Thursday, December 29, 2011

Press Play> Vol.16 Stephen Fearing - Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, Singer Songwriter

STEPHEN FEARING is one of North America's most talented singer songwriters as well as a virtuoso guitarist (with comparisons to Bruce Cockburn and Richard Thompson). If you want to read about his guitar playing, have a look at this article in Guitar Player magazine.

He's also an star as a member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (BARK) along with Tom Wilson and Colin Linden. He has also been getting rave reviews for his recent duo project with Irish singer songwriter Andy White. They released their first record together in March of 2011 called Fearing & White.

If that's not enough, he's a heck of a nice guy.

I have been fortunate enough to see Stephen performing in folk clubs, festivals, showcase clubs and big venues for years. I even had the good fortune to book him to play Windsor Folk where I was artistic director in the 90s.

Here's a beautiful version of one of his songs, The Longest Road.

Stephen had a busy 2011 which started with his Fearing & White project and ended with a phenomenal new BARK record Kings and Queens. I am so pleased that he took some time during his well earned Christmas break to tell us about the records that influence his music.

Time for Stephen Fearing to PRESS PLAY>.


Well, apart from a lot of Christmas music... I despise modern crooners (you know who you are) eviscerating the old standards with de-rigeur-saccharine-strings... so my kind of Christmas music involves large choirs singing in massive stone cathedrals across the pond.

However, that is a seasonal aberration, so apart from that, I'm listening to a wide mix of stuff including:
And a healthy, regular dose of The Beatles, The Band and whatever else my computer spits up from the hard-drive... erm nothing too "au courant" I'm afraid and nothing whatsoever featuring young men with whispy beards, falsettos and toy pianos, or women under 30 wearing "Betty Draper" cocktail dresses...


John Martyn - Solid Air 

Willie P. Bennett - Hobo's Taunt 

Roberta Flack - First Take 

Charlie Rich - Behind Closed Doors 

The Band - To Kingdom Come 

The Who - Quadrophenia 

Oliver Nelson - The Blues And The Abstract Truth 

The Beatles - Rubber Soul

I'll stop here but this is just a fragment of a sliver of the records I deeply love.

Stephane Grappelli and the Diz Disley Trio


I've no idea to be honest... between my sister's record collection, my parents' and my step-brother's, there was so much music that was simply "there" already, and I don't know exactly where I started contributing.

It may have been a Stephane Grappelli recording as I went through a big phase of listening to him (with Django and the Hot Club) and my first live concert was seeing him at The Gaeity Theatre in Dublin with The Diz Disley Trio. I was 14?


Hey,That's No Way To Say Goodbye covered by Roberta Flack on First Take... this is an ESSENTIAL album. (Written and originally released by Leonard Cohen on the record The Songs of Leornard Cohen, 1967.)


When I was young living in Ireland during the first flowering of punk rock, we all thought we were cooler-than-thou and country music was something entirely weird, utterly fake and completely irrelevant... somewhere in there I came across Charlie Rich's country-politain masterpiece Behind Closed Doors. At the time it was very, very uncool. So I count it as a guilty pleasure that has become one of my desert island discs. The sound of this record was something I tried to emulate on Yellowjacket.


The Beatles - Love and about a hundred others....


Blackie and the Rodeo Kings - Kings and Queens


I dunno... I tend not to buy stuff that I might end up hating so much later.



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The 2011 Records That Won't Leave

My New Years Resolution is to make sure not to read Best Of 2012 lists in December of 2012. Why? I find them infuriating. Music critics tend to fill them with indie records they receive for free, a lot of them obscure and hard to find. Most of us never got to hear them, thus subtly suggesting that, as critics they are infinitely cooler than you and me.

So much for looking ahead 12 months (let's hope the Mayans are wrong.)

No list from me as 2011 comes to an end, only a look at some records that came out this year that refuse to die. And by that I mean they will not leave my iPod. I have an 8 gig iTouch that I take to work every day. I routinely rotate the music deleting records to make room for new purchases.

There are three records that stubbornly refuse to leave and will remain in high rotation for the foreseeable future.

