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Archive for the ‘Sarah Harmer’ Category

SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (February 17, 2001).

It’s hard to believe these shows were 18 years ago!

This was night 4 of 4 of the Horseshoe Tavern’s 53rd Birthday bash.  It was the final night and one of the longest shows I can recall at almost 3h in length. The Chickens opened the show.

It was hard to find information about The Chickens.  What I learned was that they were originally a band called U.I.C. which was first an acronym for Unemployment Insurance Commission but was later changed to Up in Canada.  They broke up and then years later reformed but as a different band.  From Now Toronto:

Not only do the Chickens boast the propulsive rhythm section of former U.I.C. drummer Murray Heywood and bassist Dan Preszcator along with the devastating firepower of U.I.C. guitarist Fred Robinson, but they also have the megacity’s most exciting microphone mauler, U.I.C.’s Dave Robinson, fronting the band.  That’s right, Exeter’s answer to the Stooges have clawed their way back from obscurity to kick ass with a vengeance. So why the name change? Well, despite the fashion-world dictate, the 80s are over and the Chickens aren’t a nostalgia act.  The songwriting savvy of former El Speedo guitarist Ken Mikalauskas has added a sharper pop edge to the compositions, as can be heard on the Chickens’ cranking new Prepare To Plug In (Egg-cellent) album.  “We went through about a million names and even contemplated going back to U.I.C., but it didn’t click. Ken has contributed so much to our sound that this really feels like a new group. Besides, none of us really liked the name U.I.C. anyway.”

So that’s the opening act.

For the main act, the band plays for nearly three hours.  They played almost all of Night of the Shooting Stars (songs are in bold–excluding “Remain Calm” or “Satan”).  There was a nice intro by Jeff Cohen (which states that The Horsehoe was originally a country club, which makes sense.)

And then they jumped n with six new songs.

“The Fire” which Martin says is “a new song Dave and i are working on.”  There’s some great harmonizing between the two of them at the end–they don’t duet enough.  It’s followed by some short, poppy song: “It’s Easy To Be With You” and “Superdifficult.”  Martin speaks the title through his robotic voice in low and high register and Tim says that thing was in my dreams last night.  It’s such a great but far too short song.

“The Reward” has such a great slinky guitar riff.  It’s another satisfying new song.  As is “Mumbletypeg” although they can’t seem to synch up on the intro to this song.  Dave yells “all together now” and they get going.  The new stuff ends with “Song Of The Garden” which Tim dedicates to Sarah Harmer’s new album.

Then it’s back to older songs.  There’s a soaring “Self Serve Gas Station” which segues into a screaming “RDA.”  They throw in some tags to The Clash’s “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” with DB shouting: “I’m so bored with the U.S.A.  I’m so angry at the U.S.A.  I don’t give  a fuck about the U.S.A.”  When the song is over, Dave says,  “We almost sounded like The Chickens there.”

There’s a discussion of music and hockey and The Chickens should be called The Gas Station Island Five since the starting line is the entire chickens band–they’re amazing on the ice.  One of them says “We’re gonna kick The Morningstars ass (Bidini’s team) at the Exclaim Cup.  DB notes: “Different division.  They can’t put us in the same division because there’s always a big terrible beautiful brawl when we play each other.  The Exclaim Cup.  April 13-15–it’s free.  It surprises you that it’s free to watch these guys play hockey?

Tim says they’re going “way back for” “Torque, Torque” which was fun to hear.  Especially since the follow-up the new song “In It Now” has a similar guitar sound.  I love the guitar riff and melody of this song.

They tale a small break to talk about the celebrities they’ve spotted on the last couple of nights, including Dave Reid, from Centennial High, where they performed Harmleodia.

Someone shouts “I’m looking for some fun” (the opening of Fish Tailin’)  DB: “Hey Martin that guy wants to talk to you.”  Martin says they’re playing something else.  When the guy shouts again, DB says, “Perhaps you would like to try another club if you’re still looking  Because we’re cooking.”

They play a great “Junction Foil Ball” during which a fire alarm goes off.  After the song Tim checks, “that wasn’t a real fire, right?  It was just Dave’s riff was too hot.”

They play a long “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” with a wild drum solo in the middle and loud and roaring ending.   Then they play “Me and Stupid” and Dave forgets the words in the first verse (perhaps the first time I’ve heard him forget a lyric) but he is undaunted and they do fine until the end.  Mid song, Don quotes a poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. “and done a hundred things/You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung.”  Then Dave quotes Wilderness Gothic by Steven J. Gibson “something is about to happen / two shores away a man hammering in the sky.”   [Both poems are printed in their entirety at the end of the post].


