LulaWorld 2012 Launch



Lula Lounge Toronto

[photo: Rebecca Hennessy and Marcus Ali blow up the Lula.]

The buzz was palpable among the loungers outside the Lula Lounge. The media dog and pony had just ended and as that crew scurried off, the slick dudes and the chickas, gays and hipsters were arriving for an evening of getting down to the new world sounds for which the club is famed.
The double bill was a clever study in percussive contrasts between the organic polyrhythmic tunes of Toronto’s Drumhand and the mutant electronic, sample-heavy constructs from Guelph sextet Eccodek.

Openers Drumhand benefit from great visuals. The brass section features six feet several Marcus Ali on sax, flute and assorted wind and tiny, feisty trumpeter Rebecca Hennessy. When the pair gets to wailing side by side, a body can’t help but smile. Stage right was occupied by master percussionist Steve Mancuso and an array of things that shake, rattle, roll and rasp from a fistful of countries, making it look like the house band for National Geographic was setting up. Then there’s Larry Graves’ hand and foot work on the Gome drum, an oddly compelling visual.
Dealing mostly off current album Moving Still, Drumhand unleashed a tight barrage of intricately constructed dialogues between brass and percussion featuring layers of rhythm and galvanizing sax and trumpet riffs.

Max Layton 2 the Max

Max Layton - 2 The Max.JPG

Reviewed by Don Graham

Montreal born singer songwriter Max Layton is carrying on the tradition of troubadour, storyteller and singing poet in fine fashion. His 11 song offering, 2 The Max is a collection of Max Layton originals giving a glimpse into the life and times of a well traveled and experienced man. There are songs of joy, despair, humour and hope.

Listen to the lyrics of Always Been a Loner and you’ll get a brief biography of Max Layton’s life and travels while the poignant Give Me One More Chance is kind of like reading someone’s mail. Max was legally blind for a period of time and when armed with this knowledge while listening to this song, it’s easy to see how he is reaching out and grabbing this second chance he has been given. Reaching out to the max.

The production value achieved by producer David Woodhead is crisp, clean, understated and smooth. The rich tone in Max’s voice sits perfectly on the tracks laid down by Layton, David Woodhead and ‘anything with strings”whiz Bob Cohen on mandocello.

This CD collection is guaranteed to take back to the coffee house feel that bred some of the great folk artists of our time. Give a listen, you’ll be glad you did.

Jesse Winchester + Hugh’s Room = Magical Night of Music & Memories

Jesse Winchester.jpg

Review: Don Graham

Hugh’s Room, packed house, Jesse Winchester, an acoustic guitar and great songs. That’s a combination for an entertaining evening that doesn’t come around often but when it does it’s magical.

I remember seeing JESSE many years ago in a smoky bar in Montreal with a full band and a loud, although appreciative, crowd singing along and clapping in time, sort of!

Hugh’s Room, which has to be THE best listening room in Toronto, great sound and sightlines, was a completely different atmosphere with this performer on stage.  The run of shows was three nights, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. I was fortunate to go the show with my good friend and guitarist Bob Cohen, who toured with Winchester years ago and knows him better than most.  We went on the Sunday thinking it would be less crowded and give us a better opportunity to “spread out” and watch and listen. However Sunday night was also packed, not an empty seat in the house.

Lioness: The Golden Killer


New Romantic

Formed from the late controller.controller’s rhythm section of bassist Ronnie Morris and drummer Jeff Scheven plus vocalist Vanessa Fischer, Lioness debuted with a self-titled Ep, which spawned the hot single "You’re My Heart" and wicked Internet buzz. On it Lioness roared with diversity, range and a promising neoGoth rock sensibility. That was followed by a stream of remixes, which didn’t do much to advance the sound for but did build anticipation for the album.

Four years later, this is it and it’s as if the band’s back from poking about in clubland. Gone are the funkified backlines, hangovers from their CC past, replaced by angular, minimalist instrumentation, as the band embraces fully their spooky Goth side with arrangements like splintered crosses on which to hang Fischer’s vocals.

