Album (3) reviews: Lessons in Retrospection

In steady rotation this week are a series of new releases that I am going to lump together. Whether they belong together or not is left to your discretion. In no particular order, we have Neko Case with her seventh full-length solo album, Hell On; Ry Cooder with his newest called Prodigal Son; and Father John Misty with his fifth release under that nom de plume, with God’s Favourite Customer. At first glance, one would find little common ground between these three albums, but I noticed there is a thread that runs through them.

Neko Case has had an active solo career as well as being a part of the supergroup The New Pornographers. Hell Onfinds her collaborating with pop producer Björn Yttling (of Peter, Bjorn and John) as well as a host of other musicians to create what I consider to be her deepest and rawest album yet. The lyrics bring up fear, wounds and lost loves that her voice lends credence to. The music builds upon with layers of sound that demand repeat listens to hear the details.Image result for hell on neko case

The Prodigal Son by Ry Cooder finds this veteran of the turntable reworking some gospel and folk music of the last century in his unique style. He also slips in three original tunes that blend so well that the political commentary can easily be overlooked. The music maintains his high standard of folk-influenced world music.

Father John Misty, aka Joshua Michael Tillman, has worn so many hats it is often difficult to know where one persona ends and another begins. God’s Favorite Customer is a short listen at only 39 minutes but fills every one of those minutes with introspective lyrics that focus on the topic of isolation and pain.Father John Misty - God's Favorite Customer

Three albums that stand on their own merits but also have something that I found in common: retrospection. Here we have three artists looking back and expressing what they see in three different ways. Neko Case glanced back and revisited some pain in her past. Ry Cooder revisits the topic of faith in something bigger than ourselves. Father John Misty looks back at a specific time and place and weaves a story from the memories. Glancing back to see where we have come from is what I hear in all three of these recordings. I leave it to you the listener to determine what you hear in these three excellent recordings.

We’re Here For Love

Jim and Penny Malmberg, formerly Back Porch Swing, along with Nico Humby and Miles Zurawell brought an energetic and enthusiastic crowd to The Aviary on Friday night.

We were each given a copy of their new CD, it was after all a CD release party, and welcomed into the party. The merch table had so much love it would have been easy to mistake it for Valentines Day, there were hearts everywhere and smiling happy faces to greet us, one of those being a co-owner of The Aviary, Philip.


This is all in the entryway, next stop was the venue itself. Teacup candles, hearts and love were on every table as well as the stage, and it was like a big ol’ family get together. There was boisterous laughter as people moved about the room greeting each other and spreading the love.

Although every table was taken there were a few loose chairs at the front of the house so that is where we parked ourselves, an unobstructed view of the stage, or so we thought. At one point in the show, Penny had to ask a patron not to walk in front of the stage with her camera phone flash blinding the band and blocking the view of the rest of us.

The evening opened with Jim and Penny coming on stage with a large poster board stating “We’re Here For Love” and extended a warm welcome to everyone. They then introduced the first period, there were three just like a hockey game, Nico and Miles.


Nico and Miles are straight ahead no nonsense bluegrass and they nailed it. Nico plays a mean mandolin and sings in the finest traditional style. Miles plays flat top guitar and sings in a style that blends traditional bluegrass with traditional country, in a good way. They are fun, funny and fantastic musicians and singers. They peeled off one song after another almost effortlessly and were obviously enjoying it as much as we were. I would be happy to see them play again.

After a short intermission, Penny and Jim took the stage and proceeded to entertain us with a walk through their new CD, in order of appearance on said disc. Both Penny and Jim interjected little stories about the songs and the writing process as well as singing “Happy Birthday” to numerous friends and acquaintances, it was well paced and the space between songs was never dead air. Jim alternated between guitar and mandolin, Penny played guitar and they were joined by Keith Rempel on upright bass, he played on the CD as well. Both Penny and Jim have good voices and they harmonize well. It is easy to see that they are not just doing another show, they love what they are doing and they do it well. They are the quintisential 60’s folk group, and I say that as a compiment.


There was a lot of love flowing back and forth between the stage and the audience, people were there to visit, to renew old acquaintances and to party. There was banter back and forth from the stage to the seats, hoots and hollers were frequent and several songs were sing-alongs that it seemed most people knew the words to or, like me, learned them quickly.

It was a fun night out and we heard some mighty fine pickin’-and-a-singin’. “We’re Here For Love” is an appropriate name since it was obvious that both the musicians and the people listening where indeed there for the love.


Sean Burns and Lost Country


The title of the album kinda says it all, Music For Taverns, Bars, and Honky Tonks. It also works well in pickup trucks, long-haul big rigs and small local music venues such as the Aviary in Edmonton, which is where I got to hear Sean and his bandmates at work.


The evening opened with the southern Alberta country sounds of Boots Graham, a purveyor of the Carter claw style of guitar playing and a slice of life story songs. The songs are traditional country themes such as broken hearts and empty bottles but Boots is an engaging and entertaining performer who plays and sings very effortlessly. I can image him around a campfire drinking beer out of a tailgate cooler and hootin and hollerin’ louder than the coyotes. Boots was fun and a really good intro for Sean Burns and Lost Country.


