Duane Andrews has his own genre
There's no player alive today like Duane Andrews. The Newfoundland guitarist blends three influences into his own genre. He's an acoustic jazz guitarist with a modern take on the great Django Reinhardt's gypsy style. He comes from the multicultural blend very much alive in Newfoundland. He's a composer in his own right, with years of formal study.
Andrews' new CD Raindrops brings him to new heights as he blends all this. It would be folly to call him simply a guitar master, as it's the compositions and arrangements that set him apart from other great players.
Take Blue Drag, a Reinhardt tune he arranged for himself, his group and guests The Atlantic String Quartet. Swirling strings begin the piece imitating wind, then join Andrews and the band on a number set somewhere between Basin Street and Spain. Trumpeter Patrick Boyle moans old-time New Orleans blues, while the strings alternate between the melody and back to those swirls.
There's Mr. Butler, an Andrews original, that glides happily back and forth between every influence he's ever soaked in, with a melody so simple and jaunty at the start it could have been an old-time radio theme song. Then, it goes crazy with jazz runs and improv, never losing the theme but a soaring in and out of it at will. Where else could you find a Newfoundland folk song of the sea from 1852, nestled effortlessly near a Charles Mingus tune? Andrews says he's all about the adventure, and there's nothing more satisfying than going on one with a skipper you're sure will bring you home safely, no matter the risks.
THE JOYS - UNFOLD (Koch)
There's a moment in Unfold, the title cut of the new Joys album, where lead singer Sarah Smith turns the gentle ballad into something amazing, hitting a note about two octaves above a dog's hearing, just as clear and natural as if she was breathing. She laughed when the trick was mentioned over the phone recently while she was enjoying some down time at home in London, Ont.
"I just found out the word for it from an opera singer, it's called a whistle tone," she said. "I have no technique, but I've been singing five nights a week for eight years. I just developed the technique on my own."
That's a pretty neat trick, made even more impressive by the fact that for the rest of the album - and most nights on stage - Smith rocks out with her band, belting like a '70s banshee. Aside from the soft Unfold, the rest of the new disc is funky guitar and volume, powerhouse rock led by her vocals, a classic blend of screech and honey. The Joys have been slowly taking over the country one bar at a time. They first won over the non-Toronto areas of southern Ontario and are now spreading out with help from rock radio. It's new Canadian music that fits in with the classic rock they play much of the time. The group is doing exactly what it wants, sounding and performing each night like a good old rock band.
"We just set out to be honest with ourselves and do honest music," Smith said. "We didn't try to go with the trends, and maybe we'd be more successful with the trends, but you have to do what you love."
Smith says The Joys have been all about the live show for years.
"We sell people our show. And when people see our show, they come back. And they talk about it and they bring more people and tell them. We don't stand still. We dance and move and rock it."
Yup, just like it used to be. Now they have a disc that's picking up steam and has captured their live power and stamina. It's hard, and hard work, but the group is devoted to winning people over, one at a time.
"We're friends with our fans. We try to talk to them, go out to dinner with them if we're invited. We don't have time to have a social life. There's not much else to do when you're on the road all the time. So this is how we connect."
The group has already conquered several northern New Brunswick towns, as it has spread the joy across the border from Quebec. It was in Bathurst last night, and continues with several provincial shows, including the University of New Brunswick Fredericton tonight, Dooly's in Tracadie-Sheila Thursday, UNBSJ on Friday night, then on to Bar Le Cluse in Saint-Quentin on Saturday. See, that's a hard-working tour, right there. Don't forget to ask them out to supper after the show.
THREE DOG NIGHT - GREATEST HITS LIVE (Universal)
Righting an old wrong, this live disc attempts to present the hits-happy band as top stage performers in the '70s, something which its previous live albums failed to do. Taken from previously unreleased shows in 1972-73, the group was at its peak. Because TDN was a Top 40 act in the heyday of serious album rock, it has been virtually ignored for years. This set, however, shows they did indeed rock, with a solid band, and the novelty of three lead singers. From the strut of Mama Told Me Not To Come and Eli's Coming, to the heartache of One, they were also quite versatile. They committed the ultimate '70s sin of not writing their own songs, though, unfairly condemning them to the unhip pile. Honestly, this is one smokin' live show and the band deserves a better shelf life.
MARIANNE FAITHFULL - LIVE AT THE BBC (Universal)
Way before the shock of the brutal 1979 disc Broken English, before she co-wrote Sister Morphine with The Stones, before her own drug days, before getting busted with Mick and Keith, Faithfull was a teen angel. She had an innocent and sweet voice in the mid-'60s, and was a favourite on the BBC. Best remembered for the hit cover of As Tears Go By, Faithfull also had a small string of Top 40 lighthearted folk pop hits on both sides of the Atlantic. Here, we hear her coo those tracks, chat with the disc jockeys and do some gentle covers of tunes such as Yesterday. It all placed her nicely with Donovan and Simon & Garfunkel. That was so 1965. The next year saw her split with her husband, take up with Jagger and, as anyone can tell you, that leads to very bad things indeed.
Bob Mersereau is a music writer and the arts reporter for CBC in New Brunswick.