Ron Sexsmith Long Player, Late Bloomer

Other songwriters love him and after you hear this record, you will too (If you don't already). I don't know what else to tell you about this record other than; when I'm having a bad day I put on the earbuds and push play. My blood pressure drops and a smile comes across my face.

There's a great story behind this record. Sexsmith almost left the music business, but then decided to try one more trip to the studio. The story is told in an excellent documentary film that airs on HBO Canada - Love Shines. This record was up for a Polaris Prize this year. It deserved to win.

Elbow Build a Rocket Boys

Speaking of music prizes, I guess they are good for something. I found out about this great British band when they won this year's Mercury Prize. I clicked on their website, saw the cover of their award winning record and realized I had seen it before but passed by a number of times. The music is gentle pop rock yet it has an edge and compares to Peter Gabriel's more tender creations.

The song that gave this record its title (Lippy Kid) has both musical and lyrical hooks that won't leave you and I mean that in a very good way. Another appeal to me, I guess, is that the lead singer sorta looks like me (not exactly rock star good looks) so I can live vicariously.

Here's a review of the record by the Guardian, and here's an interview with the band at the CBC Radio "Q" website. (Scroll down to look for Elbow but also, check our a lot of good music interviews here.)

Elbow hit it big in Britain in 2008 with their previous record "Seldom Seen Kid" which I plan to hunt down early in 2012.

The Decemberists The King is Dead 

I was introduced to this band at the 2009 Calgary Folk Festival. They were the final act after a long day and followed a blistering show by rap funk band Arrested Development. I figured I'd give The Decemberists ten minutes before dragging my ass home. I ended up staying through their performance.  They played an entire album The Hazards of Love, an epic rock roots opera ala Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick. I have read that a lot of critics didn't like that record but I loved the music, particularly as it was preformed live.

I bought their 2011 record The King is Dead expecting it to be similar. I figured it would take a few listens to appreciate. It was nothing like I expected. Instead, this record is filled with three and four minute county folk/roots-rock songs with sophisticated and literate lyrics befitting their nerd-rock reputation. I love this record and I probably listen to it all the way through at least two or three times a week. Here's a review from Pitchfork.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Love Under the Covers

I love covers.
I do.
I'm a sucker for them. 
I just cracked open the posthumous Amy Winehouse record Lioness: Hidden Treasures. It opens with her cover of "Our Day Will Come" (Originally a hit for Ruby and the Romatics, 1963) and my heart melted.

I also love it when an artist takes a familiar song and twists it and turns it and deconstructs it and reconstructs it into something equal to, or better than,the familiar original. In in some cases, MUCH better. I have a favourite example. Richard Thompsom's cover of a Britney Spears hit.

I also love this interpretation of an Elton John classic Rocket Man. It's from a mediocre collection of EJ covers called Two Rooms from 1991. I'm not even a real Kate Bush fan but the reggae arrangement is kinda cool and at about 3:23 Davy Spillane sneaks in with a rockin' Irish bagpipe solo. Love it.

Robbie Fulks is a country folk/roots performer who stretches the boundaries of his genre of music. He defines the "alt" in alternative country. So it was a real pleasure but not a huge surprise that he decided to put out a record of Michael Jackson covers. I stumbled on the video below of his explanation of why he did it. I've also added a song from his record Happy and the original Jackson Five version Mama's Pearl from 1971.

Those are some examples of covers I like. There are hundreds more. Please tell me about some of your favourite covers -  leave a comment. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Press Play> Vol.15 John Showman - New Country Rehab

Every year at the Calgary Folk Music Festival I encounter at least one performer (or two, or three or a lot more) that I have never heard of that knock me on my ass. 

At the 2011 Fest it was New Country Rehab. It started with the guitar player, Champagne James Robertson. I was attending a side stage featuring guitar players, made up mostly of veteran reggae and African performers. He was the lone young white guy at the end of the stage with a green Tele. I thought two things: "Who the hell is he?" and "They're going to eat him alive." Of course he played up a storm. I checked the program, saw he was with a band called New Country Rehab and decided to run to see his them first chance I got. 

