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Thursday
Aug172017

Reviews by Paul McGee

Hat Check Girl Two Sides to Every Story Gallway Bay

This release is described as a collection of ten songs, written in pairs, collected in five chapters, with interludes and an epilogue. Each pair is written from both a female and male perspective and each pair seems unrelated to the next … This is contemplative and reflective and set in an atmosphere of simple arrangements and understated musicianship. Contemporary Folk music taken to a new level.

The first chapter deals with a brother & sister relationship and the yearning that comes from loss. He drives away looking for a new beginning and she rues the day that ‘time stood still’ – hints of a fatality on this journey taken.

Chapter two debates beauty as its own currency in the world. He looks at external beauty as a ticket to open any door versus her reality that ‘not hiding behind the beauty I wore as a disguise’ is true freedom, as she seeks to discover her internal self and the simple beauty visible in all of nature – ‘beauty is free’.

Chapter three is a study on the price of fame ... The search for approval and ego-driven greed. Balanced against this is the nostalgia of being drawn to a life on the Big Screen in emulation of childhood heroes; innocence turned sour. A relationship formed in the glare of relentless media attention and star attraction.

Chapter Four sees the end of a relationship where forbidden fruit attracts and lures one party to look for something more. Cheating with your lovers’ best friend and living to regret the mistake.

Chapter five is a lament where one partner is stuck in a relationship with a drunk and resigned to her fate. ‘What I liked best about loving a drunk, was the lonely part of the day’. He responds with the lines ‘Someone like me will find some dignity when my thirst begins to fade’. It’s broken and fragile; it’s a challenge and a gift to be opened and explored for whatever meaning you may find.

Peter Gallway and Annie Gallup have been painting challenging, complex and unique musical vistas for many years now and their song-writing craft just gets better and better as they hone down to the true essence of their creative muse.

They share vocals and instrumentation and are joined by Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Indigo Girls, Elvis Costello), on drums and percussion. This is their sixth release and a clever concept. Perhaps I have missed a key link between the chapters but that doesn’t really matter as each of the five stories stands quite well on its own. 

Bill & Joel Plaskett Solidarity Pheromone

The album is a father and son creation and the eleven tracks chosen make for a powerful collection of both original and traditional songs. Joel Plaskett is a multiple JUNO Award winning songwriter based in Halifax, Canada and he has visited a number of genres, from blues and folk to hard rock, country, and pop across a career that has seen the release of an impressive body of work spanning his varied projects.

This outing reflects the individual journey and personal politics of both Joel and his father Bill; cited as his earliest musical influence. Socially aware songs like We Have Fed You For 1000 Years and Jim Jones, sit alongside protest songs like Blank Cheque and Solidarity.

Songs of hope, The New California, take a place next to No Sight Compares, a celebration of this Universe, and there is a reflective look at the past with On Down The River. All played in an intimate setting on guitars, bouzouki, mandola, bass Wurlitzer and (very occasional) drums. An excellent idea and a fine release.

Lynne Hanson Uneven Ground Song Shop

This is the fifth album from Canadian artist Lynn Hanson who has been recording music since 2006. The 13 tracks on this release include 7 co-writes with Linda McRae Lynn Miles (who produced 2 previous releases), Mark Elliot and MJ Dandeneau.

The remaining 6 songs were written by Lynne herself and there is a nice equilibrium between collaborative and solitary writing that dovetails nicely together across the project.

Carry Me Home starts the record with a serious groove, drum shuffles, bottle neck guitar and some jazzy piano runs. It is a spin on being left behind by a lover and in this case it is a call to the grim reaper to "lay me down, next to my love." Swallow Me Up is similar in theme but speaks of giving up on life when you can find no meaning to the big questions.

Counting Heartbeats and Dead Weight deal with living with disappointment and the hurt of loneliness, frustrated love and the restless yearning for something more. On Swallow Me, Hanson hits a new stride with a nasty groove that has echoes of a Bonnie Raitt work-out; a song of hurt and resignation. Devil Said So follows in a similar vein with a tussle between doing the proper thing and striking out for a wild time. Her word weary view is summed up on Stronger where she muses that "it’s living with the pain that shapes and makes us stronger" – the good guys don’t always win in this reality check.

