Archive for November, 2009
Saturday, November 28th, 2009
Rouyn-Noranda and Val D’Or, QC (Nov 26 and 27, 2009)
You might need a little help locating this one on the map: head NNE from Toronto and keep on going, past Algonquin Park, past where all of those pesky roads seem to end, way up there, a little to the East of a town named Timmins. This is the real deal: a frontier town, which, in North America, is very rare in this day an age. Up here there is precious little English spoken, even ordering a BLT from the local Tim Horton’s you best know a few key French words, like, oui, non, blanc, B L T. It’s not exactly the most scenic of towns, it’s functional, built to withstand the onslaught of winter, built to accommodate those in the business of extracting things from the earth. A very basic place.
Walking around these streets you really begin to understand what keeps the separatist movement going in Quebec. This is another country; the large Canada signs on the sides of the fortress like Federal buildings look very out of place. The Fleur-de-Lys flies a little prouder than the occasional Maple Leaf that you might come across. For the average guy on the street, Canada must seem a very fuzzy, distant and inconsequential concept. From my point of view, I love the idea that within my own country I can feel so “out-of-town”.
It was a very nice little theater tonight, beautiful sound on stage and excellent sound in the auditorium. Unfortunately there were very few people in attendance. I thought we played a really good show…one of those tightly played, snarling affairs. I’m not sure if we made much of an impression on Rouyn-Noranda. Hopefully there was at least one person in the audience who walked out of there thinking, ”….man, that was cool….”.
Val D’Or is a relatively short, ninety minute ride east from Rouyn-Noranda. It was a grey, wet day. The steady, cold drizzle, the theater being a bit too far out of town, made me think twice about hoofing it in to town. So I spent the day on the bus, a depressing way to spend a day. The alternate was to spend it in the rotting motel on the highway, the bus seemed the better choice. I watched seven episodes of an Australian comedy show called Summer High (or something like that). It was very disturbing and very funny.
We had what I would call a disheartened show tonight: which is probably the worst kind, from a performer’s point of view. It was a very decent little theater inside of a huge local high school, pretty decent production, a very helpful crew, but a tiny audience. I hope we gave them enough.
We head back tonight. I’m not sure if I’d call it a “Conquest”, more like a brief forage, but, overall, we had fun these past couple of weeks bouncing around the highways of Quebec. We have a gig in Miami next week for our friend Enrique Martinez Celaya and then we have some serious work to do in the studio. Have a great holiday. Keep your eyes on this blog for updates about the studio and for news on upcoming Latent stuff.
We’ll be back on the road in March.
Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
We’re playing a free, private show for our good friend Enrique Martinez Celaya at his studio in Miami on Thursday, December 3rd, at 9:30 pm, during the Miami Art Basel Exhibition. He’s been kind enough to invite the public to the show. (We collaborated with Enrique on XX, our fancy 20th anniversary coffee-table book.)
Whale & Star
2215 NW First Place
Miami, FL 33127
Sunday, November 22nd, 2009
People in other parts of Canada tend to get pissed off at Quebec on a regular basis. It is such a different culture, a different attitude towards the way one lives a life, they are just so darn different from us: and people tend to get pissed off at things that are different from them. The thing about Quebec is that its mere presence, its simple confoundedness, is what makes Canada unique, different, special. It’s why we are who we are.
We are thinking about doing an album in French and touring though Quebec, exclusively, for the next couple of years. Leave North America without leaving the continent, come to Quebec.
Quebec City is such a beautiful and sophisticated place. If ever a city could be called “charming”, this is it. Even the overabundance of souvenir shops can’t take away from its charm. It’s the most unique city on this continent. If you are looking for a destination for that ever elusive romantic weekend getaway, look no further, you won’t be disappointed.
We had an amazing night. We played in a beautiful theater (La Palais Montcalm) and had a surprisingly large crowd (we’ve only played here once in the past twenty-five years and that was at a festival). The audience was not only large, but incredibly enthusiastic and attentive. We played two sets and they stuck with us through both.
Tomorrow we head back to Toronto for a couple of days before we climb on board a bus and head north into the real Quebec…north into the unknown…Rouyn-Noranda and Val D’Or, here we come.
Saturday, November 21st, 2009
I had my morning coffee in a small café off of Sherbrooke Street, serenaded by that penultimate Quebec songbird, Celine Dion. If it’s Celine this must be Montreal.
Technically, this is our hometown…at least it’s where we grew up. Once a Montrealer, always a Montrealer. Its part of our genetic code. The thing about Montreal is that it never seems to change. It’s an old city and set in its ways; sophisticated, urbane and confident. Sherbrooke Street always maintains its old-world class; Ste Catherine never rises above its slightly sleezy strip-club chique; Old Montreal is always the perfectly preserved glimpse into a very distant past; Crescent Street is always hopping come nightfall; tight jeans and bad ‘70s rock never goes out of style; the Decarie Expressway is always jammed.