Sean is a personable performer who is comfortable in his role of a country troubadour. His band is tight and obviously, have fun playing together. Inspired by such west coast legends such as Bakersfield’s Buck Owens, the Oklahoma legend Merle Haggard, and Texans Ray Price and Johnny Bush, the album was recorded at Hillside Hideout, at Alexander, MB and Tres Mariachis in Nashville, TN Produced by Canada’s guitar wizard Grant Siemens, and recorded & mixed by Scott Franchuk (JUNO and Polaris Prize nominated Engineer), the album features Sean’s band Lost Country (Joanna Miller, Bernie Thiessen, Grant Siemens) with heavy hitters Big Dave McLean, Chris Scruggs, and Harry Stinson lending their talents as well. A guest appearance was put in by Skinny Dyck on the pedal steel guitar that played well off the rest of the band at the Aviary.

This is down to earth, well grounded, scuffed cowboy boots, and bent straw cowboy hats music. Well, I had the scuffed boots and the only cowboy hat in the crowd that night but we clapped along and there was more than one hoot and holler from the back of the room to show our appreciation of the effort they were making to entertain us. It was fun, it was country and it was a good night out. The Aviary is a small venue that hosts a good variety of music but for one night anyhow it was a tavern, a bar, and a honky tonk.

Musical Memories #1

I have been surrounded by music for as long as I can remember, which on some days isn’t that far into the past. But on the days that I do pause to ruminate on the morsels of musical memories, they are sweet indeed.

My Dad was a music lover, he grew up on a farm with the songs of rural Alberta resonating all around him. He had an older sister, Louise, who played drums and sang in a band. And then there was their oldest brother John. John could recite The Cremation of Sam McGee from start to finish. John also played the fiddle. When I was about 14 years old he offered me a fiddle for free if I took lessons and learned how to play it. I am remorseful now that I didn’t take him up on that offer. I bought a used electric guitar for $30, learned a half dozen chords and played parties and the occasional bar until they threw us out over some excuse about not having an entertainment licence.

There were other musicians in other branches of the family too. The McAllister’s were a lively bunch and the McLeods were not in short supply of musical talent either. The Froland boys played a mean guitar and my cousin Allan Froland has a nice guitar too and taught me a few chords. 

There were barn dances, wedding dances, community socials, harvest fairs, and just about any other excuse to throw a party that you cared to think of, there always seemed to be music. They would gather round at the drop of a hat or the popping of a cork and the guitars, harmonicas and violins would appear out of nowhere. They didn’t need an excuse to have a sing-a-long, it was before television and hi-fi stereo so live music was the entertainment and they were more than eager to provide it. My childhood is filled with memories of family get-togethers with music, laughter, poetry and love.

My Dad loved country and western music. Not the pop country that you hear on the radio nowadays, the good old country and western music of yesteryear. He went to concerts by Kitty Wells, Ferlin Huskey, and Ray Price. He never got to see Hank Williams but the music of the Luke the Drifter was a constant in our home, either on our stereo or through Dad’s guitar playing and singing. Dad even cut a 78 rpm record in about 1952, shortly before I came along. Unfortunately, Dad had an accident at work and the index finger on his left hand was lost. He became so dejected that he gave up on playing guitar and sold his.

Mom wouldn’t have any of that nonsense so she bought him another one for his birthday and the started learning to play with three fingers, some imaginative picking and dang it if he didn’t become a real good player all over again. This is a picture of him with that guitar and me with my first guitar, this would be about 1971.


One of my earliest memories of my love of country and western music is also one of the most hilarious, I can look back on it and laugh now, it wasn’t that funny when it happened.

When I was about 12 years old I started going to a church youth group. We had moved around a lot and this was the first time I had ever been in a youth group but it started on a good note. The first Friday that I attended they announced that next week would be a sock-hop. For the younger readers, that is a dance where everyone wears socks and dances or hops, or both. They told us that were each allowed to bring records to the party and everyone would get turns at playing songs off their records of choice.

I was excited. I loved music. I could tell you all the words to Kaw-liga, King of the Road and Snow White Dove. I was sure that kids in this group would like the same music that I did after all this was rural Alberta and every radio in every farm truck was tuned to CFCW, the home of country and western music in Alberta.

I went home and started going through the collection of records my Dad had accumulated, heck, there must have been close to 20 records, an abundance of good music to choose from. I started listening to those records again and I paid attention to the lyrics, the pacing of the songs, and I kept trying to pick just the right ones. I went through the Hank Williams records, he had the most of any artist. They were good but I wasn’t sure if they would live up to the expectations of a sock-hop. Some of his music was better for square dancing, a form of human movement that I abhorred from a nasty experience of stage fright where I shut the door when I should have been doing the do-see-doe.

I then started listening to some of the other records but none of them seemed to hold that elusive quality that I was looking for. Until I came upon the records that I took to the party. I was excited that I would be able to share my love of music with others.

