Monday, December 12, 2011

CR Avery
Last Show of Tour
The Neat Coffee Shop
Burnstown, ON

In the words of Jim Morrison; this is the end.

On a lighter note, it's only the end for this year.

Special treat tonight, two sets. Always worth the white lines you gotta pass to get to the evenings musical shrine. We find ourselves an hour or so west of the nation's capitol, in Burnstown, ON, The Village, at The Neat Coffee Shop. A quaint artists town on the banks of the Madawaska River in the Ottawa Valley. Kind of like Woodstock North.

The most wonderful ride along the backroads, heading north, through the land of lakes, trees dressed in snow, water freezing, water rushing, roads that are long and winding taking us to...well, we know where, but no one gets here by mistake. Everything's right about this trip. The Calabogie Motor Inn is a roomy, clean and quiet resting spot a short distance from the cafe. The venue, inside The Neat Coffee Shop, is a mini-Ramble like facility; beautiful sound and everyone is within talkin' distance of the artist.

Adam and Kim McKinty, who are organizing the music at this busy and virtually sold out venue, treat their artists well. First, the ambiance and sound are perfect. Second, the food and accommodations are all you could ask for if your career is still at the pre-rider stage. It's good treatment even if you're past that as the likes of Michelle Wright and Hawksley Workman already have SOLD OUT dates in Burnstown. And the front of house staff were just as friendly, the food terrific, from the Wood Oven Pizza to the Pork medallions in a pear chutney. On the tables, a menu/souvenir, with a picture of CR Averyon the front and today's specials and wine list on the back. Nice touch.

And there was some music. What kind of music? Well, that's the question isn't it. CR is not easier to describe now than he was 3 years ago. When you first see him you hear and see it and it happens fast. Now, you're not going to get it all, and you might hear the wrong words but you`re going to know you were there. Some describe him as a hip-hop-beat-poet-blues-harmonica-rock n roll-balladeer. But that misses the waltzes. I prefer to break his songs down into three categories; the sonically challenging, the captivating and the soothing. It`s the combination of all these elements in one show that never fails to win over the crowd. There`s many doors into CR. Every one may not suit your tastes but when you find one, the others become less intimidating.

So here`s how they broke down tonight; in no particular order. You can see the balance...three outside the box challengers, three soothing breaks and a ton of stuff that just reels you in from the onset.

Sonically Challenging;

Maggies Farm Much like Dylan's current show you can't tell it's a Dylan song when it starts. Unlike the Masters current show...this one gets better as it goes along. This year we're getting the "PJ Storm" dub. Now I don't know who PJ Storm is but they seem to like an electronic organ that sounds like a calliope. I had to Google to find that link...had a choice between some guy who has no friends on Facebook, someone else who writes porn for the 18-19 year old market and this eastern European DJ. I took the safe route. Even though this song was considered bombastic for Dylan when it was released (remember Newport '65?) this version makes the early one sound like a folk song.

57 Channels (And Nothing On) From the old Dylan to the new Dylan. Showcase song for CR's impressive harp skills. It almost delves into performance art; a sword-dance between breathe and sound, but not too choreographed. The audience buys itself an extra special version by breaking in no less than three times to applaud the spectacle.

Love Song The recently coke-free and rehabilitated keytar makes it's debut in the droning portrayal of people who ensure that negativity will stop them from pulling through. A love song to teen-angst and adult ennui. A cry in the wilderness for an end to 'shoe gazing' as an art form. To the L, to the O, to the V, to the E.


The Boxer Who Just Returned From London An autobiographical spoken-word piece; an homage to Charles Bukowski. A tour-de-force that displays CR's notable beat-boxing skills. Instant crowd pleaser.

My Bad This one appeared last year in a different configuration, as spoken-word. Now it's part of the banjo set done acuostically amongst the audience. The three vignettes never fail to elicit laughs.

The Grey Area Armpit of Rock N Roll Now we're getting into crossing-over, which may be the easiest way to describe CR; he's a cross-over artist. He's visited this theme in another song (Ballad of Charlie Parker and Patsy Cline), a nostalgic late-night song. This one is a little more late-afternoon libertarian/confrontational. Music finds it's lovers in the most unlikely places and guises.

