November 2018 Musical Musings

This Month in Music: November Twentyseventeen

November 2
Patrick Watson with the Edmonton Symphony at the Winspear Centre.
I honestly don’t know how to put this experience into words that are restricted to human vocabulary or even worse, restricted to written words where you can’t even read my expressions. This was a one-off show that was like no other show that I have ever seen or heard. I had listened to Patrick Watson’s music and I attend the Edmonton Symphony frequently so I was familiar with the sound of both of them but this show was not like either, it was unique. Yes! There is a word to describe it, unique. The emotional outpouring from the lyrics that floated with the music to the very heights of the Winspear and then floated back down dance in our ears. Delightful, another good word for this show. And one note: it all ended too quickly. I was enthralled by the immensity of the sound and transfixed by the nuances. From the swell of the double bass to the tinkling of the triangle, it was a truly amazing experience. Patrick Watson also writes music that speaks to our hearts, to our humanness. He writes songs about his mother that touch gentle places in our souls. William Eddins conducts masterfully as always and the orchestra came to play and play they did. I would be greatly amiss if I didn’t mention Patrick Watson’s backing musicians. They are talented and seamlessly blended in with the orchestra and often accompanied Patrick on quieter passages. Amazing, unique, delightful.

November 29
Sudden Love, Lutra Lutra and Poor Little Tin Man
A triple-header at the Brixx, a new venue for me although I have been upstairs at the same address many times for shows at the Starlight. Tonight featured all local talent and showcased some really good musicians at the album release party for Sudden Loves new album Life and Death.

The opener was Poor Little Tinman, a straight-ahead metal trio that actually probably had less volume than the house music before they started playing. I think it says something when a full-on metal band is quieter.
The Tinman in the Wizard of Oz went on a journey with a couple of other characters to find a brain for himself. These Tinmen are apparently on a journey of discovery as well, not to find their brains, but perhaps for the elusive lost chord or a secret rhythm that seemed to elude them through much of their set. The bass player was the one bright spot as he seemed more than capable of keeping time and playing around on the fretboard with some tasty chops. He was adept at stage banter as well, a rather personable young man. The drummer is another story, he was a bit sloppy at keeping a groove going and fitted the stereotype of more than one drummer joke. The lead guitar player/lead singer was on a journey too, but I am not sure it was the same one the other two members of the Poor Little Tinmen were on. He often seemed to be on another road altogether, although there were a few moments where he soloed and sounded half decent. I think he needs to focus more on being on the same road as the band. They were an energetic opener and I hope they keep searching for whatever it is that will make them a better band because the seed is there, it just needs more nurturing.

Lutra Lutra were the second band of the evening and by this time the crowd had swelled to nearly filling this rather small venue. As I listened to Lutra Lutra I kept trying to pin a label on them. I kept trying to associate their sound with other acts or musicians. And the more I listened to them, the more names I kept adding to that list. They had elements of Savoy Brown with a blues-rock tinge. They had echoes of Uriah Heep in some of the straight-ahead rock numbers that they played. There were shades of Deep Purple with growling guitars. The vocals of Kate Bush dropped in occasionally; and the list kept going on and on. Now don’t read this wrong please, they are not a cover band and they do not emulate or copy other bands. They are just so damn good that they sound like many other really good bands, and that is not a bad thing. They are strong players and work well together supporting each other, melodic, in control of the set and well paced. A bit of a glitch on the soundboard as the keyboard vocals cut in and out and uneven volume on her microphone but still excellent sound mixing overall. A really good show without being showy. I would go see them again. Bonus fact, they engaged with the audience after their set and are really nice people.

The Lutra Lutra set ended and suddenly half the room emptied out, no doubt a good part of them heading for the bathroom or the parking lot for a little something extra, and suddenly Sudden Love was on stage. An 8 string guitar, electric bass and soft drums set a slow melodic start that built into grooves, and, as the crowd trickled back in the ambiance grew into something new and interesting. The leader of the band and the lead vocalist is a technical guitar player that made my fingers hurt just to watch, but a pleasure to hear. I can’t compare them to any other band, they sound like Sudden Love and that is ok with me. And suddenly Sudden Love did a cover of the Jimi Hendrix standard Are You Experienced and I suddenly knew that they were indeed experienced. It takes talent and experience to pull off a cover of a classic song such as this but Sudden Love did it. I had to leave before their set ended but I liked what I heard and I think the whole band was solid. I will spin their CD later today. Done, still solid.

I think this photo captures some of the energy of Sudden Love:IMG_6064

November 30
Yukon Blonde and Rural Alberta Advantage at Union Hall
This was a last minute decision. We weren’t going to bother with this show because we had seen both of these bands many times, four times this year for RAA alone, but we are such huge fans that we just couldn’t miss one more show so we jumped on Stub Hub and I am glad we went.
Yukon Blonde are a really competent quintet that make the most of the various skills that they all bring to the band. Duelling lead guitars, or lead and rhythm or lead and vocals or …
They have a big soundstage and they fill the room with it. At times reminiscent of late 70’s pop rock in the vein of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, they both appreciate a good Rickenbacker.
Pulsating, swirling, dynamic synth is another hallmark of Yukon Blond with up to 3 or 4 synths wailing away at times but it sounded really, really good. I was mesmerized at times by the sheer beauty of the music they created. The sound mix was good with a good volume of the mix for the venue and crowd, as well as some nice lighting effects.

Rural Alberta Advantage, what can I say? We see them every time they come to Edmonton, I lost count but they recognize us now and are one of the nicest, friendliest bands that I have ever met. They are patient and try to greet and meet every last person in the venue and smile for every single photo. Amazing. They sound pretty damn good too. No other band sounds like they do. They are a trio consisting of Paul on percussion, so much energy and love go into his set it is a joy to behold. I love how he uses various non-drumstick articles to pound the skins and cymbals.
Nils on guitar, vocals and synth/keys is amazing. He brings passion to every single song and every single show. Pushing acoustic guitars to places they seldom venture outside of the Rural Alberta Advantage. Intelligent lyrics add to his resume by writing about places and events that we are familiar with such as Death Bridge in Lethbridge, Tornado ’87, and The Frank Slide. Nils is one of the nicest people post-show as well, asking patiently for our names, how can he remember out of the thousands of them he meets every month?

Robin Hatch is the newest member of the trio, replacing Amy Cole on keyboards, synths, foot trigger bass, tambourine, kettle drum, and vocals. How she can play three instruments and sing at the same time is beyond my comprehension. I have to admit that I was cautiously optimistic about someone stepping into Amy’s socks on stage, not an easy resume to fill, but Robin has pulled it off and after hearing her play with Nils and Paul a few times now I can hear her settling in and being a part of the trio and not the newbie any longer.
As always RAA put on an amazing show full of energy and dialing in the audience full on. At the customary pause for an encore, the audience began a sing-along of the last song and the band came back on to resume the song without missing a beat and took that right into another and then another and then an amazing closer. I was exhilarated after that double show. What an amazing month it has been.


Seven Music Fest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012-07-08 17.16.17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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 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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.