Reviews of this week’s CD releases
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/01/2022 (198 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Heavy Steps (New Damage/Nuclear Blast)
When every step we take feels as if we’re tempting fate, what’s a melodic hardcore punk band to do? Well, if the band is Comeback Kid, you double down, crank it up and stomp out your fears and insecurities.
For the local band’s seventh studio album, CBK founders Andrew Neufeld and Jeremy Hiebert brought bandmates Chase Brenneman (bass), Loren Legare (drums) and Stu Ross (guitar) back to Winnipeg in 2020 to work with producer John Paul Peters at Private Ear studios. Pandemic restrictions led to extensive jam sessions before the quintet was unleashed in the studio to record 11 songs of pummelling outrage.
No time is wasted getting to the point, as the album’s first cut (and title track) opens with a thunderous bass riff, snare and double kick drums before Hiebert and Ross slide their way in and then break the song down before launching into the gang-shouted phrase that give this record its theme: “Heavy steps on hollow ground!”
Nearly five years after the band’s last release, Outsider, Comeback Kid may be a little older, a little wiser and a little COVID-tired but, in just over half an hour, the band serves notice that it is no less energetic, no less tight and no less melodic. Neufeld’s raw-throated, raging lyrics are exorcisms of the sadness and second-guessing that come with losing friends, screwing up relationships and life’s existential ebb and flow, and his bandmates create a swirling, relentless, yet melodic and dynamic wall of sound that should turn mosh pits into maelstroms for the next couple of years.
Fans of hard music will be impressed to learn that Gojira’s Joe Duplantier sings on Crossed, and J.J. Peters from Deez Nuts joins in Everything’s Related, a tribute to the Australian band’s late bassist, Sean Kennedy.
A sonic note: Heavy Steps is best played on a large stereo system, which will enable the power of Will Putney’s subtly layered mix to take over your senses and thump your sternum in the best way possible. ★★★★
STREAM THESE: Heavy Steps, Face the Fire, Everything’s Related
— John Kendle
Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar
Delta Man (Independent)
The new album by longtime songwriting collaborators Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar includes an exuberant self-assessment on Bubba Billy Boom Boom & Me, a tune as entertaining as its title: “We was dynamite, y’all!” Allison sings.
They still are. Delta Man collects 15 songs spotlighting an under-the-radar partnership now in its fifth decade.
Allison grew up in New Mexico and has been working the troubadour circuit since he was a teenager. Spehar, a Colorado native, stopped performing in the 1980s but has continued to write with Allison. While some of these recordings date back as far as 1998, all were completed last year.
Twang provides a unifying element, but Spehar and Allison cover a range of styles. They take turns on lead vocals, and Allison is an especially versatile singer who’s at his best crooning the lovely Baby’s Got the Blues.
The duo’s roots show on Rockin’ on a Country Dance Floor, which references Elvis, the Beatles and Roy Orbison, while jazzy horns back Spehar on Just Relax. The title cut is a reminder Molly Hatchet once covered an Allison song, and the amusing 25 Miles to Brady salutes a certain quarterback.
Allison and Spehar can’t match Tom Brady when it comes to trophies, but they share his staying power. ★★★★ out of five
STREAM THESE: Bubba Billy Boom Boom & Me, Baby’s Got the Blues
— Steven Wine, The Associated Press
You Can’t Take It With You (Whirlwind)
Montreal-born saxophonist Chet Doxas is no rookie on the jazz scene, having worked with folks such as Carla Bley, Maria Schneider and Dave Douglas, and led a number of recorded bands over the years.
This album is his first as leader of a trio, and it is a winner. (He even did the cover art.) He has with him two very strong partners; one-time Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Thomas Morgan provide solid support and excel on solo and ensemble moments. As is frequently the pattern with contemporary small groups, the approach is extremely egalitarian — all members get substantial airtime and the trio could theoretically be named for any of the members.
Compositions are complex with fascinating shifts of modality, melody and effect. Cheryl and George, for example, moves across multiple melodies with constant skill.
In Lodestar (for Lester Young), Doxas basically moves the listener through an ascending scale that becomes more intense as the notes rise higher. Iverson’s strong entry is a treat: Twelve Foot Blues is a fairly familiar blues groove, but through the looking glass, so to speak. Soapbox is hilarious, with a vaguely voiceover-style blither adding to the fun before it descends into a gentle hymn-like ending. There is a light-heartedness to many of the tracks that hints at the relaxed skill at play.
It is a truism that communication among members, especially in small bands, is in direct proportion to the worth and pleasure derived from the music. The communication on this album is tangible, which moves the music into a higher bracket of appreciation. ★★★★1/2 out of five
STREAM THESE: The Last Pier, Twelve Foot Blues
— Keith Black
BACH (CPE): SONATAS AND RONDOS
Marc-André Hamelin (Hyperion)
Internationally acclaimed Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin brings his incomparable artistry to solo keyboard works by C.P.E. Bach, one of four musical sons of Johann Sebastian Bach who carved out a career as a fine composer in his own right.
The 2-CD set features the musician in a full program of primarily sonatas and rondos, first bursting out of the gte with a brilliant interpretation of Sonata in A Minor, H247 Wq57/2, with its opening Allegro sharpened further by his crisp attack. Its counterpart, Sonata in E Minor, H66, Wq62/12, composed of five courtly dance movements, displays Hamelin’s crystal-clear articulation and filigree ornamentation, including a nimble Courante and Gigue interlaced with more genteel offerings: Allemande, Sarabande and Menuet.
Other highlights include a well-paced Rondo in E Major, H265, Wq57/1, as well as a darker-hewn Abschied von meinem Silbermannischen Claviere, in einem Rondo, H272, Wq66, revealing the Baroque composer’s more contemplative side.
Another satisfying selection is Arioso with 9 Variations in C major, H259, Wq118/10, recalling J. S. Bach’s famous Goldberg Variations, brought to life by the pianist with delicate precision. The album is capped by Solfeggio in C minor, H220 Wq117/2, a final explosion of pyrotechnics by the world-class virtuoso this country has always been proud to hail as one of its own. ★★★★½ out of five
STREAM THIS: Sonata in A Minor, H247 Wq57/2
— Holly Harris