Martin’s been nominated for a Juno award for original art work–they’re never nominated for a musical category–the art has always been better anyway.  The Story of Harmelodia is being produced by the One Yellow Rabbit theater company in Calgary.  So up next is “The Sky Dreamed” on which Don Kerr takes lead vocals.

Don says he’d like to thank Maureen for “giving me an official Canadian tartan jacket, which means I am now an official Rheostatic.  Martin says Canadian tartan used to be our uniform.  Tim: and our bedding.

“Baby I Love You” a goof track from Nightlines Session is requested many times.  Tim says they considered it for Valentine’s Day, but it’s too complicated and doesn’t work without a Fender Rhodes.

For “Loving Arms” they are joined by Carmen from a fine band called Check (I guess). She sings backing vocals which sounds very pretty.  I never noticed that the ending melody sound like the guitar for “Here Comes the Sun.”  It’s followed by one more new song–a great version of “P.I.N.

Dave says they played Sydney, Cape Breton where they don’t get a lot of bands and they go crazy.  Somebody sent up shots of tequila and we stopped a song and played “Tequila.”  We kept shouting tequila but nobody was sending up any more shots.  And then all of a sudden there were 48 of them.  We’ve never been the same.

Then the bust out a surprise: “The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part 1 and 2.”  During the song, Dave B talks to Dave of the chickens about what it would be like playing against Wendell.

Then it’s time for two Stompin’ Tom songs.  “Horseshoe Hotel” which they learned just for this occasion.  Tom wrote it in 1971 about this hotel where people drank a lot.  Tim follows with “The Ketchup Song.”  people requests “Bud the Spud”, but they have a two song Tom quota.  Plus, no more than one song about potatoes you don’t wanna get to filled up on potato songs.

Then comes an amazing trip of a set ender.  A simply beautiful version of “Stolen Car” followed by an intense “Horses.”  The version includes Dave chanting the Talking Heads’ lines from “Crosseyed and Painless” and Martin reciting the Tragically Hip’s “Blow at High Dough” through his computer voice.  The noisy outro of Horses segues into a lovely quiet intro of “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” and the crowd goes nuts.

It’s an amazing set ender that should satisfy anyone, but the Rheos are not done.  After a fairly long break they’re going to play for about 40 more minutes.  Someone shouts “Saskatchewan” and Dave says, yes, we were gonna do that but we ran out of time.

So instead, it’s “Legal Age Life At Variety Store” which features Tim Mech on guitar.  As they start the chords, Dave says, “you’re writing something in your notebook but how do you know which song were doing?  We could be doing “Rockin My Life Away” by Jerry Lee Lewis or “The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright III.  But of course it’s “Legal Age Life” and everyone gets solos: Freddy and Davey from The Chickens and Timmy (Mech) who does a weird solo.   Tim Dave and Fred–the triple threat!

Somebody shots “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” but Dave says they can’t do it without The Bourbons and the guy shouts “I take it back!”

Two more new songs include a rockin “CCYPA” and “We Went West” which seems a weird song for an encore (it’s pretty slow), but it sounds good.  It’s followed by another surprise, their version of Jane Siberry’s “One More Colour.”  Dave says that they have a song on the (incredibly diverse) compilation box set Oh What a Feeling 2.  Proceeds go to charity.  They are on it after Jane Siberry.

Then they leave, but they’re not done.  JC comes out and announces that it’s 2:30 in the morning (!).  Do you want to hear any more? No rules tonight.

The guys play “Northern Wish” in the crowd acoustic and unmic’d.  The recording is pretty good and the crowd really sings along–great fun there.

Everyone assumes they are done, but they’ve got room for one more, a rocking, late night version of “Introducing Happiness,” which sounds like it’s 2:45 in the morning but is pretty awesome, nonetheless.

What a show.

They played 63 different songs over the four nights.  There were 30 songs that were played more than once.

[READ: February 14, 2019] Mythical Irish Beasts

This book is a fun illustrated collection of the historical origins of Irish beasts.

Joyce does a lot of research (there’s footnotes!) and mentions many original documents to explain where these myths came from, but it is still a very simple introduction to these stories–a way to pique your interest.