The album art lays it out hard and heavy, with Fischer doing that Witch Queen thing on the inner sleeve, hands placed on the exposed skulls of two obedient skeletons kneeling beside her. That said, her vocals totally back up the image, both a good and bad thing.

The Golden Killer opens with dirgelike instrumental “ Procession”, which leads not to a place of rest but to the gates of Hades as the fuzzed-out fury of “Toxic Heat” brings Fischer’s voodoo blues vocal into play, setting the tone as firmly in place as a dagger in the heart.

CATL: Soon This Will All Be Gone



Born out of turmoil and pain, T.Dot’s beloved barebones roots stompers have come up with a worthy testament to “keep on keeping on”.  About halfway through the recording of this album, drummer and co-founder Johnny LaRue quit the band. As the driving machine of the trio, LaRue’s was a big hole to fill. So, too soon for judgements on new guy Andrew Moczynskii’s contribution apart from holding steady.

The other two mmbers, co-founder/guitarist Jamie Fleming and organist/vocalist/shaker of percussive stuff Sarah Kirkpatrick, do an excellent job of preserving the Catl dynamic, Kirkpatrick in particular coming more to the vocal fore and doing a turn on the skins for  the rollicking “Gold Tooth Shine”.

In keeping with the Catl aesthetic, most of the album was recorded live off the floor, with more attention paid to layering and general production stuff this time around. Perhaps as a reflection of the circumstances surrounding its recording, this is a darker and less willing to make play nice album than 2010’s With The Lord For Cowards You Will Find No Place.

They’re digging deep into Delta dirt for tales of sinsiter doings and reckless promises in a mix of originals and covers from seminal figures including Robert Johnson and Leadbelly. Delivered with a foot stompin’ glee and with the female presence adding a slippery sexy tension to Catl’s Delta roadhouse vibe, their crazed rip at psychobilly legend Hasil Adkins’ “Get Outta My Car” mirrors the album’s overall take no prisoners ‘tude.

Lenny Stoute

Boxer The Horse: French Residency



Right in step with a whiff of warm weather comes this lively update of shoegazer pop. Not the down tempo drone-y stuff but the edgy, angular spikey pop side of the genre. They’re also young enough to come over like they’re never heard this stuff before and get away with it.

The blessing in that is they feel no pressure to go full bore on each tune, leaving just enough space within each for the sound of a band figuring shit out. So while they get to drop the hammer on "Bridge To The USA", BTH also knows the value of the changeup with such as "Rattle Your Cage".

This is the second album from this PEI quartet and the kids manage the neat trick of keeping the youthful exuberance while shaping a deeper sound. Apart from lead singer Jeremy Gaudet’s penchant for channelling Pavement main man Stephen Malkmus on occasions like "Sentimental Oriental" and "Song For T-Rex", this isn’t really a recycling project. Although it must have been tempting, given axeman Isaac Neily’s dazzling display of tasty riffola and wicked hooks.

Instead, the arrangements indicate a band going after a heavier, though none the less, sunny brand of East Coast pop. Lyrics like: “It’s not impossible to reach nirvana, when you’re sleeping with pirhanas in Brazil.”, from album opener “Community Affair” support the vision nicely.

The band  has described their album of updated jangle rock as “ a fusion of ’80s alternative and ’90s lo-fi groups.”

That works for me. In a real good way.

Lenny Stoute

Floor Stomping Ska, On A Friday Night


Stomp Records 17th Anniversary Show in Toronto April 13th 2012
Concert promoted by Collective Concerts

Review: Ian Robertson
Photos: Michell Foran

As I was walking up to the Opera House, around 10:05 p.m.,  I knew I was unfortunately too late to see the first 2 opening acts Ghetto Blaster (Toronto Punk/Ska) and The Beatdown (Montreal Soul/Ska). I was hoping I wasn't too late to see Big D & The Kids Table. This would be my third time seeing them live so I knew they would be putting on an amazing show as well with the headliners, The Planet Smashers. I was dealing with the tedious task of getting past the door security when I  heard the music beginning to play, which made me anxious to get in and get to see the band.