John Showman 
Champagne James was joined by lead singer and fiddler John Showman, drummer Roman Tome and bassist Ben Whitley (son of Ken Whitley). The band tore the house down (in this case - tent) with their folk rock 'n' roll roots music.  

After digging around to find out a bit more about the band, I have learned that the leader, John Showman it truly a master of many musical forms, an award winning fiddler, a studio musician and teacher and the leading force behind a few other bands that have been making great roots music in Canada for years including the Creaking Tree String Quartet, Celtic group Skraeling, and bluegrassers the Foggy Hogtown Boys. I am pleased that John Showman agreed to take a few minutes to PRESS PLAY>.

What have you been listening to lately? What is on your iPod, CD player, turntable these days?

I’ve been driving through rural Saskatchewan for the past week and I have been listening to Mumford and Sons, Bonnie Prince Billie, Wilco, early Velvet Underground, Deep Dark Woods and Bill Monroe. It has been a good mix of music to accompany the somewhat starkly beautiful winter landscapes. 

On the most recent New Country Rehab roadtrip we had the new Radiohead, Timbre Timber, Avett Brothers, Feist and St. Vincent records rocking away along with countless others but those were the highlights. At home I’m strictly spinning vinyl these days, mostly Merle Haggard, Tommy Jarrell and Justin Townes Earle.

What is the record (okay maybe two or three or four or more ) that influenced your music the most?

I think that Jonathan Richman’s first project, The Modern Lovers, might be the single album that I’ve listened to most. His drawling, lazy delivery on vocals that he imbues with incisive emotion really stood out to me.

The lyrics were a compelling blend of somewhat riddling imagery and stream-of-conciousness. He could stay on topic with a song and really burn you with sarcasm one minute while melting your heart with sincerity the next. The music was very much bare-bones garage rock, but the album made me realize how much music can convey with a simple palette.

What was the first record you bought?

ABBA’s Greatest Hits. I was eight. Before that it was mostly classical music that I listened to and ABBA blew my mind. Super Trooper was my favorite track.

What’s your favourite cover tune? (Song and covered by whom?)

Faith No More (from their recording The Real Thing, 1989) singing War Pigs. They stay true to the original but manage to make it their own by playing it with total abandon. Technically, the main difference is in how they shift the tempos between sections of the song. The slow, a capella parts are filled with menace and played much more slowly than the original, and when the guitars come in with the heavy riffs the tempo ratchets up to a tight, head-banging, grunge-filled roar. Mike Patton just kills the song on vocals. (Original by Black Sabbath, Paranoid, 1970) 

What is the record that you count as a guilty pleasure?

Queens Of The Stone Age Era Vulgaris. I guess I like Big Muff guitar sound. My gal does not like that stuff much, so it stays in the car.

Currently, what’s your favourite record to listen to on the road?

I don’t have one – I listen to new stuff constantly. At home, though, it has been Mama Tried by Merle Haggard. It just helps keep things real with my wife and baby and it’s a great vibe with which to fill a little house. (Originally from the Soundtrack of Killers Three, 1968)

Which of your records where you appear as a musician - solo or in a band - is/are your favourite(s)?

New Country Rehab’s album. I’m proud of the material and the performance and the way it came together. We recorded the whole thing in three days and the vibe was great throughout.

Chris Stringer, the engineer, was really good at helping us prioritize what we needed from the album sonically and we didn’t waste any time at al, yet the process never felt rushed.

The New Country Rehab website is here 
Their record label Dollartone Records is here
New Country Rehab on Facebook is here 
Follow New Country Rehab on Twitter @newcountryrehab
Follow John Showman on Twitter @johnshowman
Follow Dollartone Records on Twitter @dollartone 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Have Seen The Future

On Wednesdays I take my 10-year-old daughter to piano lessons. I drop her off and take the half hour to visit a guitar shop down the street - Guitarworks in Calgary. It’s a local chain. They carry a nice selection of the main brands of acoustic and electric guitars: Gibson, Fender, Martin, Larivee, Godin etc. I paid a visit there this week to ogle all the new pre-Christmas stock they're getting - gorgeous guitars that I can't afford.