The studio musicians do justice to these dark songs and play with plenty of understated energy. The tension in the arrangements is held perfectly by the rueful vocal delivery of Hanson in what can only be described as a work of some real highs; even when dealing with so many lows.

Jesse Waldman Mansion Full of Ghosts Self Release

This debut release boasts 16 tracks which is quite a statement in itself. Clocking in at over one hour of listening time, there is a serious amount of music to be digested here. An easy playing style does help and when you couple this with gentle Folk arrangements and a sweet vocal then the time does seem well spent.

The studio musicians are all very accomplished and adopt a ‘less is more’ approach to the music, leaving plenty of space for the songs to breathe. Living in Vancouver, Waldman has based the songs here around an exploration of the city's duality, the backdrop of beauty mirrored against its’ dark underbelly. Lonesome City, Raincity Blues and Another Lost Soul reference one image of the city while the lightness of love songs like Hummingbird, The Rest Of My Days, Ashes and Small Talk hold a guarded optimism.

Hope In Shadows is countered against songs of broken lives such as Lorraine, Other Side Of Town or Hard Livin’; while the excellent Good Company is very strong on advice to another about how to live well. Wild Balloon is a reflection for a lover who has moved on and Keep A Light On In The Dark reminds us to give thanks for the simple pleasures in each day.

Beth Southwell and Megan Alford sing beautifully on various tracks to compliment the melodies and Marc L’Esperance plays an array of instruments, sings and co-produces with impressive style and great perspective. Waldman has a keen eye for arrangements and displays an astute writing talent. A really impressive debut and highly recommended.

Kenny White Long List Of Priors MVP/CRS

The latest collection of original songs from Kenny White really hits the spot here. There is gravitas in these grooves and the effortless melodies and rhythm conjured up by Duke Levine on guitars, Shawn Pelton on drums, and Marty Ballou on bass are subtle and seductive.

As on his past recordings, there is a guest list of real quality with invites to the likes of David Crosby, Peter Wolf, Larry Campbell, Amy Helm, Ada Dyer and Catherine Russell to share the studio magic, alongside his sterling band.  Add horns and a string quartet across seven of the tracks here and the impressive arrangements take off into a place of quiet reflection and easy grooves.

White is a seasoned wordsmith and uses his lyrical gifts to great effect. The beautiful Another Bell Unanswered is a love song to unrequited relationships that just don’t get the timing right. Equally, The Other Shore is a love song to a deceased partner and the pain of separation; ‘soon the car will come and take you; and I will have to let you go’… Heart-breaking and beautifully delivered.

Lights Over Broadway is a slow jazz tribute to the past and the splendour of another era while Charleston brings the atrocity of the 2015 mass-shooting front and centre when an attack happened on one of the United States' oldest black churches, which has long been the site for community organization around civil rights. Ada Dyer duets on vocals and the song is both angry and uplifting with the lines ‘now each and every bullet hole shall be filled with grace and sealed with love’. Amen.

A Road Less Travelled is another look at love and the sadness felt when ‘only one can feel the distance’. Cyberspace tears down our reliance for online communications and vapid opinions based on social fluff and superficiality; "Contagious insanity, as goes the human touch, so goes humanity." Such terrific words and this song is stuffed with wry observation and sage wisdom. Long List Of Priors is a refreshingly original and multi-layered recording. Highly recommended.

Chris Murphy Hard Bargain Teahouse

On his website, Chris Murphy describes himself as a violinist, composer and band leader. In addition, he is an innovator and a music teacher, a revered violinist, mandolinist and guitarist who has released 13 albums of original music in many styles including rock, bluegrass, swing, electronic, classical, blues, Irish and ethnic music.

So, here we have a Live record to add to the already ballooning reputation and why not; when you can play with the dexterity and lyricism that Chris Murphy unleashes here, then it is an obvious step to take. Recorded solo and live in Boise, Idaho in a small theatre, the 10 tracks fly by in a storm of rhythm, aided by his amplified foot stomp and creative violin runs that lift the various tunes into the sweet spot reserved for special nights of live and vibrant music.

There are no real stand-out tunes among the 10 new & original songs unveiled as the entire set stands in testament to the talent of this artist. Atmospheric and exciting, it must have been a joy to be present in the room on what we are told was a rainy night – don’t know if this adds anything but the audience were certainly warmed up and shouting for more by evening’s end.

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