Music

[Book] Far and Wide: Bring That Horizon to Me! / Neil Peart


Having experienced another personal loss over Christmas 2018, the return back from our terrible holidays saw me steer the car into my local library to browse the stacks in search of something to fill my gutted soul. Whenever I go through a period of sadness, I find myself gravitating toward tales of travel. It’s something about the author’s process of going through a difficult period far from home that somehow helps me deal with my own lot, I suppose.

It is whilst browsing that I found the perfect grieving companion in the prose of Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for RUSH who is one heck of a travel writer. I have been reading Peart’s books for years, starting with his cyclist journeys through Africa in the Masked Rider (a personal favourite). The book of choice this month, Far and Wide: Bring That Horizon to Me! is the third in a triptych of Far and — tomes, that has Neil recount his experiences of traveling between shows on his BMW during RUSH’s R40 tour.

Other aspects of Neil’s life during this period also make their way in Far and Wide, sharing very personal pieces from past and present – his interactions with his new young family, the pain and loss of losing his wife and daughter 20 years ago, the physical endurance of drumming, memories of recording certain albums, and his thoughts on retirement…Some of this subject matter has been covered in his previous books, but here he shows evolvement and growth. He also infuses the writing with his own brand of humour. Interesting pics of his journeys round out a very interesting scrapbook of his life at the time.

Neil Peart is forever a private person, but an interesting one; perhaps that’s what attracts me to his easy prose. Far and Wide was the kind of book I really needed to read this past month. I highly recommend it!

5/5

Far and wide: bring that horizon to me! / Neil Peart
2016

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[Live Music] The Watchmen – Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, ON, 12/14/18

Some people will always be in your life, and no matter how long you have been apart, when you get together it’s like not a day has gone by. That is my friendship with Jenn, a special person in my life I met when we went to Western together a long time ago. Our friendship has always been effortless. It helps to have similar interests, as well as an ability to find twisted humour in practically everything; Jenn is a kindred spirit in that regard. We have always shared a love for the trifecta of Canadian 90s bands: the Watchmen, the Odds and the Headstones. These are three bands we would go to see very frequently during our uni days. We’d scrape together the scratch to buy tix at the downtown London, ON watering hole, Call the Office and be right there fighting the mosh pits to witness greatness in the front row.

The Watchmen was the one band we went to see the most frequently; at least four times in four years. It wasn’t until October 2008 when Jenn and I reunited to see the Watchmen perform at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Then, we hadn’t attended a Watchmen concert together until January 2016 when they performed at the Danforth Music Hall (which I wrote about here). And so it goes, life has been extremely busy for both of us…we hadn’t really talked again until this past September when Jenn contacted me on Facebook Messenger that the Watchmen were returning to the DMH in December…did I want to go? Umm…YES!!

The week leading up to the event, I was planning my route and making some decisions. Jenn had moved since our last concert, and there was no driveway parking like I had last time…She still lives in East York,  but just south of the Danforth where there is half street parking and half “Green P” public parking. Both can be dicy and writhe with an errant parking ticket if you aren’t careful. Yeah, driving and parking in Toronto is not fun. I can manage riding the subway, but I’d have a long ride back to my car late after the event. I decided to chance it and weather the Friday night traffic to her place and park on the street, so I could simply take off home after the show. This ended up being the best decision, and really wasn’t that bad after all.

Just some of the interesting things found at Jenn’s

I arrived at Jenn’s place to be greeted by her bright and talkative 5-year-old daughter, who is the cutest. A  hug and a homemade cosmopolitan welcomed me into Jenn’s warm and eclectic two bedroom apartment, filled with interesting things. We talked and reminisced while waiting for the babysitter to arrive, and it was certainly like old times. The sitter arrived and Jenn and I ventured into the light of the Danforth.

The last time we went to the Watchmen, we grabbed a bite at the Detroit Eatery, a greasy spoon along the strip. We decided to relive our night in 2016 and go visit it again. Fish and chips, and a brew were what we had, and they were delicious. We caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives and as expected, time passed way too quickly.

We headed down to the DMH, and had missed the opening act, Ron Hawkins (Lowest of the Low). We had just enough time to check our coats and stroll by the merch table before the Watchmen took to the stage at 9 PM sharp.