Another thing about Montreal that never changes is that it is always a great city in which to perform; the audiences are always knowledgeable and enthusiastic. I don’t think we’ve ever had a truly bad show in this city. This time through we had two shows over two nights at a new club in town, The Astral, which is run by the Montreal Jazz Festival and part of their new headquarters. It’s not a bad little club, a bit sterile, but that might change with time. It’s got great production and is intelligently laid out. We had two pretty good shows, the second night was a notch better than the first, and we debuted three new songs, Stranger Here, Staring Man and Little Dark Heart. Overall it was a nice way to start our Conquest of Quebec Tour, in a familiar environment, before we head deeper into the unknown.
Sherbrooke isn’t exactly heart-of-darkness territory, but it’s an introductory taste to small town Quebec. We have never played here. The town is located about two hours east of Montreal in the Eastern Townships, which is an area of lakes and ski hills that was, at one time, the play-land for English Montreal. Our grandparents had a cottage in Magog, about 20 minutes from Sherbrooke, where we spent a lot of time in the summer and winter. There is still a healthy mix of English and French in these parts, but the sophistication that one finds in Montreal does not travel off of the island. Our lodgings tonight were at La Payesanne Motel. The rooms had that 70’s porn flic décor and they smelled like…well…they smelled like old motel rooms.
The gig tonight was at Centennial Hall, located on the campus of Bishops University. A little run down, but not a bad venue. It was an odd night on stage. The audience felt kind of distant, both physically and mentally. We did a kind of low-revving, heavy, kind of show. It was hard to tell what it sounded like in the audience or how it was received.
Thursday, November 19th, 2009
Our good friend Lee Harvey Osmond is beginning to make noise and get noticed down in the good-ole USA. Here is a recent review from Blurt. If you haven’t yet checked out the album…why not….??
LeE HARVeY OsMOND
A Quiet Evil
Let’s see here… released on the Cowboy Junkies’ own label; produced and recorded by the CJ’s Michael Timmins; features both Michael and sister Margo, with the other members of the Junkies making guest appearances; includes a cover of an obscure CJ tune, “Angels In the Wilderness”; even mastered by the Junkies’ longtime cohort Peter J. Moore; must be a Cowboy Junkies side project, right?
Not exactly. LeE HARVeY OsMOND is the brainchild of Tom Wilson, from Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, who conceived of the project as a kind of Canadian musical collective – hence the involvement of the Timminses et al, not to mention fellow Rodeo King Colin Linden, members of the Skydiggers and a handful of others. Wilson wrote or co-wrote most of the material and sings and plays guitar, so it’s clearly his baby, although as the notes above suggest, Cowboy Junkies fans and band trainspotters will find much about A Quiet Evil to cheer. In fact, several tunes have a familiar opiated twang and nocturnal ambiance: the spookywoozycool “Blade of Grass,” with its hushed vocal and backwards guitar swirl; the quietly intense, fuzztone-flecked blooze of “Summer Girl”; and of course pedal steel/B3-powered weeper “You Drove Me Crazy (Now I’m Gonna Stay That Way)” – how’s that for a great song title – which features Wilson and Margo Timmins in classic country duet mode.
All that aside, A Quiet Evil ultimately lives up to its titular suggestion; there’s an understated quality here barely masking a lurking sense of desperation and malevolence. From the simmering “Lucifer’s Blues” (check Wilson’s part-spoken, part-sung vocal, which with his deep voice suggests a cross between Chuck Prophet and Dave Alvin) to a searing, edge-of-psychosis cover of Lou Reed’s “I Can’t Stand It,” the record’s steeped in a kind of gothic noir ambiance. This is only made all the more unsettling by the demented cover art, a Satanic-looking dog/rabbit mutant with sharp fangs and jutting phallus. And what’s up with the upper/lower case lettering scheme of the band name? Is there some kind of subliminal messaging going on?
Wilson may or may not have spent time in that part of Canada where the weird sunlight schedule has been known to drive folks a little bit crazy, but on the evidence of this album, he’s definitely a lotta bit twisted, so beware. Twisted in a good way, of course…
Standout Tracks: “Queen Bee,” “Blade of Grass,” “Angel In the Wilderness,” “I Can’t Stand It” FRED MILLS
Wednesday, November 4th, 2009
We have just re-released Whites Off Earth Now!! on 180 gm vinyl. It’s also in a gatefold sleeve with some very detailed liner notes by our friend Dave Bowler. This was re-mastered by Peter Moore. Peter went back to the original master tapes and went through them with his typical attention to detail. It sounds freakin’ awesome. If you want to check the bottom end of you sound system, then put this platter on and get ready to RUMMMBLLE!!
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
We have added a new song to the “neath your covers” section in Exclusives (or you can just check out the song on the player below). It is a cover of the Tim Buckley song “Once I Was” and it is being released today on a CD called, “The Village: A Celebration of the Music of Greenwich Village”. The album title pretty much explains the concept for the album. It also includes covers by Lucinda Williams, Rickie Lee Jones, Shelby Lynne, Marshall Crenshaw and many others. You can find out more details about the album by going to the label 429 Records website. In the meantime take a listen to our version and if you like it…buy it.