Monday, January 28, 2013

Spin Clean!

I had a few people ask me this week how I wash my records so I figured I would show you.
There are many different kinds of record cleaning machines out there. I guess the cadillac of these would be the vacuum machines but I have a hard time spending $300+ on a record cleaning machine. Some people also make these machines out of old turntables and vacuum cleaners but I have yet to attempt it.
A few years ago I found a website on the "Spin Clean" record cleaning machine. It had an attractive price of less than $100 so I decided it would be worth a shot.
I love the "Spin Clean" and have no reason really to ever upgrade. It does everything that I need.
The Spin Clean is basically just a plastic tub that you fill with distilled water and record cleaning solution.
You place the the rollers in the slot that suits your record size (different spot for 7", 10" and 12").
Put your brushes in the designated grooves.

Set your record in between the brushes and spin it 360 degrees three times each way.
Take out the record and polish it up with some microfibre clothes and your done.
Short and sweet!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Michael "Iron Man" Burks - Show of Strength - review

Few people could actually say they were born with the blues in their blood but Michael Burks was one of them. He was literally surrounded by the blues his entire life. His father was a bass player and his grandfather was an acoustic guitar delta blues musician. This lifelong involvement in the blues sure hasn’t done him any harm. ‘Show of Strength’ is Michael Burks’ fifth studio release and I feel his best.


‘Show of Strength’ is filled with guitar dominant blues backed by the basic line-up of drums, bass and keyboard. Michael recorded both the rhythm and lead guitars. This is the sound I expect from his label Alligator Records that has released albums from Albert Collins, Buddy Guy and Lonnie Mack. While Michael’s screaming guitar playing is what quickly attracted me to this album, I can’t help but appreciate his deep, raspy voice which is almost essential to blues from down south.


Burks opens the album with ‘Count On You’ with his voice sounding a little nervous and his guitar playing not quite as risky as I’d expect; however he still manages to turn it into a catchy number. It’s like a warm up for what is to come. When he breaks into the second track ‘Take a Chance on Me, Baby’, he seems to be warmed up just fine. There was noticeably more growl in his singing and more snap in his guitar. This song has everything that I’m looking for in the blues. A slow drum beat with heavy bass backing up solid guitar fills after every line Michael Burks snarls. The organ combined  with the keyboards faded in the background gives it a very full sound with minimal instruments. Michael approaches this song similar to how B. B. King would. No guitar while singing and following up with snazzy guitar riffs after each line that just blow you away.


Michael co-wrote ‘Take a Chance on Me, Baby” as well as four more of the twelve tracks on this album and these songs stood out as the best five on the album. He seems to be at an entire different comfort level playing songs he had a hand in writing. In all of these original songs he’s more opt of hitting the higher notes and also letting his great raspy growl out into the front where it belongs.


Michael keeps mixing things up in this album and never lets it get too repetitive. Whether it be him playing lead guitar along with his vocals (purple haze style) in the song ‘Cross eyed Woman” or simply adding the bluesy harmonica that fit so well in ‘Little Juke Joints’, I never got bored.


This album’s producing was shared between Michael Burks and Alligator owner Bruce Iglauer. Bruce is heavily involved the producing of most of the albums that have been coming from Alligator and his passion for perfection has only grown over the years. This album sounds great!


Unfortunately Michael died of a sudden heart attack between the end of recording this album and its release. What a sad end to a great album. Michael Burks really seemed at his prime while recording this and it’s sad that we will never know what else he had up his sleeve.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Stephen Cooke Interview!

Next up we have Stephen Cooke from Halifax Nova Scotia. Stephen is pretty well known and liked in the east coast music scene and he has one hell of a collection to be proud of here.
Here we go!
Introduce yourself!

Name: Stephen Cooke

City/Town: Live in Halifax, a Dartmouth boy at heart

Job: Entertainment Reporter for The Chronicle Herald


Maritime Vinyl (MV) - What do you collect? Vinyl; CD’s; Cassettes; 8 tracks; bootlegs; music memorabilia; magazine; etc..


Stephen Cooke (SC) - I definitely have some of all of the above, leaning more heavily on the music, but I have a lot of my old music mags still kicking around (Creem Magazines going back to the '70s, some old Rolling Stone magazines, pretty much anything from the '80s that had The Replacements or REM on the cover), and some fun memorabilia, like a '60s Monkeesmobile, the K-Tel Superstar board game (the one that came with the triple-grooved 7” 45 that said either “It's a hit!”, “Break Even” or “It's a Flop!”) and tons of books as well.