The first song of the evening was Must to Be Free. The crowd went nuts, and so did we! The Watchmen still have it, and delivered a tight show. Their major hits were paid props including Boneyard Tree, Run & Hide, Slomotion, Incarnate, Stereo and All Uncovered. The Watchmen managed to showcase their talent, hitting the hits and adding several well-known cover songs to their set, including the Johnny Nash hit, I Can See Clearly Now, Tom Petty’s Square One, as well as Superman by R.E.M. The band also paid respect to the Hip’s Gord Downie, performing a cover of Wheat Kings, which stoked the audience. The opener, Ron Hawkins, came out and did an excellent duet with the band of the song A New England (originally by Billy Bragg; I’m familiar with it via Kirsty MacColl). This concert was really something to see and hear live…

When we had gone to see the Watchmen in 2016, Jenn and I had trouble with the Amazonian-sized dudes around us who enjoyed bathing in Axe Body Spray. Passing out from the cologne fumes, we escaped to the right side of the stage, and this action ended up being the best thing at the time. We had great line of sight, and plenty of room to dance. Would we be lucky a second time with that same spot? This evening, as the Watchmen took to the stage, we quickly rushed to the right side of the auditorium…and so did everyone else. It was a packed house with a lot of fans. We are both around the same height and obviously not 5 ft 8, but It was fine, I thought; we could see in between the heads at Danny and the boys somewhat comfortably. That was until the phones came out.

With advancements in technology and the advent of social media, a green monster has emerged, compelling users to compulsively take shot after shot – never mind video recording entire segments – of the show with their cell phones. I expect some picture-taking (I snapped a few myself), but I also hope for discretion. I was in the unenviable position of standing behind two people obsessed with their phones. I hazard they watched the entire show through their cell screens from song one…and sadly, for a portion of the show, so did I. In true Canadian fashion, instead of confronting them, I swallowed my ire and tried to ignore it. What are you going to do? I didn’t want any trouble. So, when a space next to Jenn opened up, I moved over to allow a tall dude with a fat head on my left to block my peripheral view of their phones. Huzzah!

Back to the band, do these guys drink from the fountain of youth? Lead singer, Danny Greaves has not aged in 25 years; he continues to be his trim self. Ken Tizzard was the only one whose appearance has changed – from a fine moustache, to a wicked beard with extended goatee. But, these guys are getting older; the show was done in an hour and a half, and Danny cited a “curfew” as the reason for the show ending when it did. After all with over 20 songs and two encores under their belt for the evening, these guys were allowed to “exit stage right.”

When the house lights went up, Jenn and I doubled back to the merch table one last time to check out the wares; Watchmen t-shirts were for sale, as well as some solo projects on vinyl by the band. Jenn purchased a Christmas card with a downloadable song sung by Danny with all proceeds going to charity.

Overall, this was another memorable evening with Jenn and the Watchmen. I totally look forward to more experiences with Jenn in the near future and I am also certain we’ll be going to see the Watchmen again, whenever they stop in Toronto.

[Music] The Catch and Release #3

The Catch and Release showcases a choice sample of recently acquired music to my collection; some of these albums that I’ve “caught” will happily be part of my collection forever. But, there are albums that I acquired on a lark, that upon a listen or two have not resounded with me, which I have chosen to release back in the wild.
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The Catch

54-40 – Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret (1994) & Since When (1998)

Winner Winner! I loved Canadian band 54-40 back in the day, and had Fight For Love on cassette; even saw them in concert in 1989! But, that was a long time ago. Since then, I had their compilation, Sweeter Things, which has all their top ten hits from the 80s. I didn’t get much more than that which was a complete oversiiiiight! Thanks to a contest I won on KeepsMeAlive, I acquired Dear Dear (a fantastic album). Since then, I found two more 54-40 albums out in the wild, and both are great. Each has a hit played on the radio, and the rest is pretty darned awesome. I am back on the 54-40 bandwagon!

Duran Duran – Astronaut (2004)

Back in 2004, DD were planning a comeback with all five members of the band back at the helm; something fans had been waiting for since 1985. I had heard their new song, “Reach Up For the Sunrise” from Astronaut, and thought it sounded pretty catchy, but never got the gumption to purchase a copy.

I found Astronaut used at my local Care and Share, and I have to say – impressive! It’s a Duran record, for sure: cleanly produced, thoughtful and professional. But, most of all, listenable! A keeper!

