Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lynne Hanson – River of Sand

River of Sand
Well Done Music

Lynne Hanson’s first three recordings – released between 2006 and 2010 – were all good albums that showcased a singer-songwriter of great promise. After a four-year wait since her previous release, Lynne delivers on that promise with River of Sand – 11 songs delve deep into personal darkness, whether she’s seemingly writing about herself or obviously about a character she’s created.

Several songs delve into broken, ended relationships but she writes and sings with depth about contradictory feelings – “I say that I don’t care/ I’m stone but I’m lying,” she sings in “Whiskey and Tears,” and “Our home became four walls of love grown cold/ My heart still broke the day that it was sold,” she sings in “This Old House.”

Other songs explore the effects of depression. In “This Too Shall Pass,” the narrator contemplates the absolute loneliness of depression and, perhaps, a final ending. In “Heaven and Hell,” she feels like she’s being strangled by the devil.

The crutch of drinking and losing one’s self in the effects of alcohol are vividly explored in several songs including the title song as well as the aforementioned “Whiskey and Tears” and “Colour My Summers Blue.”

Lynne also steps outside of herself in “Good Intentions,” in which a character named Suzy finds herself compromised at the hands of a would-be rapist and fights back with lethal force.

The album ends on a brighter note. While still singing about a broken relationship in “Trading in My Lonesome,” co-written with producer Lynn Miles, Lynn sings about the personal redemption borne of real closure.

It is obvious, listening to these songs that Lynne is writing about these emotions with authenticity. The songs, and her clear country alto, are well served by finely crafted arrangements featuring such musicians as guitarist Keith Glass, fiddler Lyndell Montgomery, Anders Dreup on pedal steel and guitar, and Lynn Miles and Rebecca Campbell on harmony vocals.

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--Mike Regenstreif

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Canadian Spaces – CKCU – Saturday September 20, 2014

CKCU can be heard at 93.1 FM in Ottawa and on the web.

Canadian Spaces on CKCU in Ottawa is Canada’s longest-running folk music radio program. It is heard Saturday mornings from 10:00 am until noon (Eastern time).

It was hosted for more than 33 years by the late Chopper McKinnon and is now hosted by Chris White and a rotating cast of co-hosts.

This week’s show was co-hosted by Mike Regenstreif and Tonya Price.

Guest: Terry Gillespie

Jesse Winchester- A Little Louisiana

Lynne Hanson- Trading in My Lonesome
River of Sand (Lynne Hanson)

Notre Dame de Grass- Edmunston Nights

Penny Lang- Prairie Sky

Steel Rail- That’s How the Summer Slips Away
River Song (Crossties)

Anne Hills- Maria Took the Train to Town
Tracks (Hand & Heart Music)

Kenny Butterill- Old Man and the Kid
Troubadour Tales (No Bull Songs)

Catherine MacLellan- Gone Too Soon
The Raven’s Sun (Catherine MacLellan)

Durham County Poets- Ragman Blues
Chikkaboodah Stew (Durham County Poets)

Kathy Reid-Naiman- Pretty Betty Martin
Dear Jean: Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie (Compass)

All Day Breakfast Stringband- Love’s Worse Than Sickness
Shanghai (All Day Breakfast Stringband)

Jesse Winchester- Just So Much

The next three songs punctuated our conversation with Terry Gillespie.

Terry Gillespie- Street Choir
Live in the studio

Terry Gillespie- There’s a Hole in My Heart
Live in the studio

Terry Gillespie- Johnny Too Bad
Live in the studio

Jill Zmud- Victoria Tucker
Small Matters of Life and Death (Jill Zmud)

The last half-hour of the show celebrated Leonard Cohen, the day before his 80th birthday.

Leonard Cohen- Suzanne
Songs of Leonard Cohen (Columbia/Legacy)

Perla Batalla w/David Hidalgo- Ballad of the Absent Mare
Bird on the Wire: The Songs of Leonard Cohen (Mechuda Music)

Tom Russell- Tower of Song
Love & Fear bonus EP (HighTone)

The Good Lovelies- Hallelujah
Live at Revolution (Six Shooter)

Leonard Cohen- Who By Fire
Livei n London (Columbia)

The show is now available for online listening.