I wander through the shop and drool over the eye-candy.

I didn’t stay too long because I had been meaning to check out the new Future Shop on Macleod Trail. They built a new big one very close to one they tore down some time ago. For you non-Canadians who don’t know the Future Shop, it’s very similar to the Best Buy chain of big box electronics store. It used to be a Canadian privately-owned-and-operated company but, oddly enough it was bought by the U.S. parent company that owns Best Buy. There are Best Buys and Futures Shops across Canada. Even though they are part of the same parent, they are run independently (at least last time I checked).

Like I said, this Future Shop was big new and shiny and opened not more than six months ago.

My first stop was the CD aisle to see if they had new releases and my jaw dropped.

I know these big box stores have radically reduced their CD selections but I was still shocked at what I found. The shelves were barely covered and what they had seemed random and disorganized. There was very little selection.
Frankly it didn't look like a newly stocked store, more like a closing-out sale that had been picked over. The DVD/Blue-ray selection was somewhat better and of course the video game section was overflowing.

I walked over to the new release CD selection and among their meagre selection they did have the new Feist CD. I instinctively grabbed it and then I thought: “Wait a minute. Why am I buying this? Should I reward this company for this slap in the face to music lovers?”

Then I recalled the first time I walked into a big box electronics store and remembered the HUGE selection of music. They not only carried a fairly full catalogue of rock and pop music, they even had a quite acceptable selection of jazz, blues, classical and even a decent amount of folk and world music, all at pretty good prices. But, over time what happened to the book biz happened to the music biz. First Big Box stores, then downloading forced the local music stores to close. 

Now, finally, big boxes have turned their backs on hardcore music fans. And I put the Feist CD back on the shelf.

(And yeah I know, downloading is making the CD obsolete but, as I have mentioned on my blog before, there are still music heads like me who download music who ALSO still buy lots of CDs and vinyl. We are being ignored.)

Here’s where this story takes and even uglier turn.

There’s a musical instrument section in this new Future Shop; it’s a very big section of the store. When they first opened, these big box electronic stores carried one or two no name brand guitars and amps, a token amount. That has changed quite a bit. There is now a large selection of mostly mid to low range guitars mostly of the off-shore no-name variety plus Gibson and Fender's budget brands - Squier and Epiphone - amps, keyboards and accessories. They also do have a smattering of higher end Fenders and Gibsons. In the case of this particular Future Shop, they are hanging high on a display organized so a salesperson has to climb a mile-high ladder to bring it down for you to plug and pluck.

Why is this ugly?

A friend of mine who owns a guitar store told me that most local music stores make more money off of the cheaper guitar-and-amp packages that sell for about $200 - $300. The higher volume of sales of the cheap stuff keeps them in business to they can sell high-end instruments and accessories. He also develops a relationship with families who return to upgrade the kids' instruments when they become budding Claptons and Hendrixs. (The other money-maker for his store is the music studio.)

Future Shop doesn’t run a music studio but they are obviously digging into the entry level instrument market; so if you have a favourite music store in your community, you better give them your business, because the big box stores are gunning for them too.

The sad fact in all of this is that these big box stores keep preying on niche markets until they choke out the competition and then they abandon those customers when the niche become less profitable.

I still maintain that there are a number of music fans – maybe older ones like me – who would still buy CDs at places like Future Shop if they had a better selection. We would buy other things too like oh, I don’t know, computers, big screen TVs?

But between the death of their music selection and the cynical jump into the guitar biz, I think last Wednesday was my final sojourn into a Future Shop. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Press Play> Vol.14 The Coppertone - Amanda Zelina

There’s plenty about Amanda Zelina that belies her age. Most striking is the 25-year-old’s stirring, smoky voice with an aura of experience far beyond her years. Couple that with her ability to pen soulful blues-laden songs and you've got a performer with the output of an established artist and the vigor of a young upstart.