PET In Ontario, this poem goes over very well. Different in Calgary and Montreal.

Jelly Roll Morton More banjo music about the salacious inventer of American Jazz.

Postcard From New York Now the captivating songs often come with some nice melodies. Which is not to say they can't be challenging topically, as this one proves. Postcard From New York is a mirror, literally and figuratively. It takes a well-known issue many young people have to deal with at that moment their bodies and lives are changing and makes it a 'what if' story. The keytar is present here, but it's the mellow keytar, set to 01, not 21.

The Wind Is A Speed Reader Just added to the set list this year, more spoken word, with a word-hook worthy of the best pop songs. The title alone conjures up images.

Dinner For One A rollicking good time is had by all and no one leaves unsatiated.

Hollywood Movie Blues Banjo #3, sardonic look at the plastic people on celluloid.

Doll House and Pocketknife Lovely piece about training your daughter to take care of herself when you're not around to help.


Blame It On My Troubled Youth I love the piano ballads, the funny ones, like this.

The Kind Man of Alexander Street I love the piano ballads, the sad ones, like this.

Israel's Saviour and Queen I love the piano ballads, the homages, like this one, to Amy Winehouse et al.

CR Avery's DVD Subtitles For A Foreign Film is available for purchase or download at Film Baby

CR Avery's CD Magic Hour Sailor Songs can be found for purchase or download at CD Baby

More CR Avery available a I-Tunes

C R Avery
Subtitles For A Foreign Film
The Making of...

Now available online at filmbaby

CR Avery Subtitles For A Foreign Film

It was a cold and windy June day in 2008 and when Cece and I settled into our seats at the Sirius Soundstage located on the Harbourfront grounds. We were there to see Billy Bragg. Didn't know there was going to be an opening act when a young man approached the center stage mic and tore into a harmonica-laden version of Leadbelly's Sylvie. OK, that warmed me up a bit. The tapes are rolling, so to speak, it's actually a digital thing beyond my comprehension. The artist settles into a position behind his piano and introduces the next song as a tune by Blind Boy Grunt. I'm thinking to myself, awright, we're getting some blues music...even as my brain was trying to tell me that was an early '60's Dylan alter-ego...almost simultaneously, we get a beat-box version of the Oscar winning song Things Have Changed. He followed with an excellent spoken word piece, an homage to pugalistic poet Charles Bukowski, called The Boxer Who Just Returned From London, and I was hooked.

Putting my limited interweb skills to work I found his website, Facebook page, mySpace page, twitter hash tag, medical history, porn preferences and Family Tree at Turns out he's an active road warrior who traverses the big country a few times a year. When I saw the Rivoli hosting a February show I dropped him a line to see if my son, a fledgling indie film producer, could bring a camera to his show...mostly so I'd have a record beyond my normal audio. He responded that he had a few boxes full of single camera samples and it's really difficult to get enough good material without a few cameras.

So we brought 4.

The shoot was virtually gonzo. No control over the lights, the audience or the stage blocking. No real idea of what CR was going to do. No plans whatsoever except to push REC and see what happens. Add to that the limitations of not being Martin Scorcese; we had two high-end cameras and a couple not so high end. Michael (my son), directed his camera assistants, set up a remote long shot camera and captured a SBD and audience audio feed. The result is pretty impressive...about 4 hours of raw tape to turn into a movie.

The editing was the time consuming part. Michael is meticulous and hard to please. A few late night sessions with CR, when he was in town, resulted in the final play list and an artistic agreement on how the show would look and feel.  It also coincided with another Rivoli date, more filming and more material, on September 6,2009.  The result is a look into a couple of CR Avery's varied persona; solo artist and band leader.

