Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Album Reviews - The Dardanelles, The Once, Tony Benn

Well it's that time of the fortnight again. Time to re-post my reviews from this weeks scope here for your perusal. This week they are all local, all acoustic folk, all self titled debut albums, all pretty good. This weeks Scope is particularly awesome as it is the annual "New Music" issue with an ass load of bands covered and my favorite band in town made the cover. Although I gotta say they could've chose a shot that made them look a bit more active. I think every shot of Andrew Waterman should be of him screaming and covered in blood. Maybe this is just me. Anyway, here are my latest three reviews. enjoy them and check out the links if you can. Always check out my links.

The Dardanelles
The Dardanelles debut self titled album is an taut, dynamic and energetic mix of various strings, squeeze boxes and worldly influences. The Dardanelles are tight. The seven piece folk combo effortlessly weave a dense tapestry of swirling reels and dervishes that they make flow naturally while never letting up on the whirlwind pace. The production is crisp and lush but never overdone and thankfully stripped of any tacky studio trickery and affectations leaving just the raw textures of the instruments and the expert hands guiding them. I'm gonna avoid any talk of "authenticity" or adhering to traditions because frankly I'm the farthest thing you get from an expert on Newfoundland trad music. All I can say is that to me this album reveals a depth of interplay and a relentless energy that can only be experienced at the best kitchen parties and even when mixing in the more exotic foreign material the songs flow naturally and sweetly.

The Once
Geraldine Hollett's voice is an instrument like a deep warm river of sweetness and honey. Thankfully her band The Once know this well and on their debut album have built all the arrangements like a shrine or alter to properly display that lovely instrument. It is an album of tasteful covers; half traditional and half more contemporary (but not obvious) classics, all with strong and somewhat dark narratives that take good advantage Geraldine's theatrical pedigree by pushing the dramatic envelope, the stark a capella reading of "Marguerite" in particular has Geraldine taking on the role of the lead character and full on emoting her emotional breakdown to stirring effect. Their version of Leonard Cohens "Anthem" is stellar. My biggest complaint about the album is the cover. Look at it. It has to be one of the dullest album covers I've ever seen.. Three red rectangles and some Times new roman lettering do not a compelling visual make. Try harder.

Tony Benn
Irish ex-patriot and current local singer-songwriter Tony Benn's new album travels onto a lonesome road with a simple directness and a strong and sorrowful voice. Most of the album is stripped down to just guitar and vocals with occasional band arrangements and female vocal choruses punctuating it at times. The album keeps a sparse and quiet tone throughout with Tony's voice evoking a steady but sad, contemplative quality that draws comparisons to Damien Rice or John Martyn and on songs like "Her Hair Came Down" and "Walk with you" he let's it soar to devastating and beautiful effect. The lyrics are direct and unpretentious but are lacking a little in depth and originality, the simple sentiments in songs like "Please don't say goodbye" don't offer any new insights we haven't heard many times before, but this is a small qualm in an album as perfectly suited for cloudy Sunday listening as this one.