As I arrived at the party on a blustery fall evening, I clomped out of my warm but decidedly unfashionable winter boots and peeled off the layers of clothing that had kept me warm on my walk to the party. I didn’t mind the walk. I had grown up walking most every place I went and I knew how to dress warmly.

As I entered that church basement in my stocking feet I realized immediately that there was a problem. For starters, I was the only one with wool socks. Wool socks are great for sliding along linoleum floors in the winter. Wool socks are great for long walks in the winter. Wool socks are great for playing shinny on a frozen pond. Wool socks were great for all of those things, but they were not great as a fashion statement at a sock-hop. Especially since I was the only one making that statement.

The second problem that I soon realized, much too late to do anything about, was my choice of music. These church kids listened to a different radio station than me and my Dad. They, horror of horrors, listened to 630 CHED. These kids listened to rock and roll, not country and western music, who woulda thunk that?

I knew that eventually, the adult chaperoning the evening, who was also the disc jockey was going to pick my records, I couldn’t find anyplace to hide them. I tried to plead with her, please don’t play mine, just let the other kids play their records. My pleading was to no avail and in the interest of being fair to all, she dropped the needle on the first song of one of my records, it was Patsy Cline singing “Stop The World and Let Me Off”.

My sentiments exactly Patsy.

The room froze. You could have heard a needle drop. Well, actually we did, it dropped onto the record. Everyone looked at me like I had suddenly grown an extra arm. The next 2 minutes and 28 seconds will forever be etched in my mind as every one of the kids in that basement began the mockery that children of that age are so very, very good at. My music was different from theirs and I was fair game for their taunts. And then the chaperone did the unthinkable, instead of playing a record by another child she put on the second song of the second record that I had brought. Not the first song, which would have been “King of the Road”, which I think could have slid by without inflicting more humiliation than I had already suffered. The second song of the second record was “Ahab the Arab”. In case you are not familiar with this song I suggest you give it a listen:

The life kinda went out of the party for me, the chaperone went back to playing top 40 pop singles that the other kids had brought and the kids started hopping in their socks again. I put on my felt-lined boot and trudged home with my beloved country and western records under my arm. I have grown to love those two records that I silently carried home with that cold autumn night. My Dad passed away years ago and Mom gave the records to me. I take them out every so often and listen to just two songs. I think you know which ones.


January has drawn to a close with a brilliant trifecta in the sky, a full moon, a lunar eclipse and lunar perigee (supermoon in common parlance). It was bitterly cold and very early in the morning in our part of the globe, Edmonton, Alberta. The air temperature was hovering around -25 C and the wind chill put it well into the -30’s as I pulled on my long johns at 6:00 a.m., my son Joel had already put in about 2 hours of watching and he got some great photos from start to finish of the eclipse. This is my own picture, not nearly as good as his.


Music, yeah, music. January closed with probably the worst concert experience of my life, and it takes some bad crap to reach the top that list. I won’t bother to mention the venue or the artist, both of whom I respect and have had good relations with apart from this isolated event. It was just a perfect shit storm. ‘Nuff said.

I expanded my listening to some crooning, R&B and hip/hop that I don’t normally listen to very much. I started with a Canadian who has 9 albums to his credit and with Real Love, David Myles tenth release, he hit an 8 out of 10 on my listening list. I really liked the way this smooth crooner shifts between rockabilly, reminiscent of Brian Setzer, adding a tribute to Elvis a bit of Sinatra and then manages to bring it all together in a mix that is all David Myles. I may have to get a solid copy of this one to spin on the old turntable. A very enjoyable listen suitable for just kicking back and relaxing.

Chris Dave and the Drumhedz

Another record that will be arriving this week thanks to the great staff at Listen Records in Edmonton is Chris Dave and the Drumhedz. Chris Dave is a highly regarded session musician and an in-demand hard-working touring drummer. On this self-titled album, Chris Dave takes samples of the jazz that influenced his early life, thanks to his Dad, and the hip/hop that he has worked with such as D’Angelo and The Vanguard with their great album from 2012 titled Black Messiah.

Chris Dave and the Drumhedz is a wonderfully crafted trip that floats, jumps and mingles with so much going on that it has taken me repeated listens just to hear some of the nuances within this amazing recording. A 10 out of 10 on my listening scale. Trust me, I don’t give 10’s away easily.

Gwen Cresens, Diego Matheuz & Brussels Philharmonic my listening to a whole new dimension with their release titled Concertos for Bandoneon & Accordion. Very enjoyable and I love the building and release of tension that exists in much of this album. A little touch of new classical that needs more exploration, an easy 8 out of 10.

Gwen Cresens

Nightmares on Wax, isn’t that a great band name? I love it, so I gotta hear it too. I heard it and I liked it. I listened to it again and heard more detail. And a third time. I have it on order for a full-on vinyl attack through the big stereo. I’ll keep you posted but for now, Shapes of The Future is looking good as a possible finalist for best of the year, right up there with Typhoon and their release Offerings.


All in all, it was a really inconsistent month for both the weather and the music experiences. I sampled a band from Greece, I didn’t know that Greece had anything other than Vangelis. They do and they are good. Tango With Lions is the band, The Night is the album, get it to the Greek on time and spin it. Good music.

