Archive for the ‘Kathleen Edwards’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KATE DAVIS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #59 (August 4, 2020).

I hadn’t heard of Kate Davis before this Home Concert.

Her songs are simple and straightforward with a real timeless quality.  She reminds me a lot of Kathleen Edwards.  Turns out that she also co-wrote Sharon van Etten’s “Seventeen.”

Like so many artists, Kate Davis was to be on tour during the spring and summer of 2020. She was scheduled to play a concert at my desk in May. Sitting by her desk at home, Kate Davis is marking time by writing new music….  She’s an extraordinary lyricist. Her 2019 album, Trophy, was a sharply worded collection of songs, many about growing up and a powerful tune about her father’s death.

“Cloud” has a great melody throughout, and the chorus is great–with her falsetto moment an unexpected bonus.  The slow middle section is also a really nice surprise.

“Open Heart,” the second song performed for her Tiny Desk (home) concert, is about a broken heart. It’s a subject tackled by many, but her lyrical prowess sets the scene in the hospital, where the doctor cuts her open, sees her critical condition, and takes out her broken heart. She sings, “Put the pieces back together, looks like it’s been shattered by a bad love,” later adding, “You’d rather feel this pain than have a broken heart.”

This song features another great delivery as she sings the lyric high but then adds a lower almost spoken word during the bridge “deep…breath.”  The song builds and builds to the end and I love that the chugging guitar chords ends with a slightly-off-ringing note that adds a cool amount of dissonance to a song about a broken heart.

I guess these songs sound different on the record since the blurb says:

Hearing these songs stripped to their essence–just Kate Davis and her guitar–exposes her charm and wit.

“I Like Myself” is a finger-picked style of playing–sounding quite different from the other songs.  The lyrics are very thoughtful:

I kind of like myself
Cause she likes me
And since I think the world of her
And she of me
Then I’m exactly who and where I want to be
Who and where I want to be

“Ride or Die,” was written before quarantine and its perspective has changed since.  The chord structure and vocal melody is unusual and very cool.    I especially like the way she adds a really slow section in the middle–a picked melody (of more unusual chords). This is my favorite of her songs and I’m looking forward top hearing more.

Davis looks at the camera a lot during this performance–making her seem very confident, which I gather she is.

[READ: August 1, 2020] “Dalton’s Box”

I loved this story.  It was fast and colloquial.  It was funny and dark and I want to read more stories like it.

The story is basically a conversation between two brothers.  The one brother asks if the other remembers Mick Dalton.  He does.

A few months back, Dalton won the Lottery.  Not a huge amount though, about 3,000 quid.  And Dalton, who is usually in trouble for some petty crime or another, says he’s going to invest it.

That means a get rich quick(ish) scheme selling contraband.  But this time Dalton is smart, you see.  He’;s going to sell contraband Marlboro cigarettes (I have no idea how that’s going to work). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 27, 2020] Sarah Harmer

I don’t remember when I first heard Sarah Harmer.

I think it was back in 2000 with her first album You Were Here.  (She has an album that she recorded before it but it wasn’t officially released until later).

You Were Here had the song “Basement Apt.” which was a reasonably big hit.  I also checked out her previous band Weeping Tile who are unjustly overlooked.

Harmer put out consistently great records, including I’m a Mountain, a bluegrass album that is totally awesome.  It took her five years to release the next album, Oh Little Fire, because she became an environmental activist and performed music mostly in guest roles.

Now it’s been ten years since Fire and she is back with a new album called Are You Gone.

She told us that this was the second night of her tour–a warm up for the big times in Canada.  Sarah had a four piece band with her.  She introduced them twice and I couldn’t make out a single name in the bunch.  But I was able to look them up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-“It’s Christmastime (Let’s Just Survive)” (2019).

I really like Kathleen Edwards and I was so delighted to hear that she was coming out of … semi-retirement?… this summer.  In the last few years, she has opened up her own coffee shop, in Stittsville, Ontario called Quitters Coffee [road trip?].

I couldn’t believe that she played XPN Fest on the year that we had tickets to the Newport Folk Festival.  I had hoped she’s play Newport as well, but sadly no.  She played two new songs and a few older ones and her voice sounds great (thanks YouTube).  In the spirit of coming back, she has released this wryly amusing Christmas song. Like many of her songs, there is a nice mix of humor and bite in this song–set to a very catchy melody.

With a slow lap steel guitar starting the song, she begins

It’s a wonderful time where we all descend to my parent’s house in the West End.  [Hope they subscribe to the West End Phoenix].

