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Pluck, Strum, Plunk & Bow Stroke: Roots, Folk, Blues & Americana

North Star Falling – Maybe, But Album Filled With Heights

North Star Falling

Jeffery Straker either has an old soul, or all my musical references are an indication of my age.

Either way, Straker’s brand- new cd North Star Falling has traces of some of the best piano-based singer/songwriters of the past 40 years, couched in his inimitable and effervescent style of folk/alt-pop influences.

Disclaimer: I go into this review already a big fan of Straker’s music. Be it the bang-on uplifting melody behind the New Orleans sounds on Slings & Arrows, or the warm, personal lyrics behind story songs like The Wonderful Mrs. Bell. Don’t even get me started on Oh God, I’m Cinderella – this man can write music and lyrics that stand up there with the best examples in his genre. He’s already been compared by reviewers to Elton John, Billy Joel, and Carole King.

Above all, Jeffery Straker conjures up the great Leon Russell in that combination he seems to excel at, marrying insightful lyrics to compelling melodies, which make you want to listen to his recordings over and over. North Star Falling is no exception, and indicates his continued growth as an accomplished artist.

Breaking down a few personal highlights from the disc (admittedly, personal taste may dictate your own), Calling It Quits laments the difficult decision to finally say no, with “this time, it’s for good”.  Step Into The Fire is Straker’s sprawling Rufus Wainwright moment, filled with softness and cresting waves of grandeur.

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I Wanna Go Back There evokes Eartha Kitt, or Peggy Lee at their sultriest.  Nowhere Heart feels like early Beatles, while You Make Me Want To could be a John Lennon track. Above all though, for my money, Gravity is my new favourite Jeffery Straker song, which is an achievement in and of itself, given his catalogue.

As I mentioned earlier, either Straker has an old soul, or my references are in need of updating. That said, if you’ve ever seen Lady Gaga step out of her character and play some of her most amazing music, or heard album tracks from Christina Perri (whom Straker has opened for), his music is as current as it is classic. It’s that classic sound that makes these tracks broader in their appeal.

The lead-off single released on iTunes January 27th is Like It’s The Last One, an uplifting ode to ekeing everything you can out of life. Whatever you are able to eke out, at the very least it should include a copy of North Star Falling…

Check out the video for Like It’s The Last One here…

Visit Jeffery Straker online, and check out his albums on iTunes.

Sold Out House For CD Release Party

It was an impressive turnout at the Ironwood Stage & Grill last night for Calgary singer/songwriter Jenn Beaupré’s CD release party – a sold-out house filled front to back, side to side…

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Backed up for her first set with a full band, Beaupré was able to recreate the studio sound of her latest CD “Reach Out” for the audience, complete with a 3-piece horn section, backup singers, and a solid rhythm section that allowed her to focus on singing those songs.

The Ironwood is a great venue on its own, but when a powerhouse vocalist takes to the microphone, there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house. Well, I may be a bit biased, I was right up front. However her flawless vocal range was proof that listeners to the CD weren’t being fooled by studio coverups – Beaupré hits her notes with confidence and experience.

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From Motown-flavoured original songs like “Sunburn“, “Reach Out” and “Eyes All Over“, to her heartbreaking ballad “Angel Who’s Lost“, where she had a violinist accompany her pianist, this third album is likely to get serious attention, if the audience reactions and standing ovations last night are any indication.

She writes relatable songs that often have some great, fun lyrics, like the aforementioned “Eyes All Over“.

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Her second set (after performing every song on her new album in the first one) was solo acoustic, aside from some accompaniment from a guitarist on a few songs.

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In this set, Beaupré had fun covering songs (and a few originals), but gave no short change to quality control in performing hits from Ed Sheeran (Thinking Out Loud), Amos Lee (Colors), Joni Mitchell ( A Case Of You), and even a bit of inspired Whitney Houston, along with the crowd-pleaser them from Frozen, “Let It Go“, although to be fair, she did warn anyone that had kids in advance, in case of a possible overdose of the uber-popular Disney song.