Letters to Cleo  – Aurora Gory Alice (1993)

I picked this one up for a song at VV…Being a frequent listener of Radio Western’s College Radio CHRW 94.9 FM back in ’93, I remember Letters to Cleo getting some love on there quite a bit with their hit “Here and Now”. I am very impressed with this album – every song is awesome! And, a female lead, for the win!

Chalk Circle – Mending Wall (1987)

In case this band breezes past you, Chalk Circle is a Canadian band best known for such hits from the 80s as “April Fool,” “Me, Myself and I,” and “This Mourning.” Mending Wall was one of those albums that my 12-year-old self could never afford to buy, but wanted to; at least my sis and I could afford the 45s of some of their hits. This album has “This Mourning” and the lesser known adult contemporary hit, “N.I.M.B.Y. (Not In My Back Yard)”; the rest in between totally brings me back to 1987. Just good rough bass, some haunting guitar and a lead singer whose voice cuts through it all. I am very happy I found this one.

Melissa Etheridge – Melissa Etheridge (1988)

I took a chance on Melissa Etheridge, and I’m glad I did! Every single song on this debut album sits well. Good rockin’ tunes, and that voice! Hits from this album include “Similar Features,” “Like the Way I Do,” and the very popular “Somebody Bring Me Some Water.” Not much else to say here – no wonder she got some attention when this was released.

The Release

Toronto – Lookin’ For Trouble (1980)

I am only familiar with this Toronto band from their one hit in Canada, “Your Daddy Don’t Know” from 1982, which earned them a Juno award for best song and best songwriting. That song is catchy, and unfortunately not on this album. “Lookin’ For Trouble” was Toronto’s first release, and I can see how they were trying to get their feet wet, but it really didn’t do anything for my ears. This album has two recognizable cover songs: “You Better Run”, a Young Rascals tune done better by Pat Benatar and “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” which was better done by its creator the Rolling Stones.

Erasure – Pop! Their First 20 Hits (1992)

Erasure were well-known back in the 80s for their synth pop tunes. I don’t mean to be mean, but no way does Erasure have 20 Hits. I could have sworn they had more likeable tunes in their catalogue than just “Chains of Love,” “A Little Respect”, and “Stop!” It’s ok, I got this for $1…

Metric – Fantasies (2009)

Metric has gotten a lot of love out there – including a Juno for this album, Fantasies. This one does tick some of the new wave synth pop boxes…However, I couldn’t help but turn to the hubs whilst listening to the first track and say, “Y’know, I’ve heard this before on TV…” As I continued to listen, I recognized a lot of this album, but couldn’t quite place where.

Sure enough, the media loves Metric, using their songs in everything from commercials, to video games, to the Toronto Blue Jays, to TV shows; most namely Grey’s Anatomy, a show that has used the first song from Fantasies, “Help I’m Alive,” multiple times! I’ve spun this CD several times in an effort to get into it, and I think I’m good to let this one go. I’ll just listen to Metric’s next album on this up-coming season of Grey’s!

The Gandharvas – A Soap Bubble and Inertia (1994)

More uni stories for ya: The year was 1994. My sister got a cassette sampler from a freebie table on campus during the first week of classes. The sampler was promoting the newest affordable car for students, the Dodge Neon (remember those?) and on it was a bunch of Canadian artists. I recall I Mother Earth was on it…and so was “The First Day of Spring” by the Gandharvas, a London, Ontario band who are really only known for this one song. Pretty much, they tried their best to be Canada’s answer to Blind Melon. They are not even close to Blind Melon.

I got their album, Soap Bubble and Inertia, for free on cassette a long time ago at a summer festival in London. I remember that day vividly – it was August, it was 38 C, and probably the worst bathroom experience I have ever had with an upset stomach standing in a 30 deep lineup for an already over-full porta-potty. Man alive! Probably due to trauma, I never did listen to that Gandharvas cassette.

Recently, when I picked up Soap Bubble and Inertia for $1 at my local thrift shop, I wondered if it was worth the time. This album is terrible. Really really terrible. There really isn’t much more to say about it.

Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams (2005)

I have had this CD since June 2014, when my colleague and friend, Mary Jo Morris, was about to embark on her retirement. She was cleaning out her office and handed off two CDs to me – Dr. John’s Gumbo by Dr. John (1972) and Jack Johnson’s In Between Dreams. Random, right? Where the heck had she gotten them? She said from students. She didn’t want them. They were stuffed in a drawer in my office, and I finally got around to bringing them home.

