Hindsight (Birthday Cake/Cadence)
It’s not uncommon for musicians to work on more than one project, for reasons both creative and economic. But some fans of Winnipeg roots-rockers the Bros. Landreth may be wondering if they’ll ever release another record, especially now that frontman Joey Landreth has put out two solo albums since the Bros. debut full-length, Let it Lie, was released in 2014.
Rest assured, the Bros. are still a going concern and a new album is coming soon.
In the meantime, those who enjoy Joey Landreth’s singing and guitar chops can comfort themselves with the nine songs and nearly 34 minutes of music that make up Hindsight. Described by Joey as a conceptual collaboration with Winnipeg drummer/keyboardist/producer Roman Clarke, the new album is a modern update of classic ‘70s Southern California rock, filled with echoes of acts such as the Eagles and Steely Dan, cut with a helping of funky soul, gospel vocals and bluesy rock. There’s even a hint of Lyle Lovett’s Large Band in places.
At its core, Landreth’s solo band is a power trio of him, bassist Meg Dolovich (another local gem) and Clarke on the skins. But they don’t really let loose as such except on Where Did I Go Wrong, an insistent bluesy jam that features some of Landreth’s finest guitar playing set to an insistent, repeating vocal refrain. The other tracks here are a little more measured, exercises in blending groove, soul and feel with some extremely catchy hooks, as on album opener Forgiveness or Dangerous Heart (which could well be an anthemic smash if a modern hat act picks it up and countrifies it). Father Son Holy Spirit or the album-closing title track are the epitome of tenderness and soulful restraint, while Cryin’ could be a really loud Bahamas song (which is a good thing, by the way).
3.5 stars out of 5
Stream these: Where Did I Go Wrong; Cryin’; Forgiveness.
— John Kendle
Honky Tonk Time Machine (MCA Nashville)
Country music entertainer George Strait has had one of the most successful careers one can have in contemporary country music. He has won dozens of awards for albums, singles and performances and his legion of fans still support him at the ripe old age of 66.
Honky Tonk Time Machine is his 30th album and hews closely to his trademark sound. This is the kind of music that became popular due to its willingness to use familiar country music tropes in a commercialized fashion. The fickle country music audience was ready to scoot their collective booties as urban cowboys and cowgirls and leave the more rural, "hayseed" aspects of the music at the barn door.
HTTM is a listenable set of tracks that hangs together perfectly. At this stage, Strait has the cash to have only the highest level of musicians play this music and it really pays off. On the uptempo side, there is plenty of fun to be had. The title track and Every Little Honky Tonk Bar both rock just a little bit and the meshing of steel guitar, fiddle and a tight, bright rhythm section support the singers’ happy-go-lucky, bar party attitude perfectly. Two More Wishes, with its spot-on twangy guitar riff, is an earworm for the ages. Listen to it once and you will be hooked.
To keep the Republicans in his fan base contented, Strait offers God And Country Music and The Weight of the Badge for balance. His cover of Johnny Paycheck’s poignant Old Violin and a duet with Willie Nelson (Sing One With Willie) show earnest respect for some of the old-timers.
The producers snuck in some subtle auto-tune effects just in case any bro-country fans are listening, and in the final estimation, Strait’s time machine is working just about perfectly.
3 1/2 stars out of five
Stream these: Two More Wishes, Old Violin
— Jeff Monk
Joshua Redman Quartet
Come What May (Nonesuch)
Joshua Redman is clearly one of the best current tenor sax musicians in the business. Technically and creatively, he is simply excellent, and his releases are eagerly received.
This new quartet album is the first for quite a while, and thankfully the wait is over. His long-standing quartet has Aaron Goldberg on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums, and they simply operate as one.
The album is a fine example of what many would consider exactly what contemporary jazz should sound like. The rhythms are complex, the solos are cutting-edge while remaining accessible. While Redman can show a hard-edged sound if called upon, his tenor is clean and melodic. His artistry is so smooth that he doesn’t seem (as some tenor players do) to be showing off how good he is. There is maturity and constant innovation in his solos.
As mentioned, all four have been together long enough that the same maturity applies to each of them. This album is neither as highly challenging as some experimental new jazz, nor in any way simply a rote sample of "jazz light." Rather it is wonderfully satisfying and entertaining at a number of levels. This quartet is top drawer.
Redman’s quartet is one of the headliners of the gala opening concert of the TD International Jazz Festival that takes place June 18 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It should be a night to remember.
four stars out of five
Stream these: Stagger Bear, Vast
— Keith Black
From the Valley of Baca (Navona Records)
This debut recording by American composer David Carpenter features a trio of intimate chamber works showing the scope of his compositional voice, filtered through past influence, while wholly stamped with his own artistic sensibility.
The first offering, Trio, evoking the pensive overtones of Shostakovich’s String Quartet in C minor, Op. 110, comprises three tightly knit movements titled simply as Quarter Note = 126; 80; and 110, respectively. Members of the ensemble — Rebecca Harris on violin, Myanna Harvey on viola and Cassia Harvey on cello — take turns weaving their lyrical lines together into a single tapestry of sound, punctuated by effective pizzicato during the second movement, and furtive, repeated note motives and striking down bowing effects during the finale that adds further textural interest.
His song cycle, From the Valley of Baca, is based on imagistic English texts by Jewish-American author Emma Lazarus, interspersed with verses from the Bible’s Psalm 84 sung in Hebrew, and referenced in the latter’s prior, same-titled poem From the Valley of Baca. Baritone Lawrence Indik’s resonant vocals imbue each of the work’s nine movements with cantorial eloquence, particularly haunting during the first piece, Not While the Snow-shroud; the sixth, Adonai elohim tsivaot; and finale, I Saw in Dream.
Finally, Rhapsody, composed in 2015 for pianist Katelyn Bouska and originally intended as a companion piece for Chopin’s Piano Sonata in B minor, Op. 58, amplifies the 19th-century Polish composer’s poetic voice, performed with pluck and aplomb by Bouska as the newly expanded, three-movement work’s modern-day honouree.
3 1/2 stars out of five
STREAM THIS: From the Valley of Baca, I Saw in Dream.
— Holly Harris