Then the song gets to the point:

Uncle Dave and Susan bring their feral cat / and homemade wine that tastes like crap.

There’s a few more examples of amusingly bad Christmas happenings.  One of my favorites is

Someone let the dog lick the gravy boat / and now the air in here unbearable

I also enjoyed this line, because it hits home:

You have a meltdown when we play scrabble / Its not my fault you’re only left with vowels.

Musically, the song is quite lovely.  There’s a pretty bridge where she sings lyrics that sound sweet until you listen closely, “tell me a story we’ve heard before and drag it out even more.”

And just when you think the song is only dark and cynical, the instrumental break adds a refrain of Kathleen quietly singing “meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.”

I truly hope that this song gets played a lot during this and future holidays.  It may not make it to #1 like “All I Want for Christmas is You,” but it’s a lot more honest–and really catchy.

I’m so excited that Kathleen is back that I’m posting the video for the song right here!

I have also just learned that this song comes from a new Christmas album called A Dualtone Christmas. (although I don’t really like much else on it).

[READ: December 19, 2019] “Letter from San Francisco”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story is indeed a letter from San Francisco.

There are a few things redacted from it–the sender and the recipient’s names and two lines in the middle which are the details of their huge fight. (more…)

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shoppingSOUNDTRACK: MATT MAYS-Live at Massey Hall (May 4, 2018).

I had never heard of Matt Mays.  He was once a part of the Canadian country band The Guthries (who I also don’t know).  Perhaps the most surprising (and disappointing) thing to me about this show is when I saw an ad for this concert and saw that Kathleen Edwards was opening for him (!).  And that so far they haven’t released the Kathleen Edwards show.

Before the show he says he wants all feelings present–happy, sad–he praises the expression “all the feels” because that’s what he wants to happen tonight.  He wants the night to be “like a Nova Scotia kitchen party.”  You laugh you cry you dance and you fight all in one kitchen.

He starts with “Indio.”  Like most of these songs, it is a rocking guitar song with a definite country-rock feel.  It’s also interesting that a Nova Scotia guy is singing about “old fashioned California sin.”  There’s a ton of lead guitar work from Adam Baldwin.  Mays also plays guitar and there’s an acoustic guitar as well from Aaron Goldstein  The song breaks midway through to a piano melody from Leith Fleming-Smith.  Mays asks “You feel like singing Toronto? It’s real easy.”  And it is: “Run run run you are free now.  run run run you are free.”

For “Station Out of Range,” he invites his dear friend Kate Dyke from St Johns, Newfoundland.  She sings backing vocals.  It opens with some big crushing drums from Loel Campbell.  It has a slower tempo, but it grows really big with some really massive drum fills.

“Building a Boat” opens with a repeating keyboard pattern before a real rocking riff kicks in.  Ryan Stanley also plays guitars.  The song rocks on with a lot of little guitar solos.  Mays takes one and then Baldwin follows.  They jam this pretty long.

“Take It on Faith” starts with a simple piano before the guitars come roaring in with two searing solos.  The melody is really catchy, too.

“Terminal Romance” is a slower number.  Mays puts his guitar down and its mostly piano and bass
(Serge Samson).  Eventually a guitar with a slide is added.  It builds as more guitars come in.  They jam this song for about 8 minutes.

He ends the show with “Cocaine Cowgirl,” an oldie that still means a lot to him.   He says he’s been playing Toronto since he was 19 years-old in font of tow people.  He’s thrilled to be at Massey Hall.  His band is his best buds from Nova Scotia.   It’s an absolutely wailing set ender with Mays throwing in some wicked solos.  The song seems like its over but Mays plays some really fast guitar chords and aftee a few bars everyone joins in and rips the place part with intensity.  It runs to nearly ten minutes and it’s a  really satisfying ending.

[READ: August 3, 2019] “Shopping in Jail”

When an author releases a lot of books and essays in various formats, it’s pretty inevitable that you’ll wind up re-reading one or two.  Especially if some of those essays are reprinted in other books.

So it turns out that I read this small book five years ago (it’s understandable that I didn’t remember that after five years).  Here’s what I said about it five years ago:

Just when I thought I had caught up with everything that Douglas Coupland had published, I came across this book, a collection of his recent essays.  I enjoy the very unartistic cover that Sternberg Press has put on this.  It looks extremely slapdash–look at the size of the print and that the contents are on the inside front cover.  But the essays contained within are pure Coupland and are really enjoyable.

I have read a number of his older essays in recent years.  And here’s the thing: reading old Coupland essays just makes you think, ho hum, he knew some things.  But you don’t really think that he was on the forefront of whatever he was thinking.  So to read these essays almost concurrently is really fascinating.

