Friday, October 30, 2009


Went to Kingston earlier this week, on assignment from work. Learned how to "Lead Change". Basically...communicate! While there I picked up the new Leonard Cohen CD+DVD Live at the Isle of Wight 1970. The video portion is fascinating. Even if you're not a Cohen fan. The story is great. A bunch of middle-class English hippies tried to crash the Isle of Wight Festival because "music should be free, man!" So the promoters tried to build a wall around the area. Kris Kristofferson got booed off the stage. Jimi Hendrix played and somebody set fire to the stage. Cohen had to follow THAT! Hendrix and a fire! His piano and organ had been damaged in the fire and he told them he wasn't going on without a piano and an organ! The crowd of 500,000 waited! The promoter provided keyboards. Lenny wandered on-stage and sang his songs of loss and love to them and they listened! It's a beautiful film.
Also picked up a brief book about Pete Seeger called The Protest Singer. It's subtitled an intimate portrait and...that's what it is. Pete asked for a book that could be read in one sitting and Alec Wilkinson provided a sensitive and compelling look at this legend!
I read Dave Eggers' novelization of The Wild Things on the train. Not a bad way to spend the five hour (there and back) journey.
Downloaded my first music from iTunes while I was there. J.D.Souther's first live album was just issued (for download only) and while it took over a week for it to become available for the Canadian iTunes's definitely worth it. He's in good voice and supported (most of the time) by a crack band! A short album but it covers his whole career.
Have you heard Dylan's Christmas album? It's pretty much exactly what you might think...good or bad? Listen and decide for yourself. New Lyle Lovett, Natural Forces is excellent. Wilco the album is growing on me, as is the Avett Brothers I and Love and You.
David Byrne's book Bicycle Diaries has inspired me to buy myself a new bike next spring.
My brother and his wife are coming from Alberta for a visit next week. I'm looking forward to seeing them!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Even more Pearl Company...

It was a quiet Thursday, and my wife was having some friends over. I had received an e-mail about a last minute concert at The Pearl Company, but with such short notice I couldn't find anyone to go with me. Rich couldn't make it, Ralph wasn't home, Jesse was away, and so on. I had to go out to allow the ladies space, but did I want to go to a concert alone? I could just go to Chapters, have a coffee, browse for a couple of hours. Ah, what the heck, it's five bucks, and maybe it'll be good, after all the review on-line compared this guy to Robert Fripp.

I managed to find a parking spot right in front of the building. Wow! That's a first. Up the stairs, to the second floor where the performance space is, and there's Gary Santucci and Barbara Milne, the owners and hosts, and a young guy, tall, slim, short hair, long sideburns, glasses. Gary introduces us, and he happens to be Jean-Paul De Roover...the star of the show. We have a long chat about his gear, the relative merits of looping, his familiarity with Fripp, and other loopers. He doesn't know Jacob Moon, but the name Bill Frisell rings a bell. At this point you'd expect the audience to be drifting in. After all, it's almost 8:00. A woman arrives, she's a friend of Barbara's, and she drops her $5 on the table. That makes two of us. We introduce ourselves. Garbielle and I sit in the front row of chairs and couches that make up the comfy seating of The Pearl Company. Gary sits behind me. He says something like, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Pearl Co., tonight our guest is Jean-Paul De Roover." And from then on it's J-P's show.

I sympathize. I did a reading of my unpublished novel one night, and it snowed like crazy, three people came into the shop out of the storm. I read to them. They drank the free coffee and ate the free buttertarts, then they left. I know the feeling. Nevertheless J-P takes off. He's playing a Fender acoustic guitar that he says he borrowed from his sister. His web site shows him with a couple different axes, not this one, but by the end of the night you know why he took his sister's guitar on tour. He beats the crap out of it! Not fretting and picking, but beating a drum. J-P plays loops, which means he creates a full band sound all by himself. Whether he begins with a riff, a beat, a bassline, even a vocal he then adds the missing pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle until finally the whole is revealed.

