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Current news:

Listen. Hear. Feel. Share.

We can't help to be moved by music, and we hope the samples of our recent releases get you grooving.

Discover the "perfection" (Goldmine magazine) of Duke Robillard's The Acoustic Blues and Roots of Duke Robillard, the "seriously good record" (ICONfetch.com) that is MonkeyJunk's Moon Turn Red and Colin Linden's "deep, broad spectrum" (Elmore magazine) on Rich In Love.

Or delve into the "deeply felt and beautifully executed" (Living Blues magazine) Father's Day from Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters.

"One of this country's finest songwriters" (Folk Roots, Folk Branches) Ian Tyson turned 82 this year, and also released Carnero Vaquero, on which "you’ll hear the honest voice, singing the honest songs of a real cowboy" (Cashbox Canada).

Having proudly worked with Jeff Healey for a number of years before his untimely death in 2008, it was an honour to release The Best of the Stony Plain Years: Vintage Jazz, Swing and Blues, which exhibited "Healey's staggering command of old-school jazz guitar" (Vintage Guitar magazine).

Then there's Guitar Heroes, a "once-in-a-lifetime gathering" (Sing Out! magazine) of James Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett and David Wilcox from 2013's Vancouver Island Music Fest.

Share. Feel. Hear. Listen. There's always something new to discover.

Reviews:

No Depression
By Joe McSpadden
"The strength of Ledbetter’s work, and the prison-to-palace arc of his life, make Lead Belly’s Gold an extension of Bibb’s last effort, Blues People, if not a sequel to it. Ride this train, people, you won’t want to get off. " (more)

Eric Bibb is a devotee of pre-war blues and folk music. On his latest release, Lead Belly’s Gold, Bibb and brother-in-arms JJ Milteau mine the rich vein of Americana that is Huddie Ledbetter. We are all the better for the effort, and wiser for the reminder that roots music owes a deep debt to African-American artists.

I usually approach cover albums with a sense of apprehension. When it's been recorded by an artist I admire, I want to hear their work over that of their mentors. All too often, tribute albums mean more to the artist than the artist’s following. Worse yet, in some cases, these albums are contract fulfillment items. That is definitely not the case here. Bibb and company turn in a spirited and honest record that is important on several levels.

Coming on the heels of Bibb’s mountaintop testament to racial healing, Blues People, an album of covers might seem to be a letdown, or an example of an artist taking a breather. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead Bibb returns with a batch of songs that seem more like an extension of his previous album than one might think. In fact, Lead Belly’s Gold could be seen as a sequel of sorts.

American roots music has been all the rage for decades, but never more so than in the wake of Joel and Ethan Coen’s quirky film O Brother, Where Art Thou? That film, and the score by T Bone Burnett exposed a hunger in audiences for something that felt organic and honest, and kicked off a fever for string band music.

Thank God for Eric Bibb and others walking the path of restoration. Artists like Bibb, Guy Davis, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and the Ebony Hillbillies remind us that there is much more color in the rainbow of the great American Songbook than we often see in the headlines. Bibb and his compadres are restoring to us a more complete picture of our musical heritage, and the results are deeper and sweeter than the whitewashed hoedowns sold to suburban middle class kids. We are enriched as a result.

One of the first things an album of covers forces us to ask is the question of whether or not the artist is committed to the project. If the artist is truly committed to the project, then the next query has to do with audience. Is the artist playing to a memory in his head that no one else can see? Or is the artist able to come down from the mountain and deliver the vision?

The good news is that Bibb is fully immersed in this work, and there is no better evangelist to reach the next generation than the son of Leon Bibb. The album is full of gems that stay with the listener. In agricultural terms, this is a harvest in seed form. When one realizes that they are fed not from the ear of corn, but from the seed that produced the ear, then one can begin to grasp what Huddie Ledbetter means to contemporary music, and what prophets like Eric Bibb mean to a culture that is seeking its sense of self.

