Sunday, February 28, 2010

CR Avery
and The Legal Tender String Quartet
NAC 4th Stage Ottawa

Our Nation's Capital. Escaped the snow in Toronto and found the sunshine in Ottawa...if a little windy. All pre-show plans were scuttled when D'Arcy McGhee's turned out to be post-work, yuppie hell. So I'm drinking early and keeping company in our hotel room. Somehow, though I was positioned only meters away from the entrance and had all the time in the world, our party ends up in the back row, which is no matter in this tiny space.

Tonight's openers are local slam-poets taking the stage for a single piece each.

We have a little surprise for CR tonight as I've enlisted the help of Kate who fills the pregnant pause with a question... "You scared?" The audience laughs, a quick smile crosses CR's face as he leans into the mic and replies... "I'm petrified..." and we're off.

Very good performance tonight even though we're told that Corin Raymond did his best the night before to keep CR in a drunken-haze in Toronto. Now there's a story here that would probably be best left untold. CR's a funny guy, often introducing his songs, the more extreme songs, as being covers of Anne Murray (solo Folk Singer at the '08 Bragg show and more recently, I'm Gonna Eat You Out in Ottawa). You know he's joking, right? When he says he spent the night partying with Ron Sexsmith I can't tell anymore if he's pulling my leg.

Set list changes in spots 10 and 12 for tonight are, a personal favourite, The Birdcage and a cover of Neil Young's Star of Bethlehem.

One final note, as a testament to the spontaineity of CR's set, we get a new verse in I'm Gonna Eat You Out that could have only come about because of last night's post-Toronto show party at Not My Dog:

"it don't taste like chicken,
it don't taste like grilled cheese,
I'm just repeatin' what Corin Raymond said
To one of my string players on his knees..."

As the song closes it's apparent CR has listened to the CBC broadcast of his Vancouver show because he notes "you'll never hear that on the CBC mother-fucker..." Now I haven't listened yet but it's my guess it got cut...from the radio airing anyway.

(Check out a great video version of The Birdcage captured at Toronto's Rivoli in Feb of 2009)

Track 01 Road Visions
Track 02 German Computer
Track 03 Train Headed West
Track 04 My Bad
Track 05 The Cat
Track 06 The Prime Ministers Chair
Track 07 Hell of A Hotel Harm
Track 08 Band Intro
Track 09 Dinner For One
Track 10 Bird Cage
Track 11 The Kind Man Of Alexander Street
Track 12 Star of Bethlehem (N. Young)
Track 13 Lost Highway
Track 14 Hymns from the Underground

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

CR Avery
Glenn Gould Studio
w/ Special Guests
Corin Raymond
& the Sundowners

Got snowed out of a couple shows this week, gotta make up for it now.

Dude's come a long way from "pay-what-you-can" night at The Rivoli to a $30 ticket in a posh studio setting. Pressure's on now!

Corin Raymond is opening again tonight, this time a different configuration, joined by a back-up band, the Sundowners.

Great set, lively,fully engaged with the audience from the first moment he steps onstage. He's show-casing songs from There Will Always Be A Small Time. Good songs made better by the exhuberance of live performance, most notably the accomplished guitar playing of David Baxter and Corin's infectious laughs.

CR and the Legal String Quartet are coming to the end of a gruelling tour of Southern Ontario. They've not had a day off since their show in Perth on the 18th of February. Three more to go.

Since their date in Windsor last Sunday they've had the added pleasure of dealing with the only real snow we've received this year...and some freezing rain in case it gets too easy on the road.

But this is the big city, a showcase venue, tired can wait for next week. Time to shake the dust off.

Only two different tunes tonight...and both have some Dylan related content. A spoken word piece on Hendrix and Dylan that I call The Grey Armpit... for lack of a better title. The Dylan cover, Things Have Changed, I love. CR played it the night he opened for Billy Bragg back in '08, did the same 'Blind Boy Grunt' intro too.

The band takes their place to a smattering of applause and CR wanders onto the brightly lit stage, squinting, staring deep into the audience he can't see. A perfect lead-in to his pregnant pause and opening line..."I'm petrified..." Got them laughing and paying attention already, two words in.