He also illustrates every beast in his striking but unusual artistic style.  I really like the look of his beasts, but they are certainly unconventional.  They’re very modern looking, which is interesting for these ancient creatures.

There does not appear to be a reason for the order, but I’m going to list all of the creatures just because it’s fun to have some many weird words in print. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 6 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 16, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 14, 2004. This was the 6th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  It was a free night and they still played for over 2 hours.

Two versions are available – Mark Sloggett’s soundboard recording and 8 track files provided by Steve Clarkson once again the Clarkson download is crisper and louder but with more crowd noise.

Not a lot of unusual stuff happens in this show.  “P.I.N.” is perfect.  On “Mumbletypeg,” Dave plays a new opening with some sliding notes. It’s a nice changeup, but it seems to mess up Tim–although he falls into place pretty easily.  After the song, Martin notes: “one guitar down, four to go.  Good thing we have a reserve.”  Then he introduces “this next song we’re gonna do is called “Marginalized” by Tim Vesely.”  Dave says,”And we have Chris Stringer on keyboards for the duration.”  Mike: “He’s on everything, it just looks like keyboards.  He’s just as equally on Jews harp.”  Dave: “And very close to being on drums tonight.”

Once again, Martin really into “The Tarleks” especially the loud ending part.  Then he says “More songs about invasions,” as they play “Aliens (Christmas 1988).”  In the quiet part Dave starts singing “Artenings Made of Gold” and then Kevin Hearn comes up on stage to sing “Monkeybird.”  There’s some wild noises and guitar nonsense in the middle.  And as “Monkeybird,” ends as Dave is introducing Kevin Hearn, Martin finishes up “Aliens” right where the song left off.

In the second version, you can hear a request–a big shout “Shaved Head” and a smaller shout for “Record Body Count.”

Dave says “Try To Praise This Ordinary World” which “features a poem by Ken Babstock.”  There’s no accordion this night and once again, you can’t hear the poem n version 2.  Then a surprise of “The Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray” which features Chris Stringer on the mandolin with a nice solo mid-song.
Time says “Here Comes The Image” is a song from 2067.  The year.” There seems to be a little trouble with the keyboard at first but it comes back and there’s a lovely solo.

Dave says “here’s a plaintive reading of ‘My First Rock Concert.'”  he also ups the line to “Michael Stipe was distant, he was nice (he wouldn’t let me touch his dog).”  Then he commends: “totally a Saturday night crowd on a Tuesday.  That’s was the Argos going to the Grey Cup will do to a Toronto crowd, I tell ya.”

Whether you listen to our new album in the comfort of your own home or a car or … a boat.”  Tim: “the comfort of your own boat.”  “For those of us who have boats.”   This is the first song you’d hear.  Tim says canoes the best boat.  Dave: “I don’t t know if it’s safe to have a portable CD player in a canoe or kayak.  Tim: “I took my canoe to Hot Rod Jimmy’s and had it decked out.  The subs are so… the ripples are just you don’t want to be camping next to me.”  The first song on that album is “Shack In The Cornfields,”  During the middle Dave says, “Stringer, stop stealing my tambourine or Jews harp.”  Mike: “Crank it” (Jews harp solo).  “Little Bird, Little Bird” has some slide guitar on it and “Pornography” is short and sweet.

Dave says “‘Loving Arms’ was sung by Sarah Harmer on the album and then she went on to be a big star.  So we take full credit for her career.  How many people were here for Jessie Harris and Justin Rutledge?  Thanks for donations tonight for Tim’s childrens’ and my son’s school Alpha Alternative Public School.  Mike: “Martin and I’s unborn children get nothing.”

“Saskatchewan” “reprising his starring role in Green Sprouts Music Week 1980 something: Justin Rutledge.” Justin: “It’s my first time playing the Shoe it’s very cool.”  He sings it with a nice drawl although the song is incredibly slow.

“Dope Fiends And Boozehounds” has a middle section of “Alomar” after which Tim says “wow, I think the sun shone for a minute there.”  After Martin sings “dark side of the moon,” the audience does the howling for him.”  Towards the end, Martin starts playing a lovely “Song of Flight.”

Dave says, “we don’t want to keep you out too late.  It’s a Tuesday night.  We all have cartoons to watch in the morning.”  And then they play almost 30 more minutes of music.