Roots music is, at its very core, diverse. The tag “Americana” is problematic at best. While at times it comes very close to hitting the motherlode of creativity, it can, in the next instant, drift perilously close to becoming its own parody. Eric Bibb is proof that Americana is about more than a hipster beard and a charge account at a vintage clothing store. His presence also reminds us that we have a shared history; that we are more alike than we are different, and that color and culture are not reasons to divide us but rather to cause us to rejoice.

Rooted firmly in the Village folk scene, and in the pre-war blues he loves so much, Bibb is able to integrate the works of Lead Belly and Seeger, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Sebastian and Dylan, Rev. Gary Davis and Woody Guthrie -- not to mention Dr. King -- all in to a patchwork quilt that defines us far better than the popular trend towards faux-retro expression.

Americana music, like films about the 1960s, risks skirting the real thing in order to celebrate a sugar-coated memory. Bibb brings a much needed dose of reality to our pink sunglasses view of the past. We need this more than we know. Lead Belly’s Gold, if given more than a cursory listen, takes the listener out of the instant fix of current trends, into a river of song as deep and wide as the Mississippi river.

Oddly enough, Bibb starts out by making us uncomfortable. “Grey Goose,” a traditional song, serves as metaphor for the struggles of Ledbetter, and for others who have faced a world designed to see them demeaned and diminished. The treatment of the Goose gets harsher verse by verse. The imagery is brutal. The Goose becomes a symbol of survival, and of victory, flying across the sea, as Ledbetter himself did. That the Goose is shot down and rises from the ashes to fly, not alone but with his goslings, is a resurrection story worth telling. That Bibb is one of Ledbetter’s goslings cannot be denied.

The second track on the album brings a message of hope and redemption. “When That Train Comes Along/Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” finds Bibb in familiar territory, seeking the light that we desperately need. Bibb is joined on the track by Big Daddy Wilson on harmony vocals, and his warm pipes provide reassurance that salvation is indeed at hand.

“On a Monday” tells the plight of a man whose troubles grow worse with each day of the week. “The House of the Rising Sun” becomes, in Bibb’s hands, a song of quiet resignation and regret. The tone of his voice, more so than the lyrics, portray a soul surrendered to his fate. With a song this well-known the trick is not to trivialize it, or send it up. Bibb’s interpretation is that of man communing with his own thoughts, unable to affect the outcome of his days.

“Midnight Special” is a real pleaser. Never one of my favorite songs, Bibb’s take on the train song won me over. The Cajun-flavored arrangement, with its accordion and harmonica duet, feels as though it could have been recorded on the gallery of a clapboard shack in James Lee Burke’s New Iberia. This track would be great on the soundtrack of a Dave Robicheaux film, if someone in Hollywood could ever find a way to do Burke’s creation justice.

There is so much to like here. The beauty of it all is the way Bibb breathes new life into songs that have been performed countless times. “Pick a Bale of Cotton,” with Big Daddy Wilson on hand, is a delight and rivals Sonny and Brownie’s version for sheer fun.

Bibb provides a couple of fine original numbers and another, “When I Get to Dallas,” co-written with JJ Milteau. The latter depicts Ledbetter making plans to send for his woman once he gets set up in Dallas. Perhaps the biggest surprise is another train song, “Rock Island Line.” Bibb and Milteau ride on the steady drumbeat of Larry Crockett. Bibb the conductor punches our ticket while Milteau blows like a steam engine on his harp, Crockett’s drum clicking like steel wheels along the rails. This is a party train and it’s clear the brakes are gone. Bibb gets us to the station but can’t quite bring it to a complete stop, pulling up in a cloud of steam and Pentecostal fervor. Milteau outdoes himself here, becoming the mighty furnace of the great engine, hauling everyone on board along with him.

“Bourgeois Blues” follows, and returns us to Earth. Ledbetter’s song exposes the hypocrisy of discrimination in Washington, D.C., the so-called capitol of representation. “Chauffeur Blues” is next and turns the tables in a “look who’s driving who now” fashion.

As usual, Bibb surrounds himself with first class talent. Milteau is nothing short of amazing. He is a harp player who knows when to step to the fore, and when to ease back. On Lead Belly’s Gold he is a primal force. Milteau has an uncanny knack for knowing when to howl, and when fade, when to lead and when to follow. His sensibilities complement Bibb’s passionate delivery and together the two men create a musical document that honors Lead Belly’s legacy, all the while moving it a little further on down the road.