I don’t know too much about Jack Johnson, but if I were a betting woman, I’d think he had the curb on the commercial jingles market. Seriously. Music in commercials these days grate on me. Take an out of tune piano, an acoustic guitar, a ukelele, a xylophone and soft singing voices, and you have captured 95% of the music in commercials these days, and what Jack Johnson’s album In Between Dreams is about. Sorry, Mary Jo, I did not like this either. Hard pass. Dr. John is a keeper though!

More to come…Thanks for reading!

[Live Music] Sloan – The KEE to Bala, Bala, ON, 05/19/18

It’s a collaboration post for the ages! Caught Me Gaming and Buried On Mars take on Sloan! Sarca reviews the Sloan May 19, 2018 show at the KEE to Bala, and Kevin reviews Sloan’s latest album, 12! Make sure to check out his review here! But, first: Leetsa go!

For the better part of this morning, I have been wracking my brains trying to remember when I first saw Sloan in concert. I remember it was around July 1996 in London, Ontario, to promote their One Chord to Another album. I think I went with my friend Sandra and it was held at a newly opened venue on Wharncliffe Rd North (now called Cowboy’s Ranch / London Concert Theatre) whose name from back in the day escapes me. Thanks Google Maps! I have a faint hazy memory of the evening singing Underwhelmed and I am the Cancer at the top of my lungs thanks to some alky hall drinkies and the ravages of time (ha!). I remember taking the bus downtown the next day to HMV to pick up the new One Chord to Another on CD.

That’s the real ticket stub from back in the day!

In 1999 I was living with my new fiance, Buried On Mars, in Barrie, Ontario. I remember he got us tickets to see Sloan at the KEE to Bala in Bala a couple of days after my birthday, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Having thoroughly enjoyed Sloan’s most recent release at the time, Navy Blues, and being very familiar with their past efforts, I was excited to see them perform again in concert as they were promoting their soon-to-be-released album, Between the Bridges. Details are in sepia: I don’t remember too much about the venue except for really enjoying the show and scoring some rippin’ seats that gave us an excellent view of the stage.

This past winter, close to 19 years later, the hubs scored tickets to the Sheepdogs this coming August 2018 at the KEE. Planning our summer concert calendar, he also discovered Sloan is performing at the KEE to Bala in May, and lined up tix for that event too. Sloan was due to release their twelfth album in April, appropriately named 12 and were touring to promote it. It had been a long time since we last saw them, and we have since moved an extra hour away from the KEE, so this was going to be sort of a “dry run” for us for future concerts up in that area. A two hour drive to and from the late show in the pitch dark on our weary bones may be the impetus to get us a reservation for the Ho-Jo after the Show…

The KEE to Bala is located in Bala, Ontario, a small hamlet in cottage country off the shores of Lake Muskoka. The building is situated along a small strip that has a couple of eateries, including a bar that boasts the best ribs in Muskoka. The KEE itself has a long history of hosting big acts like RUSH and Snoop Dogg. The night of the show, we arrived to discover the only real parking was a full lot of 20 cars across the street from the place, so we drove further down the street to find a good spot. As we drove by the KEE, who did I recognize strolling down the street but Chris Murphy, singer and guitarist for Sloan, right there! I was star-struck, and couldn’t even remember his name to say to the hubs, hey there’s Chris Murphy! Instead, it was, “Hey, it’s that guy! From Sloan!”

The weather was not cooperative this evening. After we parked the car, we quickly headed over to the KEE as the clouds opened up and started pouring down on us. We rushed to the building and found refuge under the eaves, along with another couple; the four of us were the only ones waiting – I guess we’re early! I thought Sloan was to take the stage at 9 PM – turns out, doors open at 9! So, we were out in the elements for another 45 minutes as other Sloan fans began to appear and line up right behind us in the rain. I couldn’t help but notice our contemporaries in the crowd – those of us who remember Sloan in the formative years, saw them live in campus bars and dives, and continued to listen to them as we got degrees, worked on careers and pursued partners and families. Like Sloan, we’ve since hung up our grunge flannel, grown a little older, fatter and grayer, but we still know how to rock.

