” The Monkees

“Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” The Royal Guardsmen

“Georgy Girl” The Seekers

“Kind of a Drag” The Buckinghams

“Gimme Some Lovin'” Spencer Davis Group

“Baby I Need Your Lovin'” Johnny Rivers

“Penny Lane” The Beatles

“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” The Monkees

“Canada” Young Canada Singers Canada

“Somethin’ Stupid” Nancy Sinatra & Frank Sinatra

“I’m a Man” Spencer Davis Group

“Happy Jack” The Who

“Creeque Alley” The Mamas & the Papas

“Somebody to Love” Jefferson Airplane

“Windy” The Association

“Up, Up and Away” The 5th Dimension

“White Rabbit” Jefferson Airplane

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” Procol Harum

“Pleasant Valley Sunday” The Monkees

“All You Need Is Love” The Beatles

“Ode to Billie Joe” Bobbie Gentry

“San Franciscan Nights” Eric Burdon

“The Letter” The Box Tops

“To Sir with Love” Lulu

“Never My Love” The Association

“People Are Strange” The Doors

“Daydream Believer” The Monkees

“Hello, Goodbye” The Beatles

“There Goes My Everything” Jack Greene

“Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” Loretta Lynn

“Walk Through This World With Me” George Jones

“It’s Such A Pretty World Today” Wynn Stewart

“Tonight Carmen” Marty Robbins

“I’ll Never Find Another You” Sonny James

“Branded Man” Merle Haggard

“My Elusive Dreams” David Houston and Tammy Wynette

“I Don’t Wanna Play House” Tammy Wynette

“It’s The Little Things” Sonny James

“For Loving You” Bill Anderson and Jan Howard

The stereo system shown below is very similar to the one my parents owned and thus what I grew up listening to music on. Unfortunately, we do not own the original machine any longer but I did manage to find one that was close to the original.philco stereo 1967

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9th Annual Grammy Awards:

March 2, 1967, in Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville and New York

Record of the Year:

Jimmy Bowen (Producer) & Frank Sinatra for “Strangers in the Night”

Album of the Year:

Sonny Burke (producer) & Frank Sinatra for A Man and His Music

Song of the Year:

John Lennon & Paul McCartney (songwriters) for “Michelle” performed by The Beatles

Best Country & Western Vocal Performance – Female:

Jeannie Seely for “Don’t Touch Me”

Best Country and Western Vocal Performance, Male:

David Houston (singer) for “Almost Persuaded”

Best Country & Western Recording:

David Houston (singer) for “Almost Persuaded”

Best Country & Western Song:

Billy Sherrill & Glenn Sutton (songwriters) for “Almost Persuaded” performed by David Houston

Best Instrumental Jazz Performance – Group or Soloist with Group:

Wes Montgomery for “Goin’ Out of My Head”

Best Original Jazz Composition:

Duke Ellington for “In the Beginning God”

Best R&B Solo Vocal Performance, Male or Female:

Ray Charles for “Crying Time”

Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental:

Ramsey Lewis for “Hold It Right There”

Best Rhythm & Blues Recording:

Ray Charles for “Crying Time”

These large console units were also very popular in 1967, less so in 2017 because of the sheer mass of these units. I think many of them are very attractive furniture and they often had decent quality components so the sound wasn’t that bad.stereo 1967

The song that most Canadians associate with Expo was written by Bobby Gimby, a veteran commercial jingle writer who composed the popular Centennial tune “Ca-na-da”. I still have my copy on 45

.ca-na-da

Gimby earned the name the “Pied Piper of Canada” 

One of my favorite ways of listening to music was on a jukebox. Below is one that I own, a 1954 model that would have still been working fine in 1967. Many coffee shops, bars, and restaurants had jukeboxes as well as smaller selection machines at each table.

This one is my restoration project.AMI Jukebox

What we watched on TV:

On April 27 the Expo 67 opening ceremonies were broadcast on CBC, and all around the world. An estimated 700 million people watched in over 70 countries.

Other TV shows that were popular in our household in 1967 are listed below in no particular order:

Mr. Dressup

Rocket Robin Hood

Singalong Jubilee

The Tommy Hunter Show

Gunsmoke

Gilligan’s Island

On August 29 we were all glued to the TV as The Fugitive finale proves to be one of the most-watched episodes of the decade.

Batman

Bewitched

Bonanza

Candid Camera

Get Smart

Green Acres

Hockey Night in Canada

Hogan’s Heroes

I Dream of Jeannie

Lost in Space

Mission: Impossible

Petticoat Junction

The Beverly Hillbillies

The Ed Sullivan Show

Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (a US show so they Americanized the spelling of colour.)

The Carol Burnett Show

Don Messer’s Jubilee

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The televisions of 1967 were often console models, much like the console stereos and they often had both in one cabinet. There were, of course, many different sizes available as this photo from the Consumers Electronics Show of 1967 shows very well. The very first Consumer Electronics Show wowed visitors with dazzling new gadgets. The show, like the industry, was about to grow huge.1967CES_05

What we watched at the movies:

The Graduate

Bonnie and Clyde

The Dirty Dozen

To Sir, with Love

Casino Royale

Cool Hand Luke

Doctor Dolittle

Academy Awards:

Best Picture: In the Heat of the Night – Mirisch, United Artists

Best Director: Mike Nichols – The Graduate

Best Actor: Rod Steiger – In the Heat of the Night

Best Actress: Katharine Hepburn – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Below is a photo of the movie theater in Wainwright were I spent many a Saturday afternoon.wainwright cinema

What we were reading:

Barbara Gordon is introduced as Batgirl in the Detective Comics series in the United States; when not exercising her superhero powers she uses her doctorate in library science as head of Gotham City public library. A comic book that I may have read that year, Joel has it in his collection now:

rawhide kid oct 1967

On November 9th the first issue of the magazine Rolling Stone was published in San Francisco. Although I missed out on that issue I started being an avid reader of themagazine through the late 60’s to the 70’s.

rolling 1967

Influential New Wave science fiction anthology Dangerous Visions is first published and I am still an avid fan of science fiction, speculative fiction, and science fantasy stories. I just finished reading the 35th Anniversary edition:

dangerous visions

Richard Brautigan – Trout Fishing in America

Alistair MacLean – Where Eagles Dare

Time Magazine Person of the Year, sorry; Man of the Year: Lyndon B. Johnson

time 1967

    What we were doing:

   Expo 67

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The building above is the Habitat building from Expos 67 which is still in use in Montreal.

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Although Montreal was in the spotlight for Expo ’67 there were celebrations of the Centennial all across Canada including the town of Viking that had a parade and fireworks. This is one of the parade entries: me on my bike, I’ve always had a fondness for cowboy hats and boots.

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The picture below is of the Alberta Legislature grounds on July 1, 1967.

1967 leg grounds

The Lieutenant Governor of Alberta was Grant MacEwan. MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta and the MacEwan Student Centre at the University of Calgary, as well as the neighborhoods of MacEwan Glen in Calgary and MacEwan in Edmonton, are named after him.

