Album Reviews

Shawna Caspi Releases 4th Studio Album Forest Fire

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Toronto-based singer-songwriter Shawna Caspi released her fourth studio album Forest Fire on September 1st, 2017. Engineered and produced by Don Kerr (Rheostatics, Bahamas, Ron Sexsmith), the album is complete with Shawna’s remarkable lyrical fingerpicking guitar style, elegant arrangements and powerful messaging in which Shawna strives to be unafraid, to embolden quieted voices and to tell the truth above all else.

Forest Fire is a collection of songs about burning things down and building them up again, drawing listeners into the depths of haunting, atmospheric tracks, then lifting them out with airy, bluegrass instrumentation and hopeful narratives for brighter days. It’s dark granite stone with a shot of glimmering quartz through the middle. When the words get heavy, they are held up to the light of love, grace, and gratitude. The album features a compelling mix of instrumentalists including Rosalyn Dennett (fiddle, background vocals), Don Kerr (drums, background vocals, cello), Dave Matheson (piano, organ), Joel Schwartz (electric guitar, baritone guitar, rhythm acoustic guitar, mandolin, resonator, tenor banjo), Ben Whiteley (double bass) and Alyssa Wright (cello).

Prophets of Rage Debut Video for Radical Eyes

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada
Photo Credit Travis Shinn

As millions across the nation gathered recently in their respective states and towns to watch the Great American Eclipse, Prophets Of Rage: Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, Chuck D, B-Real and DJ Lord, have now debuted the music video to their song, Radical Eyes. The fiery anthem is featured on their forthcoming self-titled LP, set for release September 15th, 2017.

Says Tom Morello, “On the heels of this historic solar event let's all aim to eclipse racism.”

Burning with a razor sharp message and a deep, unrelenting groove, Radical Eyes is the third track to be unveiled from the band’s new album, following the previously released, Unfuck The World, and Living on the 110.

“The Western world has created biased structures and stereotypes,” explains Chuck D of the song. “Opposing viewpoints and movements are seen as radical rather than diversity. ‘Radical Eyes’ is the lens everything is viewed through, any life movement in opposition is considered radicalized.”

At its core, Prophets Of Rage functions not only on a love of music, but a deep belief in its power as a tool, and a weapon. Woven into the band’s DNA are influences as varied as The Clash, KRS-One, and Johnny Cash, as well as the undeniable ideals and aesthetics of its predecessors: Public Enemy’s frenzied, racing textures, Rage’s jaw-melting riffs, Cypress Hill’s manically playful party energy.

www.prophetsofrage.com

David Rawlings: Poor David’s Almanack

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Submitted by Iain Patience

David Rawlings is quite the guy these days. A still youthful picker with an extraordinary command of the roots and traditional end of US country music, often now called Americana, Rawlings has been plying his trade for many years, always earning praise, accolades and generating interest in both the genre and his own, personal take on it all. Surprisingly, perhaps, he also remains firmly footed and rooted in a bubble of modesty and humility that, frankly, is a rare thing in modern-day Music City, Nashville, where he is based.

With a new album, ‘Poor David’s Almanack’, a genuine solo effort, due to drop in a few weeks time, he is relaxed, confident and satisfied with the result of his own writing and recording that features his long-time music partner Gillian Welch and is produced and released on their joint-enterprise label, Acony Records.

Jerry Douglas: What If

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Anyone who might just have wondered what might have been if US Dobro and Weissenborn slide-guitar wizard Jerry Douglas had chosen another musical path, might just be in for a genuine surprise with his latest release, ‘What If’ on Rounder Records next month.  What If, indeed.

Generally, and perhaps a tad unfairly, regarded as a bluegrass picker, Douglas is a guy who has been a pro musician for over forty years and used to joke that just being out on the road, working, trying to feed his family, cost him a thousand bucks a day in missed session work in Music City, Nashville. Nowadays, with control over both his life and his music, he chooses when to tour and when and with whom to work. For around twenty years, he has been an integral part of Alison Krauss and Union Station, where his sparkling virtuosity has played a huge part in the band’s continued success and distinctive, award-winning sound.

With the new release on the horizon, Douglas took some time out to explain and expand on where he feels he is right now: ‘Forever, really, I’ve been writing and arranging music, always with places where horn sections should go,’ he says. ‘Instead of Sam Bush or Stuart Duncan, I’ve imagined and heard and wrote for horns. This time round, I found myself surrounded by great horn players and so decided it was time.’

Ali Handal Is Fearless With New Album That’s What She Said

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

If you like Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, and Kasey Musgraves, you will love Ali Handal.

Her sass and up-front attitude is refreshing, insightful and beautiful. Her guitar prowess is playful and technically flawless.

The phrase That’s What She Said, has been used in our culture for a while but not really put into a musical connotation like this. Ali takes her natural ability to converse and connect while being poetic and authentic.

Songs cover the gamut of love, life, cats and surviving cancer… with a sly-grin on her face, she makes the listener fidget in their seat. She plays off her guitar licks; her rhythms are like a pair of black boots with spurs. While cancer isn’t a laughable situation to be in, sometimes laughter is the best medicine.

Moved early on by wise and resilient women, singer/songwriter Ali Handal wore out Carole King’s Tapestry album. As a cat-obsessed six-year-old (some things never change), Ali honored her initial musical heroine by naming her very first kitten “Carole.” Over the years, the sweet melodies and lyrics penned by musical sages King, Dylan, Lennon, and McCartney captivated her. She had an epiphany when, as a teenager, she heard Led Zeppelin for the first time. Completely mesmerized by Jimmy Page’s seductive guitar riffs, Ali quit her piano lessons to pick up the guitar.