“Making Progress” opens with spooky trippy keys to open.  It’s followed by a really harsh and aggressive “Feed Yourself.”  There’s a long solo section with some spooky keyboards and them Mike says “play the big thing, frighten us, make it do scary shit.”  And there’s this huge build up.  “This is gonna be good. Wait for it.”  Martin:  “I hope it doesn’t blow up.”  Someone jokes: “Can you do any Tragically Hip on that thing.”  But there’s no pay off to whatever was happening.

During the encore break you can hear someone enunciate “Sweet.  Rich.  Beautiful.  Mine.”  But instead, Tim comes out to do “First The Wheel” solo.  Tim says, “personally I’d like to hear “Satan is the Whistler,” Dave if you’re listening.  “When he finishes, he says, “I’d like to welcome back the Toronto cast of Rheostatics.”

Dave mentions “the special guest vocalist night tomorrow with 28 different singers.  And Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle opening.”  Tim: “That’s definitely worth coming for.  Martin: “Rheo-oke.”  Dave says more like we’re the Blues Brothers band backing up these great people.

Thursday night, Danny Michel is here for a double bill and Mike’s brother John Wojewoda and Bluegrass Nightmare.  Friday night The Imponderables and The Buttless Chaps.

They honor Tim’s request and play a Rocking “Satan Is The Whistler.”  They do it justice and the ending really rocks. The night ends with “Soul Glue.”  Martin still has his robotic voice thing and keeps saying “Soul Glue” as an intro and they play a fun, spirited version of it, with Tim really vamping by the end.

[READ: April 22, 2017] The Time Museum

The story opens with a man traveling through time.  He is with a group of people whom he tells to flee when he sets off the machine.  Cut to 8 months later as the crew is looking for evidence of the man’s success or failure.  They don’t see anything.  Until the man (known as The Earl) appears from behind a rock with a glowing object which he declares “is TIME.”

Then we meet the main character, Delia Bean.  Delia loves science and is a nerd.  The other kids don’t love that so much.  But summer is coming so that’s okay.  And the summer means a trip to Uncle Lydon’s place.  He is the coolest because he is curator of the Earth Time Museum–a place outside of normal time where Earth’s wonders are displayed.

When they get to Uncle Lyndon’s house Delia is in heaven (her brother not so much).  He winds up going to the town pool but Delia does some research in the neighborhood.  While walking round she discovers a (quite frankly adorable) kiwi bird.  It licks her and then runs off.  By the time she catches it (and names him Tammany), it has led her right to the Museum.  The museum is amazing with sights and sounds and smells from the history of the Earth.  And that ‘s when Lyndon reveals a secret.  Yes, he is from Hoboken, but he is actually from the year 5079.  He’s a time traveler. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND AND FRIENDS-Yukon Arts Centre, Whitehorse YT (February 10, 2011).

Stolen From A Hockey Card

From the City of Charlottetown:

Hosted by CBC’s Ron MacLean, Stolen From a Hockey Card is a hockey-themed concert which pays tribute to Canada’s love and passion for the game of hockey. The impressive all-Canadian line-up of artists for the concert includes songstress Sarah Harmer, Chris Murphy (Sloan), Lennie Gallant, Stephen Stanley (Lowest of the Low), Carmen Townsend, Liam Corcoran (Two Hours Traffic), Bidiniband and former New York Islanders great and Hockey Hall of Fame member Bryan Trottier.  [Not all of these performers are included below, if they were all there].

Each artist will write their own hockey-themed song which they will perform for the first time as part of the concert. In addition to their newly-written hockey song, each artist will also perform one of their own original songs. Bidiniband, featuring Dave Bidini, formerly of acclaimed rock band The Rheostatics and creator of the Stolen From a Hockey Card concert, will serve as house band for the evening.

The official line up: Paul Linklater – guitar; Douglas Friesen – bass; Don Kerr – drums
Geoff Berner – vocals, accordion; C.R. Avery – vocals; Buck 65 – vocals; Dave Bidini – vocals, guitar; John K. Samson – vocals, guitar; Kim Barlow – vocals, banjo; Mathias Kom – vocals, guitar;  Sarah Harmer – vocals, guitar

There are 12 songs in total

Geoff Berner wrote “Fighting To Stay in the Game” The lyrics begin: “Mike Keenan ruined watching the Canucks for me when he traded away Trevor Linden.” It’s a rocking song that goes beyond hockey: “I’m just fighting to stay in the game… to keep the love of our spouses. …to keep the banks from taking our houses. …to keep the respect of our children. …to making a living not making a killing.”