And this listen took me down a wandering path of Vangelis, OMD, and samples of several other Greek artists, some really good music going on there.

Moving into February I see only one show on the horizon for this month, a local band, Mortar and Marrow. They will be at the Sewing Machine Factory on Feb. 9, check them out. I don’t have any albums jumping out at me for new releases so I might focus on some of the older music that I listen to. Lots of Beatles so far, we’ll see where else this goes since my listening is seldom consistent.

January 22 from Norman’s View

I am sitting here listening to Bahamas new album Earthtones, which is a great listen, and thinking to myself about the music that 2018 has started with. First up was Daniel Romano in concert in a new venue called The Aviary. It is a cosy little room that worked really good for the band to work out in. It was a rocking good start to the year.

This last week has been crazy with new music. First Aid Kit came out with a new full-length album called Ruins. They are a pair of young women working out relationships and the confusion and pain of youthful romance and heartache. They are darn good at working all of that into very likeable songs. The problem for me is the irreconcilable fact that I left my teenage angst and broken hearts behind me many years ago, and these songs, as good as they are, simply do not resonate with me on a personal level. What does resonate with me is the music that First Aid Kit back up all of their writing with. They say on their bio that they listened to the likes of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Carter Family and The Louvin Brothers and I can hear overtones of all that and more in their songs. There is a lilt, a sway, a dos-e-do, and a vintage to their music that harkens back to these great musicians of the past that we should not forget. I am grateful for First Aid Kit and their nod of appreciation to the foundation builders of Americana music.First Aid Kit_Ruins

The Shins pulled out all the stops with their newest old release, The Worms Heart. I confess that I have listened to them only casually in the past but this release has demanded repeated listens from me. This is art rock in that it is a flipped version of their last album Heartworms, the order of the songs if reversed and all of them are played in a different style than the original. I know that this doesn’t work for some folks but I found that I liked the end result of this endeavour. This album has a more grunge/garage rock feel to it. Jangling guitars and moaning organs that often sound heavy-handed manage to rumble on and create something new and interesting. I like the concept, and contrary to many of the reviews that I have read online, I actually like the end product. Yes, it is sloppy and uneven at times but I take that as part of the process of reinventing the songs so I give it a thumbs up.shins

Unfortunately, I have to throw in thumbs down review, well, actually a palm flat out and then brought slowly up to your forehead area. They Might Be Giants are rated as one of, if not the most, prolific music writers of all time and this is their nineteenth album if my counting is correct. The unfortunate part is that prolific does not always bring quality along with it. The bottom line on this album is this: if you like They Might Be Giants you will like this recording. If you are new to TMBG’s you might or might not find this a good listen. I found it to be less than engaging. I often overlooked the cheesy music and listened to the lyrics but on this recording, called I Like Fun, I couldn’t have fun listening to more of the same old.
A slight bump on the road of music we find ourselves on. On a different wavelength, I have revisited some old albums and I did have fun with that. Abbey Road, by nonother than The Beatles. It has not lost any of its charms or listening quality over the years and it still gets me singing in the car to myself.
Dave Edmunds, often overlooked but a classic from the new wave era. I have a fistful of his albums but I shook the dust off of Repeat When Necessary and found that I still liked it as much now as I did in 1979 when it was released. It was released at the same time as Nick Lowe’s Labour of Lust which is another personal favourite of mine and both records feature the same lineup of musicians: Edmunds, Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams, collectively known as Rockpile. A couple of stand out tracks are Crawling From The Wreckage and Queen of Hearts. Good Stuff.dave edmunds
Well, that is a wrap for this week, I look forward to what lies in store next week. For concerts, we are going to see Daniel Romano again, this time with Ancient Shapes at The Empress Ale House. For album listening, I have no idea what the future holds. Until next time, keep your needle in the groove and fingers on the fretboard/keyboard.