I’ll be co-hosting Canadian Spaces again on November 22.

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--Mike Regenstreif

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Jesse Winchester – A Reasonable Amount of Trouble

A Reasonable Amount of Trouble
Appleseed Recordings

This review of A Reasonable Amount of Trouble, the late Jesse Winchester’s final studio album,is from the September 18, 2014 edition of The Montreal Gazette.

Jesse Winchester

A Reasonable Amount of Trouble

Appleseed Recordings


When Jesse Winchester succumbed to cancer on April 11, the music world lost one of our greatest songwriters, one of our most soulful singers, and one of our most quietly powerful performers. He was an artist who commanded total attention by virtue of his perfectly crafted lyrics and melodies – there was never a wasted word or note in a Jesse Winchester song.

Winchester’s loss was particularly felt by Montreal music fans. He was a familiar and popular figure on the folk scene here beginning soon after he landed at Dorval Airport in 1967 as a Vietnam War-era draft resistor. Despite an amnesty that would have allowed him to return to the U.S. in 1977, he continued to live in Montreal and then the Eastern Townships until 2002 when love and a second marriage brought him back to the American South he grew up in, and which so influenced his music.

In 2011, Winchester fought a battle with cancer of the esophagus and seemed to beat it. Returning to the stage a year later, his singing was as beautifully soulful as ever and his stage presence was still riveting. And earlier this year he recorded a new album – much sooner than the one-album-per-decade pace he adopted in 1989 and maintained until 2009. Sadly, while finishing the album, he was diagnosed again with cancer – this time in the bladder – and died soon after.

Most of the songs on A Reasonable Amount of Trouble were written in the wake of Winchester’s first bout with cancer and there seems to be a sense of human mortality to some of them. All That We Have Is Now, the finely polished gem of a song that opens the album sets the tone. A love song to his wife Cindy, it’s a message about seizing the moment and living life to the fullest in the present.

And each of the songs that follow, be they rock ‘n’ roll tunes like She Makes It Easy Now or Never Forget to Boogie – another reminder to seize opportunities to enjoy life – or quieter, touching songs like Every Day I Get the Blues that reflect the sad side of everyday emotions, is yet another reminder of how perfect a songwriter Winchester was.

A Little Louisiana is the happiest sounding song on the album. Once again Winchester is advising listeners to live life to the fullest because who knows what might lie ahead but this time he says it with an infectious Cajun-flavoured arrangement featuring some wonderful playing by accordionist Joel Guzman and fiddler Stuart Duncan.

That happiest sounding song is followed by one of the saddest. Ghosts begins with the image of Winchester at the airport saying goodbye to his crying mother. Knowing his history, we assume it’s 1967 and he’s on his way to Montreal not knowing if or when he’d ever be allowed to return home. The CD’s front cover, incidentally, is a drawing of Winchester’s from 1969 titled Crying Woman and was inspired by the same scene sung about in that opening verse. By song’s end we understand the ghosts to be both the people missed and the regrets that come from choices made and roads taken through life. Ultimately, in Ghosts he longs for the innocent times of youth before such decisions needed to be made.

Speaking of those innocent times of youth, A Reasonable Amount of Trouble also includes three masterful covers of classic rock ‘n’ roll and doo-wop tunes from the 1950s and early-‘60s. Winchester’s versions of Rhythm of the Rain, the Cascades’ 1963 hit, and Devil or Angel, recorded by the Clovers in 1955, both remain faithful to the originals while still sounding fresh. And, perhaps best of all, is his utterly irresistible take on the Del-Vikings’s Whispering Bells.

Winchester’s final album ends with Just So Much, a beautiful and deeply affecting reflection on faith in God, on love, and on coming to terms with approaching death. It is a poignant, but somehow perfect, finale to a brilliant songwriting career.

Winchester’s catalogue includes more than a few albums that will remain timeless classics. A Reasonable Amount of Trouble takes its place among his finest work.

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--Mike Regenstreif