White Hot Guilt Drop New Single ‘Little Things’

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Submitted To Cashbox Canada

White Hot Guilt release a brand new - Electric Circus inspired - video for their single Little Things. "Electric Circus was always a program close to my heart," shares Josh Warburton (July Talk & one-half of the duo). "I actually appeared on a Halloween episode in the late 90s, and the fact that it was originally recorded during the afternoon allowed it to be this magic pot of gold that any Queen West pedestrian could stumble upon. To create a retrospective parody featuring a White Hot Guilt tune only felt natural.” Indie 88 premiered the video on the July 21st album release day. The self-titled album is available now via TDM Inc, distributed by Fontana North at fontananorth.lnk.to/WhiteHotGuiltEP. All proceeds from sales will be donated to 'SKETCH' - a Toronto-based community-arts-development initiative that creates equitable opportunities for young people homeless and on the margins from across Canada to experience the transformative power of the arts.

The new EP showcases a sort of future retrospect in dance music. Indie meets electro. Now meets then. Perhaps Warburton’s smooth falsetto channels the Bee Gees. The percussive organics alongside analog synths might make one think of LCD Soundsystem, while the horn sections hearken to something more like Stevie Wonder.

Adam Gregory Returns With New Single “Dirt Road Therapy”

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

After a brief hiatus, Country music legend Adam Gregory is back, and the award-winning singer is bringing a fresh new single with him available now on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play.

“Dirt Road Therapy” is the first of many upcoming singles to be released, which, along with several performances including the Big Valley Jamboree in Alberta on August 6th, lead up to the launch of Gregory’s latest album due to come out early 2018.

The song talks about how a good, long drive never fails to do wonders for the soul. Putting your troubles behind you, seeing the expanse of the open road, and feeling the wind go through your hair almost magically seems to clear the head and put troubling things in perspective. While there are numerous methods to shake off the blues, as the song goes, “sometimes all we need is dirt road therapy”!

Jim Roberts and the Resonants: Beneath The Blood Moon

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Submitted by Iain Patience

This initially seems to be a new independent release from a new US band. But a few years ago the Jack Roberts Harvey Band punched out an excellent, pulsing blues album called ‘Devil On A dirt Road,’ an album that was easily one of the best independent releases of the year. Jim Roberts and the Resonants is none other than the same basic outfit with a new, reinvented name and, yet again, another top-dollar, blues release that could once more prove to be one of the finest indie offerings of the year.

All tracks come from band-members and are powerful, lyrically strong and feature musicianship that genuinely engages with a clear sense of purpose and colour. Roberts himself is an evident slide guitar wizard who switches effortlessly between resonator, electric and cigar-box guitars with ease and ability. The remaining core band members also rock along with a determined drive that pushes through with each successive track. ‘Beneath The Blood Moon’ is a ten-track album that highlights this US West Coast blues band’s skills, confidence and sheer talent to full effect.  At times, straight-on blues, there are flashes of swampy Louisiana sounds in the mix together with Delta-inspired hooks and pounding hints of the Deep South.

An excellent album full of top-dollar playing, writing and delivery. One to grab when you can.

Ann Vriend (AV) Releases New Video Get Back to Me

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Award-winning artist Ann Vriend (AV) releases new video for the single "Get Back To Me," included in AV's new EP Anybody's Different, (Aporia Records) which has already received significant media attention. In addition to the Maple Blues Awards Cobalt Prize win for "All that I Can," the Australian EP release reached #2 on theirSoundslike Café national playlist, and "Will You Be There" has been added in high rotation at Quesada and z-teca burrito restaurants across Canada. The EP has been charting on national campus radio, reaching #1 on theCJSR Edmonton Top 30 and continuous charting on CKUA's Top 30 from April to July hitting #12. Ann was also nominated for Female Artist of the Year for the 2017 Edmonton Music Awards.

AV can take you by surprise. At every show, people say, "I didn't expect such a big voice to come out of such a tiny frame!" Her ballads bring people to tears, but then she cracks a witty, self-effacing joke and takes off her shiny second-hand high heels to play the piano. AV sings her heart out about her views of the world; her matter-of-fact, non-sugar-coated observations from her inner city neighborhood; her hard life lessons -- and yet there is a soulful, hopeful persistence for herself and the world to be better.

Lowest of the Low Release New Single Powerlines

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

One of Canada's most lauded independent bands, Lowest of the Low, announced earlier this year a string of live dates this summer including an appearance at Hillside Festival this Friday and a headlining show at The Danforth Music Hall on September 9th. Now the band are excited to announce that their fourth studio album Do The Right Now is set for release on September 8th via Pheromone Recordings.

On the single, front man Ron Hawkins reflects, "Powerlines is a song about my experiences writing the first Low album, Shakespeare My Butt. I had recently broken up with a long time partner and moved into a punk rock squat with some crazy characters I called friends. Every day I walked through the city with a notebook and drank in bars and went to galleries and shows and hung out in my little bohemian circle of anarchists, punks and poets. I became the protagonist in the movie of my life and the city was a cinematic sidekick and factored into the lyrics like a companion."

The visually stunning lyric video was made in collaboration with photographer, Tom Ryaboi, a pioneer of the art of roof topping. The video reflects Ron's relationship with his hometown of Toronto and his changing perspective of it over the years. The video is a natural fit to depict a very modern version of Toronto from perspectives not often seen.

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