THE LYNNeS – Heartbreak Song For The Radio (The LYNNEs Records TLR 2018-01)

Heartbreak SongAlthough they’ve shared a stage several times and written songs together over the past ten years, fellow Canadians Lynne Miles and Lynne Hanson haven’t actually recorded together. That oversight’s rectified with this debut album, Heartbreak Song For The Radio, one that plays to their shared strengths in, as the title suggests, heartbreak Americana.

The core tracks and most of the vocal and acoustic parts recorded live off the floor direct to tape, the ten co-writes kick off with the steady drum beat-driven ‘Cold Front’, a song about emotional distance (“leaving is easy it’s the staying that’s hard”) that features a searing electric guitar solo from Kevin Breit who features throughout. A more familiar country approach arrives with the close harmony ‘Cost So Much’, a number about bruised heart regret that features the memorable refrain “wouldn’t have gone and paid my dues if I knew was gonna cost so much”.

There’s a definite touch of The Carpenters to the dreamy pop smoothed title track with Miles taking lead before the infectious ‘Recipe For Disaster’ with its lyrically matching opposites (“you got the sugar and I got the salt”) brings it back to twangy country with the mid-tempo ‘Don’t Look Down’ featuring Breit on guitar and mandolin and rumbling drums and effective hollow crackling percussion work by Peter Von Althan taking the pace down again.

Brushed drums take ‘Dark Waltz’ around the dancefloor to the sad songs of love lost (“no wedding dress, no fancy shoes”), but then there’s a decided switch of mood and tempo with the swampy rocking groove of ‘Halfway To Happy’ (“I’m a moss without a stone”) that sounds like something from the vintage days of the Everly Brothers’ rockabilly canon. Keeping the comparisons coming, ‘Blue Tattoo’ can’t help but prompt references to Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac, though there’s some Chris Isaak in there too.

It ends with the two fists of the uncluttered acoustic folksiness of ‘Blame It On The Devil’, the pair trading verses on a song that reminds that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and “it’s only walking through the fire that you learn just who you are”, and Keith Glass’s baritone guitar prominent, the dark swirls of the closing ‘Heavy Lifting’ as Hanson sings “I’m tired of falling for cowboys in the dark”.

Individually, both Lynnes are formidable forces in contemporary country, together they just might be unstoppable.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website:

‘Recipe For Disaster’ – official video:

HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE – Before The Sun (Sungrazing Records SGR002)

Before The SunHannah Sanders first solo album, Charms Against Sorrow, was produced by Willows guitarist Ben Savage who also played on the record and shared in the arrangements. With Before The Sun their partnership has been formalised but little else has changed except that the duo went to Toronto to record with David Travers-Smith.

To the mix of traditional songs and covers is now added some originals and the first ‘The Fall (Hang)’ opens the set. I’m still puzzling over this track – it could be a reinterpretation of a murder ballad or a macabre accident like Bob Pegg’s ‘The Hanged Man’. I think I lean towards the former. Next is the first traditional song, ‘Come All Ye Fair & Tender Maids’, a mid-Atlantic version finished with a playground round. ‘What’s It Tonight My Love?’, another original, sees Ben take the first lead vocal. Its description of night in the city puts me in mind of ‘Chimes Of Freedom’ even though there is no resemblance between the two songs, other than the feeling that it leaves you with.

Next come three traditional songs. The first is ‘Lady Margaret’, an English song with variants in the United States. ‘Clayton Boone’ is definitely American and gives Ben another lead vocal and the chance to play Dobro. It is, of course, a variant of ‘Gypsy Davy’. Finally in this section we have the haunting ‘Deep Blue Sea’, a version that doesn’t quite match any set of lyrics that I can find. Hannah and Ben’s version is rather more gentle than the standard text and rather lovely.

Hannah and Ben play guitars, dulcimer and autoharp and are joined by Kevin Breit and Katriona Gilmore on melody instruments with Evan Carson and Jon Thorne on percussion and double bass. For the most part they are used sparingly but they do get to have a blow on Richie Stearns’ ‘Ribbons And Bows’. Joining them on vocals are Jim Causley, Robin Gillan and Jade Rhiannon.

The final track is ‘Boots Of Spanish Leather’ sung as a duet as it is written. They slow it down a bit and the singing is sad and wistful where Dylan managed a blend of bitterness and resignation. He knew the back-story, of course, and it all happened fifty years ago but I’d advise anyone tackling the song to read the relevant section of a biography. It’s beautifully performed, as is the whole of the album, but to an old curmudgeon like me it misses something.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maids’ – official video:

New Country Rehab

Take one of Canada’s hottest country fiddle players, a guitarist that’s a cross between Tom Morello and Kevin Breit, a percussionist that plays saw blades and cookie sheets and one of the most versatile double-bass players in Canada and you get New Country Rehab. With their debut album release now available in the UK, the band are quickly making a name for themselves having been described in Canada as “a band to watch closely” by Exclaim! magazine. Since the Canadian release they have played many major Canadian music festivals and are showcasing at the Americana Music conference in Nashville, TN in Oct. 2011. They will be touring in Europe in January 2012 in support of their self-titled debut album.

Formed by John Showman, Ben Whiteley, James Robertson and Roman Tome, the band’s unique outlaw indie-country sound channels Hank Williams Sr. as much as Arcade Fire, creating exciting new music that’s winning a rabid and rapidly-growing fan base. As Tom Power, host of CBC Radio’s Deep Roots show explains, “They’re one of the few bands that the hardest of old-folkies and the hippest of hipsters can agree on. Combining virtuosity with taste, they’re poised to be the ‘next big thing’ in Canadian Music.”

The self-titled album, recorded by producer Chris Stringer (Ohbijou, Timber Timbre) highlights the group’s strong original compositions and deep musical palette. The song-writing is defined by themes of death, love and loss, written in the folk-country storytelling tradition. John Showman weaves songs together often based on real people he has encountered in his life. Bury Me is a dying man’s lament for a grave next to that of his true love. InCameo, the story of a woman who escaped Nazi Germany on skis parallels her granddaughter’s escape from love gone wrong. The Last Hand recounts a gambler’s final game as he crosses paths with “The Cowboy”, a colourful and notorious figure that Johncame to know in the Florida Keys. The band takes the listener on a boisterous journey, from the Queens-of-the-Stone-Age-meets-Doc-Watson original trackAngel of Death to the menacing State Trooper (an interpretation of the seminal Bruce Springsteen song, replete with police sirens and car crashes). New Country Rehab move with ease through Post-modern surf-rock in The Houses In This Town Are All Falling Down, dub reggae in a reinvention of Hank Williams Sr.’s Ramblin’ Man and disco-imbued instrumentals in the once old-time Appalachian tune, Train 45.

All of the band members are successful sidemen in their own right, having played with artists ranging from Amy Millan, Basia Bulat, the Creaking Tree String Quartet, Elvis Bossa Nova, The Foggy Hogtown Boys, Justin Rutledge, Ken Whiteley and Brandi Disterheft.  Lead singer and fiddle player, John Showman won the 2011 Cliff Top Fiddle competition in West Virginia and honour only once before bestowed upon a Canadian.

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