The strength of Ledbetter’s work, and the prison-to-palace arc of his life, make Lead Belly’s Gold an extension of Bibb’s last effort, Blues People, if not a sequel to it. Ride this train, people, you won’t want to get off. 

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Living Blues
By Frank Matheis

"This album is packed with on great song after the next. In short, this album just makes you happy."

(more)

When you disperse white light through a prism you get the full color spectrum because that light contains a collection of component colors-the rainbow. Likewise, when listening to Colin Liden's new album Rich In Love you get the entire audible spectrum of American roots music. Some will hear early roch 'n' roll, some will call it blue, others will say it's Americana with a bluesy twang. Arguing which is best or stronger is like debating which color is prettiest. Surely you will inherently hear what you like-roots and blues by one of North America's best-kept musical secrets, the Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire, Colin Linden. The multiple Juno Award winner, leader of the Rodeo Kings and brilliant producer and sideman, is also a superlative string virtuoso of immaculate taste and skill. He has played with T Bone Burnett, Leon Redbone, Rhiannon Giddens, Bob Dylan, Bruce Cockburn, Emmlou Harris, Robert Plant, and Alison Krauss. His critically acclaimed solo projects like Big Mouth, Southern Jumbo and From the Waters have always been steeped deeply in the blues.

Rich In Love is a real gem that may take weeks before you can get it out of your CD player. This album is produced, recorded and performed by the Rotting Matadors, with Colin Linden on guitar, ukulele, mandolin, and vocals-and he is masterful on all. The rhythm section consists of John Dymond on bass, and Gary Craig on drums. Harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite join them on The Hurt and Rich in Love. Reese Wynans guests on keyboards. Amy Helm, daughter of Levon Helm and a lovely singer on her own right, recently with Ollabelle, backs up on harmony.

Notably, the interesting lyrics, the perfect instrumentation, musical diversity, and brilliant songwriting of Rich in Love would be enough to make this a keeper, but Linden manages to acheive what most singer-songwriters only dream of-it comes from the heart and you feel it in your soul, and the music instantly grabs you in a deep way. He means what he sings and the listener can make and immediate connection. The disc is simply a wonderful, rare gem.

These fiery 12 songs, consistently even fit, like worn-in shoes. In Delia Come For Me a falsely accused man pleads to his love, followed by The Hurt where he declares, "I want to see the word, hear the hurt, I want to know the hurt before I believe a word" Charlie Musslewhite adds an exclamation point, followed by Linden's lashing, emotive lead guitar. Everybody Ought to Be Loved is a sensitive, tender song about the ultimate truism. The title track starts off with a 1950s surf guitar vibe before it shifts into a sad moan as Musselwhite accentuates Linden's singing: "My baby used to cry, cry, cry as she she lay sleeping." When Linden sings "Nobody but you, there's never been nobody but you," it will twang your inner vibe. That's what good music can do. The album is packed with one great song after the next. In short, this album just makes you happy.

 

- Frank Matheis

 

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Elmore Magazine
By Tom Clarke
"Subtlety and excitement all wrapped together here, folks, in one of the best overall blues albums of the year." (more)

Founder of the swinging Roomful Of Blues, a rocking Pleasure King and a high-flying Fabulous Thunderbird for a spell. A jazz man, a front porch pickin’ blues man and one-time guitarist for Dylan. A string band, jug band, ragtime, delta, Louisiana, Appalachian folk and Jimmie Rodgers-country aficionado. A backwards traveler, but forward thinker. A writer and singer with distinct style, and a studio owner and in-demand producer. Did I miss anything? Duke Robillard may wear a handsome, if nondescript, lid lounging on the cover of The Acoustic Blues & Roots of…, but he almost literally wears a hundred hats—all of them damn well. It’s hard to believe any one man can be as prolific as this Rhode Island Duke of the blues.