As soon as I walked in close enough to see the stage, I heard David McWane (lead singer of Big D & The Kids Table) say, "as you may have already guessed, we are Big D & The Kids Table from Boston", then the band went directly into "Myself" (off their second Album Goodluck) which made myself as well as everybody else that loves Big D, excited because most bands (that have made eight albums)  don't usually play their older songs. Dave later explained they were doing their set in chronological order.

A Tribe Called Red



This album, now available as a free download, gets the sound of this gifted trio down just right. While the communal energy of their live gigs cannot be trapped, the recorded format allows for an appreciation of just how diverse a motherlode A Tribe Called Red is mining.

These three Ottawa area First Nations DJs: DJ NDN, DJ Bear Witness and DJ Shug, have been staging their conceptual Electric Pow Wows on a monthly basis for some time. They act as a showcase for Aboriginal DJ talent and what A Tribe Called Red dubs ‘contemporary urban Native culture’.

As laid out on the album, this refers to a sound inclusive of hip hop, Jamaican dance hall, electronica of many hues, new soul and First Nations traditions. That it all hangs together has to do with the drum, the universal sound of heartbeat, as set up in the opener,  "Electric Pow Wow Drum", which opens with the familiar "heartbeat" of the Big Drum.

Big respect to this crew for not just sampling the original music piecemeal. Instead it’s presented as is and it’s up to the technology to make the merge happen.

Which happens more often than and not and which makes this, among many other noteworthy things, one helluva great dance party album.

ZEUS: Busting visions


Arts & Crafts

Ok, so retro-rock’s the current thang, nobody rocks harder than The Sheepdogs or gets down deeper than Alabama Shakes. Still, gotta like what this T.Dot foursome’s doing with their take on it. First off, they have the chops and have been road dogs long enough that the squirrel-ass tightness is a given.

The debut ‘Say Us’ had all that zingy big-hair guitars sound and all the tons ‘o’ drums you could want but it didn’t sound properly gelled. Like it was just a phase they were going through.

With Busting Visions, no question this is where they live, and all the Beatlesque boo birds be darned. Nothing wrong with fooling with the formula if you can come up with such as  “Hello Tender Love” and  “Messenger’s Way”.  So while there’s nothing new here, there’s much that’s strangely familiar and comes wrapped in positive roock’n’roll associations. Even the classic heartbreak rock of  “Let It Go, Don’t Let It Go” ends up hurting so good and everywhere, catchy hooks and sweet pop harmonies are scattered like Easter eggs.

Baseline, Rob Drake, Mike O’Brien, Neil Quinn, and Carlin Nicholson have delivered a solid classic-derived album from a band confident enough in their strengths to sidestep cheap irony and get on with the rock’n’roll.

Lenny Stoute

John K. Samson : Provincial



On which John K. Samson cements his rep as a major narrative songwriter and underlines his importance to The Weakerthans. Not that there’s anything here that’ll startle a Weakerthan's fan but there’s enough so’s you know this is not another Weakerthans workout. Known for being sharply observational without going judgemental, the boy sure can split a hair. Check the way he deals with his love/hate relationship with hometown Winnipeg in "One Great City."

Elsewhere it’s all about the dichotomy of leaving in and leaving out as laid out by a guy with a longstanding rep as a lyrical powerhouse in the indie/folk community.

"Provincial" is Samson at his relatable best on the topics of wanderlust, isolation, spiritual elation and the chance of getting back to where you’ve never been. At one time or another everyone's felt excluded like the teacher in "The Last And", angry like the student in "Master's Thesis" or jammed up like the character in "Heart of The Continent".

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