I loved this verse about a hockey player I had not heard of: “As the first nations leader Gino Odjick met with the Pope (it’s true) / The Pope apologized for the Church’s role in Canada’s residential schools / I wondered if he was tempted to grab him by the jersey and pop him a few / but no, Gino forgave him.  Said it was important to work together to build the future anew.”

After this one, he says, “I’m going to revert to form play a new song.  It’s about people on the run trying to get to a country that is safe.  There are a lot of people knocking on the door to Canada and we could have kids from Sri Lanka or Haiti playing hockey in the future.  And that would be a good thing.  The song is called “Wealthy Poet.”  It’s all accordion and vocal–cool wild accordion riffs in between a strongly sung melody.

C.R. Avery performed “Already The Great One,” his story of the Wayne Gretzky transfer.  He says, “I sat down to write a story about Eric Lindross–meant to write a good murder ballad.  But that memory of Gretzky crying…” Avery has a raspy Springsteenish voice in this piano ballad.  I enjoyed this section quite a bit: “I wanted to be that kid from Brantford, Ontario–between the pipes in a ski mask / I was cool like Ken Dryden / I was bad ass like Grant Fuhr  / An arrogant outlaw: part Billy the Kid, part Patrick Roi (screamed wonderfully)–noisy screaming big loud pianos and guitars.  It’s a great climax.  And then after 5 minutes there a really intense electric harmonica solo.

Folk rapper Buck 65 was up next.  He says, “So yea this is called ‘The Borje Salming Massacre’ a song about the night in November 1986 that Borje Salming got cut on the face and required 200 stitches.  The backing band plays along–the chorus is a slightly disturbing “look away.”  He talks about how he always wanted to be a hockey star, but after that incident, form which he couldn’t look away, even though “the Leafs won that game in the end  / but I never played hockey again.”  He also plays a short fun song called “Wicked and Weird” (not hockey related).  It’s his folky rap delivery over some interesting electronic percussion and samples.

Dave Bidini and Bidiniband performed “Val Marie.”  Bidini talks about being a Leafs fan but when he was in grade 10 he made a TV tray and put Bryan Trottier’s face n it.  Why not a leaf?  He can’t say.  But Bryan Trottier and his brother used to play in Val Marie Saskatchewan, and he says je was one of “hockey’s greatest musicians.”

John K. Samson is there “making his case for Reggie Leach joining the hall of fame.”  His song  “Petition” has a “choir” backing him: “we the undersigned put forth his name.”   The host asks him why Reggie Leach. “I always thought he was an exemplary and fascinating player.  Growing up I was not a Flyers fan, I was more of a Habs fan, but we made an exception for Reggie because he as from the Interlake Region….  Woah.”  Reggie Leach comes up on stage.  Samson: “I’m flabbergasted.”  Samson, also plays “a song about curling.  he was at the Dawson City 112th international bonspiel.”  He plays a solo version of The Weakerthans’ “Tournament of Hearts.”

Kim Barlow’s “One Good Goalie” is an ode to Jaroslav Halák.   She says, “this is for people who like goalies and appreciate their nobility.  And it’s also for the gals who play hockey.  She started playing and says “All the cool girls all play hockey in the Whitehorse women’s hockey league.”  She sings that the first game she watched was for her boyfriend. But the game we caught that night was “the shining hour of Halák–he stopped 53 pucks they kept coming but he didn’t crack.”  The chorus is just a repeated Halák, with a final line: “one good goalie made me understand I was born a Habs fan.”   t

Mathias Kom sings “Dear Phoenix.”  He says, “I went back to Winnipeg and was digging into the municipal archives and found a letter written by the city of Winnipeg that began, “Dear phoenix.”  The Winnipeg Jets were transferred from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996.  The letter reads in part:  “Do you think they’ll be happy trading parkas for sunscreen.  They say gentlemen prefer blondes but these are no gentlemen, they grew up with blood on frozen ponds.”   He says the letter notes that they’d give it 15 years.  18 years later they changed the team name from the Phoenix Coyotes to Arizona Coyotes, which is not quite the same thing.  Everyone enjoyed this line: “you can take the Jet out of the ‘Peg but never the ‘Peg out of the Jet.”  And this fun conclusion:

I know there’s nothing I can do so please treat them well be loyal be kind and be true.  Just so you know if i see you around my gloves will come off, you know i’ll throw down, oh Phoenix, I mean it I’ll break your arms and your legs okay, better sign off now.  Yours truly, Winnipeg.  Go Jets Go.”