BRMC Wrong Creatures Review


This will be my first album review of 2018 so I was hoping it would be a band that I could connect with, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club fit perfectly since I have been listening to the music of the Been family for many decades. Robert Levon Been, the bass player in BRMC, is the son of Michael Been who formed his band The Call in the 1970’s, Robert Levon started his musical career at the age of 15 when he appeared as bassist on his father’s 1994 solo album, On the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough. Michael Been was heavily involved in BRMC as their sound engineer and toured with them.
When I heard that BRMC was releasing an album on January 13th, I went to their back catalog to refresh my ears to their sound with American X Baby 81 sessions and Howl, and then I went back to BRMC’s newest release, Wrong Creatures.
The album opens with minimalist drums, some slap bass and an almost chorus-like effect that fades in and out along with some singular voices, some guitar and that’s it. Nearly 2 minutes of musique concrete. I was not disappointed.
The second song which repeatedly tells us that it is just another song fits the shoes perfectly because it is just another song. Standard fare with opening verse, pre-chorus, chorus and guitar noodling. Sorry but it never rises above being just another song.
The third song in we get King of Bones which I liked the guitar and effects, some effort went into the production here. Layers of sound, good harmonics, good spatial feel. King of Bones is the King of Wrong Creatures for me.
Haunt and Echo, the fourth and fifth songs slide by without notice.
Ninth Configuration, the sixth song of 12 captured some of the energy, pulse and flow that I had come to appreciate in their previous material. The lyrics of this song also seemed to have more of the BRMC signature on it. Good song anyhow.
The next track, Question of Faith, brought BRMC back to familiar ground and this track rocked solidly and with lyrics that were consistent with their previous material without sounding old. It also sneaks the topics of existentialism and theology in without coming across as preachy.
Next song is Calling Them All Away and I think someone carried the energy and momentum of the last few songs away because this felt like putting the brakes on.
Little Thing Gone Wild brings us back to the sound and sensibilities of BRMC that got me listening to them in the first place. This song chugs along with a great groove and intelligent lyrics. Good stuff
Toss out the lyrics to the next song Circus Bazooko and we have a moderately interesting instrumental.
The next song is aptly named Carried From The Start, it carries the lack of substance from the front of this album to nearly the back.
At the back, closing out the album, we have the song All Rise, which starts slowly with soft vocals and a single church piano, it gradually builds and gains momentum as well as instruments. Some nice violin in the mix of this track. A grand exit of an album that I confess I struggled to like, but I listened to it over and over and read the lyrics and let it soak into me and now I think it is a decent album.
Perhaps not the highlight of their career but certainly not the worst either. I still like BRMC and will continue to listen to this album for the little gems that I didn’t hear on previous spins.


Daniel Romano and Jazz Police


This was our first foray into the Aviary, which is owned and operated by Philip and Mark Muz. It is a small club, probably not many over 100 at capacity, which was standing room only for tonight’s shows. The standing part is not an option since there were no chairs to be seen, but there were some interesting works of art on the walls that one had to be careful not to bump or lean on as the club filled. The Aviary is a clean and charming venue.
There was a merch table at the entrance which we planned on hitting on our way out after the show. Once we arrived inside, the club itself is very minimalist. There is a bar which had a steady clientele, a few tall drinks tables and a soundboard way at the back. The stage occupies one corner of the room in a triangular shape with a sequined curtain over the back wall that leads to the green room. There was house music being pumped out as one would expect, with an eclectic mix of styles and languages.
The first act, Aladean Kheroufi, started an hour after the doors opened and were all local lads that we had seen around town, at other venues, and in other bands. Aladean Kheroufi, the lead singer also played the keyboard. He was backed by Trevor McNeely on electric and lap steel guitar who did an admirable job. On drums, we had Connor Ellinger, who kept a steady beat and kept the groove going. Bravo and a tip of the hat to The Aviary for supporting local musicians.
After a short set turnover, Daniel Romano opened with a rush of adrenaline. All night I kept trying to compare Daniel Romano to other artists or groups, just to establish a point of reference. This was a fruitless task so I focused on the music, which was great. We had seen Daniel Romano previously at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium where he opened for Corb Lund. At that show, he was solo and it sounded like he was channeling Bob Dylan, his voice has an uncanny resemblance and he tells stories through his songs. Tonight was a different story altogether.
Tonight Daniel Romano was punked up and Iggy Pop was pushing Bob Dylan aside. Tonight The Jazz Police were on patrol and they left no stone unturned in their quest for adrenaline pumping music. They screamed, they roared and they put on one of the best small club shows I have ever seen. The Jazz Police are a tight band that enhanced and supported Daniel as he tore through his catalog. The bass was amazing, the drums were rock solid and the keys were played on a vintage Yamaha that sounded insanely good.
First impression of The Aviary? I would return, no problem there. Second impression of Daniel Romano? Better and better all the time. First impression of the Jazz Police? I can’t wait to hear them again. We did stop at the merch table on our way out and dropped some coin to support musicians like these and to personally thank them for what they gave us tonight, the gift of great music.

What I Learned This Year.

As another year draws to close I am naturally drawn to introspection and reflection on the year that was and a friend of mine, mostly through Facebook these days, unfortunately, although we had many good years of working together, posted a very good question: “What did I learn this year?” I think that is an excellent question that led me to ask myself, ‘what did I learn this year’? After all, if I did not learn anything it would have been a wasted year.

I learned that playing the ukulele is about the same as playing guitar, a bass or a mandolin, all of which I have, it takes practice and I am not very good at practicing. I am tempted to set a new year’s resolution to practice, but I am afraid I would quickly break it so I am going to pessimistically say that I want to practice more. I think I can actually keep that resolution because picking up any instrument more than once a week would be practicing more than I do now. I want to learn how to play The Peter Gunn theme as played by Duane Eddy because that has been cited by many of my favorite musicians as the first bit of guitar that they learned how to play. Joel is going to also work on that song and if I can keep my resolution of “more” practice I should be able to play it by the end of 2018.

I learned that the wheels of justice move very slowly but they do move. I have been involved in some legal matters that are ready to go before a judge, January 24th in room 262, so I am grateful that this chapter is coming to a close. I learned to keep notes of every meeting with everyone involved, I would have liked a taped session better but notes were good. I learned to photocopy every document and keep a copy for yourself. I learned that good lawyers cost good money but get good results.