Vinyl and CDs are the main things though, I only have one 8-Track, and it's the Lenny and the Squigtones album, a comedy offshoot from the '70s sitcom Laverne & Shirley that a friend gave me. I don't have anything to play it on, but that's okay, I have it on vinyl too.



MV - Do you prefer one audio format more than others? (example: vinyl more than cd’s)


SC - I pretty much have equal amounts of both, so I can't say I have a strong preference, although I still appreciate the convenience of CDs for playing in the car, ripping to my computer, etc. But I also have a turntable hooked up to my computer, for those vinyl-only rarities I'd like to have on my iPod or put on a mix CD. I'm still a sucker for possessing something in a physical format, although as space increasingly becomes an issue, my 2TB external hard drive becomes an easy alternative for stuff that I'm curious about that may not make it through the long haul.


MV - How big is your collection?


SC - Pretty big. Last time I did an estimate of my vinyl stash, it was around 3-4,000 titles, and that was a number of years ago. I've acquired a few milk crates' worth of LPs since then, and numerous 45s as well, so 5,000 might not be a bad estimate. Probably around the same number of CDs as well.


Unlike a lot of people of my generation, I didn't automatically start purging my collection of vinyl records as the CDs came out in the late '80s and early '90s. Aside from occasionally skimming the dross off my collection, it's stayed pretty much intact over the years.


MV - Do you concentrate your collection on one or more artists in particular?


SC - I have a few favourites, to be sure, but it's a pretty general sort of collection over all. I've made up my own weird filing system that starts with early pop and jazz (think Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra into Bix Beiderbecke to Miles Davis) and moves up through R&B and country into rock and roll, folk, British Invasion, '70s stuff, punk, alternative and so on. I keep Canadian stuff separate, and East Coast stuff separate beyond that, and then there are those singular categories like soundtracks (I seem to have acquired a lot of Ennio Morricone LPs) and comedy/novelty stuff. I also have an unhealthy number of singing celebrity “golden throats” albums by people like William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Jim Nabors singing as Gomer Pyle, Herve Villechaize and so on, Lord help me.



MV - What is the first album you remember purchasing? Do you still have it?


SC - Aside from a few '70s K-Tel albums, and my mother's copy of Elvis Presley's Blue Hawaii soundtrack, I grew up in a pretty rock and roll-free household. My folks came of age in that pre-rock period where Perry Como and Tony Bennett were more the sound of the day, although my dad did have a number of Gordon Lightfoot LPs from his folkie days, when he worked in Ottawa and would go see Bruce Cockburn playing lunchtime gigs at local coffeehouses.


So aside from raiding mom's records (a lot of Broadway show tunes), and my old kiddie records, there wasn't much to choose from. The first LP I bought with my own money was a well-worn copy of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band which I got for a dollar when I was 10 or so, in a box of records I found in the Charlottetown used book store where I'd go to get Doc Savage paperbacks while visiting relatives in P.E.I. I guess someone just left them there, and I had a dollar either my dad or my uncle had given me, so I picked up a copy of the album with the strange looking cover with all these faces on it.


I knew who the Beatles were, I'd seen the animated feature Yellow Submarine on TV when I was quite young (4 or 5) and I had an extremely beat-up 45 of I Want to Hold Your Hand b/w I Saw Her Standing There that a former babysitter had given me, but none of that really prepared me for Sgt. Pepper. But at the same time, I could kind of relate to it as a kids' record, with all the sound effects, circus music, weird Indian stuff and orchestral bits. It felt like a jazzier version of one of my storybook records at the time, I don't think it fazed me one bit.


I still have it, the cover is ringworn and dog-eared, and the vinyl is scratchy, and unfortunately I took a pair of scissors to the insert that included all the fake badges and stuff and taped them to my wall. But it was just an early '70s copy on that red Capitol label, not a rare original pressing or mono edition or anything like that, so I don't feel too bad about the fact it was well-loved.


MV - What is your favorite item in your collection?