The Premier of Alberta was Ernest Manning.

The Governor General of Canada was Georges Vanier until March 5 when he passed away then Roland Michener took over the position.

Governor_General_Roland_Michener_at_Alma_College_graduation_ceremonies_1972_(crop)

Our Prime Minister was Lester B. Pearson. During Pearson’s time as Prime Minister, his Liberal minority governments introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada, and the Maple Leaf flag.

pearson

On May 2 the Toronto Maple Leafs won the sixth game of the Stanley Cup final over the Montreal Canadiens to win their last Stanley Cup to date.

1967-leafs-team-photo

By 1967 the snowmobile was becoming very popular thanks to Joseph-Armand Bombardier, I spent many a winter’s days riding our friend’s machine.

1967 skidoo

The 55th Grey Cup was played between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Saskatchewan Roughriders on December 2, 1967, at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, before 31,358 fans and was won by the Tiger-Cats by a score of 24 to 1.

TC67

In 1967 we had Sears catalog’s and of course the Christmas Wish Book:

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I sure “wish” I still had my guitar and hair!

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1967 also had many other wonderful memories: the 1967 Rambler was to become my Mom’s car and when she sold it to me in 1973 it became my first car. Steve Miller and I drove it to Mexico and back in 1975 and then I sold it. It was a really good car to me and if I ever win the lottery I might just buy another one for old times sake.

1967 Rambler

The introduction of the Cougar in 1967 finally gave Mercury its own “pony car”. Slotted between the Ford Mustang and the Ford Thunderbird, the Cougar was the performance icon and eventually the icon for the Mercury name for several decades.

1967 Cougar

I never owned a Cougar but I did have a 1969 Mercury Montego that was basically the same platform. I hot rodded it and spent way more money on it than I should have, but I justify that because it was quick off the lights!

1969 mercury montego

1967 was a very good year with many good memories, I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

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Country and Western Music in 10 Records

I bought a record today, that in and of itself is nothing new or earth moving since I buy a lot of music. What made this one special is that it was a recording that I had admired from a distance for a good long time, had listened to several times even though I didn’t own a copy (thanks to the digital age) and now I finally had it in my hands which is one of the appealing  aspects of owning vinyl records, the tactile element. That record got me to thinking about the history of Country and Western music based on its title and its content. The record I bought today is a nice clean copy of Ray Charles landmark recording called Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music was actually done in 1962 and that got me to wondering what led up to this recording and what followed it. And thus the quest to connect the dots between landmarks in the history of Country and Western Music from some not so modern, to modern and beyond, into Metamodern. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list or a complete history lesson, it is a quick overview of country music in 10 albums.

1.  Vernon Dalhart, now there is a name that doesn’t get thrown around much these days. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if you are scratching your head and asking who in the world Vernon Dalhart is and why am I starting my little history lesson with him. Well, Vernon Dalhart was the first million record seller and was the number one driving force behind hillbilly music gaining traction as a form of popular music. In the 1920’s and 30’s Vernon made over 5000 recordings under his own name as well as over 100 aliases. In fact, there are examples of him recording the same songs on different labels with different names. In 1924 Vernon recorded a song called the Wreck of the Old ’97 which became his best selling record with over 5 million copies sold. This paved the way for other hillbilly and mountain musicians but his popularity plummeted almost as fast as it rose. He died in obscurity in 1948 but left a lasting legacy as the first successful purveyor of what was to become Americana or Country and Western Music.

2. Jimmie Rodgers, known as the “Father of Country Music,” was an instant national success. He is credited with the first million-selling single, “Blue Yodel #1,” and his catalogue of songs, all recorded between 1927 and 1933, established him as the first preeminent voice in country music. While Vernon Dalhart sang many railroad songs and ballads, Jimmie Rodgers was known as the Singing Brakeman due to the fact that he had actually worked on the rails and had an intimate knowledge of them. His first recording session was the famous Bristol Sessions which included the music of our third historical note, The Carter Family. Jimmie Rodgers was a great interpreter of songs and didn’t stick to a formula for his music. He included elements of other styles of music and even collaborated with Louis Armstrong at one point. Jimmie Rodgers music was hugely popular during his short life and had a lasting impression that reverberates to this day.

3. The Carter Family were Country and Western music’s first famous vocal group. A.P. Carter, his wife, Sara Dougherty Carter, and A.P.’s sister-in-law, Maybelle Addington Carter, the group flourished in the 1920s after recording the Bristol Sessions. The Carter Family continued recording and performing for decades with different family members and their legacy lives on through extended family and remakes of their hits such as  “Keep on the Sunny Side” and “Wildwood Flower” which remain country standards to this day. In fact, one of A.P. Carters signature tunes went on to become the catch phrase of whole new movement in country music, No Depression. It was recorded by Uncle Tupelo, as well as many others, became the name of an alt-country news magazine in both print and digital formats and is synonymous with the alternative country movement. The Carter Family left an indelible impression on music and country music in particular.

4. While Country and Western music rose out of hillbilly and mountain music and became popularised through artists like Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family, there were other musical influences brewing in other parts of the world. Combining elements of jazz, big band, rural roots and blues music Bob Wills hit the dance floors of Texas with his big sound and almost single-handedly invented western swing. Taking the lessons he learned while playing fiddle for The Carter Family and The Light Crust Doughboys (yes, that is a real band name) Bob Wills brought a new level of energy to Country and Western music, an energy that influenced many and is still heard today through acts such as Asleep At The Wheel.

5. What can I say about Hank Williams that hasn’t already been said? No one has had as much influence or lasting impact on Country and Western music as Hank Williams, an influence that spread to other genres and continues to be felt. Hank Williams may have been a reluctant star, he suffered from low self-esteem among other things, but a bright star he became none the less. He is number 5 on our list a pivotal point in a count from 1 to 10 and Hank was a pivotal point in Country and Western music. He was immensely popular despite his self-destructive ways and he opened the doors for many other musicians to play on not just the Grand Ol Opry but on tours and promotional slots on local radio stations while on tour. The golden age of Country and Western music had arrived.

6. From the death of Hank Williams in 1953 and onward through the 50’s there were many, many outstanding Country and Western performers and since this is a brief history lesson and not a compendium I will not list them but I would encourage you to dig deeper for your own pleasure. I am going to jump ahead to 1962 and our next historical footnote in the history lesson. Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music by Ray Charles. Up to the release of this album Ray Charles had been a relatively successful soul and rhythm and blues artist, this album changed not only his career but also the face of Country and Western music. For one thing, Ray Charles was black and to break into what had, up to this point in time, been a predominantly white industry was significant in and of itself. The music contained within the album also marked a new era in county and western music because it contained elements of R&B, soul, blues and even jazz. This record broke the mould that had formed Country/Western music and liberated it to be more than 4/4 time hillbilly music. This is not to downplay the artists who came before because they all contributed to the mix, but after 1962 it was never quite the same again. Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music has been lauded by critics from the day it was released right up to the present day as one of the most significant albums ever recorded and also of the highest quality. It won a Grammy and the praise of many critics, consistently ranking very high on lists of the best records of all time. It is also one of my personal favourite listens.

