Monday, June 11, 2018

Cathy Hutch – Fee Wheelin’

Cathy Hutch – Fee Wheelin’

Cathy Hutch is a multi-talented performer who writes and sings from the core of her very being, a recipient of the 2008 Diane London Award; (Fredericton, NB), received an Oscar for Autism (for her co-written song I’m In Here); and she has performed at the ECMA Awards and has been a finalist for the CBC Galaxie of Rising Stars Showcase. Hutch’s debut CD, Not Goin’ Back, was recorded in Nashville and backed by stellar musicians. Her latest release, entitled “Free Wheelin’” was engineered and produced by Paul Milner (Eddy Grant, Keith Richards, Glass Tiger) with Geoff Arsenault and Chris Corrigan also at the helm. 

The CD kicks off with “Carry You Along” and lets you know from the get go that Hutch is a swampy blues stylist with a lot of the south written into her songs no matter how you slice them. It’s the first thing established to any keen year, and it does stop at the first track, but there are some moments where that is uncalled for and Hutch handles it all with the utmost class as she seamlessly weaves several genre’s together on this outstanding collection. The opening track is one of four of the five highlights though, and not to be dismissed as a fast track like many opening tracks can be. 

“Good Friends” is an instant effort to follow up with something completely different but equally as awesome. There’s a spirit within Hutch that tends to sing its own songs, and it’s best showcased on this and a few others that give your spine just the right chills. It paves the way for the more uplifting ambience of “Know It All” which is a pretty-lyrically incendiary track about what is obviously a bad apple to sing about, but it has all the right stuff this CD is chock full of and could even be the sleeper track of the release, as it hangs in there as one of the highlights. 

The album takes a huge turn and doesn’t look back with an astonishing rendition of “Reflections Of My Life” which was a mild hit once upon a time by Scottish band, Marmalade. It was written by their lead guitarist Junior Campbell, and singer Dean Ford (born Thomas McAleese). Hutch responds with an outstanding take of the classic which must be heard to be appreciated. If anyone has done an old hit justice, Hutch takes the cake on this and wins the prize where many covers tend to fall on deaf ears these days. If fits very well in-between Hutch’s originals but doesn’t dominate the CD in the process. 

“Sweet Dave” is another spot where Hutch makes her own way work so well, with a straight forward blues track that shows her chops aren’t all there is to her, as the organic side shows just as much promise as the rest of her choice songwriting capabilities. And “Attitude Of Gratitude” shows both sides equally concerning her desire to rock with a lyrical thread that breeds positive advice and motivational inspiration to the human condition talked about in her music by critics. The Free Wheelin’ CD is a milestone for Hutch and anyone who enjoys real music. 


Randy Jones 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Patiently Awaiting the Machine – Electrified

Patiently Awaiting the Machine – Electrified

Dee and the Grand Brothers are partnering for an album together at just the right time. The former’s massive YouTube success, two solo releases (the second produced by his current creative partners), and “Miles and Miles (Living on the Edge)” placing with a highly visible Ford Super Bowl commercial. Their collaboration, dubbed Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite, has completed recording its first studio release entitled Canyon Diablo and the first single from the forthcoming disc, “Electrified”, is a powerful piece of pop song craft with considerable musical muscle. “Electrified” owes much of its success, naturally, to the Grand Brothers’ contributions, but Dee is clearly a key part in the success of the song as well and the chemistry this musical partnership generates isn’t quite like anything you’ve heard in recent memory. You can feel the confidence they have in this effort coming through in every passage, no matter what slant it takes with a listener.

They pull all this off without ever sounding obnoxious about it. Instead, there’s a near anthemic quality to this song complete with an uplifting chorus that drives one of the song’s central points home without ever browbeating listeners with too many words. Everything is very purposeful with this track and nothing feels extraneous. Instead, “Electrified” comes off as a single where the principles involved cut the song with a clear idea of what they wanted to do with this song from the outset and realized it thanks to a combination of inspiration and skill. “Electrified” bristles from the beginning with barely suppressed energy and the sense of an explosion barely held in throughout the entirety of the song gives it an air of tension that makes this an even more delectable listening experience. Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite’s single never sounds forced or rushed and the consistent push behind its tempo has a grab you by the lapels and shake you around quality that makes this an intensely physical listen from the outset.