SC - Holy moley, where do I start? I don't have anything I'd consider super-rare, like a Beatles “butcher cover” of Yesterday and Today, or the misprint of the first Damned album, Damned Damned Damned, which has a pic of Eddie and the Hot Rods on the back by mistake, but I have a few favourites. My top band of all time is The Kinks, and I have a copy of Kinda Kinks signed by Ray Davies when I saw him perform in York, England a few years ago. I had just bought the record a few days before in Glasgow, and it didn't occur to me that I might actually get to meet Ray, but I ran into some members of the UK Kinks Fan Club and they told me to come with them to the stage door, since I'd come all the way from Canada. Sure enough, Ray came out and chatted with the fans after the show, signed whatever people held up to him, and was very convivial, despite being somewhat exhausted after playing for over two hours.

I don't actively go after autographed items, unless it's something I get signed myself, and that was clearly a big one for me. Other favourite items include a numbered Japanese copy of The Beatles' “White Album” which is probably the best-sounding piece of vinyl I own (I haven't tried to stack it up against the new 180g remaster though), and a beautiful, mint original copy of Sam Cooke's (no relation) Hit Kit LP on Keen Records.


MV - Do you still actively collect or was this something you concentrated on in the past?


SC - I still pick up stuff that intrigues me as I come across it, but I have to check myself so that I'm not just buying something because it has a cool (or horrendous) cover, and I try not to repeat myself and pick up something I already have in another format, although sometimes I can't help myself, as with special Record Store Day items, or one-off items like the vinyl-only mono version of Paul McCartney's Ram.


But I do like to keep up with vinyl when local artists put it out (loved the Noyes Records singles club), and when something like the Neutral Milk Hotel vinyl box or the stereo/mono double LP of The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society were announced I didn't blink at pre-ordering them. Sometimes you've gotta follow that Pavlovian response.


MV - What is your preferred way of adding to your collection? Shopping online? Flea Markets? Independent music stores? Etc… Any favourite store or websites?


SC - All of the above, although my preference is for flipping through the racks at places like Taz, Select Sounds, Obsolete or Black Buffalo. I do like a good root through a yard sale box or a thrift store pile, but find those efforts less rewarding as time goes by. I do occasionally buy stuff online, but not all that often. For new records, is my usual go-to, although I also buy direct from some labels like Yep Roc or Third Man, where I'm also a subscriber to their vault series of exclusive releases. I do like opening a box and finding a Jack White live LP with a lenticular cover and two-tone blue and black vinyl inside. The music is the main thing, but I do like the trimmings from time to time.


I windowshop on eBay, I'll type “The Kinks” or “The Damned” into the search box and sort from most expensive first to see what's out there and what people want for it, but I rarely follow through. I think the last couple of things I bought on eBay were a 45 of Merry Merry Merry Merry Xmas by Ruby Wright (a song featured in John Waters' film Female Trouble) and an LP by '60s band Central Nervous System, which included a young Nova Scotia rocker named Ritchie Oakley.


MV - How do you store your collection? Shelves? Boxes? Your attic?


SC - Again, all of the above. Luckily, our condo comes with a storage unit that I refer to as “the archive,” which has shelving, but there are still lots of milk crates full of vinyl around, plus the usual stack of LPs leaning against the stereo stand. From here I can see the Mammoth Cave reissue of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet's Savvy Show Stoppers, Jerry Lee Lewis Live at Third Man Records, the Sloan Twice Removed reissue and a beat-up copy of Boney M's Night Flight to Venus. There's also a box of 78s nearby that a friend gave to me, I'm planning to go through them, make digital copies of the interesting ones, and pass them along. 78s are like classical records, I swore to myself I wouldn't accumulate them, but then they just kind of show up on my doorstep.


MV - Does your significant other support your collection? Did you have to convince him/her?


SC - Lucky for me my partner is a music fan too, and loves to take advantage of my music and movie collections, although I'm sure she wishes I was a bit better at filing stuff away after I'm done with it (I refer back to the stack of records leaning against the stereo stand). Also, she moved here from Australia after selling everything she owned except whatever she could fit on a handcart, so she appreciates the fact that I've been able to hang on to as much stuff as I have over the years.


I did have to pay off a tax bill years ago, before we met, and in the end it was my comic book collection that took the hit, and she's probably fine with that. Lugging around milk crates and wine boxes full of vinyl is bad enough (not to mention CDs, DVDs and, ugh, laserdiscs), selling off those long white comics boxes was probably a blessing in the end.


MV - What is on your “wish list” at the moment?