The King City, ON native is now known as The Coppertone. She has been a musician for half of her life, though it wasn’t until 18 that she picked up an acoustic guitar and started to discover her true musical voice.

Since adopting her moniker only two years ago, Zelina has paired ambition with a love of a musical style of yore to find a sound of her own.

Beginning her career with a singer/songwriter-style album comprising what she calls “very safe stuff,” Zelina soon found herself in a music school south of the border; however, the experience left her discouraged.

One particularly miserable day during that daunting period was interrupted by John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom – a great song, but to Zelina, also an epiphany. 

“You know when your hair suddenly rises like there’s a ghost in the room? That’s what I felt; it just seemed that all my questions were answered. Music just started flowing out of me and I threw myself into it.”  
excerpt from the bio on her FB fan page.

Hymns for the Hollow -- EP by The Coppertone

I haven't met Amanda or even seen her in concert but I love her two records I downloaded from

I found out about her music from a Twitter friend @myleatherjacket. He books acts for one of Calgary's best live music venues The Palimino. He tweeted me that I would like her and he was right.

I watched her video, downloaded her records and then found her on Twitter @TheCoppertone. You should follow her.

One of Amanda's friends, another extremely hip and cool person on Twitter, @Sugarwilla, is a big fan, and taunted me mercilessly because she was going to see her Calgary gig, and I alas, could not.

After hearing her music I just knew her musical influences would be terrific. Amanda/The Coppertone proved me right when she took some time to PRESS PLAY>

What are you listening to RIGHT NOW? (What's on your turntable, CD player iPod these days?)

The Mighty Imperials featuring Joseph Henry: Thunder Chicken.

What is the record (okay maybe two or three or four or more) that influenced your music the most?

That's hard to narrow down.

First off I have to say anything by John Lee Hooker. I can't pinpoint the first record of his I heard but he changed my life. I continue to learn so much from him musically.

Second, Junior Kimbrough... again, anything by him. His drone and pulse shaped how I play. I don't use a pic, I studied delta players when I started teaching myself guitar and to this day owe a lot to them.

Third, The White Stripes... When I first heard De Stigl it opened my heart. Jack's no-holds barred attack with the guitar kills me. His take on the blues is so precious.

Fourth, The Black Keys Rubber Factory. That album was something I stumbled apon years ago when I was living in Los Angeles. It did something similar to me as De Stijl, it was contemporary blues that didn't suck. Dan's voice is ridiculous, his guitar work is unparalleled... Pat's drumming is spot on and has so much soul.

And to top this all off  I'm going to add a fifth, sixth and maybe seventh in here. Ray Charles, Etta James, Al Green... Those voices in particular molded the way I sing. Their phrasing and guttural honesty in the delivery hit me to the core. I grew up around a lot of Motown, soul and blues. Their voices moved me. I would sit for hours mimicking them, turning the records over and putting the needle down to the same one verse until I nailed it. I did the same with guitar. I became obsessed and spent all my time ( I grew up in the country on a dirt road with not much else to do around me) trying to pick out what I was hearing.

What was the first record you bought?

The Fugees - The Score

What’s your favourite cover tune? (Song and covered by whom?)

Jolene  Dolly Parton covered by the White Stripes

What is the record that you count as a guilty pleasure?

Robyn - BodyTalk - It's so good. I am currently obsessed with it. It's every girl's emotionally selfish breakup album.

Currently, what’s your favourite record to listen to on the road?

The Stooges Fun House. I think I played that record on repeat the whole tour.

Which of your records - where you appear as a musician - is your favourite?

My favourite was Hidden Dreams. It was a whirlwind of magic in the studio. It was the last project I got to work on with my best friend and producer Dan Achen before he passed away shortly after. There was a vibe, an urgency, an understanding. A lot of geeking out on vintage gear and tone and tape machines and room sounds. I will never ever forget those sessions.

What’s the record you bought that you wish you didn’t?

John Legend. Can't remember what it was called. (record is called Get Lifted) I loved that song Ordinary People. Aside from that, I kicked myself for buying it.