6. The 1960’s continued to pour out consistently good country and western music and one of them was a Texan working out of Bakersfield California. Buck Owens championed a style of music called the Bakersfield sound, which is where Buck Owens lived and started his career in music. The Bakersfield sound actually started in the mid to late 1950’s as a reaction against the slick, overly orchestrated and over produced pop country that had made inroads. The Bakersfield sound stripped the music back to smaller combos and featured story songs, steel guitar and twangy guitar, hallmarks of Country and Western music. A landmark album that gives a really good perspective of the Bakersfield sound is Buck Owens and the Buckeroos, The Carnegie Hall Concert recorded in 1966. It is a well recorded live album and features the band at the height of their game, a good album to showcase not only a significant movement in the history of Country and Western music but also the Bakersfield sound.

7. We now jump forward to 1974, it seems that about every ten years there is a significant moment, artist or album in the timeline of Country and Western music. The Red Headed Stranger by Willie Nelson is another rebellion against the Nashville sound, much like Ray Charles and Buck Owens were. Willie Nelson became a prominent leader in the alternative country movement, what they called outlaw country. The album was a concept album that was a departure from the traditional Country and Western album and it was also very minimalist, with simple basic instrumentation and very little post production effects. Initial reaction from the white collars in Nashville and the record company was that is was too sparse but since Willie had negotiated for complete artistic freedom they had to honour that and what a great album it is. Willie Nelson went on to record many more great albums including a series of Outlaw albums with others artists of similar musical musings. The alternative country or outlaw country format had been formed and the Red Headed Stranger was at the forefront of the march.

8. We fast forward now to the 1980’s in the history of Country and Western music. Flashy outfits, lavish orchestration and heavy-handed production were not new to the Country and Western music scene, having had its fair share of artists that seemed to have more show than substance but a new level was about to unfold. It is probably best exemplified in Urban Cowboy, the soundtrack to the movie of the same name starring John Travolta. Pop-country, urban country, new country, or what have you, it was a new day in Country and Western music that featured music that easily crossed over from pop to country, worked well in bars that were competing with disco for dance space and was radio friendly. It was the age of the Rhinestone Cowboy at its peak. I featured artists such as Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, and the group Alabama. The Urban Cowboy trend was very influential as a crossover medium and can still be seen today in artists such as Garth Brooks who can sell out concerts in mega stadiums and compete with big name rock and roll acts in sales figures.

9. In 1990 a band named Uncle Tupelo released their first album to critical acclaim and quite good sales, 15,000 in the first year which is considered good for an independent release. The album gained in status over time and is now considered a seminal alt-country record and one of the most important Country and Western albums of all time. It is interesting to note that the western in Country and Western had pretty much been abandoned by now and the broad term for the genre was just Country music. Uncle Tupelo was very influential and the members of the band continue to make music with various other bands, notably Jeff Tweedy and Wilco as well as Jay Farrah and Son Volt; both of them hugely successful and influential. Uncle Tupelo may not have been the first but they were certainly one of the most influential early alternative new country bands and they spawned a whole sub-genre of alternative country music.

10. Fast forward to 2014, only 3 years ago as I write this, and Sturgill Simpson released an album called Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. An album that pays tribute to those who paved the way such as Ray Charles with Modern Sounds in Country Western Music as well as Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings from Outlaw country. It also paves the way for new experiences in country music through the way the music is presented and also through the lyrical content. Sturgill Simpson writes songs that incorporate stories, philosophy, ideology, theology and heartfelt emotions. Elements that have existed as long as there has been Country and Western music but presented in a new and fresh way. Welcome to the new sound of country music, Metamodern.

So there we have it, the history of country music in 10 albums. Yes, it misses a lot of really good artists as well as pickup truck full of really good albums. As I said before, this is not an encyclopaedia of country music, it is a quick overview that may serve as a starting point for someone who has never given the genre a good listen or it could be a good refresher for someone who hasn’t listened to country music for a while. Wherever you fit in I hope this provides some lovely listening my friends.

p.s. I just listened to Willie Nelson’s newest album; God’s Problem Child. I will have to update this to 11 albums I think.

Circle of Music

One listen led to another, or how I got to here from there.

We (Joel Weatherly @ Spill Magazine and I) went to a concert last week to hear a band that we had been following for many, many years. We had been to see them every time they came to Edmonton, we had all of their recordings in multiple formats, we had played a cover of one of their songs in a now defunct band that we played in and we even had a test pressing from one of their recording sessions. In short, we are not your run of the mill fans, we are fanatics when it comes to Rural Alberta Advantage.

Rural Alberta Advantage, hereafter referred to as RAA, were on the last stop of a short but intense road trip to test drive some new material that they will be recording shortly and giving us, the fans, a first listen as well as our first chance at seeing their newest member play live.

On September 12, 2016, Amy Cole, a founding member of RAA, announced her departure from the group. Amy’s shoes, or socks which she often played in, would not be easy to fill. Amy was not just a multi-instrumentalist, she played those multiple instruments simultaneously. It was always fascinating for me to see Amy playing keyboards, singing, playing foot bass and either banging on a drum or shaking a tambourine. She would have both hands, one foot and her vocals all going at the same time and sounding perfect, an amazing talent. And big socks to fill, but Robin Hatch has stepped up to the task, and judging by the teaser songs they have released and by seeing and hearing her in concert, she fits. She sounded comfortable on both the older material, which they keep reworking with little tweaks and the new material which she no doubts contributed to the creation of. http://northernsessions.com/session/jordan-norman-the-wisdom-teeth/

Having said all of that, I can now get to the point I was trying to make. I liked the opening act. As per usual, they were a local act trying to get some exposure and I liked what I heard from Jordan Norman and the Wisdom Teeth. HIs web bio says that Jordan has been playing and writing since he was in his early teens, I would peg him at the late twenties or early thirties now, sorry Jordan if I blew the estimate. He comes across as easy going, comfortable with banter and a competent guitar player. His sound brought back memories of other artists with both the guitar and vocals. I heard faint echoes of early Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in the guitar playing but it was the vocals that stirred the sharpest recollection for me. I couldn’t stop thinking of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks because of Jordan and the two ladies who sang with him. The harmonies put me on the Last Train To Hicksville.

I got off the train before it got to Hicksville, at a whistle stop called Original Recordings. This album has some great call and response between Dan Hicks and the female vocalists in his band, hence the connection to Jordan Norman and the Wisdom Teeth. This album has elements of jazz, swing, country and country swing. A highly listenable album that I find myself going back to revisit on a regular basis.

Listening to Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks put me in the mood for some jazz so I pulled Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Featuring Woody Shaw & Cedar Walton – Anthenagin. This was a Goodwill bargain bin find but the vinyl plays clean and was a pleasant follow-up to Dan Hicks. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers are an institution in music and this album does not disappoint, it is a good strong listen and the playing of Woody Shaw and Cedar Walton just make it stronger.

