25 or 19 to 4

25 years on

Twenty-five years ago, 1994, Woodstock 94 celebrated the 25th anniversary of Woodstock, Justin Bieber was born, Nirvana played their final concert, Pink Floyd embark on the Division Bell which would be their last world tour, Johnny Cash released The American recordings and Captain Tractor release Land, their first album.

To commemorate 25 years of recordings Captain Tractor have treated us a gorgeous double album containing a sampling of songs that represent the non-stop party that they are. From Pitcairn Island to someplace East of Eden, Captain Tractor Bought The Farm North of the Yellowhead and managed to score a Hat Trick while negotiating a Celebrity Traffic Jam. 9 albums and countless happy fans later they are 25 Years On.

If you like Captain Tractor you will fall head over heels for this retrospective that covers material from the last 25 years into one impressively packaged two record pressing. Completely re-mastered with four new tracks recorded in February 2018 with Nik Kozub at The Audio Department in Edmonton, two unreleased tracks from the vaults, and seventeen past tracks spanning our first album Land, to 2015’s Live at the Roxy

This limited edition pressing in gray splattered vinyl comes in a spiffy double sleeve and sounds amazing, I score it a home run and we are all winners for listening to good music.

Lucy Pearl.jpeg

19 years ago Lucy Pearl released their self-titled album to rave reviews. Lucy Pearl was a supergroup that released just this one album, so for those of us who have been crate-digging trying to find a nice clean pressing, your wait is over. Freshly pressed in jet black vinyl this repressing will be sure to please fans of R&B, soul, hip-hop (Snoop Dogg collaborated) and neo-soul. It is impossible to refrain from getting into the groove and grooving to the tunes on these records.

So there we have it 4 records between these to recordings that cover 25 years of Captain Tractor and 19 years of Lucy Pearl. That completes the 25 or 19 to 4, happy listening everyone.

The Music Is The Medium

rock and roll will save your life

I am reading “Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life” by Steve Almond and he devoted several pages to the evolution of listening to music that has transpired within our lifetimes. Yes, we both acknowledge this dates us but we are OK with it because it also means we have listened to a truckload of music.

I don’t agree with some of Steve’s chronology so I will just offer a vague summary of his list: The radio era, the phonographic era, the 8 track era, the cassette era, the CD era, and last but not least, the digital era.

This isn’t a bad list but I think it is overly simplistic, however, I am not here to debate the various era’s of music, what I do want to talk about is how we listened to music differently through those eras.

I would offer another era to this list, the era of live music which predates any of these recording methods and is still going strong, just different. When I was a young lad my Dad played the guitar at home and at parties. There were wedding dances, high school dances and impromptu music wherever musicians gathered. And gather they did, we had family reunions, music at campsites, and even at a funeral. My Dad’s remembrance service was close to 3 hours long and half a dozen musical groups played a tribute to my Dad for his contributions to live music over the years.

Live music was the only way to listen to music until technology started giving us a plethora of recording methods that allowed us to experience music where ever and whenever we wanted to listen to it.

There are more than enough history lessons on the various ways that sound, and music, have been recorded so I won’t replicate what others have done. What I will do is talk about how listening has changed for me.

After the live music, there was the radio which people listened to for much more than just music. CFCW was our local country and western station and they catered to the farmers and ranchers as well as those of us who enjoyed the country music. CBC had talk shows and of course, Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday, I cheered for the Leafs because my Dad cheered for the Leafs. As a teenager I listened to 630 CHED which played pop music, I can remember listening to The Archies sing “Sugar Sugar” as we drove home after school. K-97 played music on FM starting in 1979, they introduced me to more than one album over the years and I contributed mixtapes to them that they played on-air and gave me some albums in exchange.

I had purchased my first piece of vinyl in 1968, “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells. I picked that gem up in Vancouver while there on vacation and visiting my cousin Wayne. I returned the next summer and bought my first full-length LP, Best of the Bee Gees, and that purchase is where I lead off on my topic of how we listen to music.

I played that record over and over, my parents let me use their record player in my bedroom and I took full advantage of that freedom. In November of 1969, I bought my second full album and I listened to it over and over. Summer of 1970 and I bought more records, Montreal had a very nice record shop that introduced me to “Déjà Vu”  by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young” as well as “In the Court of the Crimson King” by a band that is still very high on my favourites list, King Crimson.

Anyhow, listening. How did I listen to music in the decade of the 1970s? I listened intently, I hung on every word. We didn’t have https://genius.com/ to find the lyrics for us so without lyrics printed on the inner sleeve we listened intently, trying to hear every word and string them together for a musical story within each song and sometimes through a whole album. I listened for the sounds that the different instruments played within the songs, how they ebbed and flowed and added texture to the song. I read the liner notes for every tidbit of information such as who produced the album, who played what instrument (s), where it was recorded, etc.

I listened intently over and over until I knew those records start to finish. It was often a long time between record stores so I got my money’s worth out of every album that I bought.

And then cassette tapes came along and that changed the way I listened and interacted with music. I made mixtapes, yes, they were a real thing and not just in The Guardians of the Galaxy. I would listen to albums over and over and then put select songs on tape that I could listen to in the cassette deck in my car. Music became mobile and not just on the radio, I was now able to listen to what I wanted when I wanted it.

I bought my first set of headphones in 1973 and that also altered the way I experienced sound. They were quadraphonic which also changed the way I heard music. The technology was moving forward at an accelerated rate compared to the advances of the previous couple of hundred years.

I had an 8 track someplace within the late 1970s but I never got into that format very deep. The next leap was to CD’s in 1985, they were introduced to the public in 1982 but I waited a few years for the price to come down and my wages to go up, which both accommodated me favourably. I didn’t sell off my records to buy CDs as many people did, I kept my records spinning and added CDs as an alternate for listening. The biggest change that CDs made to my listening was the ability to listen to a whole album start to finish without having to get up and flip it, I could now listen to 80 minutes of music non-stop. The trade-off was the size of the packaging, I could barely read the liner notes because they were so small on a CD, compared to those on a record.