His thoughts are science fiction, but just on the cusp of being very possible, even probable.  He also looks at things in ways that the average person does not–he notices that on 9/11 people didn’t have picture phones–imagine how more highly documented it would have been.  These essays are largely about technology, but they’re also about the maturation and development of people and how they relate to things.  Coupland can often seem very ponderous, and yet with these essays he seems prescient without actually trying to predict anything.  I enjoyed this collection very much.

I’m going to include what I said last time (in italics), but I felt the need to add some five-years later thoughts on each essay. (more…)

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aug2013SOUNDTRACK: JIM GUTHRIE-Tiny Desk Concert #294 (August 10, 2013).

jimgI was unfamiliar with Guthrie before this set and I almost didn’t play it because of his mustache–he just looks so country to me.  But then I read that he and his band drove 9 hours from Ontario just to do the show (which is 11 minutes long, so that’s pretty crazy).  But the set is really good.

The three songs come from Guthrie’s new album Takes Time (his first solo album in ten years).  And I was hooked…not right from the start, but 15 seconds into “The Difference a Day makes” when the guitar plays the chorus riff.  There is something so… Canadian about the melody line.  It reminds me of Neil Young, Sloan, Rheostatics, even Kathleen Edwards, all of these great Canadian songwriters who play with slightly different melodies.  The fact that he sings “doubt” and “out” with an Ontario accent solidifies it.  It’s one of my favorite mellow songs of the year.  “Before & After” sounds a bit like  Barenaked Ladies mellow song, like something  written by Kevin Hearn.  I tend to not like the Hearn songs, but I thin kit’s that I don’t like Hearn’s voice, because I like this song quite a lot.

Guthrie has a delicate but strong voice–I can’t imagine him screaming, but he conveys a lot.  Especially in the final song, the more mellow (and minor key) “Like a Lake.”  I’ve heard Tiny Desk shows that go on for five or six songs.  I wish that Bob and Robin had let them play for ten more minutes. Now I’m off to find his records.  Check it out.

[READ: September 10, 2013] 3 book reviews

Tom Bissell reviewed three new books in the August 2013 issue of Harper’s.  I like Bissell in general and since I’ll probably wind up writing about these when they get collected anyway, why not jump the gun here.  Especially when there’s three good-sounding books like these.

sagamoreThe first is Peter Orner’s Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge.  I know Orner from McSweeney’s mostly, where I’ve read a few of his things  But one of the stories that Bissell mentions from this short story collection sounds familiar and yet it doesn’t seem to be something I’ve read.  Hmmm.  Well anyhow, he says that Orner’s previous book (with a title that Bissell assumes he had to fight to keep–The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo) was a great piece of fiction about Africa, and that his previous collection Esther Stories was also very solid.

This book is a little stranger—bundled into 4 sections, it includes more than fifty “stories” and is all of 200 pages.  (Sounds like just the kind of thing I can get into).  Bissell suggests that the stories have a layer of remove, like someone telling a story about someone telling a story.  Or, if they were about a bank robbery, the story would actually be about someone describing having once met the guy who sold the robbers their ski masks.  But the real selling point for me was this pithy description of the collection: imagine Brief Interviews with Hideous Men written by Alice Munro.   That sounds hard to pass up. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_08_12_13RussoGate.inddSOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-Live from Mountain Stage (April 16, 2013).

Kkedsathleen Edwards is one of my favorite country/folkie performers.  I love her song craft and the beautiful way she sings.  And I’d love to see her live if she ever comes around.  Although she explains during this Mountain Stage show that it was near the end of her tour and she sounds….tired. Or perhaps just mellow.

I love the five  songs she plays “Asking for Flowers,” “Change the Sheets,” “House Full of Empty Rooms,” “Chameleon/Comedian,” and “Soft Place to Land,” but they all seem so…quiet.  I think of Edwards as kind of a rowdy performer—she can wail with them all, but everything seems dialed back here somewhat.  “Empty Rooms” is so quiet (and it is a mellow song, but even more so here).  But even  “Change the Sheets” which has a bridge and chorus that just blows me away the way it rocks and “Comedian” which ends with such wonderful anguish on the record, are both much more mellow here.

She has a very funny sequence talking about female singers and how she wants to create a Canadian ladies band called Modern Beaver (and she is apparently serious about it, and even has songs for them (as of summer 2013), but no time or energy to get it done.  Maybe for Xmas?

Any Kathleen Edwards is good Kathleen Edwards, but I’m looking forward to the next rowdy set I get to hear from her.