One jazz listen led to another, if I were to take Jordan Norman, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks and put them in a blender I think something like this would come out: Norman Blake / Tut Taylor / Sam Bush / Butch Robins / Vassar Clements / David Holland / Jethro Burns. That is not only the list of performers on the album, it also the unwieldy title. This is a pretty tight set by some very talented individual who are able to leave their egos at the door and work some musical magic as a group. An album well worth looking for.

Listening to the violin stylings of Vassar Clements left me wanting more so I picked Oscar Peterson featuring Stephan Grappelli on the original Prestige recording.

This was another Goodwill pick and the cover is a disaster but the vinyl is like new. Some great swing, some great jazz and above all else: great musicians playing off the energy of each other. This is a really good double album that also features bassist Niels Pedersen and drummer Kenny Clarke. Oscar Peterson is of course an icon of Canadian music and one good icon deserves another so Ian Tyson was next up on the turntable.

Ian Tyson has a deep catalogue and picking a single album to represent him would be an insult to the breadth of music he has released so I narrowed it down to one that sort of covers a good stretch of his career. It even has a nod in the general direction of jazz by the inclusion of “Irving Berlin (Is 100 Years Old Today)”. I did say it was only a nod, and only in the general direction. Anyhow this album does showcase Ian Tyson writing about what he loves, cowboys and open spaces. Having been an amateur cowboy back in my younger days, another nod and only in the general direction, I can relate to many of his song offerings. Those less enamoured of the cowboy music will no doubt find at least one song more pop music friendly; “Four Strong Winds”. A song that is an icon in and of itself, it has often been called the ultimate Canadian song. Originally released by Ian and Sylvia in 1963 it has since been covered by too many artists to list as well as being covered by Ian himself on this album. I prefer the original version myself but this version is decent enough. There is also some almost jazzy violin particularly on “Since The Rain”, once again it is only a nod and only in the general direction.

Corb

One good Canadian cowboy deserves another so I gave Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans a spin. I have had the good fortune of seeing Corb Lund live numerous times and I am never disappointed. He is not only a good musician but he also has a keen sense of history and cowboy culture, combine that with good songwriting and we have ourselves an eminently listenable album. I can relate to “You Ain’t a Cowboy) If You Ain’t Been Bucked Off”, I always got bucked off and that is not a nod in the general direction, it is a fact. I also get a kick out of “Bible on The Dash”, I keep mine in a dash cubby hole, never know when it will come in handy. Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertan bring a different sensibility to country and western music. Much of the sound and even the lyrics owe as much to jazz, blues and rock as they do to traditional country and western. This album covers everything from grave diggers to goth girls, a little something for everyone, except maybe the opera fans out there.

Having reconnected with the music of Corb Lund I just had to dig out my old copy of Waste and Tragedy by the Smalls, the band that broke Corb Lund into the music business. I have listened to this album many, many times and it just gets better each listen. This time I focused on the bass playing by Corb Lund and it was good.

Having come almost full circle back to Edmonton, Jordan Norman to The Smalls who both got their musical careers started in Edmonton I wanted one more full on Edmonton band to seal the circle of music. That belongs to manraygun and the album of choice is Twilight Speak. I had the pleasure of seeing manraygun play live and they are an amiable and musically interesting group. They sing songs that evoke images of rural Alberta as well as emotions that ring true no matter where you live.

So there we have; it a string of musical gems that start and end in my hometown of Edmonton.

I enjoyed Ksenija Sidorova on the accordion at the Winspear with Bill Eddins and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. There were moments during her performance that I was lost in the music. A wonderful place to be.

Lovely Recordings

Occasionally I will go on a jag and listen to music that mostly falls roughly within a genre. Lately, I have been listening to more jazz than anything else so that is where we will start with this weeks turntable spins.

  • FREDDIE HUBBARD – RED CLAY, CTI RECORDS – CT 6001, 1970, JAZZ/FUNK/SOUL/HARD BOP

    Freddie HubbardThis amazing trivia fact is Freddie Hubbard’s seventeenth recording and one that marked a new chapter in his musical life with a shift towards the soul and jazz fusion that would dominate his career going forward. It was also his first on Creed Taylor’s CTI label and featured a solid lineup of seasoned and high-quality musicians. I found this selection by accident while looking for another record but thought I might as well give it a spin since I wasn’t familiar with it. It has spun around my turntable more than once since then. An album well worth the effort of finding, even by accident.

  • JOHNNY HAMMOND – THE PROPHET, KUDU – KU-10, 1972, JAZZ, SOUL-JAZZ, JAZZ-FUNK

    Johnny HammondAnother fortuitous find. A co-worker had pulled this to listen to and it had sat beside the turntable for about a week. It was my turn to throw on a record so I just grabbed the closest one and I’m glad I did. I played it again and then bought it for myself and listened a few more times at home. This is a thoroughly enjoyable listen with some top notch organ as one would expect. No disappointments from the solid lineup that backs him, and could be an all-star band in their own right.

  • MILES DAVIS – THE COMPLETE BIRTH OF THE COOL, CAPITOL JAZZ – CDP 7243 4 94550 2 3/1998

    DavisFrom AllMusic: Capitol’s The Complete Birth of the Cool is a double-disc set that’s separated into two halves. The first contains all 12 tracks Davis cut in the studio in January 1949 with Gil Evans. The second contains three radio broadcasts that the Birth of the Cool nonet performed in September 1948 at the Royal Roost in New York City. All the recordings have been completely remastered, resulting in the best ever sound for these recordings. The set also features brand new liner notes from Phil Schapp, plus the original liners. All the added features help make The Complete Birth of the Cool the definitive chronicle of one of the most important eras in jazz history.http://www.hdtracks.com/birth-of-the-cool

  • LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT – LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT 2 MAGNA CARTA – MA-9035-2 JAZZ, ROCK, FUSION, PROG ROCK, HEAVY METAL

    LiquidTensionExp2Moving away from traditional jazz I have been absolutely mesmerised by this offering featuring Tony Levin who I had the privilege of seeing performing live twice in the last 18 months, once with King Crimson and once with Peter Gabriel. He is an amazing musician and along with John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess the are Liquid Tension Experiment. A good listen that straddles prog rock, fusion and even a little jazz and rock.

  • TEN YEARS AFTER – A SPACE IN TIME CHRYSALIS F2 21001 ROCK/PSYCHEDELIC ROCK/CLASSIC ROCK

    A_Space_in_TimeI first owned this recording as a quadraphonic record; many, many years ago, a rather large space of time to be honest. I loved listening to it with my quad headphones and hearing the sound swirl and pulse. Truly a good example of a technology that didn’t fare too well, unfortunately. I shall have to see about getting this in enhanced format and play it on a 4.0 system to see if it matches the quad, or if it lives up to my grandiose memories. Still a good listen in stereo and available quite often on good used vinyl.

