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This article was published 3/5/2018 (629 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Only of Earth: Days of Games (Dead Daisy Records)
Emm Gryner has been a peripatetic sort in her 20-plus years as a musician. After winning a Toronto radio contest in the mid-’90s, she surfaced on the national radar in 1998 with the indie-pop single Summerlong, spent some time playing keys and singing in David Bowie’s band, signed and released the likes of In-Flight Safety and Royal Wood on her own label, became a star in Ireland and even sang on a Def Leppard album, all while continuing to write and release her own material and being a member of pop-folk trio Trent Severn.
Gryner’s most recent project is Only of Earth, an illustrated science-fiction story that also will be told in music over the course of three albums. Days of Games is the first of the trilogy, and Gryner is in Winnipeg to celebrate its release with solo shows accompanied by Larry Roy at The Palm Room on Thursday, May 3 and Friday, May 4.
The Winnipeg connection for Gryner is the late guitarist Greg Lowe, whom she met while working on a musical showcasing the songs of Joni Mitchell in London, Ont. The pair struck up a fast friendship, and Lowe was thrilled to indulge his penchant for guitar rock on this album, including stirring solos on the songs The Spark and A Mission — which were among the last sessions he worked on before his death in May, 2017.
Lowe’s death, the 2016 passing of Bowie (whose influence is alluded to here on both Imagination and Something Tells Me, a duet with guest vocalist David Rhodes) and the breakup of Gryner’s marriage all inform the journey of Days of Games, which is ultimately a tale of loss, struggle and survival set to a song cycle produced by Emm and her brother, Frank, that builds from piano-based balladry and quasi-Celtic rock through synth-infused new wave, ‘70s prog and even ‘80s hair-metal.
The concept, both lyrical and musical, seems vast and hard to grasp at first but give Days of Games several listens and it becomes much more clear. hhhh out of five
Stream these: Blood Balloons, A Mission, The Passing of Ayro
– John Kendle
Happy Songs For The Apocalypse (Forty Below Records)
Former Winnipegger Eric Corne’s second solo album Happy Songs For The Apocalypse is the sort of work that one never gets tired of listening to. Corne mostly sticks to engineering and producing other artists (John Mayall, Walter Trout, Jaime Wyatt) and to have him put his valuable talents toward his own work is a delight.
There is a treasure trove of splendid songs here and at times the album plays through like a selection of singles and their B-sides. Ridin’ with Lady Luck and its rock and roll mate Pull String to Inflate deserve each other, back to back on seven-inch vinyl. With their low-slung guitar attitude the pair are spiky and even a bit wild. On the flip side we have the earnest neo-Celtic swoon of Short Wave Preachers and the pretty The Distance You Run both featuring fiddle, tack piano and accordion. Corne muses wistfully over the seesaw swoon of each with ease, his voice a satisfying focal point. The Springtseen-esque Forbidden Town works lyrically as a reminder that honest souls can be in the wrong place at the wrong the time and suffer some pretty grim circumstances. Corne also proves to be a dab hand at creating some lovely alt-country music here, again adding to the variety. The billowy steel-guitar licks that create the undertow in History Repeats ("I know that I’m no angel but don’t you try to turn the tables on me this time with another false comparison, you’ve crossed the Rubicon, lay down your arms") mesh seamlessly with the captivating lyrics. There is even a touch of tandem horn-section and slide guitar yacht rock buoying on the happy-go-lucky Locomotion. Corne proves clearly here that he is comfortable on either side of the studio glass. hhh1/2 out of five
Stream these: The Distance You Run, Pull String to Inflate
— Jeff Monk
Sound Prints: Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas
Saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas are both at the top of their game, and hugely regarded in the jazz world. They formed Sound Prints for the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2013, and have toured quite extensively since. Often inspired by saxophonist Wayne Shorter (there are two Shorter tunes on the album) this band, like Shorter, simply finds ways to move improvisatory ideas in new directions.
"We’re not playing by the traditional, or school-taught rules of jazz. The scandal in question (on the tune called Scandal) refers to our questioning of everything about the assumptions made in improvisation," says Douglas.
As they both have monster technique, this is not a conceit; merely a statement of fact. The others in the quintet are Lawrence Fields on piano, Linda May Han Oh on bass and Joey Baron on drums. This is truly excellent jazz — sometimes swirling around a concept and sometimes drifting flawlessly from melody to intense dissonance. Douglas has a clean, driving sound, and Lovano’s almost "dry" tone soars over the tracks as they unfold. One is constantly struck not only by the competence of the band, but by the confidence and trust these musicians express.
There are gentle tracks, but don’t expect easy listening. The music calls for and deserves the respect of concentration, and the rewards are exceptional. Contemporary jazz has many styles and sounds. This album provides fresh paths to explore. hhhh1/2 out of five
Steam these: Scandal, The Corner Tavern
— Keith Black
Canada’s Global Orchestra (Universal Music Canada)
This debut album by Canada’s Global Orchestra Kuné (translated as "together" in Esperanto), not only celebrates Canada’s rich multicultural heritage, but also serves as a testament to the power of ingenuity, with seemingly disparate forces coming together as a compelling whole.
The ensemble, led by David Buchbinder and comprised of musicians from around the world, is the brainchild of Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts at The Royal Conservatory of Music. No less than 150 musicians auditioned for a plumb spot in the crossover band, with 12 virtuoso players, as well as a Métis Canadian hand-picked for the album that features 14 cohesive tracks performed by 20 traditional instruments from around the world.
Highlights include: We Met in Tkaranto, which opens with a bluesy fiddle solo before morphing into a toe-tapping jig, while Nava-e-Sarosh (Whispers of an Angel) gradually melds into an East-meets-West flavoured invocation of ghostly spirits. Vocal numbers include Hymn To Freedom, Tashi Delek Shu (Blessings on Everyone), and the chant-like Canto a la Tierra (Song for the Land). Montreal is infused with jagged, rhythmic figures, while Yaguza (Perpetual Motion) drives forward at lightning speed.
But the sweet spot might be Lloqlla (Spirit of Rushing Water), fueled by naturalistic textures of whistling flutes and an omnipresent drum, finally erupting into a joyous chorus from these 13 global musicians now proud to call Canada their home and native land. hhhh out of five
— Holly Harris