 

JB Photo Series Nov06

 

Reach Out is available now in iTunes, or if you are able to catch her performing live, I would highly recommend you do so. If you can catch her in a smaller, more intimate venue, you should take certainly advantage of that opportunity.

I caught up with Jenn earlier, before this show. You can read the feature interview in my Calgary Herald blog by scrolling down a post or two in this site,or by clicking here. You can also view the companion video podcast here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Strings And A Goat Skin @ Calgary Folk Club Tonight

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The folk/traditional fusion trio out of Prince Edward Island hit the stage tonight here in Calgary, and I chatted with fiddle player Rowen Gallant.

Read the feature that appeared in my Calgary Herald blog, and listen to the podcast, or download it from iTunes (ThatDanGuy’s Podcast)

Review tomorrow!

Opens This Week – Artists’ Collective Theatre’s “The Goat or Who Is Sylvia”

act.thegoat. ACT 1

The latest piece for my Calgary Herald blogspace – a preview of the new production opening this week from Artists’ Collective Theatre, and interviews with the cast and creatives on my YouTube channel.

You’ll find all the links here.

Calgary’s Jenn Beaupré Releases “Reach Out”

JB Photo Series Nov06

I caught up with singer/songwriter Jenn Beaupré ahead of her CD release party for her soulful new release “Reach Out” – imbued with a modern Motown sound.

She has a release party set for January 17th at the Ironwood Stage & Grill in Calgary.

Read the online feature in my Calgary Herald Blog Watch the entire interview on my YouTube channel, the link is towards the bottom of the page!

In The Latest Penguin Eggs Magazine

Out right now – check out my feature on Nova Scotia musicians Cassie & Maggie MacDonald:

http://www.penguineggs.ab.ca (this will just show you the cover – you need to go buy the magazine 🙂 )Penguin Eggs 64

And Now, The End May Be Near…

I see that Pirate Bay (an illegal download site) has been raided, and is currently offline. Here in Canada, Saskatchewan internet providers are now forwarding info on users that visit those sites to the copyright holders for warnings of legal action as well.

As a creator of materials in print and online, and a supporter of live musicians, this is GREAT news – and long overdue. The internet has caused so much uncertainty for creative artists, and even long-established performers are having to do kick-starters to make money or be able to even record a new album.

This is a good trend, which I hope continues to swell – it is the law after all.

Support artists. Buy, don’t steal.

Later!

Barney Bentall’s Grand Cariboo Opry Bids Farewell

Well, if you are going to borrow a well-known name, you may eventually find yourself having to change it 🙂

Read all about that, plus my review of last night’s exceptional show in Bragg Creek. Next year, you’ll be looking to see The Cariboo Express instead! Check it out here.

And here’s more than a handful of pictures from the evening!

Grand Cariboo Opry
Grand Cariboo Opry
Matt Masters
Matt Masters
Barney Bentall
Barney Bentall
Ridley Bent, Leeroy Stagger
Ridley Bent, Leeroy Stagger
Wendy Bird, Angela Harris
Wendy Bird, Angela Harris
Dustin Bentall
Dustin Bentall
Kendel Carson
Kendel Carson
Good Time Had By All
Good Time Had By All
Grand Cariboo Opry
Grand Cariboo Opry
Dustin & Barney Bentall
Dustin & Barney Bentall

Stage West Brings Back The ’80’s

If you enjoyed the great musical acts of the ’80’s, you’re probably going to walk away a fan of Stage West’s latest production, 80’s Solid Gold. Featuring a talented cast of actors and singers, backed by the top-notch band led my Musical Director Konrad Pluta, this 2-hour show relives the best of that era.

Check out my Calgary Herald review for more info!

And watch my interview with co-creator, director and choreographer Timothy French here.

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