  • NEVERENDING WHITE LIGHTS – ACT 1: GOODBYE FRIENDS OF THE HEAVENLY BODIES OCEAN RECORDS CANADA – ORC0501 RELEASED: 2005 ROCK/ALTERNATIVE ROCK

    aneverending-white-lights-act-1-goodbye-friends-of-the-heavenly-bodiesI finally got my hands on a physical copy of this, nothing intrinsically wrong with listening to downloaded music, I just like having a copy of the music in my hands. It’s a personal thing I guess. I was suggested this from a gentleman who attended a music appreciation class that I organised and I have kept listening to Daniel Victor’s various projects under the guise of The Neverending White Lights, which is also a great name for a band. Space, intelligent, well organised and great collaborations as are typical to all of their/his recordings.

Well there you go, an even half dozen that have been gracing my ears the last week. I hope you find something here to tickle your ears or stimulate your mind. Happy listening my friends.

“And That’s a Wrap Folks”

In the two thousand and sixteenth year of our Lord I listened to a lot of music; live, digital, vinyl, cassette and in our basement, not sure if that’s alive or not some days.

Record Collectors Paradise2016 saw the store that I work at, Record Collectors Paradise, celebrate a year of existence. And it was a very good year. We made lots of friends in the Edmonton, and international, music community. I was privileged to listen to a lot of great music in the store, one of the perks of working there; and the opportunity to take some choice pieces of vinyl home as the fruits of my labour. Bruce Romaniuk, the owner, is one of the best men I have ever worked for. Thanks for a very good year Bruce.

I didn’t just spin records, I also had the privilege of listening to a lot of really good live music. Edmonton seems to have had a resurgence in the live scene with new venues like “The Needle Vinyl Tavern” bringing in some great acts and established venues such as the Winspear continuing their tradition of great music. It was also the year that I got to hear my son Joel lead a band of his own and listen with pride as they did their first gig. It was worth the sacrifice of turning our basement into a recording studio and practice space. I hope the best for “The New Romancers” in 2017 and who knows, perhaps we can jam on “Alone and Forsaken” some day.

Having rambled on it is time to get to the list. I don’t do best of lists, or top ten, or play favourites. I am making a list, that I have checked twice; and listened to more than twice. But that is all it is, a list. In no particular order: Peter Gabriel and Sting live at the Northlands Coliseum. I have been listening to Peter Gabriel since the mid 70’s and to see him play live was a total blast. He doesn’t just play a show, he presents a show. He works the stage, the audience and the band and it all comes together in a spectacle that amazed and left me wanting more. Sting was an admirable showman but I never gravitated to his music in the same way as I did to Gabriel’s. An A+ show, the sound was probably the best I have ever heard in that venue.

We had the privilege of seeing an up and coming band perform songs from their new album the day before the official release. The band was Whitney and they played on a double bill with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, who were the band that I actually paid to see; but I left with a deep appreciation for both bands. The Unknown Mortal Orchestra put on an amazing show with superhuman use of their instruments, they worked hard and I loved the show. But Whitney surprised me. I didn’t know anything about them until that night and now they are the sweethearts of Indie rock, and rightly so since they have worked hard and crafted a superb album.

Speaking of surprises, “Who the f#ck is Sturgill Simpson” is a buzz word now after his nomination for a Grammy, album of the year no less. It surprised a lot of people, but not me. I had been listening to him for a while, this is actually his third album and my second favourite. I actually like “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” more than “A Sailors Guide To Earth”, although it is a good album and fully deserves to be recognised as such. Having said all that; he puts on a damn fine show. Sturgill Simpson leads a tight band that knows how to rock, how to stroll, how to do R&B, and how to croon philosophy and make it sound like a foot stomping country ode. Despite a dreadful venue with shitty sound and a drunken obnoxious crowd, they put on a great show that makes me want to see him in a proper show hall such as the Winspear or the Jube. Won’t you please come back, Sturgill?

CorbSpeaking of country music, we got to see Corb Lund at the Jubilee Auditorium in February and that was a rollicking rocking affair. I have seen Corb Lund perform numerous times and have all his albums so there were no surprises awaiting me, he delivered exactly what I expected, a solid show that had us tapping our toes and singing along. The surprise of the evening came in the form of a one-off song by Geoff Berner, a sometimes singing companion of Corb Lund and company, and their rendition of “That’s What Keeps The Rent Down Baby”. Well played gentlemen, well played. After the show, there was the usual meet and greet and Corb graciously signed a business card from Record Collectors Paradise, it was a good evening.

Another Canadian act that impressed me in 2016 was The Strumbellas and their album “Hope”. We got to see them perform live and they are a great show band. They engage with the crowd, they banter casually and effortlessly and then launch into heartfelt occasionally raucous tunes. They do Canada proud.

Another Canadian band, it was a good year for us, that impressed me with a stellar album was BadBadNotGood and their album IV. I had listened to them previously but this album put a cap on it. A great listen, better on vinyl and big speakers because there is a lot going on and you don’t want to miss it.

Another album that has a lot going on and deserves more than one listen is “Skeleton Tree” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. We went to the premier of the movie that documented the process of recording this album and it tugged at my heart strings, it moved me in my spirit and it made me stop and think. And then I listened to the album in the quiet of my home and it did all those things again. Powerful music from a man that I consider one of the true geniuses of music and lyrics. Spiritual, provocative, humble, moving, thought provoking and at times even bordering on rock and roll. This is not just a record, it is a statement.

And another statement, David Bowie and “Blackstar”. A few days after the album was released we found out what he was trying to tell us.

A few other gems that I listened to in 2016 were “Awaken, My Love” by Childish Gambino. This album was a departure from his previous material so don’t put off buying based on that. It moves into whole new areas and Donald Glover proves himself a master of R&B grooves and catchy hooks. A really solid listen.

Emeli Sande delivered “Long Live The Angels”, the follow up to her amazing first album “Our Version of Events”, hard to believe that they were four years apart. The wait was worth it in my opinion as she delivers a really tight and moving album.

Another act from the British Isles, Emeli Sande is from Scotland, is Slowly Rolling Camera and their album “All Things”; caught my ear this year. It is soulful, energetic and fresh. A new take on some songs that sound old beyond their years. That doesn’t make much sense; they sound good, that makes sense.

Glass Animals, “How to Be a Human Being” where a late addition to my list thanks to Joel’s addition of their album to our collection. Prior to listening to the album in our basement, I had never heard of them, but I thoroughly enjoy them now.

I enjoyed Ksenija Sidorova on the accordion at the Winspear with Bill Eddins and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. There were moments during her performance that I was lost in the music. A wonderful place to be.

ZolasTo the left is a photo of us with The Zolas, a great band that we got to see three times this year and hope to see again.

And last but not least on my playlist of 2016, Syd Arthur “Apricity”. I got into Syd Arthur through remixes that they titled “A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble”, gotta love that title. They are a progressive psychedelic jazz band that harkens back to Pink Floyd, King Crimson and that whole scene. A modern take with a freshness that is good to hear.