The KEE’s venue consists of a large dance floor with a stage that is raised at least 8 feet off the floor. There is seating located upstairs in the balcony section that is essentially long picnic tables. If you are quick, you can score one that provides a ripping view of the stage – and like that time in 1999, thankfully the hubs and I were quick to get one. Evidently, it pays to be early! This seating arrangement, however, also has a downside…

When a couple is seated at a long table at a communal environment like a bar, sometimes you have no choice but to be open to the possibility of allowing strangers to sit with you. Along came 4 loud and liquored up people who asked if they could sit next to us at our table. (Gulp!) Sure…They were rowdy; I foreshadowed how my evening was going to go with them next to us. But thankfully they were only with us for a minute – they knew the couple the next table over, and decided to sit with them instead. I gave the hubs the ol’ “we dodged a bullet” look. A moment later, another couple came by and asked to sit with us – Derek (?) and Andrea (?)(it was loud in there) from Barrie. Derek, a cross between Matthew Modine and Ed Begley Jr. in the appearance department, took pictures and talked a lot, but overall he was nice.

Because we had time to kill, I was able to hit the merch table early…

I also took this time to study the audience down below. Looked like there was a Bachelor party – at least 5 guys with large foam ten-gallon hats dancing, drinking and fooling around. Quite entertaining!

Giddy up!

Festivities started at 10 PM. The first act to take the stage was Taylor Knox, a guy who performed with a bassist and a drummer. I don’t know much about Knox; he has an album out and has had his music used in Canadian television, but what I heard, the man could rock! He has a similar sound to Sloan and entertained the audience for about 40 minutes.

Taylor Knox

By the time the Sloan crew got everything ready, the band took the stage close to 11 PM and started in with Spin Our Wheels, a song from their new album, 12; a ripping tune that got the crowd rocking and the night took off from there at a rapid pace. Right away though, I noticed something not quite right about the band. When my eyes scanned the left corner of the stage where Patrick Pentland usually stands court, I found a stranger in his place – a stockier balding guy!?! It was not Patrick! Immediately, I thought something happened here – where is he? Did he quit the band?

Turns out, Patrick announced via Twitter only four days ago that he is having to pull away from touring for the next little while due to a family illness. In his place is musician Gregory Macdonald who has performed with Sloan since 2006 on keyboards. I don’t think he was expecting to have to pick up extra duties, but all things considered, he did excellent work on guitar, keyboards and backing vocals. There was some scrambling of the playlist on the fly, and an obvious reluctance to perform any songs that are fronted by Patrick, but with an acknowledgement of Patrick’s absence, and a hat tip with a performance of You See the Good in Everyone sung by Chris, the crowd hardly noticed and got down to the task of rocking. Of course there was the band’s signature “switching of musical instruments,” particularly between Chris and drummer Andrew Scott, as well as the band’s affable brand of humour in between songs.

Sloan dedicated play time to music on their new album (a rocking ride full of fantastic basslines) while also recognizing some main staples of their back catalogue; such hits as Coax Me, The Other Man, Who Taught You to Live Like That, The Rest of My Life and the Lines You Amend. I was also excited to hear them perform Underwhelmed from their first album, Smeared, an album that developed my taste for grunge before Nirvana was even on my radar. It was fun singing along to these tunes.

Sloan’s tight performance continues to impress. Overall it was an excellent show, and I hope not to wait another 19 years before seeing them again!

CODA: It was a late night for us after the show let out at 1…Got home after 3 AM…We’ll be thinking about that Ho-Jo reservation for next time!

Thanks for reading! Now proceed to my hubs’ blog Buried On Mars and read a complete review on Sloan’s latest album, 12!

[Music] The Catch and Release #2

The Catch and Release showcases a choice sample of recently acquired music to my collection; some of these albums that I’ve “caught” will happily be part of my collection forever. But, there are albums that I acquired on a lark, that upon a listen or two have not resounded with me, which I have chosen to release back in the wild.
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What can I say…I started the Catch and Release series in September 2017… planned to make it an ongoing series…and then Big Shit happened. Our lives got into a dander. But! I am committed to this series and sharing new-to-me music with all of you! So, let’s ignore the fact it’s been months since I did one of these, m’kay?

The Catch

Forever committed to adding women artists into the music collection…

Jann Arden – A bunch!

As I shared with y’all a couple of weeks ago, I am a Jann fann! I had Canadian songstress, Jann Arden’s Living Under June back in the day (still do!). I have always found solace in her music. Just a couple of weeks ago I shockingly discovered I have most of her studio albums, several of them acquired while thrifting! I have had a chance to listen to them all and all are keepers. Jann, for the most part, has had a streak of great albums under her belt. She has just released her latest album last month called These Are the Days, which I reviewed recently (spoiler: it’s a goodie!).