Robillard marks over a half-century of life-dedication with an album that focuses on some of his initial inspirations– extraordinarily well, I might add. The acoustic settings relegate the proceedings to a theme, and it begins with a solo tenor banjo take on Stephen Foster’s timeless “My Old Kentucky Home.” Big Bill Broonzy’s “Big Bill Blues” brings to life a man drowning on a barstool right before Duke’s own “I Miss My Baby in My Arms” captures the depression of the Great Depression in perfect character. He makes the gleaming roots of Robbie Robertson’s Band classic “Evangeline”—featuring the excellent singer Sunny Crownover—flow naturally into the witty, Chicago-style blues of “Left Handed”—with super harp by former Muddy Waters band member Jerry Portnoy. Then, in short order, it’s a Delmore Brothers tune with some “grass on its ass,” and a Sleepy John Estes by the side of the rails. The diversity never gets old. Well, actually, it does, and that’s the point. Duke plays with amazing dexterity and sings with authority and class, getting right to the emotion of every song. Subtlety and excitement all wrapped together here, folks, in one of the best overall blues albums of the year.

- Tom Clarke

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Gonzo Online
By John Kereiff

"Their passion, conviction and dedication to their music makes itself known in every lick, beat, lyric and solo. Great song writing and intuitive musicianship make this one hell of an album, one of the greats of 2015 in any genre."

(more)

Oh BABY!  This Ottawa-based trio’s fourth long player is a scorching selection of rockin’ blues tunes ready to take on the world.  If you’re into stuff like David Wilcox, Big Sugar,  JJ Grey & Mofro and Black Keys, Monkeyjunk is singing your songs and I can guarantee that this is the way you want to hear ‘em!   

“With each record we make, we feel we’re pushing more boundaries” says singer/ baritone guitarist/ harmonica and organ player Steve Marriner. “We explored grooves we’ve never hit on before, and experimented with new sounds.”  That much is evident as they kick the door open with Light it Up, a party anthem if there ever was one.  It is this continued forward motion that makes each Monkeyjunk release even better than the last, and the biggest reason Moon Turn Red the best one of all- so far.

Some really cool grooves over the course of these 10 songs, from the reggae vibe of Love Attack to the aforementioned Light It Up and Hot, Hot Papa (a Wilcox original, David plays guitar and sings on this one), to soulful love songs in Learn How To Love and Meet Me At Midnight that will really put some lead in your pencil. The diversity of grooves and vibes had me thinking of Big Sugar primarily, so it was not a huge surprise to learn from the press kit that Gordie Johnson is buddies with lead guitarist Tony D. “Gordie and I both come out of the blues- we’ve known each other for over 25 years” says Tony.  “It was serendipitous that he happened to be touring in the vicinity (when we were recording).  After all these years, we finally got a chance to work together!”

Moon Turn Red is grimy in all the right places, a collection of songs that make you want to move- either get up on the dance floor, or just jump in the car and go.   It’s an outstanding addition to an already impressive body of work, and an example of musical camaraderie.  Their passion, conviction and dedication to their music makes itself known in every lick, beat, lyric and solo.  Great song writing and intuitive musicianship make this one hell of an album, on of the greats of 2015 in any genre.

ESSENTIALS:  Light It Up, Love Attack, Learn How To Love

- See more at: http://www.gonzoonline.ca/music/music-news/882-the-record-box-for-sunday-sept13th-2015.html#sthash.xmRBDi47.dpuf

Oh BABY!  This Ottawa-based trio’s fourth long player is a scorching selection of rockin’ blues tunes ready to take on the world.  If you’re into stuff like David Wilcox, Big Sugar,  JJ Grey & Mofro and Black Keys, Monkeyjunk is singing your songs and I can guarantee that this is the way you want to hear ‘em!   

“With each record we make, we feel we’re pushing more boundaries” says singer/ baritone guitarist/ harmonica and organ player Steve Marriner. “We explored grooves we’ve never hit on before, and experimented with new sounds.”  That much is evident as they kick the door open with Light it Up, a party anthem if there ever was one.  It is this continued forward motion that makes each Monkeyjunk release even better than the last, and the biggest reason Moon Turn Red the best one of all- so far.

