Friday, February 1, 2013

The End of Month Album Review #1: January 2013


Pretty much the only thing I love more than writing and playing music is listening to music and going to live music shows. Fortunately, I live in a hotbed of house concerts and summer festivals. And I buy as many CDs at those events as I can afford.

Since I have access to a wealth of music, much of it extremely good but unfortunately relatively obscure Canadiana, I have decided to add reviews to my blog to share some of my live show and CD experiences with more people. 

I'm tempted to choose this review each month based on the CD that's in my car stereo. That is certainly the case this month, but I don't think I'll keep that as a hard and fast rule. 

1929 by Sheesham, Lotus & Son (2012)

I've seen this Kingston, Ontario-based band several times, both at the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival and at an intimate barn concert just across the river from my home (where I bought this CD).

SL&S are tons of fun: quirky, unique and fully-alive in their music. Their stage set-up makes me think of turn-of-the-20th-Century-hawkers mashed-up with Dr. Seuss. With a sousaphone holding down the bass end, this band rollicks out old-time tunes with fiddle, banjo, harmonica, whistling, kazoo, voices and a fascinating contraption that amplifies and distorts and looks like an old ear trumpet. Maybe there's a name for that thing, but I don't know what it is.

This record does a good job at capturing the juice and personality of a live Sheesham, Lotus and Son show. Recorded "In pleasing MONO" and "live off the floor with one North of Princess G7 microphone" as the cover notes brag, the recording is sparse and truly old timey.

The songs are either traditional or covers of songs by jazz and blues songwriters from the early part of the last century. There's a fabulous version of Frankie and Johnny. And the whistling on Lazy, Lazy River will melt your heart. My favourite song of all has got to be "Drunken Nights" about a man coming home drunk to his lover and having her try to explain away the presence of another man in his bed. The song is delivered in character: the slurred and staggering husband and the prim and patronizing wife. It makes me laugh every time.

A great record for fans of old time music or for anyone looking for something a little different: raw, direct songs presented with stellar musicianship, showmanship and verve.

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