@TheCoppertone on Twitter

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Press Play> Vol. 13 Mae Moore - singer-songwriter

Mae Moore's soulfully blends folk, jazz, and rock in her songs that reflect her artist’s eye. Her songs are landscapes of the human heart; her paintings are landscapes that reflect the beauty of her west coast Canadian home. Have a look. 

Mae has been songwriting for over thirty-five years and her creations have been heard in major movie soundtracks, hit television shows, on radio and on  music television. Mae Moore has two Juno nominations, two SOCAN awards and has had many chart successes.

She has forged a career sharing the stage with such folk/rock luminaries as  Richard ThompsonSarah McLachlan, John Hiatt, , and more. 

She got  her start in the smoky folk clubs and coffeehouses of southern Ontario and later moved on to the thriving indie club scene of Vancouver.

Her first big break as a songwriter was when she co-penned the song Heaven In Your Eyes, the 1985 hit for Loverboy from the Top Gun soundtrack. Her songwriting skills lead to a record deal and her debut recording, 1990’s Oceanview Motel.

Her subsequent recordings such as 1992’s Bohemia (an international hit) and 1995’s Dragonfly established her as a respected artist on radio in the US and Canada. Since then Mae has returned to a more stripped down acoustic sound and tours folk clubs and coffee houses across North America. She also performs and records with her guitarist husband Lester Quitzau who is recognized as one of Canada's premier blues roots musicians. I asked her if she'd pass along the eight PRESS PLAY> questions to Lester. Her answer was, "He'd say Jeff Beck, Jeff Beck and Jeff Beck."

After years of listening to her music and seeing her videos, I finally got a chance to see her perform at the first concert of the season at the Nickelodeon Music Club in my hometown of Calgary. ((Shameless plug -- The 2011-2012 season is great. Visit the homepage or follow @nickmusicclub to find out more. )) 

Mae is a lovely person, writes and sings wonderful songs and I was tickled when she agreed to  PRESS PLAY>.

What are you listening to RIGHT NOW? (as in ... currently)

Early solo Stephen Stills, my dog panting and the whales going by.

What is the record (okay maybe two or three or four ) that influenced your music the most?

Jackson Browne - Late For The Sky - for his masterful songwriting.

David Crosby If I Could Only Remember My Name  for his use of alternate tunings.

Luke Gibson - Another Perfect Day - really aligned with my vibe at the time it came out.

What was the first record you bought?

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Green River with my Toronto Star paper route money.

What’s your favourite cover tune? (Song and covered by whom?)

Bridge Over Troubled Water covered by Aretha Franklin

What is the record that you count as a guilty pleasure?

Anything by Steely Dan...except I don't feel guilty.

Currently, what’s your favourite record to listen to on the road?

Beyond The Missouri Sky (short stories by) Charlie HadenPat Metheny

Which of your records is/are your favourite(s)?

It's a toss up between It's a Funny World and Folklore

What’s the record you bought that you wish you didn't? 

Joni Mitchell's - Dog Eat Dog

Find Mae Moore's Website here 

Follow her on Twitter @moremaemoore 

Send her an email

You can book her for a concert here

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Press Play> Vol. 12 Kenna Burima - Woodpigeon, Calgary Folk Festival

Kenna Burima is a member of Calgary’s Woodpigeon (see info and video below), Beaver Squadron (the new project brought to you by the members of now defunct Brenda Vaqueros) and is the driving force behind Calgary's doo wop group The Pigeonettes and the Five Step Program. She is also working on a solo album.

Kenna is more than a musician. She's also a broadcaster and podcaster. You can hear her on University of Calgary radio station CJSW 90.9 on The Morning After and on Calgary Folk Music Festival podcasts.

Kenna has a day job with the Calgary Folk Music Festival, specifically working with Festival Hall Programming and Outreach. In fact Kenna, along with many others including Kerry Clarke, Les Siemieniuk, Johanna Schwarts and a cast of thousands, is responsible for arranging the amazing musicians who appear at the festival every year. Take my advice, if you don't know the Calgary Folk Fest, go to the website and click here to see who has played the fest in the past then bike, drive or fly to Calgary next summer to visit Prince's Island for the best fest experience you will ever have.

