POP / ROCK
Ariel Posen’s a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Winnipeg who, as the son of Finjan’s Kinzey Posen and Shayla Fink, grew up in a household where life was full of rehearsals and shows and, when he began to play guitar at age nine, his own lessons and recitals. His talent’s been known in local circles for years but his six-string reputation began to spread internationally when he started working with local roots act the Bros. Landreth.
These days, Posen is renowned in guitar circles for his tasty chops and wailing slide guitar. In 2019, he was named one of the world’s Top 10 players by readers at musicradar.com and a YouTube video of his solo during a version of John Martyn’s Angeline, recorded live in London in February 2020, has racked up 1.2 million views.
Posen doesn’t shy away from the attention of guitarheads, as he regularly teaches, gives master classes and guests on the channels of YouTube’s most popular instructors — but it’s clear from his recordings that he also wants to be known as a singer, songwriter and producer.
His debut album, 2018’s How Long, was notable for its songcraft and his latest effort, Headway (released March 5) also strikes a fine balance between instrumental virtuosity and serving the songs. This works, for the most part, when he hits his sweet spot — a breezy, bluesy take on rootsy, blue-eyed soul that smoulders and sparks. The tunes themselves are largely concerned with love’s travails and life’s journey, and Posen and co-producer Murray Pulver ensure that their melodies come first but, if you listen to this album loud you’ll hear all kinds of clever riffs, colourful bursts of tonal fuzz and, in places, a few breaks where you just know he’ll go for it at his live shows. That said, there are plenty of pleasing riffs and several clever lines, the best of which may be "take me to before the good was gone" from Carry Me Home. ★★★1/2 out of five
STREAM THESE: Heart by Heart, Carry Me Home, I’m Gone
— John Kendle
ROOTS / COUNTRY
Still Woman Enough (Legacy)
Loretta Lynn sits on a throne on the cover of her 50th album, looking regal as she regards her subjects with a guitar by her side with her name etched on the fret board.
And why not? The coal miner’s daughter is an august, 88-year-old presence. Dolly Parton, who’s close to a generation younger, is her only real competition as Queen of Country Music.
The fiery Still Woman Enough shares a title with Lynn’s second autobiography. Unlike Van Lear Rose, the 2004 album collaboration with Jack White that’s her best known recent work, Still Woman Enough doesn’t go in for hipster targeted reinvention. (This one was produced by her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash.)
In fact, the title track, which features Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood and is a companion piece to Lynn’s 1965 hit You Ain’t Woman Enough (included here as a duet with Tanya Tucker) is the album’s only brand new song.
But Still Woman Enough plays to Lynn’s strengths. There’s one more guest appearance, with Margo Price, the contemporary Nashville rebel who best embodies the feminist, fighting spirit of the auteur of Fist City on the 1971 hit One’s on the Way.
Elsewhere, it’s Lynn making her way though her illustrious catalogue, plus covers of songs she’s sung all her life, such as Hank Williams’ I Saw the Light and the ghostly ballad I Don’t Feel at Home Anymore. She delivers Coal Miner’s Daughter as a spoken recitation.
There are no revelations, but the renditions are rock solid, with Lynn’s vocals impressively undiminished, her legacy intact, and her position on the throne secure. ★★★1/2 out of five
— Dan DeLuca
Entering Utopia (Three Pines Records)
This album, which came out earlier this month, is the sophomore release of this Toronto trio — Kelly Jefferson on tenor and soprano, Artie Roth on bass and Ernesto Cervini on drums, percussion and bass clarinet — and it builds on the excellent pattern of the first one. Except for a cover of Charlie Parker’s Cheryl and the standard Blue Gardenia, all the compositions are shared among the trio members, and there is much diversity in mood and style, with the constants being energy and perhaps more harmonic exploration than the debut album.
I have also been impressed with the often cheeky sense of humour all three bring to the table. The opening track, for example, starts out as an almost goofy romp that settles into a much more complex and twisted melody. They all seem to be having a lot of fun that is infectious. After that opening track, which seems to say "Now that we’ve got your attention…", the next track is the title tune, which offers a gentler and more serious mood. The melodies are impressive without in any way limiting the depth of the improvisation. The tune Layla Tov, meaning Good Night in Hebrew, adds a faint background of laughing children. The effect is quite haunting as Jefferson’s soprano soars above the bass foundation.
Cervini’s Billyish pushes the tempo ahead while maintaining the mood of good cheer. Flood, Deluge moves into much edgier and abstract territory with a harder-edged dynamic. The two cover tracks take the familiar, long-standing tunes neatly into 2021, with the bass clarinet adding to the arrangements.
Like everyone in the music business during a pandemic, jazz folks have been struggling to keep above water with releases that mitigate some of the restricted movements that impact them and their ability to tour and record. This album is a fine example of success in that endeavour. Support of creative musicians is critical to the jazz world. ★★★★ out of five
STREAM THESE: Entering Utopia, Layla Tov
— Keith Black
Mozart/Jones Violin Sonatas
Rachel Podger violin, Christopher Glynn fortepiano (Channel Classics)
Despite the astonishing number of works he composed during his tragically short life, Mozart still left more than 100 incomplete fragments of instrumental music behind that have languished since his death in 1791.
In this world première recording, British musician, educator, writer and broadcaster Timothy Jones turns his hand to completing those vestiges from the past: specifically, three violin and piano sonatas that are performed with conviction by baroque violinist Rachel Podger and Christopher Glynn on fortepiano.
Jones has been involved with detailed analyses of Mozart’s fragments as a passion project since 2013, bearing modern-day fruit with 80 new "completions" of 30 fragments (and counting), including the Wunderkind’s monumental Requiem, among many other genres.
What is most fascinating is that Jones is not satisfied with merely one original addition per sonata, but offers two different "takes," aptly referred to as Completion 1 and Completion 2, for each work. Thus, the listener is able to compare and contrast styles in keeping with classical tradition, as well Jones’ own choices. However, as each enhanced sonata is virtually seamless, any analysis would demand closer scrutiny, ideally with score in hand — a tantalizing playground for musicologists.
The three works include Mozart’s Fragment of a Sonata in B flat for piano and violin, Fr 1782C, Sonata in A major, Fr1784b and finally Sonata in G, Fr 1789f. Wisely, the two versions of each sonata are interspersed throughout the album in a way that helps create variety. Also included is Violin Fantasia in C minor with its sole accompanying Completion 1, suggesting more to come from this dedicated musician, passionate about the past and channelling ghosts of those who have come before. ★★★★1/2
STREAM THIS: Violin Fantasia in C minor, Completion 1
— Holly Harris