Tara MacLean – Silence (1996)

I first heard Canadian songstress, Tara MacLean – where else? MuchMusic. She had a song that got a lot of airplay back in 1996 called Evidence. Its soft heartbeat drums and Tara’s soulful voice caught me at a time when Alanis was crooning about having one hand in her pocket…all respect to Alanis, but Tara’s music was a calm in a storm. I found her album, Silence, for a song at a Taleze, and it’s a calming change of pace.

Tracy Bonham – The Burdens of Being Upright (1996)

Knowing only one song of Bonham’s – Mother Mother – I found this one at my local thrift shop. I had always wanted to take a further look at her music. Her strong voice and her mix of hard rock was a welcoming surprise. Wow, this is a great album full of adrenaline. Each song is strong. This album’s sound takes me back to my uni days of smelly bars and moody grunge. Tracy sings her heart out. Now, I am interested in finding more from this artist.

The Release

The Cure – The Cure (2004)

I picked this one up at my local Mission thrift store on a lark. Now, I consider myself a fan of the Cure’s early stuff (1979 – 1993). Standing on a Beach lived in my Walkman for most of grade 9. I later enjoyed their Wish album, although this is where they turned more commercial (for example, Friday, I’m in Love was a constant on the radio…).  So when I found their 2004 album, The Cure, I was curious about where they were at musically, and I was willing to give the newer albums a shot…And honestly, I think it’s time Robert Smith hang up the rat’s nest. What I heard with this album was a band attempting to recapture the dark magic they had from the 80s, and it just didn’t work. It was painful, in fact. Smith was off-tune on most tracks (intentional, I’m sure) and tried to use his high-pitch woos and screams he’s known for from previous hits (see Love Cats). It just didn’t work for my ears. I’m passing…Now to find a copy of Disintegration

Cracker – Kerosene Hat (1993)

The very first song on this CD is Low – a song that I instantly recognized as the Canadian band Moist…except it wasn’t Moist; it’s Cracker! (Oops!) I can see how this album sold records based on that song alone. As the album continues down the tracks, I liked the bluesy bar rock (complete with tons of cowbell and tambourine)…but I couldn’t stand the lead singer’s crooning…If Cracker were to release this as an instrumental album, it would be on the keep pile!

Evanescence – Fallen (2003) and The Open Door (2006)

I was interested in Evanescence back with their hit Bring Me Back to Life was playing everywhere. Amy Lee’s beautiful voice juxtaposed with orchestral hard rock was different than the norm in ’03, and it was an attractive and curious sound, but I didn’t  pursue it…that is until I found Fallen and the Open Door for cheap. I picked them up to listen, and gave them thrice a listen…and… I don’t think I am a fan of Evanscence’s brand of orchestral Gothic rock. As lovely as Lee’s voice is, it seems she only has one type of singing: the start high and remain high. I don’t know, am I off base here?

Violent Femmes – S/T (1982)

I am probably gonna get flack for this one…Guys, I want to like Violent Femmes so much! I mean, in some way I feel a pressure to like them because of their 80s cred. I mean, this album cover is iconic! Alas, I just…don’t. Blister in the Sun is on the radio constantly. When I found their album for sale at the VV, I grabbed it, thinking, Hey, maybe they have other songs I like? Blister in the Sun was the first track, and an easy pass. Kiss Off is also recognizable…then so is Add It Up (Ethan Hawke from Reality Bites, anyone?) But, no, it honestly comes down to this: it’s Gordon Gano’s voice – it grates! I like the rawness of the guitar and fast drum rolls, but Gano’s nasally voice takes me right out of it. I just don’t see myself pull this off the shelf to listen. Anyone else feel this way about the Femmes?

More to come! Thanks for reading!

[Music] Jann Arden: These Are the Days (2018)

Yep, I am a Jann fann!

Jann Arden has been in my wheelhouse since her hits, Wonderdrug and Insensitive played on the Canadian airwaves back in 1994. Her second album, Living Under June, was my first Arden purchase (Dr. Disc in London, ON, 1996 – I still have it!). I remember looking for her debut, Time For Mercy, but as a struggling student, I always found it way out of my price range. And, later when I could afford it, I just wasn’t into collecting. Living Under June was all I owned of Arden until recently. I happily sang along to her songs on the radio, even though I wasn’t buying her albums.