Here's a bit about Kenna's band excerpted from their website.

Woodpigeon Makes Otherworldy Almost Orchestral Pop by Mary Christa O’Keefe

Woodpigeon is more than just the most beautiful word in the English language, although that’s precisely why it was chosen by songwriter Mark Hamilton as the moniker for his pretty-pretty-pop project. Encompassing a kind of ersatz collective orchestra, dispersed across a couple continents, rising and falling in number with the demands of song-life and real life, they rock out on harpsichords and wrench tears out of guitars before playing them damp. Bells, whistles, hand-claps – all the aural tchotchkes are enlisted to serve the song, wherever they can brighten a melody or a mournful line

Knowing Kenna and her varied and wonderful taste in music, I am so pleased she agreed to PRESS PLAY> and provided me with some musical insight by listing some of her favourite records, ones that influence her life and her music.

What are you listening to RIGHT NOW?

The Breakmen. Shawna Cooper, an independent manager and agent we worked with at the Calgary Folk Music Festival this past year has added a list of bands to her roster and I’m taking a listen. I’m a big fan of fiddle player John Showman, so anything he does is cool by me.

What is the record (okay maybe 2 or 3 or 4 ) that influenced your music the most?

Glenn Gould’s The Goldberg Variations

There is no other like Glenn Gould. To me his Goldberg Variations represent what classical music can do (mean something), what it can mean to people (perfection and beauty can exist) and how a classical musician can interpret a work from the canon in such a way to make it completely their own. The subjugation of the artist to composer is diminished.

Miles Davis Kind of Blue

One word “mood”. Is there any other album that creates and keeps a mood as perfectly? The answer is fuck no.

Amy Winehouse Back to Black

Pain, agony, rapture. The is a soul album for the 21st century.

Otis Redding The Dock of the Bay

Otis is my main man. No one does it better. Maybe Lou Rawls. But to me, the way Otis can communicate in a turn of phrase, in a change in tone, makes him the master.

What was the first record you bought?

Ugh. Cassette of New Kids on the Block Step By Step

What’s your favourite cover tune? (Song and covered by whom?) 

Mark Ronson featuring Tiggers doing Brittney SpearsToxic. It’s fucking amazing.

What is the record that you count as a guilty pleasure?

Appetite for Destruction by Guns ‘n’ Roses. But I don’t feel guilty about it. I strongly believe there is nothing you should feel guilty about when it comes to music. Feeling guilt would insinuate that you shouldn’t love what naturally moves you.

Currently, what’s your favourite record to listen to on the road?

James Blake's self titled album. It’s beautiful.

Which of your solo/band's records is/are your favourite(s)?

Woodpigeon  Treasury Library of Canada  and The Brenda Vaqueros (self titled.)

What’s the record you bought that you wish you didn't?

Chuck Wagon Band Old Time Hymns Vol. 1. Old white people singing about god. What the fuck was I THINKING?

Follow Kenna Burima on Twitter @KennaBurima 
Follow her band Woodpigeon @woodpigeontweet
Calgary Folk Music Festival @calgaryfolkfest
CJSW U of C Radio 90.9 FM @CJSW

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Shock the Monkey

This week I bought a CD copy of a classic record, Security by Peter Gabriel. It cost 10 bucks, cheap at twice the price. I plugged it into the CD player in the van and punched the track button until it stopped at track 6 – Shock the Monkey. It’s the song that sparked my appreciation for Gabriel.

An interesting thing happened. 

As soon as the song kicked in, the video started playing in my head. It occurred to me, I will never hear that song without the images that go with it. 

Of course that doesn’t happen with songs that predate the days of rock videos. When I hear Beatles songs or Stones, they recall past events, people, places and things. For example I remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard (I can’t get no) Satisfaction. In the car with my cousin David driving and hearing him tap along to the rhythm with his ring on the steering wheel. He was a drummer in a rock band in Calgary in the 60s. He’s in PR in Toronto these days and his son is this jazz drummer guy.

