Still trying to catch up this week — so much music coming down. Here’s a rootsy, country folk album from Ontario’s Dinner Belles. Sounds very traditional at first, but they have their own new millennium indie lens on the whole thing.
Toronto is a resilient city. Instead of sulking in the disappointment that was Nuit Blanche on Saturday, hordes came out to the ‘Shoe for an evening of crunchy west-coast rock courtesy of Current Swell.
Theatre Crisp had an admirable consistent peppy energy as the venue was gradually filling up. Bringing their brand of ‘funk-hop’, the Niagara-based band played their unique cross genre of ska, funk and hip-hop. Fedora-adorning frontman humbleHAB was equally stellar as emcee and singer, impressing during A Tribe Called Quest and Jack Johnson covers. David Cox, tap dancer extraordinaire, was put to good use for percussion elements during brief ballad moments. Other times, Cox’ tapping sounds were understandably masked by instruments, appearing more to be a distraction. The band’s honest energy was particularly charming, as they ended the set with groovilicious ‘Suzie’.
Packed house on a Sunday night was apparently not the expectation from lads of Current Swell. Thankful for the roaring crowded reception, Scott Stanton and his buds from Victoria jumped right into their catalogue full of radio-friendly alt-rock tunes. What sets them apart is the varied mix of genres catering to your every music need. You have the funky & acoustic ‘Young and Able’ or nostalgic & folky ‘Long Time Ago’ or slide-guitar party jam ‘Rollin’, off the new release Ulysses. Newer material resonated even more with gems like ‘One Day I’ll Be Rich’ (move over, BNL!) or reflective ‘Man of Maps’. The hits never stopped comin, and there was barely a soul in the audience that wasn’t sweating along. Even Ghosty Boy shared his sentimental bliss. “Looked into the crowd during the song, and just the amount of beaming smiles back at me”, said the bassist, “made me realize it’s all worth it’. A true ‘awe shucks’ moment!
Humble and organic talent. That is word association for Current Swell. Doubt anybody would disagree with that. When you get to see them live, you would mostly like add ‘effing awesome’ to that list as well.
by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: August 26th, 2014
Just so that we are clear at the outset, I am not a fan of modern country, not by a pre-metric rural mile. But, with the Slim City Pickers that is not what we are talking about. This is more of fun-filled trip back to the early ’70’s when rock and country music coexisted comfortably, when there was no stigma attach to being associated with a genre in which singing through your nose and having a video on CMT are considered more important than delivering an honest sound. The Pickers are like the Flying Burrito Brothers, early Eagles and the Allman Brothers all rolled into one, and those are guys who wouldn’t know just what to make of the likes of McGraw, Urban and Chesney, much less want to hang out with them. Continue Reading
by Tiana Feng
Release Date: July 8th, 2014
According to bassist Nathan Sidon, this is the record that The Stromberg Fair have been striving for all along. Not only that, it is so good that they may consider it their swansong. We all hope that isn’t true, but if it is then at least they went off on a high note because ‘I Won’t Be Afraid’ is truly an album to be reckoned with.
by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Label: Transistor 66
On ‘Thank You I’m Sorry’ the trio known as The Crooked Brothers embellish their rootsy folk music with the more urban sounds of rock, blues jazz and funk. These “rural” and “city” forms of music form a sort of dichotomy which is best illustrated by contrasting the song “Organs on Demand”, with its urbane spoken word poetry set against a funky blues rhythm, to the likes of “Kennedy”, with its acoustic folk guitars and down home steel guitars.
Peter Gardner, lead singer of Hawk and Steel, had an idea: team up with folk singer Sydney Batters, rent a warehouse and then, with little rehearsal, just record their favourite folk-rock songs. Simple. Earnest. Brilliant. The pair lovingly render versions of classics by Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and Guy Clark. The rustling of fabric, the odd missed note, a false start and some traffic noise merely add to the honesty of the effort.
by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: July 21, 2014
Petunia is a bizarre and mysterious character. I cannot determine his real name, but I do know that he is originally from rural Quebec and is now based in Vancouver, although he seems to have spent time in almost every corner of the country (both Toronto and Fredericton claim him as a former resident, just as examples). What I do know is that he’s an entertainer – I mean in the old-school sense of someone who sings anything, plays anything, does anything in the name of entertainment. He’s Buffalo Bill Cody, he’s P.T. Barnum, he’s Ed Sullivan and he’s a carnival sideshow barker. He wants to take you go on a wild ride with his album ‘Inside of You’, so step right on up, folks.
Kandle (Osborne) is a mesmerizing singer of smoky southern blues rock and alt country. Her debut full-length album ‘In Flames’ was met with enthusiastic reviews. She teams up with guitarist/bassist Sam Goldberg Jr., so you know you are in for a top notch show.