CR is challenging. The hip-hop-beat-box stuff can be sonically jarring to an arts theater crowd...he's playing that down (a bit) this tour. It's less rock 'n roll than the summer tour and heavily dependant on spoken word pieces. The strings, though, are mesmerizing as they wrap around the lyrics, creating a mood that evokes the '50's beat-poet coffeehouses. This is some intricate shit, well timed, well arranged.

My Bad transcends our perception of spoken-word and becomes a performance piece that ranges from perfectly choreographed facial expressions to a Cossack hoe-down complete with a bow-shredding lead from 1st violinist Meredith Bates.

Track 01 Road Visions
Track 02 German Computer
Track 03 Train Headed West
Track 04 My Bad
Track 05 The Cat (Just Purr)
Track 06 The Prime Ministers Chair
Track 07 Hell of A Hotel Harm
Track 08 Band Intro
Track 09 Dinner For One
Track 10 The Grey Area Armpit of Rock N Roll
Track 11 The Kind Man of Alexander Street
Track 12 Things Have Changed (B.Dylan)
Track 13 talk-
Track 14 Lost Highway (H. Williams)
Track 15 Hymns from the Underground

Monday, February 22, 2010

CR Avery
Pearl Theater
Hamilton ON

CR Avery brought his Dead of Winter Tour to Hamilton last weekend.

At this point of his development CR is unconscious. I'm sure he carefully constructs his tunes, works out the best delivery in rehearsal and lays down the album tracks as he hears them in his head but it's when he's onstage that you get the best of him.

I'm not so convinced he has a plan when he's behind the mic and that makes every outing special. The subtle changes each night as he gauges his audiences' response or responds to the audiences' gaze. He's nimble with his tongue and quick with his mind. A song can change because of what he caught out of his peripheral vision or because he witnessed something on the street that afternoon that stuck with him and found a way into his rap.

I'm hoping to catch a few shows this week.

Night 1 -
Pearl Company Gallery and Theater, Hamilton ON, Saturday April 20th.

What a terrific non-descript oasis of culture hidden 6 blocks away from the city centre along a narrow dimly lit alley posing as a street. The Hammer stands in the shadow of big, bad TO, but it's got a rock-n-roll heart and a bit of the beat-spirit hidden under that Steeltown skin.

The organizers at The Pearl weren't quite sure what they were in for when they booked CR and The Undesirables. They were excited, but not sure. The hall is filled with lots of people who seem to be patrons of the venue as opposed to hard-core followers. Venue personnel are the nicest and most gracious hosts you could hope to have. Everyone from the sound man, the door, the coffee-bar and the Manager went out of their way to engage the bands and their fans. They are rightfully proud of their impressive little venue.

The Undesirables open the evening. Corin Raymond fronts this duet, his voice his instrument. On guitar, backing vocals, and I surmise, long-time sidekick, Sean Cotton. Corin's one of the hardest working troubadours in these parts. When he's not teamed up with Sean you can find him doing solo Thursday night sets on a semi-regular basis at The Cameron Room. If you don't see him there, check between bus stops.

CR brought a different flavour this time around. Without Noah Walker on screaming lead guitar the outfit is a little more sedate, a touch jazzier, leaning heavily on spoken-word pieces and a moody ambiance. Suits the crowd, a bit laid back but very appreciative, attentive and responsive, all things you gotta like in an audience.

A few new songs right at the front and the night was suprisingly light on material from The Great Canadian Novel. Qu'elle surprise, indeed. Or maybe CR would say, "My Bad." Except, not bad. CR had 'em leaning forward for punchlines in The Cat and the aforementioned My Bad. Silence was all around as he weaved the Lament of the New Marine (or Three Months in Hell, I really don't know what most of these are actually named).

Pot shots at the Prime Minister at The Pearl were well received. First sing-a-long of the night as CR decides the audience should work a bit for their meal.

The music we get tonight, when it's not orchestral, is like Industrial Harp Music. CR challenges you on lots of levels, not the least being these intermittent sonic attacks.

Great encore tonight including two covers by the Williams Twins, Hank and Lucinda.