The first act opens with a staple of CR's set; a little something to make you claw your face off.  It's always interesting watching a crowd adjust to the sonic assault from the stage. The songs are at once vaguely familiar yet drastically altered. Whether it's Leadbelly's Sylvie, (as it is tonight), Dylan's Maggies Farm, Tom Waits' Big in Japan, or Springsteen's 57 Channels, it gets a beat-box, harmonica make over.  The audience reaction progresses from "WTF!?!?!?", to "Hey, I think I know this song," to "Man, he's doing a good job."

We get the superior slow version of Door By The River, a better piano-ballad than a rock song. One of the best opening couplets of the decade... "I take my orders/from a seagull perched at a busy intersection..." This usually comes near the end of the set, but CR is looking to get the patrons involved early with the sing-a-long chorus and wading into the crowd schtick. He's aided by local songstress Coco Love Alcorn who finds her way to the front of the stage to lend her soulful voice to the piece. An exercise in working the audience.

Birdcage is a powerful, hypnotic spoken-word tome. The stand-up bass licks provided by Michael Liston evoke a post-modern Beat feel. The poem is packed with strong visuals and surreal imagery. It's like you're sitting in a living room with this young couple as they dance the dance of the developing relationship; establishing the parameters, learning about each other, surrounded by their animated furnishings. Yup, you got it, I have no idea what it's about except it's an aural treat. Superbly captured, passionately delivered, a tour-de-force.

CR was headlining what had been a multi-artist evening and he is joined onstage by the other singers who had performed earlier for a hootenany-type sing-a-long on the aptly titled ballad, When I'm Gone. An impromptu, unrehearsed performance enhanced by the subtle guitar work of The Undesireables Sean Cotton.

The second act of the night features the Legal Tender String Quartet. Two violins,(Serena Eades, Meredith Bates) a bass,(Evan Bates) drums (Matthew Rogers), guitar (Noah Walker)and CR's piano-harmonica. A little high-end music for the streets. The arrangements for the songs in this show were done by the talented Matthew Rogers...and that had to be mentioned because this stuff is the bomb.

Letter From A Foot Soldier is another spoken-word epic, faster paced, a bit of the F-bomb potty mouth on this one. "I need a shrink or a drink or a quiet place to think..." CR takes us through the process of the indie artist. Clubs in the red light district, the search for a muse, walking a tightrope in the spotlight. It's bombastic but not narcissitic. Machine gun rhymes and a couple hints of the Zimmy.

The Boxer Who Just Returned From London,is a long-time regular in CR's set. Another spoken word piece, well paced,humourous, highlighted by some great beat-box/boxing interludes...and it never fails to captivate the audience. "I had to kill, stab, the myth, that beauty is only skin deep..."

The most orchestrally lush arrangement of the night is saved for a song about two monster stars. The Ballad of Charlie Parker and Patsy Cline, takes us to a far-away speak-easy, perhaps in the smokey, needle-strewn stairwell, hours after the music has died, where a god of jazz finds respite in the voice of a country queen. Another visually beautiful capture and stunning performance. I'm seen it 50 times and it still gives me goosebumps.

The night closes with a song that should have been in The Wrestler. Tragic Figure, done country style. I'm glad this song made the cut, it's such a life-affirming way to end a show. CR wades deep into the crowd for this one, far from the SBD mic. The day was saved by sound engineer Dwight Ivany who kept this from the dustbin with some deft sound editing of the camera audio tracks.

The Rivoli is a great place to see a show but it has a tendency to have a chatty backroom, near the entrance and the bar. CR had come into the audience a couple times already, trying to shift the center of balance so the whole hall was paying attention. He met with some fleeting success. To close the night he just figured, not tragically though, that he might as well bring the show to the talkers rather than try to shout them down from the stage. It all results in a special moment as CR croons out his tale of self-redemption, surrounded by the band and the audience.

This isn't all CR Avery has to offer but it's an intimate look at his talents and respect for the art of the show. Michael Levesque has done a wonderful job of capturing the passion of the performance and the subtle interplay of the artists. Whether it's the head shot of CR, sweat pouring down his cheeks, pushing the envelope, or the sweet crying fills of Meredith Bates' violin dancing around the lyrics; fades and cuts that add another dimension to the listening/viewing experience.