Some really cool grooves over the course of these 10 songs, from the reggae vibe of Love Attack to the aforementioned Light It Up and Hot, Hot Papa (a Wilcox original, David plays guita

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Living Blues Magazine Oct/Nov Issue
By Melanie Young

"Deeply felt and beautifully executed, Ronne Earl and The Broadcasters' 'Father's Day' is an album to savor"

(more)

Ronnie Earl's latest release pays homage to his father, the late Akos Horvath, with whom Earl reconciled before his passing. It also serves as a tribute to the Massachusetts-based guitarist's musical forebears. On Father's Day, songs by artists such as Otis Rush, Magic Sam, B.B King, Fats Domino and others mingle with three originals, and all are given lush, loving treatment.

The Broadcasters-drummer Lorne Entress, keyboardist Dave Limina and bassist Jim Mouradian-are bolstered by a fine horn section. Together they weave a rich tapestry of sound the conjures images of a smoky, congenial nightclub; you can almost hear clinking glasses and murmured conversation between notes. Earl's soloing on Rush's Right Place, Wrong Time, Van McCoy's Giving Up and Magic Sam's All Your Love thrum with deep-seated urgency, matched by Michael Ledbetter's strong, clear baritone. The rich-voiced Diane Blue delivers similar intensity on another Magic Sam song What Have I Done Wrong? and on Brook Benton's I'll Take Care Of You. The musicians take their time with Bobby Timmons' instrumental Moanin', fleshing it out with cool deliberation.

Written by Earl and Ledbetter, the title track unfolds slowly and willfully, emphasizing its message of forgiveness and reconciliation ("Can you replace the anger? Can you replace the fear?/ Do you know that family is so dear?"). A sweet reverent version of Thomas A. Dorsey's Precious Lord, sung by Blue, provides the session's benediction.

There is a sense throughout of reveling in the present moment-as a reminder, perhaps, that it's all too fleeting. Deeply felt and beautifully executed, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters' Father's Day is an album to savor.

 

- Melanie Young

 

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Reflections In Blue
By Bill Wilson
"This is one of the finest pieces of classic jazz and blues that I have ever heard. It has a timeless quality about it and could just as easily have been released in the 20s or 30s except for the recording quality which is exceptional" (more)
 Jeff Healey, known for his work as a musician and an actor, was one of those performers with the golden touch.  Taken from us with cancer, at the age of 41, he had a passion for guitar, old-time jazz, trumpet and clarinet.  He appeared in the movie, "Road House" with Patrick Swayze, made a total of 10 albums and opened a club under his own name on 2002.  Stony Plain Records has released a compilation of his work on their label titled The Best of the Stony Plain Years, which featured some of his greatest work on the label.  A humble and fun-loving man, his desire was to raise his family and play the music he loved, something he did with incredible attention to detail and passion.  Healey was a serious record collector and musical historian who had amassed 30,000 78s from the 20s and 30s.  The Best of the Stony Plain Years...Vintage Jazz, Swing and Blues features 11 cuts from his four albums on the label as well as "Sweet Georgia Brown", previously released on a promotional- only CD sampler that features Chris Barber on trombone.  This is one of the finest pieces of classic jazz and blues that I have ever heard.  It has a timeless quality about it and could just as easily have been released in the 20s or 30s except for the recording quality which is exceptional.  From the opening notes of  "Three Little Words" to the end of "Sweet Georgia Brown" there is not one tune on the entire disc that is not superb.  Fans of jazz and blues alike will find themselves itching to hit the dance floor.  This is another one of those releases I would purchase several copies of to give as gifts.  Not normally at a loss for words, this album is one of those things that is so good that I find it hard to find words to do it justice.  Do yourself a favor and don't let this one slip through your fingers.  Jeff Healey was a man with many talents.  The Best of the Stony Plain Years is a good place to start if you are not familiar with his work but, as good as it is, it just barely scratches the surface.  That said, it is perhaps the best of his work that I have heard.  Needless to say, it comes highly recommended.  -- Bill Wilson (less)