[READ: August 28, 2013] “Meet the President”

This is a most unexpected story from Zadie Smith.  It is set in the future and features a technology that allows the wearer to be fully absorbed into a virtual space.

It opens with a boy, Bill Peek, standing on a barren beach in England.  While his family may have once come from this area, that was immaterial, he considers himself a global child, accompanying his father on inspections.  But this part of England is a wasteland and only those who could not afford to leave England were still there.

Bill is pleased to have the beach to himself so he can plug in.  But then he is approached by an old lady with a young girl.  The girl, Agatha, is simple.  And both of the women talk to Bill even though he is doing his best to ignore them while he interacts with his virtual goggles.

Bill is deep in his world, creating his avatar (which has breasts and a tail) and by arming himself with grenades and knives.  He is trying to create the landscape.  Other users wondered whether you should augment the area around you or use a more or less barren world as your basis.  Bill has chosen the barren world and learns that it is three miles to the White House. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-Tiny Desk Concert #206 (April 5, 2012).

Kathleen Edwards has a great voice and she writes great songs.  There’s not much more to this set than her singing four fantastic songs in the Tiny Desk setting.  Although her songs have full band arrangements on records, they do not sound out of place in this smaller, acoustic environment.

As she introduces the final song of the set “Change the Sheets” she says it’s the first time they’ve played it acoustically.  You’d ever know.  It sounds great.

There’s not a lot more to say about this Tiny Desk set–it highlights a great songwriter with a great voice.

[READ: October 15, 2012] “The Third Born”

I had a wee bit of trouble following this story, although I admit I didn’t give it my undivided attention at first.

If this isn’t an excerpt, then it’s a fairly disconnected story with large gaps–it reads like a few distinct scenes that happen so far apart as to be almost disconnected.  (I re-read it to make sure).

The story begins with a boy in a village in India.  He is sick and his mother knows how to help him with this not uncommon rural disease.  He watches the village as he lays there, more or less immobile–how the women seem to do a lot of work, although his mother doesn’t work outside the house.  Eventually his father returns from the city where he is a successful cook.  The boy’s mother asks if the whole family can move to the city.  He balks at the idea–he spends several month sat a time in the city where he makes good money, although he claims it is not enough for a family to live on in the city. (more…)

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This is Kathleen Edwards’ latest album.  And every time I listen to it, it gets better.  Her songwriting has reached amazing heights.  The lyrics are wonderful and the melodies are just outstanding.  “Empty Threat” (“I’m moving to America…it’s an empty threat), opens the disc with a bouncy acoustic guitar and, eventually, a full band.  The lyrics for “Chameleon/Comedian” are wonderful: the juxtaposition between these two ideas is just amazing—each verse gets more complex.  I would quote them, but the whole song is great.  And, amazingly, the “I don’t need a punchline” is easy to sing along to as well.  “Soft Place to Land” is a nice ballad—a full band that never gets overwhelmed by any of the instruments—the violin adds a nice texture as do the military drums mid way through.  “Change the Sheets” is one of my favorite songs of the year.  It starts out slow, with simple guitars and more great lyrics.  As it builds (of course it builds) it grows into an amazing bridge/chorus that just dares you not to tap your feet.

“House Full of Empty Rooms” is like a minor palate cleanser before “Mint.”  “Mint” opens like a classic 70s rock song (Bad Company or Tom Petty), but she brings in her unique voice and phrasings and changes the song into something very different.  But again, that chorus–how can you not sing along to the catchy/voice-breaking chorus after the minor key verses?  The tension builds wonderfully.  “Sidecars” is a fun poppy track (“You and I will be sidecars, we chase down the hard stuff”).

“Pink Champagne” is a five-minute piano ballad.  It’s more akin to her earlier more country songs.  It’s a wee bit long but never overstays itself.  It’s followed by “Going to Hell,” which features some great screaming guitars in the midst of more delicate singing.  “For the Record” closes the album with a seven minute slow burner.  It begins quietly, and builds and builds–never the ecstatic heights–but with a chorus that is as catchy as it is mournful.

I have this CD in my car and every time it comes up, i just can’t stop listening.

[READ: June 18,2012] I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth

I received this limited (autographed!) chapbook from The Walrus when I re-subscribed recently.  That’s pretty cool.  It has been sitting around because I thought it was a much longer piece.  When I received the latest issue of The Walrus, and saw that the same story was in there, well, I realized that this was just a short story and could be polished off pretty quickly.  The issue of The Walrus also told me that this story is a kind of follow-up to The Robber Bride.

