Reviews of this week’s CD releases
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That’s How I Know
Desiree Dorion boasts an impressive resumé — mother, lawyer, businesswoman and well-known singer/songwriter. A proud member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation who grew up just a mile and a half from the site of Dauphin’s Countryfest, she’s highly regarded in Canadian country and Indigenous music circles as a performer, songwriter and advocate for her fellow artists.
That’s How I Know is Dorion’s fourth full-length album and it’s an impressive calling card for her stylish blend of modern country sounds and intimately personal lyrics. Unlike the cookie-cutter acts from Music Row whose formulaic tunes sound are created with the charts in mind, Dorion’s lyrics are heartfelt expressions of her own observations and feelings. At the same time, producer Chris Burke-Gaffney (who helmed seven of these eight tracks, with Steve Arundell and Cody Iwasiuk taking the reins for One More) does an impressive job of blending rock dynamics and heartfelt acoustic moments with fiery electric guitars and the soaring twang of banjo, pedal steel and mandolin.
The results are especially striking on the album’s title track, which reveals the intimate details that turn a relationship into a romance, and Sometimes I Drink, a song co-written with Crystal Shawanda that takes the age-old country party song and steers it into Nikki Lane territory, as Dorion makes a righteous case that girls gotta have some fun, too.
On Wouldn’t That Be Fun?, Dorion duets with Doc Walker’s Dave Wasyliw on a high-spirited romp through the early, heady rush of falling in love, while I Meant What I Said (written with Nashville stalwarts Troy Johnson and Jack Williams) is a sweet, keening ballad of reassurance. One More is a travelling musician’s lament about the guilt and wistful tug of constantly saying goodbye. The real showstopper here, though, is Love You to Death, a mournful, mid-tempo ballad about watching a loved one struggle with alcoholism and addiction – when she sings “I can’t love you to death, I can’t stand seeing you like this,” Dorion’s anguish is palpable. ★★★★ out of 5
STREAM THESE: That’s How I Know, Love You to Death, I Meant What I Said
— John Kendle
Red Moon in Venus (Geffen Records)
Kali Uchis’ new studio album, Red Moon in Venus, follows her Grammy-nominated Spanish-language album that was released in 2020. Since then, Uchis had multiple wins at the Billboard Latin Music Awards and Telepatía, an album highlight, was a multi-week Billboard chart topper.
Uchis is an R&B artist who isn’t afraid to lean into her signature vibe, which can only be described as soft, ethereal and fully femme. The record’s femme-forward tone starts with In My Garden… where the listener is transported to a fantasy land with wind chimes and birds chirping.
I Wish You Roses is the first single and second track on the album. The song follows the narrative of the album, which is love and its nuances. The song is about releasing people with love, rather than resentment: “But I wish you love, I wish you well/I wish you roses while you can still smell ’em.”
Uchis blends R&B seamlessly with soul and funk in tracks like Blue, where smooth saxophones sound off with a slow groove. She also beautifully weaves Spanish and English in multiple tracks, a standout being Como Te Quiera Yo.
The album showcases Uchis’ unique voice with slow R&B beats that highlight the soft quality of her voice. Deserve Me, featuring Summer Walker, holds true to the steady R&B arrangement but weaves in Uchis’ breathy voice. Uchis closes the album with a more upbeat vibe in Happy Now, where she embraces beats that are reminiscent of sweet melodic pop. ★★★★ out of five
STREAM THIS: Como Te Quiera Yo
— Karena Phan, The Associated Press
Norwegian saxophonist/composer/leader Marius Neset is one of the best European jazz musicians. As well as small group recordings he has had several symphonic level concept albums that are quite wonderful. After a recent appearance at Albert Hall in London, this album returns him to a smaller format with great success. With him in this quintet are Elliot Galvin on keyboards, Magnus Hjorth on piano, Conor Chaplin on electric bass and Anton Eger on drums and percussion. The result is a fascinating blend of acoustic and electronic effects drawing on experimental rhythmic changes and challenging grooves. The use of both acoustic piano and separate electronic keyboard offers opportunities for Neset’s compositions to move in unexpected directions within his usual melodic framework.
A Hand to Hold is a totally acoustic ballad that is lush and gentle. On the other hand, The Unknown has Neset’s soprano flying over a driving electronic bass and metric free for all. Without diminishing his love of large ensemble symphonic jazz, he comments that this album was simply filled with excitement and fun. The title is no accident and describes the feeling Neset states was present in the recording studio.
The variety here is terrific. Island has a Latin beat and feel, for example, while Diamonds begins quietly and builds into relentless and complex riffs from all parties. The title track is similar in that it starts out with a quite mellow tune and then cuts loose with widening circles of rhythm and surprise. Happy it is.
We are all beneficiaries of the restless spirit of many jazz musicians. Whether with symphony or electric quintet, Neset has the whole package. I encourage checking out his symphonic compositions to confirm that statement. ★★★★ 1/2 out of five
STREAM THESE: Wildlife, A Hand to Hold
— Keith Black
Au Cinéma ce Soir (La Dolce Volta)
This upcoming release celebrates music of the cinema, with French pianist and self-described cinephile Jean-Marc Luisada performing his own curated program of 14 works ranging from composers Nino Rota to Richard Wagner.
The artist also shares in his multilingual liner notes that the album is a heartfelt tribute to his parents, whom he credits for nurturing his lifelong love of film. His mother in particular encouraged him to attend cinema to alleviate his homesickness as a young pianist while studying at England’s Yehudi Menuhin School, with many tracks directly paying homage to their own favourite hits, as well as those earliest years of his career.
Movie buffs will also enjoy the whirlwind tour through themes from the canon’s most iconic films, including: Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice, Woody Allen’s Manhattan, and John Huston’s 1960 The Unforgiven. The disc likewise provides an opportunity to hear several of these themes in transcription, each arranged for solo piano that nonetheless creates an ethos of homogeneity throughout.
Highlights include Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Rota’s Two Waltzes on the Name of Bach, No. 1 as well as two movements extracted from Brahms’ more classically inclined Three Intermezzi, Op. 117 incorporated in Andre Delvaux’s Rendez-vous à Bray, among others. Chopin’s Mazurka in A minor, Op. 7, No. 4 from Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers caps the program on a more introspective note.
However the sweet spot belongs to Scott Joplin’s Solace, that provides emotional punch in George Roy Hill’s 1973 classic The Sting. Luisada’s sensitive artistry and slow drag tempo brings out the wistful melody that pays homage to the past, as well as solace for the present day, in the beloved rag one never wearies of hearing. ★★★ 1/2 out of five
STREAM THIS: Scott Joplin’s Solace
— Holly Harris
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Updated on Thursday, March 9, 2023 7:19 AM CST: Changes tile iage, updates preview text