It has a ton of personality, as well, thanks to the vocal presence in the song’s mix. Dee and the female backing vocals running throughout the song are never obscured by the boisterous arrangement and, instead, exhibit many of the same qualities and mood we hear from the music. Dee’s voice exhibits the same instant likability we heard in his earlier and very successful singles like “Miles and Miles (Living on the Edge)” and “Filter Factory” while also stretching his talents for dramatization in a new and exciting direction. He clearly benefits from working with the Grand Brothers because they intuitively understand how to best utilize his voice, but Dee is a considerable talent in his own right who obviously inspires the brothers to pursue higher peaks with this release than they’ve had the opportunity to reach for in their earlier work for other artists. Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite clearly has the talent to be a major player on the pop scene, so we can only hope that “Electrified” and the upcoming Canyon Diablo are more than just a thrilling one off project for these performers, producers, and writers.

Glenn Farnsworth

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Jiggley Jones - Not Your Typical day Out

Jiggley Jones - Not Your Typical Day Out

Jiggley Jones returns to the forefront of modern Americana with his new full-length feature, Not Your Typical Day Out, which carries on the tried and true tradition of uncut artistic expression through the medium of music that was started by countryside minstrels so many generations ago. In the ten songs offered here, Jiggley presents us ten uniquely individual tales of love, mystery and the never ending journey towards self-awareness.

Our album opens with the majestic “Danger Island.” Bluegrass-stained strings invite us deeper into a cozy scene of two people sitting beside one another. Jones’ vocal penetrates the pastureland with a Dylanesque disdain; “Cannibals are everywhere,” he tells us, as if to warn of the many greedy eyes that surround a lustful heart so easily taken advantage of. Suddenly an alarm clock breaks in, and “Wide Awake” kicks into gear, stylishly reading what feels like a love letter to a femme fatale. Here we view the concept of love as being a wild and free energy that is uncontainable, contagious even. “Vibrant” takes us careening through a flood of childhood memories and emotional turning points in the maturation of a young adult. The things that make us who we are, we end up experiencing them all over when we have children of our own, and reliving the same incorruptibility that youth provides us. The meticulously arranged ballad “Del Alma” brings a cool harmonica melody into the fold and evokes images of a dark nighttime sky that sometimes seems to be the only thing we’ve got to count on in this crazy world. The gathering crowd of voices and harmonious band-play assembles before our ears, as if to affirm to us that Jones is speaking for countless people when he proclaims his message of love and proud eccentricities.

The second half of Not Your Typical Day Out doesn’t let down, either. “That Pearl,” the sixth song on the record, opens with a piano striking aggressively into melodic acoustic guitars. Suddenly we find ourselves drifting down a river of contemplation. Our joy and our spirit are all there is in the world in this place Jones is creating for us. There is no stress or anxiety to bother us, only a desire to conquer our own hearts so we can truly understand what love means; what the grand prize of life is. “Warm” adds a dose of rhythm to Not Your Typical Day Out that definitely feels danceable, and its swagger is almost along the lines of a mid-period Beatles track. It might be the most interesting song on the album in that it truly exemplifies Jiggley Jones’ incredible versatility as a composer. “Gray” follows in a mist of grungy dissonance and ponders whether or not love can grow in a place where a heart has grown cold. “Flow” and “Restless” pick us back up in a blast of rock n’ roll twang, as though Jones needed to make a point towards the close of the album that above all, he worships the six-string. We end on the gentle “Rain,” which acts as a sort of cool down to the poetic and compositional calisthenics we’ve just participated in. As an artist, Jiggley Jones poses a lot of compelling questions on Not Your Typical Day Out. As listeners, we’re left with just one – when can we get more, Mr. Jiggley Jones