Speaking of Pink Floyd, a nice segue there, I have chosen them as my band of renown for the release of their previous material in the package “The Early Years 1965-1972”. I look forward to seeing Roger Waters in 2017 so check back to this blog in 12 months to see my review. Until then, it’s been a very good year and I look forward to dancing into 2017 with music both old and new, cheers my friends.

Joel’s 2016 Picks

This has been a big year for me musically, my band, New Romancer, played their first show, I started writing for The Spill Magazine, and I probably listened to more music than I have before. 2016 has also been a difficult year as many great musicians have passed away. Seeing as best of lists are a customary thing to do, I figured I should put one together. I decided to do an unordered list as I have a difficult time saying that one album is truly superior to another especially if they are among my favourites.

TOP ALBUMS OF 2016

    • BADBADNOTGOOD – IV

      BBNG

      The suitably titled fourth release from these hip-hop Jazz fusion artists is a wholly enjoyable listen. With vocal contributions from the likes of Sam Herring and Charlotte Day Wilson, it shows growth and experimentation from these talented musicians.

    • WHITNEY – LIGHT UPON THE LAKE

      Whitney

      It’s been a good year for Whitney they’ve garnered international recognition for their laid back, country twang inspired sound, and have toured extensively to promote their debut album. Light Upon The Lake is a captivating listen, and Whitney is a pleasure to see live.

    • SKIPTRACING – MILD HIGH CLUB

      Mild high Club

      In Alex Brettin’s follow-up to Timeline, we get to see him further explore his Mac DeMarco inspire, 70’s radio infused sound. I found this album oddly difficult to put down as it takes influence from soft rock, Jazz, and even standard pop. A very unique and enjoyable mid-fi listen.

    • BAT FOR LASHES – THE BRIDE

      Bat for Lashes

      I’m a big fan of concept albums. I really appreciate when an artist attempts to convey a story through their music. Bat for Lashes’ newest release relays the rather sorrowful tale of The Bride. This album contains her signature soaring vocals and is filled with interesting instrumentation. This was only made better by seeing her perform live.

    • CHILDISH GAMBINO – “AWAKEN, MY LOVE!”

      Awaken, My Love!

      Whether you love or hate Bino’s new direction, it’s undeniably interesting. “Awaken, My Love!” sees him leave behind rap for soulful R&B. I appreciate his attempt at switching genres and while the new style may shock fans of his rap, it will provide new areas for the talented Donald Glover to experiment with.

    • STRFKR – BEING NO ONE, GOING NOWHERE

      STRFKR

      I’m a longtime fan of STRFKR. I’ve played their previous releases countless times and I was very excited for this release. It contains everything I enjoy about STRFKR: introspective lyrics, catchy upbeat synths, and even Alan Watts samples. I wrote a review on this album if you want more details. I’m excited to see them live next year.

    • ANGEL OLSEN – MY WOMAN

      Angel Olsen

      This album was my first introduction to Olsen and I was pleasantly surprised. Her delicate vocals, interesting lyrics, and relaxed guitar playing create an interesting soundscape to get lost in. This record has been on repeat since I discovered it.

    • LASER – NIGHT DRIVER

      Laser

      While this is their first release as Laser, the musicians in this band are incredibly experienced. Laser is fronted by Lisa Lobsinger of Broken Social Scene and features some extremely talented musicians. This low-key album can be a difficult one to get into yet is oddly satisfying to complete.

    • BAND OF SKULLS – BY DEFAULT

      Band of Skulls

      I’ve been a fan of Band of Skulls ever since I heard their debut album. Their straightforward rock sound is perfect for getting pumped up or hitting the highway. By Default contains more of their distinct sound and highlights some of the talents hidden in this three piece band.

    • CHARLOTTE DAY WILSON – CDW -EP

      Charlotte Day Wilson

      I know this is technically an EP not a full-length release but I’ve loved this release immensely this year. I first got word of Charlotte Day Wilson from her appearance on BadBadNotGood’s IV, since then I’ve waited in anticipation to hear more of this talented artist. This soulful R&Bish debut EP is absolutely delightful and has some addicting vocal work on it.

HONOURABLE MENTION:

  • DAVID BOWIE – BLACKSTAR

    David Bowie

    One of the most talked about musicians this year was the late David Bowie. One of music’s biggest innovators and influencers released one last stunning album before passing away. Definitely a good album that has rendered new meaning in his death.

TOP CONCERTS

I went to 33 performances this year. Here are my favourites.

    • THE ZOLAS W/FAST ROMANTICS @ UNION HALL MARCH 31, 2016

      BBNG

      I always enjoy seeing The Zolas, this time was made extra special due to us being invited to their Sonic 102.9 radio session. After meeting them at the session and seeing their show that evening I was impressed. I was even more impressed by the band’s ability to recognise us after their show with The Strumbellas later in the fall.

    • BAT FOR LASHES @ UNION CHAPEL MAY 16, 2016

      This was a magnificent performance by an artist I had been dying to see. The Union Chapel was a perfect venue to see her perform excerpts from her then-unreleased album, The Bride. This intimate concert gave me a new perspective on Bat for Lashes and also reinforced my appreciation of old churches as concert venues. This concert was filmed and portions have been released.

    • UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA W/WHITNEY @ STARLITE ROOM MAY 24, 2016

      When attending this concert I wasn’t very familiar with the works of either band. I immediately garnered fandom for Whitney and appreciation for Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Whitney blew me away with their unique styling and instrumentation. I’d gladly go see either act again.

    • OF MONTREAL W/MOREWINE AND MITCHMATIC @ THE NEEDLE VINYL TAVERN JUNE 19, 2016

      BBNG

      of Montreal is a rather bizarre band. Their show was packed with energy and musicianship. It was truly fantastic to see this act on their first trip to Edmonton. Opening for of Montreal was local talents Morewine and Michmatic both of which performed excellent sets and continue to be active in Edmonton’s music scene.

    • STING AND PETER GABRIEL: ROCK PAPER SCISSORS @ REXALL PLACE JULY 24, 2016

      It’s always special when artists collaborate and share a stage. It’s even more special when two legendary artists like Sting and Peter Gabriel do it. This performance featured the two covering each other’s material, singing their own songs, and working together to create an exceptionally symbiotic stage.

    • STURGILL SIMPSON @ UNION HALL AUGUST 14, 2016

      Sturgill Simpson has been making waves in the country and popular music scenes. His rants have made headlines and his Grammy nomination has stunned most everyone. It’s for these reasons that he makes the list. His actually fantastic performance was overshadowed by the terrible venue and absolutely awful audience. Sturgill is awesome. Union Hall can eat a bag of dicks.

    • AN EVENING WITH DAVID CROSBY @ WINSPEAR CENTRE SEPTEMBER 12, 2016

      BBNG

      David Crosby is a legendary musician, most well known for his work with the Byrds and Crosby Stills Nash and Young. His intimate and relaxed performance featured his playing some of his old material, doing the occasional cover, and showcasing his newest works. Just Crosby, a guitar, and his son at a piano resulted in an empty looking stage yet a full sounding hall.