The biggest change in my listening habits had nothing to do with formats. I listened to all the formats, but I didn’t listen to them the same way in the 1990s as I did in the 1970s and that is still true, up until now.

I added albums to my collection at a dizzying rate and by 1989 I had accumulated 999 records and was on my way to similar numbers in CDs and cassettes but that accumulation came at a cost, I now listened to more volume but less content. I was listening to more and more music but paying less and less attention to what I was listening to and with the advent of digital music, I had even more content but less listening. So I made a decision to listen to some music in much the same way as I had in the embryonic days of my music listening. I left the CD in the player for days on end and listened to the same album over and over, just like I did for Best of the Bee Gees. I picked 20 albums and I listened intently to them.

So, in no particular order, here is what I listened to and how I reacted to the music that I loved so much in years gone by.

  1. Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. This recording has been on my turntable for 49 years, 7 months, 20 days, and I still love to hear it, start to finish, over and over again.
  2. Kiln House by Fleetwood Mac. This is the only album by them that I listen to over and over again.
  3. Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane. This is another band that I only listen to one album of theirs, White Rabbit isn’t the only good song on the album.
  4. No Guru, No Method, No Teacher by Van Morrison. This is his sixteenth album and it was released in 1986, I bought it on CD before buying the vinyl.
  5. American Pie by Don Mclean. Yes, I bought it for “the song”, but I do listen to the whole album, just not as intently as “the song”.
  6. Lust For Life by Iggy Pop. I love this album, start to finish. It’s a good listen for driving down the highway in the summer.
  7. Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones. I still consider this as the Stones best recording.
  8. Avalon by Roxy Music. Released in 1982, this was their eighth and final studio album but the first and only recording that I have of them.
  9. Harvest by Neil Young. This came out in 1972, I bought it sometime around 1975 and saw him live in 1984. I still consider this the highest point in his musical career.
  10. A Space In Time by Ten Years After. I bought this on vinyl in quadraphonic sound. It sounded amazing with headphones and still sounds good in stereo.
  11. I Ain’t Easy by Long John Baldry. Saw him live in 1979 but he didn’t play a single song off this album which disappointed me because I loved this on vinyl.
  12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles. I don’t remember when or where I bought this album but I have listened to it a gazillion times.
  13. Buffalo Springfield by Buffalo Springfield. I bought it “For What It’s Worth” but have listened to it until I am “Going Out Of My Mind”.
  14. Wanted! The Outlaws by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser earned its place in music history by becoming the first country and western album to be platinum-certified, reaching sales of one million. I added to those sales twice.
  15. Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. The sounds of record grooves eliminated the silence and the silence still plays.
  16. Crime of the Century by Supertramp. This album has not lost its lustre even though it isn’t quite the album of the century, that would be number 20 on this list.
  17. Who’s Next by The Who. Come on, I would have bought it just for the cover photo and kept it for the music.
  18. Fear of Music by Talking Heads. I remember hearing this on K-97, an FM station in Edmonton who used to play album rock, I bought it on cassette first and then on record, CD and digital. Yup, over and over and over.
  19. Aqua Lung by Jethro Tull, when this album came out my parents took a stance and they didn’t want me playing this record in their home, which of course meant I played it more, over and over.
  20. Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. This album was released in March of 1973, I graduated from grade 12 in June of 1973 and bought this album with my first paycheque in July of 1973. I have since purchased about a dozen copies of this album over the years in vinyl, cassette and CD. The format doesn’t matter because the music is the medium.

The music is the medium is a statement by Marshall McLuhan, meaning that the form of a message (print, visual, musical, etc.) determines the ways in which that message will be perceived. McLuhan argued that modern electronic communications (including radio, television, films, and computers) would have far-reaching sociological, aesthetic, and philosophical consequences, to the point of actually altering the ways in which we experience the world.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr McLuhan, the end.

Norman’s Summer Music

 I finished reading David Bowie’s biography by Marc Spitz. It was a good read with plenty of references to songs that I liked listening to while reading the book, which is tricky because I only read the book in my car and I don’t distract and drive. Anyhoo, that’s another story for another day, let’s just say for now that I listened to Bowie over the last couple of months which brings us to the topic of this posting. Namely, what have I been listening to lately?

summer-songs-gathering-beauty

 Bowie, mostly his early to mid-career tunes. Space Oddity from his eponymous second album is still a great listen. Aladdin Sane is such a nice play on words, and The Jean Genie is as catchy today as it was in 1973, which is saying a lot because 1973 was the year I became a Drooling Fanatic (page 7 of Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life by Steve Almond).

 I think I started into Bowie in July, just back from a jaunt to London where I scored Alladin Sane on vinyl.

 These lads are insane. black midi, with their album Schlagenheim. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc3LSW_XTwI

   I also scored Sons of Kemet, Your Queen Is A Reptile. Fresh sounds from the London jazz scene, thanks to Rough Trade Records.

 What else have I been listening to? Lots of New Wave (ish) music. Nick Lowe, Soft Cell, The Psychedelic Furs, That Petrol Emotion, etc. The mid to late eighties new wave scene has been on my playlists since, well, the mid to late eighties.

 Another band that never leaves my playlists are The Pink Floyd. I saw David Gilmore Live at Pompei on the big screen and then Roger Waters Us and Them on tour, on the big screen again, and in between those two stellar movies I read Nick Mason’s book, Inside Out. Which was as good as the movies, just a slower format.

 Another perennial favourite of mine is King Crimson, who I was very fortunate to see live at The Royal Albert Hall in London. And of course, I came home with hard copies of their music so I can keep listening to them.

 The Barr Brothers, saw them live and bought their CD’s and would pay to see them again.

 Flash And The Pan, a group from Australia that I keep playing at least once a year. The song Hey St. Peter is a favourite of mine.

 Talking Heads, Tom Waits, Joy Division, Tonio K., Van Morrison, Decemberists, Lifesavers, Michael Knott, The Swirling Eddies, Frank Zappa, … and the list goes on. A good chunk of this music dates me but I am comfortable with that.

 We Are The City, I liked them live. Spiritualized, And Nothing Hurt, a great piece of music. Nuella Charles, some very good homegrown talent on our homegrown vinyl plant, https://moonshotphonographs.com/.

