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This article was published 8/3/2018 (556 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Giant’s Head (Independent)
Former Winnipeggers Steve Hegyi and Gord Osland — best known as mainstays of local acts such as Mood Jga Jga, LesQ, Kilowatt and Graham Shaw and the Sincere Serenaders (among many others) — may be white-haired vets of the rock ‘n’ roll wars but their new musical project is certainly no nostalgia act.
Now based in Penticton, B.C., the old friends and bandmates began jamming and writing tunes in Osland’s basement a couple years back. Encouraged by their new sound (which Osland calls "classic nouveau"), they hooked up with area resident Stu Goldberg, who just happens to be an accomplished keyboardist, producer and composer for film and television (his huge list of credits includes projects as diverse as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Wayne Shorter and The Amazing Race).
The resultant eight-song EP is the real deal, full of rollicking rock tunes that soar with Hegyi’s expressive guitar work (the man’s bluesy licks and fiery solos are a treat) and roll with Osland’s swinging drum groove, while producer Goldberg’s keys and synths add depth and colour. As genuinely musical as this album is, the biggest surprise, and much of the record’s charm, comes from Osland’s lead vocals. Sure, he’s no Robert Plant, but his lived-in, rocker’s yelp is full of character and grit. The lyrics themselves are heartfelt expressions of a life well-lived; regretful, wistful, knowing and hopeful (always hopeful) all at once.
If this piques your interest, find out more at giantsheadmusic.com.
★★★½ out of five
Stream these: Wanna Go Rockin’, Little Pity City, Too Late to Stop Now
— John Kendle
Barrence Whitfield and the Savages
Soul Flowers of Titan (Bloodshot Records)
For their third release under the Bloodshot Records imprint, Barry White (a.k.a. Barrence Whitfield) and his audacious quartet the Savages claw into an organized chaos of righteous rhythm and blues, garage rock and off-the-hook soul. This dozen tracker (plus one bonus track) is also a practically perfect example of how to create dangerous sounding music by simply mining the not too distant roots of frantically unhinged sounds. By covering obscure ‘50s and ‘60s-era R&B shouters like Willie Wright & his Sparklers (Slowly Losing My Mind and I’m Gonna Leave You), the Midnighters (I’ll Be Home Someday) and Finley Brown (I Can’t Get No Ride), Whitfield not only shows excellent taste, he updates these songs for a new generation of seekers to delight in.
Those that have followed Whitfield over his career know well that one of his most famous vocal moves is his nocturnal roar — a mix of a howlin’ wolf-ish growl and horror movie shriek — and here he still lights up the scream (Pain), though not so much as a stunt these days. Guitarist Peter Greenberg (the Lyres) features most prominently on every track here and it is his front-and-centre, garage blooz riffs that deliver the palpable, audible muscle memory in songs like Slowly Losing My Mind; Tall, Black and Bitter; and Let’s Go to Mars. Providing balance to the gritty groovers is a couple of speakeasy ballads (I’ll Be Home Someday, Tingling) that really show the full range of the band, including great saxophone and B3 organ interaction. Soul Flowers of Titan is another fierce and formidable addition to the Whitfield and the Savages catalogue and a great entry point for new fans.
★★★★ out of five
Stream these: Slowly Losing My Mind, Tall, Black and Bitter
— Jeff Monk
Owen Broder’s American Roots Project
Without a doubt, our North American music history has a number of roots that grew out of the United States. This album is an effort to filter some of those roots — American blues, folk, spiritual, bluegrass — through the jazz lens. Saxophonist/composer Owen Broder has taken some well-known tunes and arranged them for jazz ensemble and added several original compositions in compatible style. He has enlisted a fine group of musicians, notably pianist Frank Kimbrough, drummer Matt Wilson and trombonist Nick Finzer. There are vocals by Wendy Gilles, Kate McGarry and Vuyo Sotashe on several of the tracks. Violinist Sara Caswell is gaining a reputation of bridging classical and jazz styles effectively, and her solos are excellent.
Tracks give acknowledgement to bluegrass (Cripple Creek), hoedown (Brodeo) or folk tradition (Goin’ Up Home), with styles that are totally familiar but expressed in contemporary and usually very rhythmic jazz. This version of Wayfaring Stranger is beautiful, and the African-American heritage is reflected also in an arrangement of a transplanted Bantu tune. The overall concept here is absolutely a celebration of American musical history, but there is much to appreciate for the rest of us. As with the whole of jazz history, we are indebted to the United States for its sharing of the music we enjoy on a daily basis, and, pop and rock notwithstanding, the roots celebrated here are our reality, too.
★★★★ out of five
Stream these: Wayfaring Stranger, Brodeo
— Keith Black
Notes to Loved Ones: Music for Strings and Piano (Navona Records)
This attractive new release by Peter Dayton features five works for strings and pianos, inspired by an array of visual artists, poets and other musicians that the American composer has encountered thus far in his rising career.
Dayton’s lyrical sensibility is immediately apparent in the album’s sole single-movement work, Fantasy. He also shows a penchant for exploiting the full range of his instrumental choices, as heard in Sonata Los Dedicatorias, in which the violin is pitched high above the piano accompaniment. This creates both delicacy and texture that is highly effective, as it also is during sections in Variations for string quartet, evoking the ethereal quality of Olivier Messiaen’s haunting works.
The album’s second string quartet, Morceaux des Noces, pays homage to early 20th-century styles of composition, with its second Adagio Semplice movement plaintively expressive.
Much of the album is contemplative, however its final offering, Sonata, brings greater contrast. Its two movements bristle with the jagged energy of Shostakovich’s acerbic writing, as piano and cello engage in an often intense dialogue broken by periodic moments of deeper, inward reflection.
★★★½ out of five
— Holly Harris