I learned that I didn’t know God as well as I thought I did and that most people don’t either, they just think they do. I learned to let go of my preconceived ideas about God, faith, and holy books and to be open to new thoughts and faith and beliefs and do not condemn others who don’t believe the same way I do and to accept the stones that others will throw at me because I do not believe the same way they do. I learned that I still feel close to God, even loved. I learned to be patient with my faith, it is not a destination, it is a journey.

I learned to let go of my anger. That’s a tough one. I was carrying a lot of anger, and still, carry more than I should. I was angry at God, fortunately, God deals with it better than people. I was angry at Christianity and still give vent to that one frequently so I guess I am still angry at Christianity. The court date will hopefully bring some closure to that ember of anger. I was angry on Facebook. Unfortunately, that translates very poorly and came out as anger at the people, my friends, and it was ugly. I am getting better at just letting things go. Yes, there are posts that I don’t like and don’t agree with. I can let it go. Yes, people spam and forward messages that are alternative truths. I am learning that I don’t have to correct every wrong on the internet. I was becoming a grumpy old man. I was blessed to take a course through the Grey Nuns Hospital on mental health and they helped me to see my anger and to deal with it in healthier ways, I really learned a lot from them.

I learned that it is ok for an adult to use coloring books, they are great mental health time-outs.

I learned that there are whole realms of music that I have not listened to and should. I have been on a binge of new-metal, shoegazer-metal, drone-metal. Whatever, listen to Planning For Burial on iTunes or YouTube and you will know what I mean. I like the album Below the House. Low Roar is another good band in that same general direction. I got to see them live this year and learned to really like their music. I listen to jazz more now than ever before, I listen to country and western as much as ever, I am learning to listen to classical. Classical music is great, but it seems to need more attention because so much is going on. I listen to classic rock, the music of my youth and still enjoy lots of it. I learned that music is like cheese, some it ages better than others.

I learned that it was a lot easier to go to concerts when I was 30 years younger. I went to the Edmonton Folk Festival this year for the first time since 1988 and it was tough on me physically. I am not as young in body as my brain would have me think. I enjoy the music. I enjoy the atmosphere. It was a great festival but I was totally fried afterward. I went to more concerts this year than I ever did in the past and there were moments where I wanted to just quit and go home, but I learned that I can persevere and stay till the encore and still make it home. I learned that Rexall Place enforces a no smoking rule but it’s only for cigarettes. People can light up marijuana joints all night and there are no consequences. I learned that I have to wear a full face filter to concerts at Rexall Place.

I learned that Alberta has a very good health care system. I have spent more time in doctors offices and labs in the last two years than I did in the 60 previous years combined. I learned that there are really good doctors and nurses that really care and work really hard at getting us healthy. I learned that there is a lot of really crazy science behind how our bodies and medications work and as much as I don’t like being sick, I did learn a lot from the experience.

I learned to listen more and talk less.

I learned that there are people, places and things from the past that I just have to let go of. I can’t be twenty years old again and owning another guitar will not make me a better person. Owning the same car as I had when I was 20 will not make the present better, probably worse in fact. I can not fix the things that I did wrong in the past, but I can work at making a better future.

I learned that making the world a better place starts with me.

I learned a lot this year, thanks for asking Jackie.

Happy New Year everyone, may 2018 be a learning experience and a blessing.IMG_0266.JPG

Norman’s 2017 Music Review


The year 2017 was a very good year for music in Edmonton and in my life. A rough tally says that I went to see about 70 artists live, some were in small venues and others were in larger concerts or festivals. I also listened to about 700 full albums in various formats; LP, CD, streaming, iTunes, cassette, and even reel to reel. I also had the bonus of listening to my son Joel practice in our basement, sometimes solo and sometimes with his band, New Romancer. A very good year of listening indeed, diverse, eclectic, and occasionally loud, good ear protection is mandatory, not optional.

This year I attempted and was relatively good at, keeping a list of everything I listened to. Well, not everything. I didn’t include sampling such as listening to one song from an album, I didn’t include radio, and I didn’t include ambient such as Muzak or music heard in record stores, with the exception of a few that I played start to finish while I was working at Record Collectors Paradise. Anyhow, I ended up with a list of 700, give or take a few, albums. Now, what do I do with all this information? I do some data mining of course.

The most listened to artist was a band called Various Artists, I managed to listen to 37 full albums by Various Artists. Some of these were trips down memory lane such as greatest hits of, let’s say the ’70’s. Some of these were historical compilations such as field recordings of early blues music, one of my favourites was a collection of early recordings at Sun Studios in Memphis. It’s special because I bought it in Sun Studios in Memphis and it is also a very good listen to some early rock and roll/country/blues mashups.

Most listened to by a single artist or group was Pink Floyd, no surprise there if you know me at all, with 17 albums spun and Animals as the single most played album with 5. I also had the privilege of seeing Roger Waters live at Rogers Place this year, and David Gilmore almost live at an exclusive showing of his movie, Live at Pompeii. More on live shows later on.