 Low Roar, one of the best live shows I have ever seen and a darn good recording to boot. 

 Syd Arthur, tough to find hard copies of anything they have recorded but I managed to score Apricity on CD this summer.

 Godspeed You! Black Emperor, an amazing show, simply amazing. Their records are good but live… I don’t have enough superlatives.

 Russian Circles, a really good show that satisfied my heavy metal craving for that month. Best crowd award goes to the metalheads that were there that night.

 The Needs, some good Scandinavian power pop. Völuspa, aka Kirsten Knick delivers some Scandinavian synth-driven pop music.

 Rhye. I don’t know where to start. The spelling, yes that is spelled correctly, Rhye. The show, it was mesmerizing. I love it when all the ingredients come together and make the two hours fly by so fast it seems like the show just started, please don’t stop now!

 Cody Jinks. His new album, After The Fire, got me hooked on him and I went on a binge listening to his back catalogue. I am hooked on him now and I hope he tours up here in the great white north much like another country rebel, Sturgill Simpson, who also dropped another great album.

 Last but not least, The Lumineers, III. This album struck a chord with me due to its subject matter of addiction and messy lives.

So, that’s my summer and early fall listening, a new blog will be coming out early next week. Snapshot reviews. Until then, happy listening my friends.

2018 In The Rear View Mirror

The list below is my attempt at emulating the Juno Awards. I usually shy away from best of lists, but I had the privilege of attending the 8th Annual Edmonton Music Awards Gala at The Winspear Centre on June 28, and like them, I wanted to give nods of approval across a broad spectrum of music and to use categories, like the Juno Awards do. So here is my best of 2018 list that isn’t a best of list, it is, however, music that made me smile during twenty-eighteen.

Live performance in a large venue:
David Byrnes – American Utopia * Live at The Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium

Live performance in a medium venue:
Reverend Horton Heat, Unknown Hinson & Igor & The Red Elvises @ The Starlite Room

Live performance in a small venue:
Rosie & The Riveters w/VISSIA @ The Aviary

Classical music performance:
Late Night Soundscapes, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Conducted by Alexander Prior

Classical Music Recording:
re:member by Ólafur Arnalds

Edmonton Artist and Recording:
starlight by nêhiyawak

Canadian Country and Western Performance (The Atrium) and Album:
Cold Beans & Broken Eggs by Sean Burns

International Country and Western Album:
Mr. Jukebox by Joshua Hedley

Country and Western Live Performance: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at The Jube

Vintage Country Album:
Wanted by The Outlaws

Vintage Reissue Recording:
Pink Floyd – The Pipers At The Gates Of Dawn (Remastered Reissue)

Roots Music Album:
Vanished Gardens by Charles Lloyd & The Marvels & Lucinda Williams

Jazz Album:
Your Queen Is Dead by Sons Of Kemet

Dance/Electronic Album:
Shape The Future by Nightmares On Wax

Alternative Album:
Rebound by Eleanor Friedberger

R&B/Soul Album:
Chris Dave and the Drumhedz by Chris Dave and the Drumhedz

R&B/Soul Performance: The War and Treaty at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival

Album Still In Rotation From Last Year:
Once In A Long, Long While by Low Roar

Rock Album of 2018:
Offerings by Typhoon

Canadian Rock Album of 2018:
Earthtones by Bahamas

Spiritual Album of 2018:
(untitled) by mewithoutYou

Live Performance of 2018:
David Byrne at The Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium

Live Review: Yukon Blonde / The Zolas

On the evenings of Friday, November 30 and Saturday, December 1 we had the pleasure of listening to Yukon Blonde and The Zolas do back to back shows at The Station on Jasper. This repeat was a first for both of us although we had seen both bands previously, this was the sixth time for Yukon Blonde and the seventh for The Zolas. Listening to two groups do back to back shows presented us with an opportunity to make some observations on band dynamics, set lists, crowd demographics and dynamics, how the music and lights were mixed and the overall vibe from each show.

fullsizeoutput_d6f6

The Zolas hail from the Vancouver area but make numerous tours that include Edmonton, where it is evident that they have a lot of fans. Currently, the core of The Zolas consists of Zach Gray on guitar and vocals, Dwight Abell on bass, and Cody Hiles on drums with a touring pianist rounding out their sound.

Over the years I have heard The Zolas grow and spread their playing into new and exciting sounds while they have also developed and matured as a cohesive unit, they sound better with each listening. They are more confident and they are using new sounds and arrangements that make their older songs sound fresh. They have always been a band that had a good on stage presence and that did not change with these two shows. Zach is good at banter and engaging the crowd and the band as a unit kept the energy moving forward with a minimum of dead spots such as guitar tunings.

The Zolas are adding more nuances and textures to their music through the use of synthesisers and trigger pads. This was most notable for Zach as he played both synthesiser and guitar in which he used the headstock of his guitar to tap trigger pads. The band generated good energy with the crowd and were able to sustain that energy through their set, although I think it was a better crowd on Friday than Saturday and the crowd energy was different. The Zolas traditionally close with Zach taking his mic stand, guitar and a small synth into the middle of the crowd on the floor and play Escape Artist. Zach asks the crowd to turn on their phone flashlights and it creates a cool dynamic.

Over the years I have seen this done several times and the audience reaction isn’t always the same. On Friday night it was good, not as good as a previous show at a different venue and a different crowd, but it was darn good. Saturday night, on the other hand, had a very different crowd that didn’t engage as well from my perspective.fullsizeoutput_d6dfAs always, The Zolas meet and greet with the crowd after the show and are good at it. We didn’t get a setlist from the Zolas this time around, but we got a selfie with Zach which is a tradition he does with us. My appreciation for this band goes up every time I see them live or listen to them at home. They are a highlight band for me. My favourite song is Frieda On The Mountain:
“Freida on the mountain
What do you see on the other side?
Freida on the mountain
What do you see on the other side?”
I’m sure that my family and friends will understand why it is a favourite.

