Monday, September 23, 2019

Shelley Posen – Ontario Moon

Shelley Posen
Ontario Moon
Well Done Music

(A version of this review was published in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin.)

Shelley Posen is well known throughout the folk music world as a member of Finest Kind, a mostly-retired Ottawa vocal trio known for its glorious harmonies, and as a versatile singer and songwriter whose work touches many genres. Ontario Moon is his fifth solo album and while two of his previous CDs were on specifically Jewish themes, the dozen songs here are purely secular in nature.

One of the things that’s really nice about this album is that each track is uniquely arranged with musicians specifically recruited for the song in question. For example, the title track, a jazzy, romantic tune that recalls the Tin Pan Alley songs that songwriters like Irving Berlin were writing in the 1930s, features a swinging quintet that includes Django Reinhardt-influenced guitarists Christian Flores and Andrew Tesolin, bassist Mike Mopasi, clarinetist Martin van de Ven of the klezmer band Beyond the Pale, and violinist Mika Posen, Shelley’s daughter.

One of the songs I relate to most on the album is “Night Nurse,” a blues featuring the bottleneck guitar virtuosity of Michael Jerome Browne. The song is a tribute to the care Shelley received several years ago when he underwent surgery at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. The song mirrors my own experiences with the night nurses when I had my own surgery at the Heart Institute a few years later.

Other favourites include “The Best Song Ever Written,” a fun country song about songwriting; “Back at Bub’s,” a rock ‘n’ roller about a favourite barbecue joint; “Sugar Bush Breakfast,” a very sweet duet with Montreal singer Linda Morrison; “Tea Time,” a clever paean to afternoon tea at the Royal York featuring a classical string quartet; and “Walking in the Rain,” a delightful little piece that sounds like it could have come from a 1940s musical.

While I’ve mentioned about half the songs on the album, all of the others are just as good.

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Mike Regenstreif

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