Song of the night...gotta be that pussy eating tune. I think CR had the idea for this one in his mind this summer when he was introducing Lemon Mereigne Pie as "Eating Pussy on a Hot August Night". Well, it seems he got past the title part this fall.

The Pearl Company Theater
Hamilton ON

Disc 1

Track 01 ?I'm Petrified
Track 02 German Computer
Track 03 ?The Marine
Track 04 My Bad
Track 05 The Cat
Track 06 The Prime Ministers Chair
Track 07 ?Comes back Worse
Track 08 Band Intro
Track 09 I'm Gonna Eat You Out
Track 10 Piano Lessons
Track 11 ?Long Dark Night
Track 12 Bus to Baton Rouge (L Williams)
Track 13 talk- Neil Young's Piano Tuner
Track 14 Lost Highway (H Williams, no relation)
Track 15 Hymns from the Underground

Sound Samples:

The Undesirables

Bus Stop Walk

Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay

CR Avery and the Legal Tender String Quartet

My Bad

I'm Gonna Eat You Out

Lost Highway

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

CR Avery
Dead of Winter Tour 2010's almost here!

CR is in Perth and Kingston right now and will be in Hamilton on Saturday. Looks like it will be a hectic week in SoOnt. Don't forget the Thursday show in Toronto!

UPDATE: Now available at youtube Folk Singer; The Video

Check out CR's Myspace page for dates

And look around this blog for sounds and reviews.

While I like a lot of artists, and like to type ad nauseum about 'em, I've only recommended strongly a handful of acts in the past decade: Jack White (in any incarnation), Amy Winehouse (for that brief moment we could see her live), Teddy Thompson and CR Avery.

Every one of them worth the time and effort. Don't miss it if you can make it.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Gordon Lightfoot & Gord Downie
Feb 4, 2010
Toronto Centre for the Arts

Interesting fusion of two iconic Canadian artists in conversation and song. Gotta love the CBC-Radio, who else can afford to produce something 10 people are gonna listen to?
It's part of a 6 part series celebrating Canadian Hall of Fame musicians. This episode is called "If You Could Read My Mind."

Gord was warming up this past December when he did a solo version of Lightfoot's Restless at his annual Phoenix Christmas gig. Gordon is on the road, a little worse for wear and tear, but still going at it. I haven't seen Lightfoot since the '70's and have seen Downie 4 times in the past couple of years. It's about time they hooked up. I mean they both do great nautical songs.

What a venue! The George Weston Recital Hall is a world-class stage. Ranks up there with the best auditoriums I've been in. Check out the link for more detail.

In for the night, from our nations Capital, Ottawa, is a friend and fellow-Dylan fan, Mike. He likes good music too. It's just he lives in Ottawa so he has to travel a bit.

Unfortunately, since I've had a 2 month taping hiatus, i have no sound...left my rig on 'pause' all night. I was expecting an opener and was setting my levels but wasn't going to record. They messed me up by putting the 'opener' in the middle of the set.
Oh, well, it's an official recording anyway, so I shouldn't have been trying.

Check into CBC on Easter Sunday (April 4) for the broadcast.

Here's an excellent, and comprehensive, review from The Toronto Sun.


And in addition to that, what my friend Mike thought.
"Setlist for the nerds. I.e. us:

Lightfoot - Rainy day people
Downie - Morning moon
Lightfoot - Shadows
Downie - Willow logic
Lightfoot - If you could read my mind
Downie - (The) Hard Canadian
Lightfoot - Let it ride

My favourite part:

Lightfoot: (talks for 5 minutes about CRT, without ever mentioning its name)
Brown: What do you think of that song, Gord?
Downie: (pauses….) Which song is that?
Brown: Canadian Railroad Trilogy
Downie: Oh…
Lightfoot: That’s okay, I don’t know all of *your* catalogue, either.

Lots of laughs throughout the night. "

and more of what i thought that wasn't in that review

"my favourite part is when Downie was talking about debuting The Hard Canadian at an RBC (Financial Institution) private gig for charity.
Gord : "Never debut a song in front of bankers."
after the song
Brown (interviewer); "Wow, that was lovely. Than line about "painting the pavement"
Downie: "That was "painting the pigment", what are you, a banker?"