Yukon Blonde is a band that started in Kelowna but work out of Vancouver nowadays. The band is made up of Jeff Innes on vocals and guitar, Brandon Scott on guitar and vocals, Graham Jones on drums and vocals, James Younger on bass and vocals, and Rebecca Gray on keyboards, synths, and vocals.fullsizeoutput_d6f5

Wikipedia classify them as an indie rock band although I can hear the influence of psych, disco, 80’s easy listening, and straight ahead power rock. They are a tight band that can are comfortable playing with a variety of sounds. Having the luxury of 3 band mates that can sing lead, all 5 of them singing backing vocals, 3 of them that play synth and two lead/rhythm guitar players, they can spread the sound around and add layers and textures that compliment each other and build a big sound.

The highlight for me of both shows by Yukon Blonde was their long jams on the song Radio. I didn’t time it because I was so mesmerised listening to it, but it went around, up, over and then back for more than the traditional 3 minutes that they would get on a radio edit. It then it segued into Saturday Night which was another high energy stretched out anthem. The closing song both nights was a tribute to George Harrison and the Travelling Wilburys, in which both bands took the stage, and they did a rendition of Handle With Care.

 

fullsizeoutput_d6e6The Station on Jasper is a good venue, the staff are polite and courteous and the sound is usually pretty good. They have a decent menu, we had the nachos and they were tasty. Like I said earlier, the crowds were very different for the two shows. Friday night had a lot of happy people that were there because they wanted to hear the music. Saturday felt like it had a lot more intoxicated people who came to the venue to get drunk and either socialise through the whole show or spend the entire night texting. Very different crowds that I am sure the bands could sense as much as we did.fullsizeoutput_d289

The sound was muddy, very bass heavy and very loud on Friday night, which was a shame because so many people were there to hear good music. Saturday night had a better mix although it was still very, very loud. At least the bass wasn’t as bad as Friday night, it was still too much, but it was better. Heavy bass is a trend that we have noticed at a lot of shows, so it isn’t confined to one venue. The excessive volume is also at epidemic proportions, and it’s everywhere even in stores.

Conclusion: I thoroughly enjoyed both bands both night and would gladly return to The Station on Jasper.

-Norman Weatherly

Photos by Joel Weatherly. More Photos at Joel Weatherly Photography.

Yukon Blonde setlists: Friday, Saturday

Uncomfortable Music

Others have said that it is not the job of a doctor to make you feel comfortable, it is the doctors’ job to heal you and that might be uncomfortable at times. For example, suppose you break your arm. The doctor needs to do a visual inspection, and that probably involves moving your broken arm a bit, and that will not be comfortable, but it is necessary for the healing process. Next, the doctor will most likely get an X-ray of your arm, and that will require placing the arm in certain positions to get the best possible look at the bones and that most likely will not be comfortable either. But it is necessary for the proper diagnosis and healing to begin. So, with these examples, we can probably all agree that it is not the doctors’ job to make you comfortable.

Following that line of reasoning, I came into possession of four examples of the above analogy transferred to music. Swapping the word doctor for a musician, we get a new and exciting proverb.

It is not a musicians job to make you comfortable, it is the musicians’ job to use music to challenge you, and that can be uncomfortable at times.

I have come into the possession of four pieces of music that presented a challenge to me and made me uncomfortable but ultimately provided something equivalent to healing. These four albums challenged my concept of what music should be. They tested my notions of what lyrics in music should contain. They challenged me to understand what the musicians were trying to tell me through these songs.

I have been listening to mewithoutYou for a long time, I have all their albums, and they get played repeatedly throughout the year. They would probably be one of the most listened to artists in our music collection. Having said all that I waited with baited breathe for their new album to come out, it had been three years since their last album, Pale Horse, which I enjoyed. They had released a teaser single “Julia (or, ‘Holy to the LORD’ on the Bells of Horses),” which was an exciting piece that left me wondering what the rest of the album contained since they usually had threads or stings running through their records.

pale horse

The CD’s arrived this week for both the new album and an EP that was released simultaneously. I let them sit for a few days due to some other listening that I had to finish and a concert review that I wanted to get out of the way so I could focus on listening. Yesterday I opened the CD cases, opened the lyric sheets (which I appreciate bands supplying) and got comfortable for a listening session. I started with the EP, which clocks at an impressive 25 minutes, and it didn’t take long for my comfort to be challenged by the lyrical content. Track one contains this enigmatic line: “when your mouth was quiet was the sweetest sound of all.” The EP has the sound and feel of a mewithoutYou release. The vocals are consistent with Aaron Weiss’ lyrics from previous albums. He tends to wander between whispers and primal screams with some words that come across more like a poetry reading than traditional singing.

ep untitled

The album was next, [Untitled]. Yes, that is the title of it. [Untitled] Taking us out of our comfort zone with the title before I even take the shrink wrap off. The cover artwork is somewhat different from previous albums as well although they are all by the same artist, Vasily Kafanov. Even the art on the cover was taking me out of my comfort zone.
I put the CD in, get comfortable with the lyric sheet, and open my ears to hear. The first track is very mewithoutYou prime, and it has Aaron screaming at us: “Anyone listening wants a brainwashed like mine?” That sounds uncomfortable, and it echoes a theme that Aaron expounds upon frequently, mental health. The lyrics of both the EP and the full-length album, at 43 minutes, are more cryptic than ever and challenge the listener to listen. I challenge you to listen to the album intentionally. They are not suitable for passive listening, at least not for me. They expound upon issues of faith, feelings, fear and facing life with all of its ups, downs and twists and turns. Life is complicated and so are these two listens from mewithoutYou.

untitled

In conclusion, I like these recordings, and they have grown on me with each additional listen. They need time to become comfortable with us.

