Saskatoon StarPhoenix

A rich and diverse collection



Here’s another round of songs — a compilatio­n package — from the stable of singer/songwriter/ musicians at Turtle Island Music in Saskatoon. And it’s a rich and diverse 11 songs.

There are two songs about the soul, opener Scars of the Soul, by Denise Lanceley, an emotive ballad-type tune about the scars left by a bad relationsh­ip. Then there’s Elvis Ballantyne’s country-gospel number If I Give My Soul, in which he tries to figure the odds of making his peace with Jesus.

Greg Edmunds’ Neechee Girl contrasts easygoing vocals about a traditiona­l woman who is everything to the singer and some great spiky lead guitar fills. Indeed, great guitar works helps make this album sail, from the nice lead lines on Jay Ross’s almost grungy Inside of Me, to the slide guitar on the fifties country sound of Ray Villebrun’s Yesterday, to the lead guitar breaks on Wake Up Red’s folk rock connection to the spiritual number Out of the Blue.

Phil Boyer goes for a Metis jig feel on Dance Dance, watching his grandkids do just that, Garrison Parker turns to the alt-folk channel on his My Mistakes, and Becky Thomas wishes for the Eyes of a Child so she can see the purpose in God’s plan. A startling range of songs and superb musiciansh­ip.

IAN THOMAS: A LIFE IN SONG Alma Records ★★★★

Back before Buddy Holly stood his ground in the rock studio and Waylon and Willie did the same in Nashville, corpulent music producers with dollars in their eyes took passionate, small combo music of the bars and dance halls, shellacked it with strings and horns, and made it soulless and palatable for the radios of the middle class. They could have taken War Pigs by Black Sabbath and made it into a hit for Bing Crosby.

What a supreme irony it is that dependable Canadian hitmaker Ian Thomas has taken his fine, small combo rockers and ballads and dressed them up in strings and horns, making guitar songs fit for the symphony hall. In this case it’s Hamilton Place with the Hamilton Philharmon­ic Orchestra.

Mind you, we all get older, and Thomas is no exception. What would have been a sellout (or a corporate muscling in) 40 years ago is now just another way of exploring some great songs.

They’re all here, with a sweet violin punctuatin­g the title line on Right Before Your Eyes or a simple harmonica adding another dimension to Twenty Five Thousand Days. Hold On, after Santana’s energetic vocals and guitar workout gets put into an evening suit, and it fits, but I miss the popping bass on Pilot. There is bass there, still, but not with the pluck it once had. Ah well, everything changes.

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