SC - I try not to have a long wish list, I'm probably more of an impulse buyer, but I'd love to have a copy of The White Stripes' Sub Pop Singles Club release featuring a bunch of Captain Beefheart covers, and The Kinks' Then Now and Inbetween promo box from the '60s, which came with a God Save the Kinks pin, a jigsaw puzzle, a tiny flag and a baggie of grass clippings “from the Village Green.” Oh yeah, it also includes a compilation LP. Maybe that aforementioned Damned LP with the misprinted back cover, but I already have two copies of Damned Damned Damned on vinyl, and the CD box set devoted to their Stiff Records period, so I haven't actively been searching for it.


MV - Do you ever miss the days when it was a challenge to buy some albums? Now you can find virtually anything online! Is it getting too easy?


SC - It's always much more gratifying to find something by chance in a store or at a record fair. Going on eBay and seeing 30 different Beatles “Butcher Covers” of varying degrees of quality kinda kills the specialness of it all. I remember seeing my first one, at a record fair in Baltimore in the late '80s, hanging on the wall for $150, and then seeing the first one owned by someone I knew, a fairly decent “peel job”, and both of those sightings were pretty special. Seeing dozens of them on eBay, not so much.


MV - Do you know any other collectors?


SC - Not as many as I used to when I spent a lot more time hanging out in record stores, doing shows on CKDU-FM and crate digging around town. Most of my friends who love music aren't into vinyl in a big way, even if they once were, although I still know a few record hounds like CKDU hosts Russell Gragg and Ryan Delehanty. But most people I know these days seem to be shrinking their physical collections, not growing or maintaining them.


MV - You are an “Entertainment Reporter” for the Chronicle Herald in Halifax, NS. What’s it like being a music journalist in the Maritimes?


SC - It's certainly been interesting, seeing East Coast music go from the Celtic music boom of the late '80s and early '90s, and that whole “next Seattle” thing to the thriving and diverse music scene we have now. I appreciate the hard work Maritime artists put into their music to make it stand out, I just hope the shifting paradigm of the music industry continues to change in their favour so they can make a living selling their songs online and on the road.


MV - Being involved in the East coast music scene you have made some friends with some big names in the music scene. Does becoming friends with these musicians effect how you report on them?


SC - I suppose getting to know some of these people over the years has given me a bit of added insight into their characters, or their methods they use to approach their craft. The way I see it, the more I learn about the process of making music, and the way that process is constantly changing, the better I get at writing about it. To be honest, the relationship I have with most musicians isn't much different from that of sports reporters and athletes or those on the city hall or Province House beat and politicians. First-name basis, sure; hugging basis, not as much as you'd think.


MV - Does being a music journalist help you with your vinyl collection?


SC - Occasionally, although the amount of vinyl I get is pretty minimal. I was lucky enough to get a review copy of the recent Beatles vinyl set, although I've already collected multiple copies of many of those records (three variations on Revolver, two numbered “White Albums”, Let It Be in the less common gatefold sleeve, and so on). Before that, I think my last piece of promo vinyl was a copy of Kestrels' A Ghost History LP, which I would have bought anyway.


MV - You would get a lot of albums through work for reviewing. How do these albums compare with what you buy personally?


SC - It's a mixed bag. I'm more interested in what's happening on independent labels like Arts & Crafts and Matador, and they tend to send me download links, which is fine. I just like to be able to hear as much different music as possible, and there's still plenty of room left on my hard drive and iPod. Ke$ha and Beyonce CDs interest me less, but I can appreciate the joys of fun, disposable pop when it's done right, and it's good to have the opportunity to hear it as soon as the record comes out.


MV - Getting to know musicians personally, does it affect which albums you purchase? For example, if you do not like a musician personally, yet you enjoyed their album before you met them, does your opinion on the album change?


SC - Sometimes an awkward experience with a musician can leave a bad taste in your mouth, but lucky for me those have been very few and far between. Most of the time I can separate the artist from the art, and I've heard enough negative stories about musicians whose work I admire that I'd have to get rid of a healthy portion of my collection if I wanted to act on that information.


MV - Prior to becoming a music journalist you played bass in a band called “The Deluxe Boys” with some musicians that went onto some successful music careers: Jay Ferguson (Sloan), Matt Murphy (The Super Friendz, Cityfield) and John Gould. Any regrets in not pursuing a career as a musician?

The Deluxe Boys

SC - Not really, I never considered myself that great or dedicated a musician, and I also wasn't driven to move away from the East Coast to find greater success. This is where I wanted to live, and I was working at a job that still allowed me to enjoy music while earning a living and being close to my friends and family. Plus, I got a full-time job in radio right out of university, and balancing that and a regular relationship didn't leave a ton of time for making music on the side.