thy is a word

I also scored a pair of albums off of Facebook Marketplace that I was excited to have hard copies of since these don’t show up in Edmonton often. These two pieces of vinyl are by Half-handed Cloud, “As Stowaways In Cabinets Of Surf, We Live-Out In Our Members A Kind Of Rebirth,” and “Flying Scroll Flight Control.” I have listened to the only CD I have by Half-handed Cloud “Thy Is a Word + Feet Need Lamps” over and over plus streaming their material on iTunes frequently, so I was happy to score these two albums. I played them the same night I bought them

flying scroll
I must warn you about this band though, and it is not for everyone’s taste. Half-handed Cloud, much like their name and album titles are a little bit unconventional. The band is essentially a one-person show by John Ringhofer who often collaborates with Sufjan Stevens and Danielson, in their many configurations. The music will probably make you uncomfortable, but stick with it and listen intently. There are lots of interesting things happening. Instruments come and go, and he will often change instruments in the middle of a song in live shows. There are tempo changes that will catch you unawares. And then there are the lyrics. To quote Ringhofer: “Lyrics seem so much better heard than read…” There are no lyric sheets so I had to really listen to hear the words and to attach meaning to them.

stowaways

Perhaps we can align both mewithoutYou and Half-handed Cloud by their lyrics. They both explore themes of faith. Often, especially Half-handed Cloud, they are focused on faith in God as expressed in white Anglo-Saxon pentecostal churches. Less so with mewithoutYou, the doctrine of Aaron Weiss is more open to a broader concept of God, but none the less personal. I don’t think this takes anything away from their albums. If the faith in the lyrics makes you uncomfortable that could be a good thing. Perhaps they can be a challenge to you to open your life more to the things that are going on around you, open to what others think, feel, and believe and why they believe what they do.

I enjoyed the challenge presented by these four albums. The music and the lyrics made me perk up and pay attention, to think outside of my comfort zone. It was a good thing. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

“God calls us to step out of our comfort zone, to do the thing that is difficult or uncomfortable. Not because God enjoys watching us struggle, but because he knows that we will grow stronger as individuals and in our faith when we try new things.” –  Suzanne Anderson

One more: https://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/poem-the-butterfly/

Up and Down in E-town

up down town

Friday, October 5 and Saturday, October 6 were exciting and memorable evenings for me, I had the opportunity to listen to the music of some highly talented people, and it was excellent indeed. Up and Downtown Music Festival (UP+DT) has been going for six years, but this was my first venture into the adventure of this exciting format. UP+DT is a multi-venue festival that celebrates independent music in 11 different venues within the downtown area of Edmonton. They celebrate both local talent and artists from other parts of Canada.

Friday night saw us at the 9910 club which was a first for me in this venue. It is an intimate basement establishment with a wet bar on the right side wall as we entered, a few booths on the opposite wall and a small stage on the wall opposite the bar. nehiyawak was starting to play as we walked in and after a quick survey of viewing options, we stood facing the stage about five or six body counts from the front of the stage.

nehiyawak

We saw nehiyawak at the Interstellar Rodeo this summer and liked what we heard, so we were happy to see them again in a different context, from a big stage in an amphitheatre to a small setup in an intimate club. nehiyawak transitioned well. The sound in 9910 was excellent, it was a good volume and a good mix so kudos to the sound technicians.

I enjoyed watching and listening to nehiyawak, they enjoy making music, and that creates a feedback loop of us enjoying hearing them, which loops back to them. The drummer Marek Tyler was a joy to watch, he was ebullient, happy to be singing and doing percussion.  His cousin guitarist-vocalist Kris Harper plays a vintage guitar that looks almost bang on to my first guitar. A little gear envy on my part. The band is rounded out with the bassist, keyboardist Matthew Cardinal.

nehiyawak made my ears happy twice this year, and I look forward to more good things from this Edmonton based outfit.

After a short turnaround that stripped the stage down to one mic stand, a tuning pedal and a single guitar, Destroyer took to the stage, and we had moved up to the very front which put us about a meter away from him. I did say it is an intimate club, didn’t I?

Dan-Bejar

In 1995 Dan Bejar started Destroyer as a solo home-recording project. After a dozen full-length albums and several EP’s, not to mention his work in such notable groups as The New Pornographers, Dan was now on stage before us accompanied by nothing other than his vocal cords and his guitar.

I have a great deal of admiration for artists who can do that; there is no place to hide if mistakes happen. And mistakes do happen, we are still human after all, but a skillful musician such as Dan Bejar can work with that and keep the music coming. Destroyer played a set that kept the audience fixated, except for a few loud people at the bar. Which made for some good spirited banter between the bar crowd and the people in the crowd who couldn’t hear the music which led to humourous mediation by Destroyer.

Friday night ended on a bright note, and I looked forward to Saturday night at another venue that I had never been in before. CKUA is a much-loved radio station in Edmonton, and although I knew that they live streamed artists in the studios, I had never been fortunate enough to attend any of them, until now.

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The station is in the old Alberta Hotel building which has been beautifully restored to house the radio station. The Performance Hall is a high ceilinged room in a ground floor room with decent acoustic treatment and excellent sound. Hats off to the soundboard operators, they did a good job.

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The first set on Saturday night was Lindsey Walker. We had listened to Lindsey at a Sofar pop us show earlier in the year, and I was happy to hear her perform again. At Sofar Lindsey was solo, but on this night she was accompanied by Alex Vissia on bass and backing vocals, whom we had seen performing previously as a solo act, and Vicky Berg on piano, synth and backing vocals. These three ladies are very talented and their set zipped by leaving me looking forward to hearing them play together again.

Poor-Nameless-Boy

In the middle of Saturday night, we had Poor Nameless Boy,  Regina-based indie folk artist Joel Henderson and his band. I had not listened to any of their music before so I didn’t know what to expect, but in the end, I was happy that I got to hear them. Joel Henderson, who is the heart of Poor Nameless Boy, sings songs that sound at home on the prairies but are not constrained by any genre branding iron. He sings about people and the things that people do, and he can take the little things that often go unnoticed and turn them into a meaningful song. Poor Nameless Boy is a gifted singer and song craftsman who I would like to hear again.