Gwen Waggoner

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Monsieur Job - Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow

Monsieur Job - Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow

“Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” is a revelatory single from Latin and urban pop masters in the making Monsieur Job, a four piece unit fronted for this effort by the vocal talents of No Mercy lead singer Martin Citron. This union of talents has produced one of the most notable cross-genre blends in recent years and Monsieur Job has paired the single with a “B-side” remix that will appeal to many as well. They’ve definitely captured a thoroughly modern sound while never betraying the fundamentals that make songs great in any genre – in this case, the performance never forsakes a live aesthetic that, despite the electronic nature of the music, suggests anything can happen in this song and unexpected twists will come. It definitely isn’t a paint by numbers EDM track in either incarnation – instead, songwriters Toby Holguin and Stan Kolev have crafted a winning formula for Monsieur Jobs’ music that’s full of color, physicality, and imagination. 
Kolev’s remix is a blistering, punchy EDM track with Citron’s vocal chopped up in a very staccato, percussive way. It’s much more streamlined and to the point than the quite direct radio edit and works like a clenched fist compared to the more expansive, relaxed attitude of the radio edit. It’s ideally suited for a club setting. The radio edit, on the other hand, falls into more traditional territory despite its glaring modernity. It opens with varied percussion that the song adds to as it progresses deeper into the track and the prominent bass and other instrumentation key themselves around the song’s drumming. There’s an impressive mix of sounds surrounding the percussion. Some of it is quite conclusively pre-programmed in origin while other drumming sounds strike me as much more natural, if not entirely live. It speaks to the backgrounds of the band members – to a man, Monsieur Job is well versed in both electronic and live, traditional music performance and their ability to unite those two aesthetics in “Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” is one of their more notable achievements.
Martin Citron’s vocal in the radio edit is Spanish language from first word to last, but exclusively English speakers will pick up on the emotion and spirit he infuses into the lyric and enjoy it despite not quite understanding the content. They will, likewise, respond to the confidence he conveys with his performance and appreciate his efforts to tailor the vocal to the musical needs of the song. The coupling of Toby Holguin and Stan Kolev’s songwriting with his experienced singing are the primary ingredients making “Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” one of the more memorable singles from the Latino and EDM genres in quite some time. Monsieur Job are poised to be one of the powerhouses in this scene for years to come and we may soon point back to this track as the moment their musical journey first traveled into the stratosphere of public notice.  

Raymond Burris

Friday, February 16, 2018

Sule - Love Me (Country Swing)

Sule - Love Me (Country Swing) 

Sule’s new single “Love Me” is the next logical step in a career that’s seen this great Quebec based singer move from being a valued collaborator with some of pop music’s best performers, a high profile appearance on Canadian tv’s equivalent of The Voice, La Voix, and now another important peak in his solo career with the release of this latest single. The single recalls a clear strand of Americana influenced by classic country, particularly the once wildly popular swing style, while still manifesting aspects of jazz and blues throughout the entirety of the song. There’s palpable confidence coming off this tune and it never strains for its effects – instead, it’s tailored to a perfect length and there isn’t a single false musical or vocally note struck throughout the song. “Love Me” is a wonderful single for Sule to open 2018 and promises his year will be a big one in his burgeoning solo career.  
The song, on the whole, seems a little unassuming, but that’s part of its charm. Sule definitely occupies a big chunk of the song’s imaginative and emotional space, but his vocal performance is definitely delivered with an ear towards complementing the track rather than leading the way and bending the sonic elements to his singing will. It’s really pleasing to hear his voice bob and weave through the emotional terrain generated by the arrangement and he sounds sure of himself throughout rather than relying on over-cooked theatrical moments to earn the listener’s attention. His voice is obviously very powerful and certainly capable of showstopper moments, but he never falls into the trap of laying on the histrionics and obscuring the rich instrumental backing he benefits from. Few singles, ever, are as well rounded as “Love Me” while still touching on an universal theme and narrative that anyone can relate to. 
Anyone will relate to this musical arrangement despite the rarity of the style in modern pop, Americana, or country. It has an affability that you don’t often hear from any form and, thus, makes it instantly relatable on a variety of levels and, despite its Americana influenced pedigree, this is a solid pop song as well that happens to utilize an unusual style. Much of the musical value for this song is built around its melodic strengths and the acoustic guitar that’s a constant presence in the song from the first, but there are other elements as well that make it an even more appealing listen. While the players are obviously top shelf talents, they are working for the song from the first rather than trying to garner the listeners attention with misplaced skill and everything they do enhances and play off well against Sule’s vocal. Few songs you hear in 2018 will present such a complete experience like Sule’s “Love Me” and its revisiting of the country swing style is wholly credible and entertaining.  