MV - Where can I find some recordings of ‘the Deluxe Boys?”


SC - Aside from a soundboard tape from an opening slot for Jellyfishbabies at the Club Flamingo sitting in somebody's closet, you can't. We had a handful of original tunes, and an eclectic bunch of cover versions like the Monkees' Valerie and Squirrelbait's Choose Yr Poison, but we never got to the point where we felt compelled to make a full-fledged recording, and our sets were ... well, undisciplined might be the best way to put it. I think someone once called us Halifax's answer to the Replacements, but I've listened to some Replacements bootlegs (not to mention the cassette-only faux-bootleg The Shit Hits the Fans) and I'm not entirely sure that was meant as a compliment.


But we had fun, and we had a few fans, including the Flamingo's Greg Clark, who I'm sure took great pleasure in booking Sloan and Super Friendz years later at Birdland and the Marquee and reminding them of that scrappy bunch of university brats that he put on stage for the first time.


MV - It is apparent that you are a fan of live music as well as vinyl. What do you think of people like me who love music but are more content listening to vinyl than going to live shows?


SC - I still love going to shows, but as arena and big outdoor shows get more expensive, and Halifax club shows continue to get underway at 10 p.m. or later, I can't fault anyone for wanting to listen to music by their favourite acts in the comfort of their own home while drinking a beer that cost them $2 instead of $6 or $7. But I also love festivals like the Halifax Pop Explosion or All Tomorrow's Parties where you get a lot of bang for your buck, music-wise; sometimes you can quantity and quality at the same time.
MV - Thanks for taking the time to do this Stephen!

Friday, January 18, 2013

YOU'VE CHANGED RECORDS - by Keltie Harding

Some of the best Canadian music being produced in the last couple of years has been released by the wonderful "You've Changed" record label.   You've Changed was formed in 2007-2008 by (former) Attack In Black members Daniel Romano, Ian Kehoe and former Constantines guitarist Steve Lambke. The label is based out of Welland, Ontario, which is Romano & Kehoe's hometown.  YC also had a satellite base in Sackville, NB (where Kehoe and Lambke both called home for a while) but is now solely based in Welland.

All of YC's releases (except for Daniel Romano's "Songs For Misha" EP) have been issued as both vinyl and CD.  I own 9 out of the current 14 catalog items on vinyl and they all sound wonderful.  The pressings are on (now) standard 180 gram vinyl, and with little surface noise once they have been well cleaned before the first play.


The lion's share of YC releases are in the "roots" folk and country vein.  Daniel Romano's 2011 album "Sleep Beneath The Willow" (YCR-011) is straight country with top notch songwriting and performances.  (I'm not generally a country music lover, per se, but this album is simply beautiful.  You want GOOD country, this is the album to get!). (Daniel's newest album "Come Cry With Me" is out now, but isn't on YC.  Again, this is a straight ahead country album with great songs.  I suggest you get it as well!)


Shotgun Jimmie's great "Transistor Sister" record (YCR-009) and Ian Kehoe's new project "Marine Dreams" (YCR-012) are both solid slabs of Canadian power pop of the highest caliber.  You gotta own these and listen to them often. 


Last year, Vancouver based pop-punkers Apollo Ghosts released "Landmark" (YCR 014) and this is a great high-energy listen.   Country, rock, power punk, folk, You've Changed has it all.  

Things have been kinda quiet in the YC camp for a while.  Some of the roster is out on tour and the most recent release from YC is the vinyl issue of Daniel Romano's album "Workin' For The Music Man".  This was originally issued as CD only but the vinyl came out late last year.  "Music Man" is a more folky-sounding album, and really puts me in mind of Bob Dylan's "John Wesley Harding" album or late-60's Byrds.  Its a fine album!


My first exposure to YC was the amazing album "Daniel, Fred & Julie", recorded by Daniel Romano, Fred Squire and Julie Doiron.  This album is definitely a step back into the past.  Much of the material are old folk songs ("Clementine", "Johnny Sands") with 2 Romano originals ("Runner", "Your Love") thrown in.  The recording of this album is a nod to the past as well.  The whole thing was recorded in mono, on just 1 microphone.   From what I could gather, the "master tape" was compiled onto a cassette, more out of "using what equipment that was there."  I put this recording on and close my eyes, and I am taken back to the days of Alan Lomax scouring the back roads of America, capturing Appalachian folk music on an old portable disc cutter, capturing the performance from someone's front port.  In this album's case, it was Fred's garage at his home in Sackville, NB.