But I digress.

Listening to Shock the Monkey and having one of the best videos ever playing in my head at the time got me thinking how technology helps define how we experience music.  In the days of the famous classical composers, their music was heard in the royal court and in the public concert halls. Of course their printed music lives on but no one alive today has ever heard Beethoven or Mozart perform their own music, and no one ever will.

We have cylinders and vinyl to hear old scratchy performance. We even have computer software to “clean them up” although, as the experts will tell you, you can never truly restore sound to its original form, only approximate it. Of course we also have early film and video performances of many artists dating back to the early part of the 20th Century, but not much before that.

In the early days of video, some traditionalists suggested it spoiled songs for the audience because it replaced the personal image of the music with a contrived one. While that’s true, I don’t fully agree. One only has to look at the video for Gabriel’s song, in fact many of his songs, to see that, when it’s done well, video advances the art. (Yes I know, a lot of cliché-filled videos suck. So do many songs.)  

It’s interesting to see how more and different technologies are changing the way we consume music: iTunes, Youtube, HD flat-screen TVs; and even more interesting to think about how future technology will define my 10 year-old daughter’s musical experiences.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Press Play> Vol.11 Tom Wilson - Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, Lee Harvey Osmond

If Tom Wilson isn't the "King of Hamilton Ontario," he most certainly is the King of Rock n Roll in Canada's Steeletown.

He keeps forming bands and releasing solo records that are among my favourites. Tom was the leader of the much-loved Junkhouse in the 90s.

He then helped form an incredible musical collaboration that was originally supposed to be a one-off project to honour the great, now late, Willie P. Bennett,  Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (BARK) with Stephen Fearing and Colin Linden.

(Willie P. was one of Canada's best singer songwriters, a legend in folk circles and he was very much alive when the first record came out.)

Tom also released solo albums in 2001 and 2006, and a 2005 collaboration with Bob Lanois, The Shack Recordings.

He fronts another band with one of the coolest names ever Lee Harvey Osmond and indeed the band is as cool as its name. There's one LHO record out and I'm sure we'll hear more.

Tom's latest record is with his BARK buddies and the trio has attracted the most amazing collection of female country and jazz singers you'll ever hear, in a series of "duets" with the  group. You can read more about Kings and Queens on my blog here.

Tom is also an incredible visual artist. He is sitting in front of one of his creations in the photo above. He is also responsible for the artwork on many of his and his bands' records.

I sent Tom an email some time ago and asked him to PRESS PLAY> . After a busy summer touring with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings he took some time to drop me a line to tell us about some of the records that influence his music.


Charlie Parker.. Any of those old records I can get my hands on..
Upstairs in my room in good old 12 inch needle scratchin' darkness..


Bob Dylan - Desire
Muddy Waters - Folk Singer
Willie P. Bennett - Hobo's Taunt

Willy P Bennett - Lace And Pretty Flowers


Paul Revere and the Raiders - Kicks


Solitary Man - Johnny Cash from American Recordings III also the Chris Isaak version (Original by Neil Diamond)

It's not a cover but I have to tell you a favourite of mine is Del Shannon's Runaway. It'll get you laid in a convent. 


If I Can't Have You - Yvonne Elliman  ( I don't own a white suit but if I did .......) I just love this fuckin' song so much..


Roberta Flack- First TakeStephen Fearing introduced my to it driving home after a Blackie and the Rodeo Kings show in NYC last summer.


Lee Harvey Osmond - A Quiet Evil
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings - Kings and Queens


I lost my mind in a Zellers department store on Mohawk Road in Hamilton ON and bought a Scottish bagpipe album that had an AM radio hit of Amazing Grace on it. Possibly the worst three dollars I ever spent in my life. I also have French and Native blood in my veins so when I hear bagpipes I naturally want to come out shootin'...

Follow Tom and his bands on Twitter @leeharveyosmond @therodeokings

You'll find Lee Harvey Osmond on Facebook here and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings here.