He works behind a red framework built from plastic pipe. His gear is on shelves, or on the floor, a plethora of pedals laid out before him. He knows where everything is. And he has done this enough to move smoothly between each piece of equipment and maintain the music, and the connection with the audience. He plays the songs from his recently released CD, Windows and Doors. The CD comes with a DVD which contains a brief documentary on the making of the album, a series of live performances and a couple of videos suitable for MTV (or Much Music here in Canada). He is a sensitive singer with a flexible voice, he lays down harmonies and background sounds (including percussive noises) with an ease and facility that is amazing to watch/hear. He reminds me at various times of Brian Wilson, or Lindsey Buckingham. His guitar playing is not really like Robert Fripp except perhaps on the experimental "Catharsis" which builds to a thrilling climax as loop after loop is layered onto the mix.

Because of the intimacy of the evening we feel free to take part, to clap, to sing along, to ask questions. J-P is happy for this, and answers honestly. He talks about the songwriting process and how he is less interested in lyrics than melody. He begins with melodic ideas, even when constructing the abstract experimental pieces. He add words as an afterthought, and yet the words he adds are filled with ideas, he is a thinker, having just completed his Master's in Sociology. Sociology? That's right, and it's a perfect fit for his songs about life, death, love, loss and all that.

Partway through the night, early on I think, two other people arrive. They are as overcome by the music as Gabrielle, Gary and I. And after the show we hang around for a while, talking to J-P, looking at the original artwork for his CD. It's a beautiful package, Windows and Doors is available from his Web site. We are all familiar with going through doors, but some of us take the less obvious route, through the window. Jean-Paul is inside that window, breaking through. Even his CD package breaks through! It folds out to become a little house. Buy one and see for yourself. Keep your eyes out for De Roover appearing near you. He's definitely making a return appearance at The Pearl Co. and I'm getting the word out early!

Monday, October 5, 2009

More Pearl Company

A week later and we were back at the Pearl Company to see, and hear, The Marigolds. As you'll see (and hear) by following that link, The Marigolds is a trio comprised of Suzie Vinnick, Caitlin Hanford and Gwen Swick, but after but after seeing them on Saturday night, I assure you...they're a band!
With the addition of percussionist Randall Coryell, Gwen playing bass, Caitlin on rhythm guitar and Suzie adding some hot lead guitar...they can flat out rock! But they don't rock all the time. Sometimes it's Sons of the Pioneersy old-time country like on "A Little Bit of Heaven" and sometimes there's a touch of jazz as on the title track of their new CD That's the State I'm In.
They came to play, and the small but very appreciative crowd came to listen. The night began with a little tuning up, and then Suzie kicked things off with the first track of the new CD. This song lists the things she might do "For Your Love" and it boils down to "anything I can think of..." Suzie's voice is a bluesy and potent instrument, Caitlin brings a clear Appalachian soprano, and Gwen provides the rich alto, but together they create something dreamlike, other-worldly. Harmony singing is one of my weaknesses, and I was completely smitten Saturday night!
The songs have inherent strength in their writing. These are well constructed, melodic tunes, and the lyrics are memorable too. Swick's "Anyone Can Dream" reminds us that "there's a statue that longs to be a national treasure...a sapling that looks high into the trees...a pebble that would die to lie in the Rockies...and anyone can dream." Caitlin's "When I'm Walking With You" is a song she wrote (with Gwen) about the joys of walking with a friend. They share writing duties, Suzie providing songs like "Sometimes I Think I Can Fly" (written with Dan Kershaw) and assisting with all the Marigolds on "Why Baby" or "For Your Love".
These are songs from the new CD, but as I listen to the carefully produced (by Steve Dawson) album, I think I liked the rawness of the live versions better. There was just something about the group interaction, and their obvious affection for each other, and the fire in Suzie's guitar solos, that when added to the bliss of the vocal blend created a separate entity of Marigold-mania, or something. Whatever you want to call it, we were transported to a land of harmony and melody. Aaah!
And of course, thanks to Gary and Barbara our hosts at the Pearl Company, which is quickly becoming my favourite venue anywhere!