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.