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Indigo Joseph cover a “Collage” of influences

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Regina based indie rock band Indigo Joseph never met a style of music they didn’t like, so on their new aptly named  CD “Collage,” they cover a lot of musical ground in 38 minutes by putting all of their influences on the CD, some in the same song from garage rock to a couple songs sung in French.

 The CDClick Here to hear indigo Joseph opens with the haunting synth pop of  “Opus III” which just barely scratches the surface of the musical ground Indigo Joseph is about to cover.
All three French songs are highlights, though they couldn’t be more different from each other, “ Colibri” is an immediate stand out with a garage rock sound which includes a cello and a horn solo.

 “ La Balance” is another catchy French language song in the more indie rock vein which has an addictive earworm of a keyboard hook and a tasteful guitar solo.
 Yet another French language song  “Oiseau Mort” is a straight ahead scrappy  garage rocker.

On the other hand they dabble in hip hop on  the title track, but combine it the sound with a touch of early ’70s progressive rock. “ Pocket Change” is in a similar vein and is the only song that comes close to sounding like any of the other songs, though it has more of a Beck feel.
 On yet another hand, “ Dumb Animals” taps into the spirit of ambient indie-rock of the likes that comes out of Vancouver these days mixed with a touch of the Cure. In a similar vein, though not too similar, “ Others” is an immediate highlight if only because of the unforgettably quirky video they made for it involving stolen yard dwarves and a plethora of animal masks. But that keyboard hook  sticks in the head and just won’t leave.
 Meanwhile, “Pills” has a psychedelic  ’60s garage rock feel to it.

The folk flavoured “ Simple Minds”  is simply beautiful thanks to the gorgeous violin riff  running throughout it.
Completely different hat that is “Turtle Dovin’” which sounds like  garage rock performed by Rage Against the Machine.
 “Collage” is indeed an eclectic and enjoyable listen which covers a wide spectrum  of influences and sounds.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
CD: Collage
Band: Indigo Joseph
Genre: indie rock

MacKenzie Blues Band show a whole lot of soul on Slam! Bam!

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Owen Sound based blues band The Mackenzie Blues Band have a whole lot of soul on their colourful new CD “ Slam Bam.”Click Here to Hear the MacKenzie Blues band

 They band has some impressive achievements to their name already including twice making the semi- finals in the Memphis Blues Challenge and winning the 2014 Maple blues award for best new artist based on the strength of their 2012  their CD “ Back Road Revelations.”
They struck while the iron is hot by releasing “Slam! Bam!”

The cover itself is a thing of beauty, designed like a 1950s pulp  detective comic book, which while is difficult to read, is fun to look at.
 Tara MacKenzie has a powerhouse voice, belting out  a mixture of influences  including jazz, a touch of gospel and  quite a bit of jazz.
The songs on the CD range from upbeat foot stompers lime  the highlight “ Up Up Up” which combines most of their influences in one song,  to spookier numbers like “Bone Cage.”
There is some excellent horn playing and some super harp playing from Rod Ramsay on tracks like the gothic sounding “Burned When you Play With Fire” and on the groovy  “Down With Love.”
 “Down With Love” is one of my favourite tracks with a subtle guitar groove from Trevor MacKenzie and excellent bass and organ from Joel Dawson.
 The Cd also features extra help from the likes of folkie James Keelaghan and blues singer Coco Love Alcorn.

 The CD is all about the groove which comes out on the R and B flavoured  “Higher Road” which has one of many beautifully tasteful guitar solos from  Trevor Mackenzie.
 He plays a rough, tortured, dissonant Neil Youngish solo on the eight minute long, haunting ballad “ I Feel a Storm Coming.”
 While I like the crunchy rockers like “ Move On,” the slower material like  “ On the Other Side” really allow Tara MacKenzie to show off her voice.
 She shows off some beautiful gospel influence on “Spiritual Power” on which the band is backed by a choir and some moving electric piano.
The more straight ahead blues of “Sweet Stuff” is another highlight marked by some pretty harp playing and that saxophone.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
 CD: Slam! Bam!
 Band: The MacKenzie Blues Band
 Genre: soul/ blues