Jann Arden’s music is very contemporary and what one might consider easy-listening. She barely ever rocks out. But, if you listen, it’s very much on “the feels, everywhere the feels” spectrum. The clever lyrics hone in on sharp edges of emotion, love and relationships which may be dismissive to those who might construe her art as too sufferable or even boring. But, this gal (me) has listened to Jann through some dark periods. Jann doesn’t know Sarca, but her stuff seems to relate to me and my emotions at times that I need it.

But, I guess others aren’t feeling the same as of late? Since I announced that I started re-amassing a CD collection, I have noticed a lot of Jann Arden for sale at the thrift shops; so much Jann in fact, that as of this week, I can say I have close to a complete Jann Arden collection (I say “close” because I haven’t acquired her albums of cover tunes or her Christmas album…). It has been an enjoyable experience getting to know her latter stuff and seeing how it all fits in with her earlier music. With the exception of albums Love is the Only Soldier (2003) and Free (2009) that I had trouble connecting with, her other eight albums I own will forever be in my collection as they are particularly strong.

And what a coincidence that Jann Arden released her newest album, These Are the Days just last week! I was very curious to see how it holds up, so I dropped the $12.99 for a CD copy during a recent trip to Walmart. The CD itself is simple – cardboard jewelcase with plastic CD tray glued in. The liner notes contain song lyrics.

Like previous albums, These Are the Days peels back the curtain that is Jann’s life right now. Publicly, she has shared her struggles with anxiety, depression, weight and alcohol, a long-term relationship ending, being the primary caregiver to her mother with Alzheimer’s disease, and helping her brother in prison be free of his first degree murder rap. Big things happening! This album is a diary, laying bare how her life is right now, and how she encourages herself to keep going. The back of the CD package reads the message, “Be in the now, be in the moment”. On the CD itself it says, “Running forward, not looking back…” But, not before listening to this album!

Allow me to highlight some of the songs for you…

The first track, Everybody’s Pulling On Me pretty much puts herself out there – in a powerful way. A full band weighs in full brass, and here Jann forcefully – passionately – sings her heart out how life is taking its toll on her. This one is my favourite of the album. The messaging sounds desperate, but the music is uplifting and hopeful; I love songs like that. And Jann’s voice! Hooo! Stronger than ever!

Skipping forward, A Long Goodbye, the fourth song on the album, quietly and gently recounts Jann’s mother’s struggles with Alzheimer’s, and how essentially this diagnosis is a long goodbye as her mother forgets who Jann is. This one resonated with me, particularly since I experienced “the Long Goodbye” with my Granny (RIP), when she suffered from the disease. Again, the theme of feeling pulled or in this case, tangled, presents itself here:

“I’ve felt tangled up and hopeless, but it hasn’t killed me yet…It’s hard to be a mother to my mother…”

Jesus, all the feels!

The fifth song, Come Down the River With Me, is reminiscent of old gospel, and gives a giant hat tip to Adele. There are elements of Rolling in the Deep here, particularly the strong bass drumbeat and steel guitar. I really like it because I like Adele. But, I can’t help but think of how close to Rolling in Deep this song is…

With a lot going on in our lives, sometimes one needs to escape. The sixth song on the album, Franklin, embarks on a friends’ road trip to Franklin, Tennessee, where memories were made to try and escape broken hearts. I really liked the reminiscence in this one. The full band shows up here and is warmed up with some whisky slide guitar.

Number seven, Not Your Little Girl, I believe is Arden’s first single off the album, and it is for sure a singable and empowering anthem for girls. Starting as sort of a march, she swiftly emphasizes,

“I am an army (I don’t do what I’m told!), I am your king and queen. You cannot rearrange me.”

One More Mile to Go is a song that if I were to choose the “most contemporary radio hit” on this album, it would be this one. That’s not to say it was bad – not at all! I like the lyrics and it’s toe-tapping…but, listening to it, I chuckled to think if they used a Dobro, that it would be a New Country hit…Some good guitar on this one.

Overall, These Are the Days fits well in Jann Arden’s catalogue. It isn’t so much a departure from past efforts, but I have noticed a gentle shift to a stronger sound here, which is a welcome surprise. I highly recommend it!