Sarah Harmer “straight from the Wolf Island hockey tournament.  She plays “Go to Sleep” and explains that “she had to go to bed after the first period and she would listen to games upstairs.  Her dad used to do this one resounding clap when the Leafs scored.  She imagined asking him to do two claps when they other team scores, but she never had the nerve.  It’s a tender lullaby.  The other song is “Harold Harvey Rink,” written by Luther Wright.  Its a romping song about being a young hockey player and the various indignities you suffer for the love of the game.

Dave ends the night with “Land is Wild.”  A somewhat subdued version of the song, probably because of the setting.

This is a fun show and is not the only Stolen From a Hockey Card Night.  I don;t think it’s annual , but there was another one in 2015.

From the RheostaticsLive site:

Still have an old shoebox filled with hockey cards from your childhood? Did you sneak outside for a game of street hockey when you were supposed to be doing homework? Remember providing your own play-by-play, ending with “He shoots, he scores!!”?

This concert’s for you – all Canadian music celebrating the sport of hockey. Hear songs freshly written and performed by Dave Bidini and BidiniBand, C.R. Avery, Kim Barlow, Buck 65, Geoff Berner, Sarah Harmer, John K. Samson, and Mathias Kom. From Wayne Gretzky to Reggie Leach, from Borje Salming to Jaroslav Halak – emulated players get idolized in song.

Dave Bidini coerced this incredible line-up of stars to convene in Whitehorse to celebrate Scotia Bank’s Hockey Day in Canada back on February 10, 2011. The Yukon Arts Centre won’t ever be the same! (Eric Mac Innis)

[READ: April 13, 2017] Sweet Tooth: Unnatural Habitats

Despite all of the action in the previous book, Lemire slows things down to give us a flashback.  And, wow, is it a good one.

Matt Kindt does the art for the first part, a wonderful old-fashioned-looking journal type story.  Indeed the story is the journal of Dr James Thacker, September 4, 1911.

He has set sail to the Arctic Ocean to retrieve his sister’s fiancee.  The guy agreed to marry Thacker ‘s sister, but first wanted to go to the Arctic as a missionary.

The fiance wrote home regularly but then the letters stopped. People feared the worst but his sister needed to know the truth.  So Thacker and his family spent a considerable fortune (which they had), to commission a boat to find this man.   Thacker feels a sense foreboding about the trip and well he should. (more…)

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harpers maySOUNDTRACK: LAURA VEIRS-“Sun Song” (2013).

lauraI know of Laura Veirs from her work with The Decemberists, but as she’s mostly a backup singer (and occasional lead), I couldn’t really say I knew her very well.  So I was delighted to hear this song that she had written and to see just how great it is,.

The song begins with a simple folk guitar and pizzicato pluckings. Veirs’ voice has an innocence that I really love—gentle but clean.  The chorus brings an unexpected harmony vocals and vibrato but nothing prepares you for the feedback squalls that the new electric guitars bring in.

The song doesn’t get faster, just a little noisier—it reminds me of the best Sarah Harmer tracks.   Then the electric guitar goes away and the song feels fuller somehow.  The end of the song introduces a  kind of call and response which adds a cool new element until it all relaxes back into its original mellow style.

I really like this song and need to hear more from Veirs.  And I see that she has released a whole bunch of albums, so there’s a lot to choose from.

[READ: May 30, 2013] “Loyalty”

This story begins with a pretty straightforward sentiment: “As much as I love her, I blame Astrid.  Astrid told my wife, Corinne, that she could achieve happiness if only she’d leave me.”  Indeed, Astrid made a regular suggestion out of it–leave him, be free.  And so finally Corinne did–she left him alone with their son, Jeremy.  Initially Jeremy wrote to Corinne but eventually the replies were fewer and further between and he gave up.

Wes was crushed, but soon after he fell in love with Astrid and they got married.  I love the way it is presented:

The minute Corinne was gone, Astrid showed up. I don’t recall that, prior to that day, we had so much as exchanged a moody, sparking glance. She took me into her expert arms. It was consolation and sympathy at first, I guess. I didn’t question it. In about the time it takes to change the painted background in a photographer’s studio from a woodland scene to a brick wall, she had left her boyfriend and was presenting me with casseroles and opened bottles of cold beer.