Here is the original, pre-release trailer.

The DVD also comes with a load of extras, a retrospective look at CR over the past decade and the irreverant "Olympic" video of the fast version of Folk Singer.

Friday, December 09, 2011

CR Avery
The Bookshelf
Guelph ON

5 1/2 hours of meetings downtown, a ride along the Don Valley Parkinglot during rush-hour, quick dinner then on the road for Guelph. Sounds like a Friday, but it's not.

Hook up with friends at The Bookshelf and we're early. Real early. Sometimes these cafe shows are slated to end by 10:30. The venue had a different plan...and they weren't wrong. The real start time was posted as 9:30pm, so we had some time to spare. Luckily, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce was holding their annual Christmas party so there was food available.

A mere few minutes after 10pm the opening act, local favourites, Your Neck of the Woods takes the stage. A 6 piece band delivering roots music, reminiscent in sound and spirit to Great Big Sea. The kids are dancing early. Well, not early, but dancing. And they know all the words.

Just back from a whirlwind tour of North America, and still packing lots of swag from t-shirts to cd's to actual vinyl records, The Coppertones are a mirror of The White Stripes; girl on guitar, guy on drums. Lots of energy, they tore it up.

So as the day turns into night, turns into the next day, our hero CR Avery takes to the stage shortly after midnight. The kid is hot tonight. Right off the start, with the new calliope sound on the piano/organ, he's doing a Dylan to a Dylan tune, Maggies Farm. The night starts at full tilt as he plays with the phrasing to allow the cheers from the audience into the song.

He bounces up off his stool in the corner and strides to the center of the ring, pounding the pugilist pavement with The Boxer Who Just Returned from London.

Now CR doesn't ever want to be accused of not knowing his Canadiana. I mean, he's not a roots musician in the mold of Corin Raymond, but he respects the broad history of Canadian music. He's back at the piano to deliver the tune Anne Murray will cover in February of 2012 so it can appear in a Pepsi commercial on the Canadian broadcast of the Super Bowl, Dinner For One.

Back at the mic for a cover of a song by The Next Bob Dylan (Ver. 2.12), Bruce Springsteen, the even-more-relevant-now-than-it-was-then, 57 Channels (And Nothing On). Besides giving the audience something that may be vaguely familiar this song allows CR to stretch out that harp-blowing talent that got him the respect of Charlie Musselwhite and some stage time with Tom Waits in days gone by.

By request, and well loved by the left of center gathering, CR's song about Mirabel, PET, is received to raucous applause. Speaking of the 'left of center' crowd, the bar is filled with this generations version of the counter-culture; a mix of KEDS, skaters and wool caps. Whoever sells wool caps in Guelph is wintering in the Bahama's 'cause he's had a good year.

Feeling nostalgic tonight CR brings out his friend from another decade, the recently rehabilitated, keytar. It's a biblical instrument; only Jews and Herbie Hancock are allowed to play it. Tonight it's showcased in the sonic attack that is Love Song (Don't You Hate).

Now it's getting early, so we have a shortened set. CR comes into the center of the audience for the last two unplugged numbers. Hollywood Movie Blues, with banjo, closes the set and the lengthy, machine-gun paced, spoken-word piece, Commercial and First, brings the evening to a bombastic close.

Maggies Farm

The Boxer Who Just Returned From London

Dinner For One

57 Channels (And Nothing On)


Love Song

Hollywood Movie Blues

Commercial and First

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Corin Raymond & CR Avery
McNamara Family Xmas Get-together
A secret room in Toronto

I guess this is the natural conclusion to discovering these great Canadian performers and spending the better part of your entertainment dollar tracking down their live outings. You can search this blog to find plenty on both these wonderful artists.

CR Avery had some downtime between Southern Ontario shows and I put out an invite for him to come meet the wife's family. As fortune would have it, he convinced Corin Raymond to accompany him. Talk about 'bonus fries'. Big thanks to both you guys for a real treat.