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The closing act for the night was Mauno, a four-piece band hailing from Nova Scotia consisting of singer/guitarist Nick Everett, guitarist Scott Boudreau, bassist/vocalist Eliza Niemi, and Adam White on percussion. This band refuses to be confined by any genre or stylistic title. They play music, and they play it damn well. The music is technical, it is melodic, it moves my body and my heart. It makes love to the air that it touches. Mauno sings about life in concise and pointed lyrics that run with the whims of the music. It is artistic, and it is passionate. I enjoyed being able to see Mauno play live because they add so much more in a live show that a piece of vinyl cannot contain. Done, now I am going to go and listen to their record, TuningMauno Turning

The Tragically Hip Marathon

I decided to listen to the discography of the Tragically Hip in chronological order. This is not the first time or the first band that I have attempted this feat with. I have done complete discography listens of The Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads, The Beatles and others in the past. Having considerable experience with this I offer these warnings before we start.

The opinions expressed herein do not represent the opinions of myself, my family, my friends, my second-grade teacher Miss Brown, or even myself depending on how long ago I wrote them. No other opinion is expressed or implied by me, myself or anyone I associate with, not that they would admit to knowing me in the first place.

This blog has been rated PG-13 by myself. Any resemblance to actual blogs is unintentional and purely a coincidence. This blog is for entertainment purposes only. Past blogs do not guarantee future results. Reader discretion is advised. If tinnitus or tendonitis develops, discontinue use and seek medical advice. All opinions are subject to change without notice.

Do not try this at home; the author is a trained listener. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. No animals were used during testing. Void where prohibited except where not prohibited. Do not look into the CD laser with your remaining good eye.

I will state categorically at the very beginning that tragically I do not have the entire discography of the Tragically Hip, I only have enough to be a bit hip.

This is their official discography:

I listened to:

7/14 ain’t too shabby but Apple Music filled in a few songs that I didn’t have physical copies of.

From the opening chords of their self-titled first album it is unmistakably The Tragically Hip, “Small Town Bringdown” connects us to the band through lyrics that perfectly describe small-town Canada:

“It’s a sad thing, bourbon’s all around

to stop the feeling when you’re living in a small town”

I really paid attention to the details while listening to this album and it came alive for me like it was the first time I had ever heard it. The album The Tragically Hip closes with a stinging bite at Canadian small towns:

“You’re really hanging with the crowd, you know the ins and the outs here

All Canadian Surf Club, denim jackets and long hair”

Could have been me in 1973, long hair and denim jacket trying to find a place in the crowd and not very good at learning the ins and outs and social protocols of small-town life.

Next audio audition was Fully Completely and a bit of Western Canadian bravado, “At The Hundredth Meridian”, where the great plains begin. Being a cowboy at heart and a surveyor in years gone by, this song really resonated with me:

“Driving down a corduroy road,

Weeds standing shoulder high”

This could be any road west of the hundredth meridian, I surveyed west of the 4th meridian and drove my share of corduroy roads and walked through many fields that were shoulder high and ditches with weeds of equal stature. I can’t help but think of the song “Saskatchewan Sea” by The SplendourBog: “The tallest thing around here is me.” I have a feeling Gord Downie would be in agreement with that lyric.

“Wheat Kings” is a song based on a true story about David Milgard who was wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit but was eventually set free. This is considered one of the most beloved songs of the Hips repertoire and is about as Canadian as you can get. In fact, the legal case involved is still taught in law schools.

Next album on the list is Day for Night and one of my personal favourite Hip songs, “Grace Too”:

“I come from downtown, born ready for you

Armed with will and determination, and grace, too”

This is sort of like my personal story, I come from downtown Edmonton. I was born ready for my wife Valerie. Armed with a will, I want this relationship to work. Determination, I will never let you go. And grace too, a bit of testimonial doesn’t hurt.

From the song “An Inch An Hour” we have these witty lyrics:

“Coffee coloured ice and peeling birch bark

The sound of rushing water in the dark

Makes me feel the same way

An inch an hour, two feet a day

To move through life with very little else to say”

I realized at this point in my listening journey the absolute mastery of the Tragically Hip as poetic geniuses. An inch an hour, two feet a day. Come on, that’s brilliant even to a devout disciple of the metric system like me.

“Ahead by a Century” is an intense piece of listening pleasure. The double track vocals, the guitar jingling along with a steady backbeat that builds and builds, and then it goes electric and keeps building. This is a great song with great lyrics. “No dress rehearsal, this is our life.”

“Bobcaygeon” from the album Phantom Power is a powerhouse song that speaks about race, peace, power, love, nature and Willie Nelson. It also references constellations and stars which are a hobby of mine to watch with a telescope.

“I left your house this morning

About a quarter after nine

Could have been the Willie Nelson

Could have been the wine

When I left your house this morning

It was a little after nine

It was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations

Reveal themselves one star at a time”

I also think Phantom Power has one of the best album covers of all time. The brilliant artwork on that sleeve design. I am also hoping for clear skies so I can see the constellations reveal themselves to me one star (or planet) at a time.

Music @ Work, other than the fact that it uses the “at” symbol it didn’t work for me. Music @ Work, not “Men at Work” who had a big hit some 20 years earlier with the song “Down Under”. Interestingly enough I would rather hear “Business as Usual” today instead of Music @ Work, I know that is going to raise the shackles with some people but I have to be honest and honestly, Music @ Work  is an album that didn’t work for me. Even Babe Ruth didn’t hit home runs on every at-bat so I think its fair to say that not all albums are created equal either. Some are home runs, some limp around the bases and others strikeout.

The next album, in my listening, is In Between Evolution, which really grabs my attention. I don’t know what I can say about this album except that it is good from start to finish. Listen to it sing the praises of summer and about “Gus; The Polar Bear From Central Park”. How many bands have songs about polar bears eh?

I close out my listening marathon with the album Now for Plan A. This album debuted the lowest of any Hip album since their 1991 album “Road Apples”, which I don’t have yet but thanks to Apple Music I did listen to. They didn’t need a plan B because plan A worked out nicely.

There are a few songs that deserve honourable mention: “New Orleans is Sinking” and “Blow at High Dough”, which are both from the album Up to Here. I used to do a music appreciation group in an addiction recovery program and both of those songs where the most frequently requested and thus played in the group. I like to think that those music sessions offered some hope and maybe those songs brought a little joy into someone’s life that day.