Because YC was a major part of the Sackville music scene for a few years, many of its acts have appeared at Sackville's wonderful yearly indie festival, Sappyfest.  Last year, Marine Dreams , Baby Eagle and Shotgun Jimmie all made appearances.   Looking right around the corner, Marine Dreams and The Weather Station are both making appearances this weekend at Sackville's "Stereophonic" Festival, presented by Mount Allison University's radio station, CHMA. 

You've Changed's products are available in better record shops and also from their website. is the place to go.  You can also stay in touch with YC via thier Facebook page, Twitter and downloadable versions of thier records are available on Bandcamp (

I strongly urge everyone to check out EVERY act on the YC roster.  The music is good, the artists are really super cool folks (the one's I have met and know...)  And their dedication to releasing music on vinyl is great.
Support Canadian music and check out YC's artists when they are rolling through your town.  Tell them Keltie sent you!

- Post by Keltie Harding

Monday, January 14, 2013

Vinyl Review - Jenn Grant - The Beautiful Wild

When I was ordering the new Whitehorse LP from Six Shooter Records I was happy to see Jenn Grant on the roster as well. Her new album The Beautiful Wild made a few of the top 5 lists on Maritime Vinyl last month so I was anxious to see what the fuss was all about.

The packaging has a lot of similarities to the Whitehorse LP. It was protected with the 3 mil poly sleeve rather than shrink wrap and the cover was made of the same coarse non-gloss cardboard. Something about this coarse cardboard that just works with me. I love it.
The same attractive style download card was included. I like the “postcard” approach as it is just so much more collectible than the regular dull looking matchbox download cards. Let’s face it; most vinyl collectors like me will agree that being “collectable” is everything.
One big difference on this album over the Whitehorse was the nice gatefold cover. However; it was lacking any inserts so it was basically a wash. This album is lacking the lyric insert as well but at least she has all the lyrics posted on her website
I am really starting to become a fan of this Six Shooter Records label. Two records in and I am nothing but happy with both. I am glad to see that they are pressing their new releases on vinyl and that they are really taking pride in the packaging. If they keep this up they will be a huge contender in the vinyl market.
This album was pressed on the same shiny heavy 180 gram black vinyl that we all love so much. I am glad Six Shooter is living up to this standard as I love the look and feel of these heavy platters!
This album has that low volume that I was talking about with the Whitehorse LP. Again it gives it plenty of room to breathe which is great. I love lots of dynamics in recordings. The mixing and producing is great on this album.
The music:
Third release for Halifax favorite Jenn Grant. It took me a little while to get hooked on this album but it is really starting to grow on me. I think it was just the fact that I was coming from some more upbeat music prior and I wasn’t in the mindset for a mellower album.
It has actually grown on me quite nicely and I find myself playing it often. Headphone listening seems to be even better than through the speakers if that even makes sense. There are so many different instruments tucked into the background that just stands out so well with the headphones.
Jenn keeps the mellow approach throughout the majority of the album but doesn’t mind mixing it up a bit as well. A good example of this is in the song called Gone Baby Gone. I disliked this song at first listen but find myself returning to it more than any other. Just something about it kept me interested and made me feel like I missed something the first time around. It is just so experimental compared to the others with a sitar as the primary instrument, tribal type hand clapping with simple drums and Jenn chanting the same two lines throughout. This weird little number somehow turned into my favourite track. It was a great ending to side A.
Then when flip this album over and she is right back with another strong number called White Dove. The hand clapping technique usually doesn’t work well for me but she pulled it off again on this number. White Dove mixes up the style with a small simple horn section and backup singers similar to the style of the Raelettes. The fast drum style with the uses of brushes rather than sticks gives it a unique rhythm that really makes it stand out nicely.
Only downside on this album to me was the closing number, a slow drowsy version of Survivors – Eye of the Tiger. Sure the song gets me pumped when Rocky is beating the hell out of Mr. T but this soft drowsy version just didn’t fit in here. Eleven great songs and it ended with this garbage. What a shame.
I definitely see how she made the top 5 lists at the end of the year and am a little disappointed that it took me this long to find this album. I’m especially happy that I did not give up on it after the first listen. Some albums like this just need a few extra spins before I make an opinion. I’m sure going to be watching Jenn Grant closely and anxiously await her next release.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Vinyl Review - Whitehorse - The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss

Recently I was flipping through the television channels and came across some new music videos on AUX tv! I decided to stop and take a trip down memory lane of growing up in the 90’s when Music Television was my entire television life. Who would have thought they were still making videos!