We never really learn if Astrid had planned this all along.  It seems like it, but it’s not like Wes is a huge catch.  Corinne’s divorce request went though with no trouble or custody problems.  And soon he and Astrid had a new child, a daughter, Lucy.  Then they saw Corinne on TV, on a show about runaway moms–Wes asks, what would make her do such a thing–and no reasonable answer is given. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_04_29_13Drooker.inddSOUNDTRACK: THE TRAGICALLY HIP-“Now for Plan A” (2012).

hip manWhile I was enjoying the Hip’s new album, I recognized a voice in a couple of duets.  That voice is Sarah Harmer’s!  I love Harmer and realized that I haven’t heard much from her lately (her last album was three years ago).  I looked up to see what she’s been up to and it appears she’s been on some human rights trips, which is quite cool.  But it’s nice to hear her voice again.

This is the title track to the album.  It starts slow with a wah wah’d guitar.  The sounds slowly build as more layers are added and after a minute Gord starts singing.  By the second verse Harmer sings along with Downie–their voices complement each other very nicely, although it’s funny that in this song neither one of them is really showing of his or her chops–their vocals are mostly quiet.  Although I like when it seems like Harmer is taking over in the final verse.

I don’t love Hip ballads as a rule, but this is a good one.

[READ: May 9, 2013] “Fragments”

This story is indeed about fragments.

It opens with a conversation. And it’s a pretty interesting one–about flying a helicopter over midtown Manhattan.  But then that conversation ends–the protagonist was just overhearing it.  We see that he is at work.  And then his phone rings.  His wife has butt-dialed him and he is able to hear fragments of her conversation.  Although we hear only snippets, it is enough for him (although not necessarily for me) to think that she is planning on having an affair with whomever she is talking to.

This fear is not helped by the fact that she is working extra late hours on a case.  She is out until very late often until he is asleep.  Although in one instance he only pretends to sleep to see what she will do.  She goes to sleep without waking him, which he takes as a bad sign (although honestly, what is she supposed to do wake him up to say she is going to bed?) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SARAH HARMER-Oh Little Fire (2010).

I found Sarah Harmer when she had a left field hit (“Basement Apt”) in the states.  I went back and discovered her band Weeping Tile (who are quite good and recorded a version of the song on their EP Eepee) and have been following her continued solo career.

Since that first record, she released a killer second disc, followed by a re-release of an intimate 1999 record she made for her dad which let her revel in her country roots.  She followed this up with I’m a Mountain, a very country, but very catchy album.  Finally, four years later, she put out Oh Little Fire.

Although she hasn’t lost her country roots, this album returns to more of the rock sound that first attracted me to her.  It’s not hard or heavy by any stretch, but it’s moved beyond the country of I’m a Mountain.

Sarah and I listened to this album a lot at night when it first came out, and it slowly seeped into my system.  I had kind of forgotten about it for a while, and upon rediscovering it I was delighted to hear that the melodies were fresh and still with me.  The album seems like a simple indie folk or the work of an adult alternative singer songwriter, but the thing with Harmer is that she has that wonderful background with Weeping Tile, a band that was always slightly off-center.  So, she writes beautiful melodies but puts little grace notes into them to keep them from being disposable.  And yet they are still super catchy.

The only hard thing about this disc is wondering which song will be stuck in your head after listening to it.

[READ: January 7, 2011] L. M. Montgomery

I’ve never read any L. M. Montgomery (although I’ve seen the miniseries of Anne of Green Gables) and I’ve never read any Jane Urquhart (but I love her name!).

This biography is so radically different from the other three I’ve read so far.  I wondered immediately if it was because Montgomery (and Urquhart) are women.  It deals with subjects that the other books didn’t at all: lost loves, mental incapacitation, family crises.  But it becomes clear through the book that these issues were THE issues that a woman at Montgomery’s time would have dealt with.  Unlike the men in the other books, Montgomery did not have a professional life (outside of being an author, which she did at home).  She was hardly a public figure, and since she was a woman, she was always in danger of losing what she had.

This biography is also vastly different from the others in the way it is constructed.  You can tell by some of the chapter headings: Her Death (the first chapter), Orphan, Sorrow, Madness.  You can also tell by these chapter titles that Montgomery did not have a happy life.