3.5/5

These Are the Days – Jann Arden (2018)

 

[Music] Andrew Cash – Time and Place

I SCORED a Master Grail list item!!

Surprise, everyone! I am happy to announce that on one of my initial CD forages, I found an album that I have been searching for a LONG TIME: Andrew Cash’s Time and Place!

I would be shocked if anyone knows anything about this very talented Canadian recording artist outside of Canada. But, Andrew Cash was all over the radio in 1988-1994 in Ontario, even in my Northern town (thanks, Can-con!). He was also on Much Music quite a bit. His music made a lasting impression on me in the dark recesses of my mind.

My hunt for this album started as an exploration for a source of an earworm I had picking my brains back in the early 2000s. Back then, it was a conversation with a friend of mine about 80s music. In the era of Napster, I searched and found a lot of 80s music, and feverishly burned CDs to add to my piddly 80s CD music collection. Our conversation turned to obscure music we heard on the radio from back in the day, when we spent an evening using each other like a human Shazam, singing each other excerpts of songs that were swirling in our heads in the hopes the other would recognize it and say, “Oh, that song is X by Y”.

I sang, “I-go o-ver my sho-houlder…hee- hum you sa-a-a-aid…” Ha, I didn’t give her much to go on…and there weren’t any lyric websites like what we have today. Needless to say, she couldn’t get to the bottom of the earworm.

It was randomly one day around 2010, when a radio station played the source of my years-long earworm: Smile Me Down by Andrew Cash. Riiight! I thought. I remember that name! Not Johnny Cash, not Roseanne Cash, but Andrew Cash (no relation!). I took to the Goggles searching for Andrew Cash music anything – videos, info…anything! It was scant. A Torontonian, Andrew Cash played in a band called Etranger with fellow musician Charlie Angus in 1980 before pursuing a Solo career. Time and Place was released in 1988, which had some success in Canada. Cash later released Boomtown (another one I am searching for on CD. I do have the cassette format version, thanks to a care package courtesy of Aaron from keepsmealiveread about that here), as well as Hi in 1993. After that, Cash sort of fell off my radar. But, as it turns out, he has been quite busy, continuing to perform, even forming the Cash Brothers with Skydiggers’ alum (and his sibling), Peter Cash, as well as having a stint in Federal politics (as did Charlie Angus).

Andrew Cash has been holding his musical property close, not allowing iTunes and Google Play to sell most of his music, nor having a Vevo account on YouTube.  Thankfully, some rogue YouTubers have posted some grainy Much Music videos from back in the day. A few years ago, I wound up happily paying for the .MP3 of the song, Time and Place, via his website; a transaction he thanked me for personally via email. The desire for the full physical album never abated, so when Aaron from keepsmealive asked people to crowdsource their music wishlists via the Master Grail List, I added Andrew Cash’s first two albums. I am also a bit of a hunter on the cheap, so I could search for wanted items via used CD sites and find what I’m looking for…or I could search and find what I want inexpensively. In my case, I found Time and Place for $1.00 at a junk shop in Whitby. As Bop puts it: BAMMMM! GRAIL GOAL ACHIEVED!

Time and Place is a rock album with acoustic elements and thoughtful lyrics. The listener is drawn into upbeat ditties with pensive messages that touch on life: the insecurities of ageing, mental health, a mother’s grief… There is a simplicity and earthy feel to the album – guitar, bass, viola, harmonica and drums, you feel right at home listening to this album.

The first hasty strums of an electric guitar begin the first song on the album (and source of my earworm) Smile Me Down; an effective starter. The chorus goes a little differently than what I remember:

“I-go o-ver my sho-houlder…hee- hum you sa-a-a-aid…” is actually,

“I look over my shoulder, hearing you say we’re older now.” Oh well, I almost remembered!

The other track I am familiar with, Time and Place, is one I would unabashedly sing along to in the car at 13, while my sister drove us around, embarrassed I was singing along to some old “fogey”.  At a time when INXS and George Michael were burning up the charts and competing for my attention, this song was one that had a memorable melody and was just lovely to sing to. I know Cash was being ignored by my contemporaries, but I was paying attention. And now, as an old fogey myself (ha!) I am elated to add Andrew Cash’s Time and Place to my music collection, and was not the least bit disappointed in it.

Listen for yourself:

(Smile Me Down at 0:00; Time and Place at 9:50)