Steve Strongman plugged in again on Let Me Prove it to You

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While Maple Blues Award Winner and 2014 nominee Steve Strongman unplugged, more less on his last album, on his latest CD  “ Let Me Prove it to You,” he plugs back in. He proves that things are as they should be— plugged in, loud and fun.Click here to hear Steve Strongman
 He gets a little funky on “ Ain’t Nobody Like You and again on “ Can You Feel it.”
But for the most part,  “Let Me Prove it To you is straight ahead beautiful blues rock music.
Strongman continues to show prodigious guitar chops, so it is not without reason he has not only been nominated for guitarist of the year, entertainer of the year and electric  act of the year for the Maple Blues Awards.
He plays some subtle slide guitar on a couple of tracks including  “Get Used To It.”
and on the catchy “ It Ain’t the First Time.”
 He also shows not only his sense of humour but also the fact he is growing up on my favourite track “We’re Going out Tonight” in which he holds a conversation with one of his bad influence buddies trying to drag him out on the town instead of staying home with his family. He starts off slow as his buddy tries to convince him to go out and picks up the pace with a hot, country tinged guitar solo when he caves in to peer pressure.
The  acoustic foot stomping number “ Older ” has  a similar theme. “ I’m growing older, but I’m not old,” he observes in it.
“Looking for Trouble,” features more sweet slide and some tasteful harp playing from Guy Belanger reminding me of Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer. A couple of the songs including “ What I Believe” feature Strongman paying harp. He also plays bass on the track.
 “ There’s Something Going On” is an addictive blues rocker and another of my favourites on the CD.
 So if you like blues music and slide guitar and a touch of harp, you will love Steve Strongman.

–by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
CD: Let Me Prove it To You
Artist: Steve Strongman
Genre: blues
Record label: Sonic Unyon

Cracker combines country and upbeat funk tinged garage rock on Berkeley to Bakersfield

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Back in the day in northern California there was a band called Cracker.
 They had a minor hit in the ’90s called “Low” and then seemed to vanish.
 Luckily they are still around, blending both their country roots and their garage rock/ punk sides on their new double album “Berkeley to Bakersfield.Click here to hear Cracker
 The Berkeley Side explores  their funky rock side with the original line up of David Lowery, bassist Davey Faragher, guitarist Johnny  Hickman, drummer Michael Urbano, keyboardist Thayer Sarrano, saxophonist Marc Gilley and additional keyboardist Mark Golde.
 They start off slowly with the Shins’  style laid back acoustic groove of  “Torches and pitchforks and” quickly pick up to pace  with the urgent, scrappy rocker “March of the Billionaires,” which has a Bob Mould feel.
 It is the first time, according to the liner notes, that they have recorded together in almost 20 years. And its about bloody time because they are fantastic together blending alternative country/ cow-punk  along the lines of St. Louis’ The Bottle Rockets  on slower songs like El Comandante and El Cerrito.
 They show their more rock and roll side with the outstanding “Beautiful” and the Dandy Warholish “Life in the Big City.”
 They have catchy choruses  and plenty of addictive harmonies and a  crunchy guitar sound you just have to love.
 The last song on the first CD “Waited My Whole Life,” provides a great transition to the more pure Bakersfield country of  the Bakersfield CD.
 It sounds like a completely different band, well it pretty much is,  other than the common link of Lowery’s vocals, guitar and banjo playing and guitarist Johnny Hickman though Davey Faragher adds backing vocals and Thayer Sarrano adds more keyboards and vocals. Meanwhile fiddler Luke Moeller and pedal steel player Matt Stoessel add the requisite amount of twang to the music which immediately grabs the ear with the first track “ California CountryBoy.”
 Jeremy Wheatley adds drums and Sal Maida is locked in as the band‘s rhythm section on Bakersfield.
In a more just music world, the dark themed  second track “Almond Hill”  would be a modern country hit single along the lines of something Billy Currington would record. So does the raunchy sounding “King of Bakersfield.” “ Get On Down the Road” is an upbeat, catchy country rocker that sticks with you.
“ I’m Sorry Baby” is already getting played on Sirius XM's Outlaw country station, which is I suppose where  Cracker belongs as they decidedly  and proudly don’t fit in anywhere on mainstream airwaves.
“Play it like weird, this ain’t Nashville,” advises Lowery to steel guitarist  Matt Stoessel on “King of Bakersfield.”
 “ Do what you want as long as you ain’t hurtin’ no-one,” from that same song sums up the philosophy of the band and their new double CD.
 There is plenty of pretty playing and toe tapping rhythms and I can’t get enough of that sighing steel guitar.
Another upbeat country tune “ The San Bernardino Boy” will keep your toes tapping to the end thanks to Lowrey’s chunking banjo and some bluesy dobro. the CD ends witha  pair of laid back country ballads “ When you Come Down” and “ Where  have those Days  Gone.”
— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

CD: From Berkeley to Bakersfield
Band: Cracker
Genre: Country rock
Record Company: 429 Records

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