Dale Butcher

Monday, February 5, 2018

Universal Dice - birth, love, hate, death

Universal Dice - birth, love, hate, death

The latest album from Gerry Dantone’s Universal Dice project is extravagantly titled birth, love, hate, death, but Dantone’s songwriting and conceptual ideas more than live up to the album title’s grandiose implications. Dantone, a man of many talents, is a songwriting talent clearly cut from a traditional cloth, but he nonetheless knows how to bring those foundational influences into perfect accord with a modern sound an audience of today will enthusiastically respond to. It’s accessible, but never achieves that accessibility at the expense of an intelligent presentation. This is music that doesn’t take short cuts and never cheats the listener will still ably depicting Dantone’s storyline for the rock opera. The story advances through songs structured as voiced by particular characters and, while things are never quite told in a A-Z sort of way, attentive listeners will be able to follow along without straining their attention. 
“Welcome to the World” is a note perfect vehicle for bringing audiences into Universal Dice’s imaginative world and it comes across with loose-limbed confidence and sharpened musical instincts. It’s hard to not enjoy how well Universal Dice weaves a lot of musical activity into an unified whole while it never seems unduly cluttered. This is particularly apparent on the second song “I Wish I Could Tell You This”, one of the album’s best ballad-like songs. There’s some real musical drama in the jangling line of musical attack Universal Dice takes with “Your Son” and it puts a bright early spotlight on some of Dantone’s best work writing “In character”.  One of the album’s best moments in a rock vein comes with the track “The Prophet” and it’s largely thanks to hammering drums that maintain an impressive pattern throughout. There’s a lot of vocal harmonies making birth, love, hate, death’s songwriting extra memorable but few, if any, songs present that so well as the track “My Hands Are Tied “ and, despite the obvious studio construction behind such parts, they come across like they’d be convincing in a live setting.
“Take Me Home”, befitting its status as the album’s lengthiest track, likewise has a constructed feel that, thankfully, never comes off ultimately sounding like a put on. Dantone doesn’t have a classically schooled voice, but the production almost always frames his singing quite well on birth, love, hate, death and this song is probably the best example of the nuance he’s capable of bringing into a piece. “Danielle” is about as classic as rock and roll songwriting gets while still sporting a distinctly modern flair that’ few of Universal Dice’s contemporaries could hope to pull off. “Better Man” brings out the guitars bigger and brasher than before on the album and the punishing drumming characterizing a couple of the earlier songs returns here with dizzying authority. “I’m No Good for You” is another track where the drumming makes a big difference, but the most significant musical relationship in this song is established between the percussion and acoustic guitar. The start-stop nature of the arrangement provides a perfect framework for the tune. birth, love, hate, death comes to a refreshingly hopeful, yet intelligent and clear-eyed, ending with the songs “One Day at a Time” and “Forever” that underline, without ever becoming heavy handed, the essentially personal nature of these songs for Gerry Dantone. It never comes off as a solo effort though. Universal Dice definitely come across as a band and their fourth album is their finest recording yet.  

Scott Wigley