I don’t have a physical copy of the Tragically Hips last album Man Machine Poem, but I did get to see their live show touring for the album. Tragically, it was also the farewell tour for the frontman and lead singer of the band, Gord Downie. It was a unique experience, to say the least. I have never seen or experienced an evening with the same emotion attached to it as that night. The crowd, the band, Gord, the music, the lyrics. It all came together and created a magical musical moment.

So there you have it, my marathon of Tragically Hip music. I hope you can enjoy listening to these selections as much as I did. They are not your average rock band, they are an icon of Canadian history and culture. They are The Tragically Hip.

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http://www.thehip.com/

@thehipdotcom

Interstellar Rodeo 2018

Interstellar 2018

Inter- is a prefix occurring in loanwords from Latin, where it meant “between,” “among,” “in the midst of,” “mutually,” “reciprocally,” “together,” “during.”

Stellar – of or relating to the stars; consisting of stars.

Like a star, as in brilliance, shape, etc.

pertaining to a preeminent performer

Interstellar Rodeo 2018 was among stars, stars of the stage, stars of live music, stars of recorded music. It brought together stars from diverse cultural, musical and geographic backgrounds. We were indeed in the midst of preeminent performers. And it was good, oh my, the moments shine like stars in the sky.

Stars in the sky were a no-show with lots of cloudy and rainy weather across all three days. We were in line at the gates on Friday night when a monsoon moved in with lightning and hail, we braved it to the point of being soaked to the skin and knowing we would be cold and uncomfortable if we stayed. We went home, dried everything out and prepared for a better day on Saturday.

Saturday was stellar. The day started with Nêhiyawak, homegrown talent from right here in Edmonton. They played a set of prog and 1960’s psych inspired music that I found quite enjoyable. An excellent start to the day.

The Deep Dark Woods started playing against a backdrop of deep dark skies which soon turned into a torrential downpour with lots of lightning and everyone took shelter from the storm under the big white Heritage Amphitheatre.

 

After a spell, the rain let up, and the music restarted, I give credit to The Deep Dark Woods for not losing their enthusiasm and energy. They put in an incredible set, and I am enamoured by their sound.

Due to lack of space in a blog post, I am going to touch lightly and quickly upon many artists who deserve much more credit than I can generate in this space.

Jayden, an up and coming star is an example that I enjoyed hearing for the first time. The Mavericks, founded in 1989 and still going strong, showcased great Tex-Mex, rockabilly, and alternative country.

Ruby Boots, I am sure she is a very talented lady, but she got the short straw between The Mavericks and Lisa Leblanc which are two very high energy sets. Ruby Boots is a gentler soul. I hope to hear her in another setting someday.

Lisa Leblanc is from the far east, New Brunswick fer shure. She plays an eclectic mix of genre-mashing music. Margaret Glaspy was up next, and I had not previewed her music before the festival. I enjoyed her ability to play in a power trio; it’s not always easy being the only guitar but she pulled it off with ease.

Jay Gilday is a talented singer/songwriter hailing from Yellowknife. I look forward to hearing more from Jay.

The closer for Saturday was July Talk, a band that I was familiar with and looked forward to seeing and hearing again. Spellbound from the opening note to the very last one, I didn’t want their set to end. There have been a few bands over the years that do that to me. July Talk mixed high energy with fantastic stage chemistry that raced and staggered between songs with ease. Having July Talk close the Saturday set was an excellent choice by the Interstellar Rodeo organizers.

Sunday opened to gray and dreary clouds, but joyful music from Faouzia who is of Moroccan descent and plays music that is a mash-up of influences but a fun listen. I was particularly impressed by the power and cadence of her singing.

La Dame Blanche hails from Cuba and sings in Spanish, I don’t understand more than a handful of words in that language but whatever she was singing was terrific. I can not describe her show, Google it and see for yourself what I mean.

Diga hails from Behchoko NT, about as far from the climate of Cuba as you can get but his singing and playing are every bit as warm and personable. He is a song craftsman, enough said, go now and listen.

The Dead South, from Regina Saskatchewan, are an acoustic group that encourage foot stomping with their energetic mix of folk, western swing and paddle wheel gambling music. They sing quintessential country and western songs; dogs, broken hearts and drinking.

There were no songs about crows nests.

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Josh Q,  A staple of the Iqaluit music scene is a big man with a big heart who sings songs about a big land. He has a good voice and a nice sound going on with his guitar.

The Interstellar All Stars is a mix of musicians who have played the festival in the past, this year featured Jason Plumb and his band The Willing, Rose Cousins and Tim Baker. Tim Baker played in Hey Rosetta but is flying solo. All-star groups are a gamble, sometimes they work, on some songs they hit on every cylinder, but not always. That held true this year; there were moments that were amazing, but there were others that were a John Deere tractor running on 3 cylinders. A good effort by everyone and thanks for coming back to Edmonton.

An artist that I have wanted to see for some time now is Alejandro Escovedo who’s resume is a kilometre long. He started with some newer material including “Sally was a Cop” and then he turned it up a couple of notches, and the band went full-on punk with some incredibly powerful music that included a cover of David Bowie’s song “All The Young Dudes”. He even did Pete Townsend power chords. A great high energy set that brought the house to their feet. That was a high light moment of the Interstellar Rodeo for me.

Riit.

Courtney Barnett is another high light reel moment. She brought out the grunge and power for us, and it was good. She is a powerhouse from the land down under that sings songs that mix equal parts wit, humour and down to earth observations of life in general. Courtney and her band pumped up the volume, the Interstellar crew pumped up the light on the amphitheatre, and the crowd ate it all up. I left the festival grounds one happy camper, after two days of incredible music. I can’t wait to see what next years line up will be.

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A few off the cuff observations before I close this blog. Alcohol consumption. There were copious amounts of it. I like the SevenFest and The Edmonton Folk Music Festival where the drunks are more or less confined to small corrals and the people who came to listen to the music can do so without some loud drunk slurring down their collars. Why do drunk people keep talking louder and louder as they get drunker and drunker? And I really don’t care what your sex life is like at the moment! I know the Interstellar Rodeo makes a killing off booze sales but at what cost. Drunks that require heavy-handed security to enforce and then remove from the premises. Drunks were falling all over because they could barely walk but were driving home or in one case driving to another concert. I was glad they left to hear The Beach Boys so we could enjoy Courtney Barnett without them yelling and slurring at each other. In summary, I was not thrilled with the amount of alcohol on the hill.