    • TOKYO POLICE CLUB W/THE ELWINS AND BORN RUFFIANS @ STARLITE ROOM OCTOBER 8, 2016

      BBNG
      BBNG
      BBNG

      My goodness, what a lineup for a single night. These three indie bands have been on fire the past few years with their releases surging over airwaves and their concerts garnering attention. Up+Downtown a relatively new multi-venue music festival brought these and many more artists in town for a weekend of music. Hopefully, next year’s festival will have as good of a lineup.

    • PURITY RING W/HANA @ WINSPEAR CENTRE OCTOBER 21, 2016

      While the Winspear Centre is typically associated with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and other highbrow acts it is a fantastic venue for artists of all styles. Electronically based Purity Ring and HANA had the venue’s acoustic properties pushed as their thumping bass lines and soaring vocals ripped through the hall. I wrote a review of this hometown show.

    • JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW W/ALAN RAYMAN @ WINSPEAR CENTRE NOVEMBER 21, 2016

      I very much enjoy seeing James Vincent McMorrow live. His last performance at the Winspear was a solo tour de force and convinced me to go see him again. This time he was in the company of his band to promote his newest and fullest-sounding album yet. Joining him for this leg of the tour was the mysterious and artistically interesting Alan Rayman.

Welp, there’s my picks for this year. Hope 2017 is even better.

-Joel Weatherly

Play it Again Norman

I first met the 21st Century Schizoid Man in a small music store in Montreal, November of 1969. The debut album of King Crimson was still hot off the pressing machine and I was a young man looking for a way to…

Well, to be quite honest with you I wasn’t sure what I was looking for and I still can’t quite define it but for a 15-year-old plucked from the middle of a cold prairie winter this album was a revolution.

I had grown up listening to my Dad’s small collection of country and western albums, and even a few 78’s, and the staple of radio was CFCW, the voice of the farmers. I didn’t know that music like King Crimson was making even existed. The closest I had ever been to anything remotely close to this was listening to a bit of 630 CHED, the pop station out of Edmonton. The reception was sketchy at the best of times and the rest of the time it was what Dad wanted to hear: CFCW, with your prairie hog report. King Crimson took my music listening to a whole new level.

The 47 Year Old King

That opening riff is killer, it grabs you immediately and then won’t let go. The grinding guitar offset by the soaring brass/organ and pounding drums. It hooks you and pulls you in and then continues to sustain the pressure. The lyrics are easy to comprehend, I’m not knocking some other bands but there are many that I simply can not interpret what they are singing. King Crimson do not make that mistake. But what does it all mean? Does it matter? Just grab that infectious groove and go with it. Just chant “21st Century Schizoid Man” on the fourth bar of each refrain and you’ll nail the song. I don’t have to understand it to enjoy it.

And then it all changes, the rhythm slows, then picks up and we have intense horns. Horns? This is supposed to be rock and roll. Oh wait, the guitar follows the horns in short order so all is as it should be again. But the guitar sounds so different, I mean really, The Beatles don’t play the guitar like that. Or Eric Clapton or anyone else that I know of. This is totally weird shit man but I dig it. It has a driving beat again, and more horns but I like it. And then the song goes all staccato, and it demands attention. I have to listen so I won’t miss anything. There is so much more happening that just a couple of blokes jamming. And then it builds and the vocals return, just remember the chant on the fourth refrain, got it. Whoa, it goes all freaky, the sounds are discordant and not playing the same song, or are they? And then it ends and I absolutely have to play it again, and again.

And so here we are; 47 years later playing it again and again. What gives a piece of music the ability to last that long and not lose its appeal? It has to be something more than an earworm, that belongs to the Archies Sugar Sugar. It must be something more than nostalgia, I reserve that for Hank Williams and remembering my Dad.

I think the 21st Century Schizoid Man was on to something. The creators of him knew a thing or two about music and put that to good effect on this song in particular but on the album as a whole as well, and they continue to do so, especially Mr Robert Fripp, the lead architect and guitar virtuoso. Mr Fripp had been exposed to diverse musical experiences since acquiring his first guitar at the age of 11, whereas I did not get my first guitar until I was 15, giving him a full 4 years head start which explains why he is so much a better player than I.

Mr Fripp has been quoted as being influenced by Charlie Parker, Charlie Mingus, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony and Are You Experienced by John Mayall among others and this diet of varied musical greats would contribute greatly to his playing style. Fripp, as he is affectionately known to music aficionado’s, uses jazz, symphony and old world influences to great effect and that is very evident in the Court of the Crimson King. Jazz, even free-form jazz, flows smoothly alongside soaring rock guitar and echoes of the symphony can be heard in the way the song builds, fades and moves forward. This album, and the song 21st Century Schizoid Man, in particular, are not an accidental fusion of sounds. It is carefully crafted and intelligently delivered.

I do not wish to patronise Mr Fripp so I would like to introduce the rest of the band: Michael Giles on percussion, Greg Lake on lead vocals and bass guitar, Ian McDonald on woodwinds and keyboards and last but not least: Peter Sinfield, lyrics, illumination and production. I do not wish to belittle Mr Sinfield but it is not every album that lists illumination as a credit. So to expand on this here is Mr Sinfield quoted from Wikipedia: In his own words, “I became their pet hippie because I could tell them where to go to buy the funny clothes that they saw everyone wearing”. Sinfield also came up with the name King Crimson. Sinfield loved working with the band and, in addition to writing the phantasmagorical lyrics that came to be part of King Crimson’s trademark, he also ran the group’s light-show at their concerts.

So there we have it, a group of charming English lads get together and create a piece of music that I still enjoy listening to 47 years later. Well done chaps, well done.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to pay a visit to The Court of The Crimson King where a Moonchild and I will March For No Reason while I Talk To The Wind. It’s not a Dream or an Illusion, or a trick of Mirrors. It is only the Return of the Fire Witch and the Dance of the Puppets in the Court of The Crimson King.

Ribbon of Darkness

The idea for this blog has been on my mind, and my to-do list, for quite some time now. I don’t remember when I first started to think about songs that spoke to or alluded to depression but I do know it has been germinating for many years. I have been making playlists for as long as I can remember collecting music. First, it was mix tapes on cassette. I still have a few examples collecting dust someplace around the house. It evolved into mix-disc with the advent of CD which in turn became digital playlists, which is where we are now. Perhaps some day in the future we will be able to do neural implants and download directly to our memory banks but for now, we will be content with YouTube and iTunes. There will be two themes running through this blog: depression and not depression. Some songs are about depression, some are about healing; all of them have been a part of my journey.

  1. Ribbon of Darkness by Marty Robbin

    I picked this song for the title, not so much because it is a depressing song or even a song about depression but because of the excellent title: “Ribbon of Darkness”. It is the perfect description of the road that I walk many, many days. It has twists and turns. The ribbon of darkness goes up hills and down into valleys. It cuts through swamps and cuts through deep dark forests. I have bridges that cross valleys that seem bottomless. This highway circles mountains and occasionally scales peaks into crystal clear skies where we can see for miles and miles and can even see the direction forward. And then it winds its way down the other side and continues winding its way toward its destination, which is a story for another day.