Each year my sister-in-law, Theresa, hosts a family gathering, basically an all-day open-house, and it's become a tradition that kicks off the holiday season. This year the honours of hosting are being done by her niece, Andrea, and her husband David. They were kind enough to be open to the possibilities of incorporating live music into the mix. That's a precarious thing to do, this isn't an audience that chose to be exposed. In fact, it wasn't even an audience that KNEW it was going to be exposed.

All went well 'cause talent prevails. A big thank you to the attentive and appreciative crowd. I see live music so my blood keeps flowing; not everyone feels the same connection.

CR is in the midst of a quick-hit tour before the snow socks us in for the winter. He'll be returning home to East Van when he's done wowing crowds in rural Ontario. Corin is preparing for the 2 night live recording of indie North American artist songs (and a few of his own gems) due to take place at the Tranzac in January.

After the Artist-Trans brought the boys to the party we took some time to imbibe and eat and meet and greet before Corin starts off the festivities with a loose version of Sam Cooke's Cupid. CR is content to conserve his energy and play harp-blowin' wing-man to Corin's troubadour so we're treated to a preview of some tunes that will be on that upcoming live album and DVD as well as some originals and a nice rendition of John Prine's Please Don't Bury Me. All the while CR was dancing around the chorus dropping harp licks and adding some harmonies.

After a short break we entice CR to tune his banjo and deliver a couple tunes. It's a little too early in the night for those manic spoken-word, harp songs. They are best heard under a booming PA in a darkened bar, when the night is just starting to get dangerous. We get some slide-banjo on the humurous My Bad, followed by the just as funny Hollywood Movie Blues before he closed the evening with and appropriate song (perhaps soon to be in Corin's songlist) When I'm Gone.

Here are some sound samples:


Canadian Tire Money

Please Don't Bury Me

Blue Mermaid Dress

That's Life

There Will Always Be A Small Time

Hard on Things

Big Truck Brought It

CR Avery

My Bad

Hollywood Movie Blues

When I'm Gone

Sunday, December 04, 2011

CR Avery
The Rivoli
Toronto ON
Bidini BOOM!
or It's Not A House, It's A Home

Some places and artists are just made for each other; Gordon Lightfoot at Massey Hall, John Lee Hooker at Le Coq D'or, Ronnie Hawkins at The Nickelodeon, Corin Raymond at The Cameron, and we can add to that list, CR Avery at The Rivoli. While we can't revisit all those events we should be careful not to miss those that are still happening.

Special guests today, Bidini Band, fronted by former Rheostatic, Dave Bidini. You should be able to find these guys headlining in January upon the release of their new album. Tonight they warmed the room up and set the stage for another stellar performance from CR.

The crowd was the added ingredient that sent this set over the top.

Today we'll highlight a couple beat-box, harmonica blow outs;

Maggies Farm

57 Channels and Nothing On

A spoken word piece;

The Wind Is A Speed Reader (Playboy Dub)

(Note: The tunes above are SBD, the ones below, AUD. Something happened when the band came back onstage to join CR. I think it was the pick up on the guitar that caused some static and a drone sound.)

Two raucous blues tunes with the Bidini Band backing and a rock n roll celebration;

Dog Bark Blues

Motel: 50 Miles Out Of Town

Door By The River (Small Time version)

And to close the show a new piano ballad;

Hope To See You

Saturday, December 03, 2011

CR Avery
The Pearl Company
Hamilton ON
December 2, 2011

CR's back in Southern Ontario for a handful of shows before the winter socks us in. First up a night at the wonderful Pearl Company Building in Hamilton. Cozy couches and beat attitude; a room well suited to CR's talents.

So I'm not going to go on about it all. Search through the blog for past reviews with more detail if it strikes your fancy. As Corin Raymond says, if you haven't seen CR live yet, I envy you...that first time is mind-blowing. If you have, well I'll likely see you soon at one venue or another.

Some highlights from the soundboard;

Israel's Saviour and Queen

One of Those Faces

Just A Hobo


Small Town

A couple off-mic banjo tunes from the audience capture;

My Bad

Hollywood Movie Blues

Reprise tonight at The Rivoli on Queen West.