Bathrooms, washrooms, cans, loos; whatever you want to call them, there were not enough of them, and they were very poorly maintained. For example, all of the portable potties ran out of toilet paper and ladies were running around trying to find a volunteer to fix this. One gracious lady donated a box of tissue paper to save a few of them from despair. And they were dirty and full of crap, literally. They need to be cleaned, emptied and maintained much better than they were this weekend, it was a disgrace. The permanent washrooms were not much better, and there were not enough. Why is this such a hard concept for festivals to master, there are never enough bathrooms? Even the new Rogers Place received criticism for opening without enough bathroom space, especially for the ladies. I suggest doubling the amount that Interstellar had this year and using the gender-neutral approach, first come first served regardless of gender. Increasing the number and then cleaning and maintaining them would make for a lot more happy festival attendees. It would also make sense based on the number of beers the patrons were pounding back, that liquid all has to go someplace.

Another thing that I think would make the festival better involves the pathways. I suggest covering all the grass pathways with a generous covering of wood-chips. Wood-chips will keep them safer for walking on, or walkable in general since after the rain there was a lot of slipping and sliding. Wood-chip pathways will also clearly show where a path is, so people do not start setting up camp on the space allotted for walking, which I observed more than once. Wood-chip is also easy to clean up after the festival with an industrial vacuum, plus the lawn under it will be in better condition for the pleasure of the next event to be staged there.

The volunteers deserve a huge shout out; they went above and beyond. Their hard work and dedication go a long way towards making this a successful festival. Thank you to every one of them.

The queue was mostly observed and respected. I tend to lean towards the British system where cutting in line is tantamount to a crime against humanity and saving a place in line should only happen under exceptional circumstances such as the driver trying to find a parking spot for a person who is unable to walk long distances. Saving a place for your friend who is just too lazy to arrive on time does not qualify, go to the back of the line. I will make an exemption for the occasional family member but not for the whole Brady Bunch showing up late, go to the end of the line.

Smokers were few and far between which was a pleasure. I only witnessed one selfish person smoking in the queue and one smoking off behind a tree, like that made it more acceptable. I didn’t notice anyone smoking in the festival grounds but did get one whiff of wacky tabacky that was very brief, so I appreciate people adhering to the no-smoking rule that applies to any and every type of inhaling of noxious substances. Thank you for not smoking, anything.

Ford Pier was the master of ceremonies, and he did an excellent job of it. I hope he comes back and I hope the m.c.’s of some other events take notes from watching him, their lack of talent for being an m.c. can only go so far. I enjoyed watching Ford rock out to some of the music, clearly moved by what he was hearing. Rock on Ford.

In conclusion, it was a stellar Interstellar music festival. I enjoyed the music and that far outshone the flaws. Thank you Interstellar Rodeo for making me a happy cowboy.

Reverend Horton Heat

It’s Saturday night and I’m in the Starlite Room. This is going to be a good night because those two go together like peanut butter and jam.Version 2

PB&J was not on the menu, however, tonight will feature The Reverend Horton Heat, Unknown Hinson and Igor and The Red Elvises. This is no cheap buffet at the hospital cafeteria, no sir it wasn’t. It was more like a smorgasbord of sound that became music for our ears.

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There was no time wasted warming up, The Red Elvises roared onto the stage and set a beat down that got the crowds attention, and not just because they had a good beat going, they were eye candy as well. The bass was actually a bass balalaika, huge, red and a very rich bass sound.

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The drummer was sequinned and was laying down a driving rhythm to accompany the bass and keyboard, and then Igor arrived. If anyone thought the band dressed flashy they were about to be awed by the leopard printed, and who knows what else, silk printed suit of Igor. Igor, the East Bloc Elvis plays a mean electric guitar and wings songs about the KGB, bacon, and Monsters From Mars. It would be too easy to dismiss Igor and the Red Elvises as a novelty act, they were talented, fun and got the crowd jumping, pumping and warmed up for the Heat that was about to come.

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The Reverend Horton Heat that is, aka Jim Heath, the psychobilly whirlwind from Texas fed off the energy that Igor and the Red Elvises had started and wound the crowd up to a new level of frenzy. They plowed into Victory Lap, the opening track from their newest release on Victory Records and seldom lifted their foot from the gas pedal after that. Jim Heath is a talented singer and songwriter as well as a master of rockabilly and psychobilly guitar. A very personable man who interacted very well with the audience and told stories about the band and how those stories often became songs.

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About mid-set, I lost track of time, they had a short break and upon returning played one song and then introduced Unknown Hinson. Unknown Hinson is an American singer, musician, songwriter, and voice actor. He is perhaps best known for his role as the voice of Early Cuyler on the Adult Swim animated series Squidbillies. There was obvious chemistry between The Horton Heat band and Unknown Hinson because they rocked the house, Hinson is a very accomplished guitar player and was a joy to hear and see in person. I loved the suits that Unknown Hinson and Jim Heath wore, They were Texas gentlemen to a T.

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Unknown Hinson left the stage after about 6 songs and Reverend Horton Heat settled in for a few slower songs and a few more stories and then they left the stage. Coming back for the traditional encore, their drummer started a solo that covered every surface of his drum kit, the upright bass, random glasses held high by front-row audience members and then back to his kit for a power closer. And then the rest of the band stepped for a few more songs that eventually led to Hinson returning for an extended jam with the full band. It left me breathless.

The Starlite room raised the bar with this show, which I rate as one of the all-time best that I have seen at this venue. Every single musician gave their all for the show and the audience bounced, jumped, danced disco and even did a conga line to show their respect for the people on the stage. It was fun, occasionally funny, and totally engaging and entertaining. A good time, a really good party on a snowy Saturday night in Edmonton, with The Heat turned up.

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