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

Corb Lund Concert Review

I don’t remember the first time I saw Corb Lund play live, must have been back about ’06 or ’07. It was in Churchill Square, or the Concrete Polygon as we like to call it. I think it was for the food festival, anyhow, I was working at Hope Mission at the time so Valerie and Joel met me there and we walked over to Churchill Square to catch his show. Some of my co-workers were already listening to his music and I knew they had good taste in music so I thought it prudent to hear what they were listening to and raving about so much.
My suspicions were confirmed, they did have good taste in music. Corb Lund and his band delivered a crowd-rousing show that left me wanting more. So I went to the store and bought two CD’s: Modern Pain and Five Dollar Bill.
The Music resonated with me. It spoke of things I was familiar with and we humans do like the familiar even when it is new.
I had been raised on country and western music. My Dad was a guitar player heavily influenced by Hank Williams and the Carter family with a little Flatt and Scruggs thrown in. In fact, I didn’t know there were other kinds of music until my teen years when I was introduced to rock and roll. Since then I have been on a life-long journey of new musical discoveries, everything from ABBA to Zappa but always retaining a love for country and western music.
Corb Lund was a breath of fresh country air in an era when most country and western music was barely discernible from pop music. Corb Lund knew his musical heritage and didn’t stray too far from the template.
On February 6th at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, henceforth know as the Jube, I was able to revisit the music of Mr Lund and it warmed my soul. His music has changed, not a lot, but it has matured and grown with him. His lyrics are the icing on the cake for me though. In his early albums I tapped my toes along to “We Used to Ride ’em”, and I really used to. I could relate. I used to ride ’em, not for very long, but I did. I was good for six seconds but that isn’t enough in a rodeo. I used to ride ’em though and Corb Lund gave me a song about it. And then “The Truck Got Stuck”, I was there. The only difference between a 4 wheel drive and a two wheel drive is that the 4 wheel drive gets stuck further in. I got stuck more times that I care to remember, even had the Hutterites pull me out once. I laughed as a flood of memories washed over me in tune to “The Truck Got Stuck”.
Corb Lund delighted me and many others that February evening with a well-rounded show of both golden oldies and new tunes. His backing band were amazing, being an envious guitar player wannabe I was particularly impressed by Grant Siemens. He blew me away with his guitar, mandolin and lap steel playing. Now I want a baritone guitar, thanks a lot Grant. Another highlight of the evening was a guest appearance by Geoff Berner singing “That’s What Keeps The Rent Down Baby”. A seriously hilarious song that resonated with me from the years that I worked in the inner city with the homeless, marginalised and wonderful people that live there. Mr Berner sang with The Hurtin’ Albertans backing him up and it was good. After the concert, Corb Lund was in the lobby signing and smiling but there was a road weariness evident in his face. He was polite and gracious but stopped short of being in the moment, I understand. It’s not an easy life and after working hard for an hour and a half he probably would have enjoyed a quiet room with a view instead of groupies and autograph hounds. I am in the latter bunch, an autograph seeker. He was polite enough to do two signatures for me and with a third on a record that I bought at the merch table, I left the Jube a happy man.
If The Corb Lund Band, The Hurtin’ Albertans or The Smalls ever play your town I would highly recommend taking the opportunity to hear them live. They are good on vinyl at thirty-three and a third but even better on a stage in your hometown (bonus if it’s Corb Lund’s hometown as well).

Yukon Blonde Concert Review

I enjoy seeing a band multiple times in different venues and different situations. Yukon Blonde is my most recent multi-view band. When I last saw them they were opening for Hey Rosetta! at the prestigious Francis Winspear Centre for Music, this time they were headlining the significantly less formal Starlite Room. The informal bar setting fitted the band’s songs of young love and desired girls nicely.
As much as I enjoy the musical stylings of Yukon Blonde, the portion of the evening I most anticipated came in the form of the opener, On An On. Hailing from Minneapolis, formed from the dissolved band Scattered Trees, their spacey Indie Rock sound captivated my ears since I first heard Give In. Their fantastic set contained a number of my favourite songs (setlist found below) and sounded almost exactly the same as their recordings. Despite the sound being slightly muddled at the beginning it was a very strong opening set.
Yukon Blonde took the stage shortly after 10 pm and quickly electrified the room. Their Indie yet still radio friendly songs are quickly recognisable and make it easy to join the hoard of fans belting out lyrics. Since this was a casual Saturday night concert I stuck around after the show to meet the band and attempt to snag a setlist and tour poster (I was successful). The band was very accommodating, inviting us backstage in an attempt to locate all five of their members and offering to sign my poster and setlist.
The concert had a certain unapologetic Canadian air to it. Not only does the band come from British Columbia and reference a territory in their name, but during the slight break between the main set and their encore performance of “Stairway,” the audience added, “please” to the standard chant of “one more song” in a bizarre display of politeness. As the concert also coincided Rebecca’s Birthday the band lead an uncoordinated audience in a rendition of Happy Birthday.
All in all it was a very good concert, having seen the headliner twice I would recommend seeing them for a lively Indie concert. If you get the chance also check out On An On as I thoroughly enjoy their music. Yukon Blonde is currently touring Canada with On An On.