Exactly 1/10th of my listens were 2017 releases, an interesting coincidence and a good indication of the quality of new music coming out. Of course, I didn’t listen to a fraction of the new music, let alone the old music. This isn’t a best of showcase, I seldom listen to top ten, or a list of music that I think you should listen to. This is just a listing of what I listened to in 2017 and what I enjoyed musically.

Now, getting back to albums that were issued in 2017. The most listened to album and artist/band was a tie between High Plains and their album Cinderland and Saanhet with their album So Numb at 5 listens to each. It is difficult to classify or pigeonhole Saanhet, I think Wikipedia nails it with “experimental metal”. You can look it up here: Cinderland by High Plains is similar but closer to ambient.

I found both of these albums by following threads in iTunes, Wikipedia or other sources. I hadn’t heard of them until I stumbled upon them but I am sure glad that I took the time to listen to them.

Sannhet is an edgy instrumental band that creates vast sonic landscapes where they play with sound. Fuzzy guitars float in and out, the drums maintain a backing with solid bass lines and synthesizers add to the mix and fill in the overall sound. Very good in my opinion.

From iTunes: “High Plains is the duo of Scott Morgan and Mark Bridges. Morgan, based in the Canadian Pacific Northwest, is predominantly known for his drifting, textured soundscapes released under the pseudonym loscil. Bridges is an accomplished, classically-trained cellist residing in Madison, Wisconsin. The two met in Banff, Alberta while they were simultaneously there on residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2014.”

I love the smooth relaxed tones that they create, reminiscent of Brian Eno or some other ambient players, but still fresh and original. Great listening to any time but appreciated most when I can sit still and listen to the details.

Saanhet were not the only experimental metal that I listened to, Giles Corey’s self-titled album from 2015 was my most listened to album of 2017 at 6 spins. This is for sure a goto album for me, rated right up there with DSOTM, Blue Train, and Time Out. Feeling a bit down? I goto one of these albums. Feeling a bit feisty? I goto one of these albums. Want some nice music to listen to while reading? I goto one of these albums. This year Giles Corey became a member of the goto list.

Another on my goto list was a band that Joel introduced me to, Planning For Burial. I got hooked on the album Below The House and was fortunate to find a vinyl copy in Calgary at Sloth Records. Joel also gave me a cassette of alternate takes of the album so I can listen to this great music in various formats. Solid, solid, solid, Below The House.

Most listened to 2017 country, folk or Americana artist or group goes to 3 different artists who tied for most listens, make that 4. Willie Nelson with his great new release: God’s Problem Child, Margo Price with her very Nashville smooth sounds on Midwest Farmers Daughter, Colter Wall with his Self Titled album, and Dan Tyminski with American Gothic.

Willie Nelson did not surprise me by being on this list since I often listen to his other albums and his collaborations such as The Outlaws. This isn’t a nod to sentimentality though, I really liked this new release. It is very “Willie Nelson” so if you like his other albums you will most likely enjoy this one as well.

The Margo Price album, Midwest Farmers Daughter, is actually a 2016 release but I only discovered it this year so I am fudging a bit to squeeze her in between 3 solid 2017 releases.

The third album in this category was one that caught me by surprise, Colter Wall had flown under my radar and risen to almost cult status before I found out about him. He did a show in Edmonton and it was impossible to get tickets, a good indication of his popularity, I don’t know how I missed that. I have listened to his music since and absolutely love it. A Saskatchewan boy with the voice of a gnarled veteran and the songwriting sensibilities of someone twice his age. I would venture to say that he is this year’s, Sturgill Simpson.

A very interesting listen that I absolutely loved and have in heavy rotation is on the edge of Americana, blues, traditional, and new country. That album is Southern Gothic by Dan Tyminski, the driving force behind the song Man Of Constant Sorrow on the soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and a long time member of Allison Krauss and Union Station. This album, Southern Gothic, grabbed my ears on the first listen and has not let go. High recommended.

Other notable mentions of 2017: Arcade Fire with Everything now, an album that I enjoy more and more each listen. Having seen them perform it live was an added bonus.

New Pornographers with Whiteout Conditions, not as strong a listen as some of their previous material. I saw them live for the Together Tour and again for the Whiteout Tour and I didn’t feel the same energy with Whiteout Conditions on tour or on vinyl that I felt with the Together tour and album. Maybe it will grow on me with enough listens.

A blast from the past had Pink Floyd on top with 17 listens for the band and 5 for the album Animals. King Crimson had 12 listens scatted through their catalog, I saw them in 2015 and I think the euphoria of that amazing concert is still reverberating in my ears. My first listen to King Crimson was in a little record store in Montreal in 1970, I was first drawn to the music which was playing while I browsed the bins, so I went to the counter to find out what was making that sound that I liked so much. And then the cover hit my eyeballs. I haven’t stopped listening to the King Crimson since then. The next blast comes courtesy of The Beatles with 7 album listens and 3 of them were of Sgt. Peppers. I bought the remaster release that came out this year and did a comparison between it on CD, the original on vinyl and the original of the CD. I like the remastered version, not necessarily the best but for right now it is my goto listen of Sgt. Pepper.