After a few videos I saw a great one by a band called Whitehorse. The song was Achilles Desire. It had a great guitar riff and the lead singing was split between married couple Luke Doucet and Mellissa McClelland. Luke and Mellissa have had pretty successful solo careers here in Canada. Now as a married couple they formed Whitehorse and are really finding a great sound as a duo.
After discovering them I checked out all of their videos available on their website. Their live performances are really fun to watch. Instead of using a backup band they use sound loops and both play and share many instruments. Reminds me of the technique Howie Day used on ghost years ago on Kilborn. This live technique always interests the hell out of me and it really lets their talent as musicians shine. Plus, not many people are doing it so the ‘wow’ factor is still there, especially with the crazy amount of sound they achieve using these techniques.
I liked what I heard in all of these videos so went to their label’s website, Six Shooter Records, to order an album.
I love the packaging of this album. Somebody really took pride in the appearance and quality. Instead of that nasty shrink wrap, the album was shipped in a nice 3 mil poly sleeve. I prefer this as these sleeves are so much thicker and tend to protect their albums during shipping more than the shrink wrap. Plus I don’t need to buy a sleeve for storage.
I was very happy that the album came with a download card so I can take this album with me on my iPod. Even better than just sending a download card, they made the download card look good! It is basically a postcard with some great band shots and the download information. Most often these download cards are just the size of a business card and not much to look at but these cards are nice enough that I would consider them an insert for the album!
The cover is made of a coarse non-gloss cardboard. Actually, the only gloss is found on the inside of the sleeve which lets the vinyl sleeve slip in and out at ease (not that this has ever been a problem before, but hey it’s nice. It’s red too.)

It came with an insert on the same non gloss cardboard with a few more nice photos to look at along with the album credits.

The only downside in regards to packaging is the lack of a lyric insert. I always like having the lyrics especially for folkie type artists like this.
Six Shooter Records has around 60 releases under their belt. This is a relatively new label which started up in 2000.
They only have vinyl available for their albums that were released since 2008. I couldn’t tell if prior albums were released on vinyl and just out of print or if they just started pressing vinyl when it began to gain popularity. Regardless, at least they are pressing records now.
The vinyl is pressed on nice 180 gram vinyl which seems to be the bar set by the industry lately. The record is held in a heavy weight paper sleeve. Beautiful heavy album with great gloss.
This record sounds great! I especially like how the sound is relatively low on the album. This means you have to turn the stereo up a few extra notches but it gives plenty of room for the sound dynamics. When the drums are hit a little harder or guitar strings strummed a little louder, it comes across nice and loud like as it would in person. To better understand what I am getting at check out Kelties great post on the loudness wars here! Keltie gives some great examples and explanation on this topic.

The music:
I have a hard time putting Whitehorse under a specific genre. Folk, rock and country come to mind. It’s refreshing to not be able to put them under a single category. Some songs are more folk, than you get songs like Achilles Desire and Jane that are more rock and pop. Kind of a risky move to be jumping around genres like this but it works.
Luke and Mellissa play most of the instruments themselves. Besides being great singers and songwriters these two are very talented musicians as well. Triple threat! They split the drumming up throughout the album with a number of different drummers.
They share lead vocals through most songs but I also really enjoyed songs like Peterbilt Coalmine and Devils Got a Gun where they sing harmony. I don’t know if I prefer one approach more than the other but it is great how they hit it both ways keeping the sound fresh throughout the album.
Luke Doucet's talent on the guitar is obvious. The sound that he gets out of his guitars is a cross between a rockabilly crunch and a clean acoustic guitar. It is clear to me that he is holding back on his guitar abilities and I think he is making the right choice. Screaming guitar solos just wouldn’t work as it would take too much away from their singing. These catchy guitar riffs and basic rhythm compliments their voices nicely.
I love the song sequence on this album. I never get bored as their styles changes so often that you are always paying attention.
This album will be getting plenty of play time on my turntable. The packaging was great and the shipping was fast. I will definitely be watching this label closely and placing more orders in the near future. I may have to start with Luke and Mellissa’s solo albums!