JAIMIE VERNON – April DISCoveries and musical musings

Promo Shot_Twilight Zone_thumbAfter a long month of music legend deaths (which included Pinky Dauvin of Lighthouse and Richie Havens this week) and global tragedy it’s great to finally get back to listening to the new breed of musical innovation.

“KRIS + DEE “Bloom”

I have to admit that I have a music crush on this dynamic duo. They lured me in and hooked me with last year’s debut effort ‘Still Here’ – setting the tone of their thoughtful songs of solitude and introspection. On the sophomore follow-up ‘Bloom’ they explore these themes and more and add musical dynamics with the assistance of resident bass/piano/organ mandolin player Wil McGonegal plus Colin Cripps (Crash Vegas, Junkhouse), Tim Welch (National Velvet), Ron Hawkins (Lowest of the Low) and the seriously skilled drum work of Mauro Sepe and Al Cross.

BloomThe album is a slow burning ember with Kris & Dee’s signature folk arrangements on songs like the inspiring “Weeds” and the psychological drama of “Enemy” (where Cripps’ slide guitar lines are truly haunting). The album is peppered with these dips in the emotional, musical valley that include “Never What You Think”, “Bones” (with its operatic-like Gregorian build-up and release) and possibly the album’s best track – “Making Ends Meet”.

Kris_DeeWhen the duo kick into full band mode they deliver breezy alternative pop numbers that bring to mind Canadian ladies of the 1990s like Kim Stockwood, Melanie Doane, Sarah McLachlan and Damhnait Doyle. “Kite And Flyer” is the most accessible, while “Ghosts” and “Wide Winter” keep the album rhythmically upbeat. Though the subjects are serious and often weighty, Kris  + Dee also know how to unwind with an ode to east coast music on “Newfoundland”, which features a great accordion break by Trevor Henderson and rhythm spicing from Al Cross on spoons!

As with ‘Still Here’, Dee McNeil’s plaintive and angelic voice carries the appropriate amount of gravitas and pathos when required or the amount of oomph to drive a song when the arrangement demands it. Meanwhile, Kris Abbott’s solid harmony vocals bring the voices of the duo in tandem for some Everly Brothers-like chills. She also supplies the electric guitar contrast to Dee’s acoustic base.

Apparently, the disc is now permanently stuck in my CD player…

KoboTownKOBO TOWN “Jumbie In the Jukebox”
Kobo Town is the brainchild of Trinidadian émigré Drew Gonsalves who wrote the material for this eclectic post-modern ska/reggae/calypso/soca/rap album while jostling between abodes in Port-of-Spain, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Benque Viejo in Belize (where the album was produced by Ivan Duran).

The release can be described as World Music for the uninitiated hipsters. Part groove and skank, part social & political commentary.  The album has to be heard to believe – every tune is a collision of styles, held cohesively together by Gonsalves’ idiosyncratic vocal style. Best takes here are “Kaiso Newscast”, “Mr. Monday”, “Postcard Poverty”, “Joe the Paranoic” , “The Ware Between Is and Ought”, the best tune on the album – the bluesy anti-Bruno Mars ballad “Diego Martin”, and this gem, “Joe the Paranoic”.

I lack the appropriate reference points to strike a similar comparison but this is modern island music with a youth-oriented flare.


SloanSLOAN has announced that they’re releasing a brand new 7” single entitled ‘Hardcore’ next Tuesday featuring two new original songs. It’s a limited edition of 500 copies plus bonus digital downloads. The bonus material features 12 cover songs from Sloan’s youth by bands such as Minor Threat, Angry Samoans, The Descendents,  7 Seconds, Bad Religion, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Gray Matter and The Nile. http://www.sloanmusic.com/

SONNY KEYES – known to the less initiated as the keyboard player and founding member of 1980’s hitmakers The Kings (“This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide”) who has emerged with his own brand of solo music lovingly referred to as ‘Polymusical’.  He’s recorded four tracks you can check out so far:
“I Was Wrong” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvpVzpSGz1E is a 1980’s styled power ballad featuring Nicole Dragon and Don Neilson (think Diana Ross and Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love”)…except this one’s about divorce. It’s surprisingly inspirational to help the painful transition into healing; “He Would Have Wanted It That Way” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og2O5HJhEgs featuring vocals by The Kings’ Dave Diamond and is a slow blues grind that Keyes began writing decades ago. The inspiration to complete it came from Cee Lo Green’s presumptuous altering of the lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine”; “Loliolay” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaqUXHPnHmY is Keyes’ throw away sing-along novelty tune featuring John McPhearson which turns out to be anything but…instead, it’s a McCartney-esque Vaudevillian earworm that sticks to the roof of your brain pan; “Shine” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l35X5kKxBaQ is a female perspective song about friendship between women featuring Anj (Angie Grant) doing an uplifting Six Pence None The Richer-like modern pop ditty. The Kings’ Mister Zero helps out on guitar. http://www.sonnykeyes.ca/store.html

SWEET RELIEF III is the third disc in a series of celebrity CDs to help the Sweet Relief Fund raise finances for musicians in financial need due to personal crisis – including illness, disability and more. The upcoming CD will feature exclusive tracks as outlined here:
Sweet ReliefRon Sexsmith/Pennies From Heaven
Shelby Lynne/Brother Where Are You
Sam Phillips/Big Spender
k.d. lang/How Did You Find Me Here
Ben Harper/Crazy Love
Genevieve Toupin/Heart Of Gold
Joseph Arthur/If I Needed You
Rickie Lee Jones/Surfer Girl
Tina Schlieske/With A Little Help From My Friends
Victoria Williams/Change Is Gonna Come
She & Him/King Of The Road
Eleni Mandell/ I’ll Be Home
Jackson Browne/Don’t Let Us Get Sick
Check the organization’s website https://www.sweetrelief.org for updates or follow Frank Gutch Jr.’s blog posts every week on bobsegarini.wordpress.com

famousundergroundFAMOUS UNDERGROUND is the revived incarnation of a Toronto band once called Revolver featuring Nick Walsh (ex-Slik Toxik) and Laurie Green. Their self-titled sophomore album comes out on 7.06.13. Listen to the teaser track “Necropolis” here: https://soundcloud.com/famousunderground/1-necropolis

Drink A Toast
DRINK A TOAST TO INNOCENCE – A TRIBUTE TO LITE ROCK has just been released and features some of the top international power pop acts reviving songs that – back in the day – we would have never been caught dead listening to from the MOR/Yacht Rock/A.M. Schmaltz songbook: “We Don’t Talk Anymore” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wzInezhmtg, “Baby Come Back”, “On and On”, “Shannon”, “Magnet & Steel”, “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” and other saccharine covered classics (sadly, no Barry Manilow?). This is not a joke, folks. The recreations are done with love and devotion. The result is top notch! Highly recommended. http://monstersofliterock.bandcamp.com/

Send your CDs to: Jaimie Vernon, 180 Station Street, Suite 53, Ajax, ON L1S 1R9 CANADA


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

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