Another notable listen was Nick Cave, Spacemen 3, Low Roar ( I rate their live show as one of the best I have ever been to), Jackson Brown Running on Empty and Black Grape. Not year specific but just artists that I listened to more than twice.

Stepping away from pop/rock/etc. for a moment and visit what I listened to in the realm of jazz. Borderlands Trio and their 2017 release Asteroidia. This album came out of nowhere and blew me away. It is avant-garde jazz, whatever that means, I just plain like it as a great music album.

Freddie Hubbard’s album Red Clay also got a few spins, his album Sing Me A Song Of Songme is very high on my want list and if I ever get it it will portably go to number one with a bullet.

BadBadNotGood, no specific album, just lots of good listens. I look forward to seeing them live in 2018.

Kamashi Washington, Harmony of Difference. This is also a 2017 album and is very, very good. If this were a top ten list, which it is not, this would probably be near the top.

Locally Wilfred N and the Grown Men got a fair amount of listening time, nothing new but some solid stuff from the past. Lutra Lutra is another local band that I listened to this year and saw live, good stuff that will only get better.

Notable mentions of retro music: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Bob Dylan (saw him live, finally, and was underwhelmed), Miles Davis, Nick Cave (Murder Ballads), Michael Knott, Neil Young (his archive), of Montreal (great live show), and The Clash (who appear on my year-end list almost every year).

That takes care of the listens from the comfort of home, now we can move on to the live shows of 2017. This is tough because there were a lot and I don’t want this list to be a best of so I’ll start with A for Arcade Fire, on tour for their new album Everything Now, at Rogers Place. We had good seats in the lower bowl and Arcade Fire presented a great show. The sound was better than the old Northlands building and the seats were quite comfortable. Fortunately, we didn’t have anyone in the seats immediately around us so we could focus unperturbed on the show. Arcade Fire showcased their new material from Everything Now and premiered the song Good God, Damn on the night we went. They are very energetic, the music was well paced and there were a few nuggets from their past albums as a bonus. A really good show all in all.

In no particular order for other concerts of 2017, Roger Waters doing Us and Them live at Rogers Place. This time we were in the upper bowl. The seats are not as roomy, the stairs are steeper and the assholes who think it’s ok to smoke weed during the show were major negatives. The positive is that Roger Waters puts on a show that is second to none. Great music and a constantly changing set, pyro, and lasers all added up to a very good experience despite the assholes smoking and irritating my lungs.

Rural Alberta Advantage is a band that we try to see every time they come to town. They actually recognize us now. I think we saw them 4 or 5 times this year, you can count them here: They never fail to put on an all-out performance that leaves me wanting to see them again.

David Gilmour, almost live. It was an exclusive screening of his performance at Pompeii which is one of the defining moments in the band that he used to play with, Pink Floyd. This time there was an evening show with lots of lasers, lights and dramatic camera work. It was good, I don’t think he is as strong live as Roger Waters but that is counting apples and oranges and in the end, they are both good, but in different ways.

Patrick Watson with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Bill Eddins. Wow! I don’t know how to put this experience down in words. It was emotional. It was awe inspiring. It was a sonic masterpiece. It was WOW! One of the best music experiences of my life and that is pretty lofty.

We went as a family to the Jubilee Auditorium to see The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their tour to celebrate their 50th year of being a band. Interesting fact: I saw them at the same venue 40 years ago, Steve Martin was their opening act. Yes, the comedian Steve Martin, who also happens to be an accomplished banjo player. Nitty Gritty was good 40 years ago and are still a very polished and entertaining band.

Joel and I spent 4 days at The Edmonton Folk Music Festival, I hadn’t been there since 1988. Too long of a gap between shows. To any new Christians reading this: don’t throw out your records and cassettes and keep going to concerts. All music is good music.
I can’t put my finger on one artist or group that blew me away except for Shaky Graves who actually played at a local club because of a potential storm warning that evacuated the park where the festival was. A few good moments at the festival were Mary Gauthier singing Mercy Now, Rodney Crowell, and 100 Hundred Mile House. As much as I enjoyed going back to the Festival, it took a heavy toll on me physically. I will have to reevaluate whether I am up to it next year.

Seven Music Festival in St. Albert was a one-day event that featured a few local artists of varying degrees of enjoyment for me. The highlights were The Strumbellas closing the show, Rural Alberta Advantage yet again, and two local acts with very interesting names: The Royal Foundry and The Provincial Archives. This was a very good one-day event and I would most likely go again, especially if Strumbellas or RAA are playing.

Low Roar provided me with one of the highlight live performances of the year, perhaps of all time. They absolutely, totally engaged me to the point of hoping they wouldn’t stop playing. Great people too who engaged with us after the show. I have gone back to their recordings as well and still enjoy them very much.

And last but not least: New Romancer live in our basement.

It was a very good year for both live and recorded music. Probably the most that I have listened for many a year. The numbers are good but the enjoyment is the real reason I keep listening and going to shows. It’s all about the music and I look forward to 2018, we already have a few shows on the horizon.AMI Jukebox