I have never read The Robber Bride (I like Atwood quite a lot and yet have never read her most iconic books!).  So I would never have known that this was a sequel (of sorts).  As I said, I don’t know The Robber Bride, (and hope to read it maybe this year).  I don’t know exactly how it ties to the novel (the first line of the Wikipedia entry tells me that the three main characters are the same), and given the tone of the story, I assume it is simply catching up on them some twenty-five years later.

In this story, Claris, Tony and Roz (who are all women, I didn’t realize that right away) are going for their weekly walk in the woods together (because it’s good for you and Roz hopes to increase their cellular autophagic rates).  Tony and Roz bought (from a shelter) a dog for Claris called Ouida.  Ouida is a wild terrier mix (who hops on Roz’s orange coat and leaves footprints).

It quickly becomes apparent that Claris is something of a hippy—organic, vegetarian, communing with spirits and whatnot.  Claris just had a dream about Zenia.  Zenia (who I assume is in The Robber Bride, because why wouldn’t she be), was a woman from their past.  She stole a man from each one of them—with varying outcomes in each woman’s case.  Zenia died about twenty years ago but she has come back, Claris believes, to tell her about Billy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-“Eat the Alphabet” on CBC Kids’ Mamma Yamma (2012).

I love Kathleen Edwards.  I think she has a wonderful voice (there’s something just slightly off that I think is really great).  I love all of her songs, because lyrically she’s clever and at times a little dark.

This is the only children’s song that she has sung that I know of. I don’t think it’s based on any of her proper songs.  It’s a simple strummed electric guitar ditty with a catchy chorus (as befits a children’s song).  Lyrically the song is all about different kinds of foods that start with the different letters of the alphabet.

Of course, she gets off to a strange start because after doing A (apples and apricots) and B (broccoli and banana) she gets to C which is “for Cat and mine’s called Mr T”).  She gets back on track (feta cheese!).  Although she skips J&K (which aren’t that hard, frankly).  She also skips Q and then  T, U, and V (in a way that seems like it’s improvised, although surely it isn’t).

It’s fun that she ends with Y as Mamma Yamma, our favorite talking potato.  It’s not the greatest kids song, but it is certainly fun.

You can see it here:

[READ: January-February, 2012] The Secrets of Droon: Books 17-21 & SE#2

I established with my previous Droon post that I would write posts for the books in between the Special Editions.  The arcs may not be completed, but the Special Editions seem like a natural recapping point.

I’ve been reading this series to my son and he is totally hooked.  And I have to say by the next sequence of books I was really blown away by the twist that Abbott put into the series.  At this stage, each book is getting more intense, although they are all kind of formulaic.  By the end of Book 21, though, things start to change, and the series has just gotten better and better.

Book 17 is called Dream Thief.  It has the kids waking up with dreams of Jabbo.  And Eric wakes up with a silver stone in his hand–a stone that he brought from the dream world!  The action of this book is set in the Bangeldorn Forest, where the monkeys live.  They befriend Tweet and Woot and go to the Dark Lands. (more…)

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This is Kathleen Edwards’ middle disc.  It continues in the vein of her first, although I think her voice sounds smokier and better.  The opening two tracks are stellar, catchy, snarky/funny and just fantastic.

She has a few mellower songs on this disc (and I’m not a big fan of mellow country folky music).  But as with some of my other favorite singers, her passion and her lyrics make even a slower song interesting.

“Summerlong” is another song that seems like it was a hit long ago.  It just sounds so comfortable and catchy that I feel like I’ve known it forever.   BUt even better is the slide guitar fueled “What Are You Waiting For?”

Strange as it sounds, I think I like her first album overall better than this one; however, there are more songs on Back to Me that I like more than those on Failer.  Whatever the case, Edwards is a great songwriter with a wonderful voice.  And I certainly look forward to more from her in the future.

[READ: April 3, 2010] Echo

I have been reading Echo since Issue 1.  But my subscription lapsed, and I wound up missing an issue.  So I put off reading it until I managed to get the back issue.  Which I finally did.  Phew!

And now I was lucky enough to read a huge chunk up through issue 20.  And I have to say tit is absolutely preferable to read Terry Moore in large chunks rather than one issue at a time.  (Of course, I’ll still be subscribing and reading as I go, because missing that issue killed me!).

Several new developments have occurred since Issue 11 or so.  The most important one is that it is clear that Annie and Julie’s DNA are merging.  Julie is able to hear more and more of Annie’s thoughts.  But also, because Annie has melded with this alloy (and the alloy is, for lack of a better scientific way to explain it…magic), Julie has gained healing powers (in addition to crazily explosive powers). (more…)

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