Indeed, between a husband who believed he was destined for Hell (he was a preacher!) and children whose life choices she disapproved of, not to mention terrible insomnia coupled with nightmares, her late adult life was nothing but torment.  But, sadly for her, her early life was nothing but torment either.  Her mother died when she was two, she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle (which was never a happy place).  But the most depressing of all of these events is when she lost her dearest friend at a terribly young age, a death she never really recovered from.

So how is it possible that Montgomery wrote such charming stories?

The answer to that (and the basis for most of this biography) is in her diaries.  Montgomery kept meticulous diaries (which she wrote and rewrote and then rewrote with posterity in mind).  She wrote about her childhood and her life as (sort of) an orphan.  She wrote about the places where she lived and the beautiful outdoors which impressed her.  She wrote about the sadness and the happiness.  Nothing was lost on her, and she saved it all (she also took photos of everything she loved, which are a beautiful and sometimes contradictory records of her diaries), and there are many published volumes that we can read to learn even more about her.

To me, the most fascinating (and horrible) part of the story was when she finally had Anne of Green Gables published.  The publishers took complete advantage of her.  They forced her to write sequels that she didn’t want to (although they are still quite good) and even compiled a final book from castoffs of the previous books (Return to Avonlea) that they published in her name.  Eventually the case was settled in her favor, phew, and she was able to write new characters that inspired her.

Montgomery had a rough life, and as her diaries come to an end, she stopped writing about things.   It’s hard to know exactly what she went through towards the end, but it doesn’t seem very positive.  And yet for all of her disappointments in life, she left us with some engaging and memorable stories.

The last chapter is a fascinating personal account of how Montgomery’s stories impacted Urquhart’s family.  It was incredibly touching and convinced me that Urquhart’s fiction would be enjoyable too.  Some day, some day.

This was a really enjoyable (but major downer) biography.  And, more than anything it has really inspired me to read Montgomery’s stories (and even one or two or Urquhart’s).

And, here’s a shameless plug to the folks at Penguin Canada–I will absolutely post about all of the books in this series if you want to send me the rest of them.  I don’t know how much attention these titles will get outside of Canada, but I am quite interested in a number of the subjects, and will happily read all of the books if you want to send them to me.  Just contact me here!

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SOUNDTRACK: WEEPING TILE-eePee (1995).

Canadian singer Sarah Harmer was originally in the band Weeping Tile.  As far as I knew, they had only released this cleverly titled EP.  Further research at Sarah’s site proves this to be incorrect.  They released two albums and this EP, all of which are available at her site (and elsewhere).  There’s also mention of something called Secret Sessions although there is no evidence of its physical existence on the net.

So this EP is 7 tracks and features two songs that were recorded later on Sarah’s solo discs.

The opener, “Anyone” opens with a nice R.E.M. type guitar sound, but jumps into an uptempo alt rocker.  It’s a very satisfying opening and seems like it should have been a hit.  Interestingly, the next song, “Basement Apt” was a hit…six years later on Sarah’s solo disc.  This version is rawer and feels slower even though it is the same overall length.  The big difference is that Sarah’s solo version has a louder and faster drum track that really makes the song fly.  This version feels more aching though.

“Dogs and Thunder” introduces a more country sound (folk guitar and strings) that Harmer would experiment with off and on for years.    It’s followed by a great cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.”

Another highlight is “Westray” a very stark almost a capella track which highlights Sarah’s raw voice.  It’s very affecting.  And the disc concludes with “King Lion,” a great song that is back to guitar basics.  The chorus is wonderfully catchy.

This is a great EP from a short-lived Canadian band.  Sarah Harmer has always had great songwriting chops and it’s fun to hear her in her more youthful rock version here.

[READ: January 11, 2011] “Hard Currency”

This is one of the longest stories in The Walrus that I can remember.  It’s set in Russia and concerns Alexei, a Russian writer who now lives in America.  He has had great success internationally (and won a Pulitzer) for his novels, all of which were set in Russia.

And yet, for all of his connections to his motherland, he doesn’t really like Russia very much.  He has been back there several times but he is never treated with respect. In fact, he is never even treated as a Russian–despite his birth, people look at him and know that he’s not a Russian anymore.

The plot of the story is about prostitutes.  [I am pretty surprised at the proliferation of prostitutes in stories…do authors frequent prostitutes more than other people?].  When the story opens, we learn that Alexei’s very first sexual experience was with a prostitute.  And now, twenty-eight years later, after much success and a failed marriage, he has returned to Russia and has called upon another prostitute. (more…)

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