    “Clouds are gathering over my head
    That chill the day and hide the sun
    That shroud the night when day is done
    Ribbon of darkness over me”

    There are days when I feel like my head is in a cloud, a very dark and angry cloud. Swirling, unsteady, ever changing, and full of rain. The rain can be good or bad. It can be a deluge that drowns everything, not good. Or it can be a spring shower that brings hope and new growth. It can be a cold and lonely place, that chills not only the day but also the night and deep to the soul. It can feel cold and lonely even on a sunny day with loved ones. The ribbon of darkness cuts through life events like a highway through a park. It gets us where we are going at the expense of some beautiful scenery. Ribbon of darkness over me, where once the world was young as spring, where flowers did bloom and birds would sing, a ribbon of darkness over me.

  2. Everybody Hurts by R.E.M

    When your day is long And the night, the night is yours alone When you’re sure you’ve had enough Of this life, well hang on

    Don’t let yourself go ‘Cause everybody cries And everybody hurts sometimes

    Sometimes everything is wrong Now it’s time to sing along When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on) If you feel like letting go (Hold on) If you think you’ve had too much Of this life, well hang on

    Everybody hurts Take comfort in your friends Everybody Hurts Don’t throw your hand, oh no

    Don’t throw your hand If you feel like you’re alone No, no, no, you are not alone

    If you’re on your own in this life The days and nights are long When you think you’ve had too much of this life to hang on

    Well, everybody hurts sometimes Everybody cries Everybody hurts sometimes And everybody hurts sometimes

    So hold on, hold on Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on Everybody hurts

    The lyrics say enough, I don’t think I can add anything to them. Listen to them, not just the song, really listen to the words and what they say. Good stuff, thanks, R.E. M.

  3. Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles

    Ah, look at all the lonely people
    Ah, look at all the lonely people

    Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
    Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
    Who is it for?

    [Chorus]
All the lonely people
    Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
    Where do they all belong?

    Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
    No one comes near. 
Look at him working. Darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
    What does he care?

    [Chorus]
Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
    Nobody came
    Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
    No one was saved“

    In a previous chapter of my life, I was a pastor. Is this blog the words of a sermon that no one will hear? Do I care? Does anyone care? All the lonely people, where to they all belong? Where do I belong? Where do I feel like I belong? Who are the people that make me feel like I belong? On the surface, this song evokes desperation and loneliness but it gives me hope as well, I am not alone in my feeling of loneliness. There are other lonely people. There are Eleanor Rigby’s and Father Mckenzie’s all around us. Do I care? Yes, I do.

  4. Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd

    Not a song this time, a whole album.
    It has been well documented and spoken of many time that the founding member of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, was a deeply troubled person and that the other members of Pink Floyd drew inspiration from him. Some of the songs were very flattering such as “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, from a different album are direct references to Syd Barrett.

    Incidentally, I think crazy in that song is a slang for cool, not insanity.
    Some of the songs from The Dark Side of the Moon:

    Speak to Me (Mason) 1:16 “I’ve been mad for fucking years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yonks, been working me buns off for bands…”

    “I’ve always been mad, I know I’ve been mad, like the most of us…very hard to explain why you’re mad, even if you’re not mad…”

    I believe that I was mad long before I was formally diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I have been buried in the darkness of life many times and always wrote it off as having the blues or a hangover or a side effect of whatever drug I was using at the time.

    Blaming it on the alcohol and drugs worked well until I sobered up. The darkness was still there. I was riding an emotional high after gaining sobriety and rediscovering my faith in God in 1989 but like all highs, it didn’t last. The first few years had a lot more high points than before but I could feel them eroding and the highs weren’t quite so high and the valleys started to get deeper and longer.

    ‘…very hard to explain why you’re mad, even if you’re not mad.’

    So true, it is very hard to explain depression to someone who has never walked that road. It is very difficult to articulate what is happening in my head and there are times when a song or an album explains it better than I or any doctor or medical dictionary could. This is such an album. It speaks of what it is like to be mad (depressed) and it gives hope and joy because ‘everything under the sun is in tune.’ – Eclipse from Dark Side of the Moon.

    I listened to this album a lot over the years. I bought it in 1972 when it first came out, on eight track believe it or not, and over the years I probably bought 10 more copies. I never tired of listening to The Dark Side of the Moon. It spoke to me deep in my emotional well. It spoke to me of hope and of despair. It buoyed me when I was down and encouraged me when I was up.

    Brain Damage (Waters) 3:50
    The lunatic is on the grass.
    The lunatic is on the grass.
    Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs.
    Got to keep the loonies on the path.

    The lunatic is in the hall.
    The lunatics are in my hall.
    The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
    And every day the paper boy brings more.

    And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
    And if there is no room upon the hill
    And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
    I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

    The lunatic is in my head.
    The lunatic is in my head
    You raise the blade, you make the change
    You re-arrange me ’til I’m sane.
    You lock the door
    And throw away the key
    There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.

    And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
    You shout and no one seems to hear.
    And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
    I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

    “I can’t think of anything to say except… I think it’s marvellous! HaHaHa!” And I think the lyrics to this song are marvellous and the music is insane in a beautiful way. ‘Rearrange me ’til I’m sane.’, ‘You shout and no one seems to hear.’,’I can’t think of anything to say.’ And I can’t think of anything to say except that this is a go-to album for me anytime of the day or night, happy or sad, sane or insane. A masterpiece of sonic psychiatry.

    Time; Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour) 7:06
    “Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
    You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
    Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown
    Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

    Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
    You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
    And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
    No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

    So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
    Racing around to come up behind you again.
    The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
    Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

    Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
    Plans that either come to nought or half a page of scribbled lines
    Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
    The time is gone, the song is over,
    Thought I’d something more to say.”

    Hanging on in quiet desperation, what a perfect line of poetic inspiration. Hanging on, that is the important part. Yes, sometimes there is desperation but I want to focus on hanging on. Hanging on to everything good, hanging on to hope, hanging on to faith, hanging to… Sometimes it is just enough to hang on, even if it is in quiet desperation. Some music just plain feels good. Some go to music for me: Supertramp, The Beatles, The Lost Dogs, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, The Call, Nick Cave, mewithoutYou, Pink Floyd, Portland Cello Project, any K-tel record pre 1985 or so except Disco, Oscar Peterson, Terry Scott Taylor, Sam Phillips, Tom Waits, … OK, so I like to listen to lots of music. I guess that kind of is the whole point of this blog. Music is good. Music makes me feel good. Listening to music when I am depressed helps ease the pain. Listening to music helps keep the darkness away. Sharing music with others is good too. I like playing and singing with others. I like listening to a great piece of music with someone else who appreciates it as much as I do. Music makes the world go round.

    Ribbon of Darkness