Posts Tagged ‘Concert on Demand’

Travel West

February 28, 2009

These are my people, I should never have come here.

Martha Wainwright


Welcome to Part II of Marth Wainwright’s CBC Radio 2 Concert on Demand. Well, my live blog of it.  Part I is yesterday’s post so you can just click back to it if you like.

We kick off part two of this exercise with This Life. I wonder if it’s more of a commentary on what is going on in her life at a moment, or a philsophical treatise. This, this life, right now, is snoring. I guess that answers my question.  Once again we have just Martha and her guitar.  I wish I could adequately describe her singing style. I made an attempt in Part I, but I’m not sure I did it justice.  Her voice almost cycles up and down, like Neko Case in a washing machine. That may seem negative but it is not intended to be.  Halfway through the song we bounce to French, then back to English. The crowd was delighted by the change.

Martha and her mother are now going to get together for one of Kate’s songs, Wise Men.  We are told, in French, that this song is about the war in Afghanistan, and apparently some relationship to the Magi.  What did they see in the sky that made them take leave of their life? Very good question. If there were in fact three wise men, who traveled to Bethlehem, I wonder what they thought when they arrived?  Was it what they expected when they saw a great light in the sky? The song has a strange vibe and reminds me of many a French folk song, even though the lyrics are in English. The combination of voices is almost creepy, yet sweetly satisfying.

Jimi.  I don’t know a thing about this song, but I wonder if this song is at all connected to Jimi Hendrix.  Martha creates unique sonic landscapes that are ethereal, musical, and yet almost not.  It is a collection of sonic postcards from Quebec to Pluto.  The whole band comes out in full force for this one.  The vocal harmonies in this song are at first jarring, but I came to understand that they are supposed to evoke the otherwordly colour of the piece.

Martha moved to New York at some point in her young life, and forged her musical career there.  This one starts out as a jazzy love song, lead by electric guitar and brushed drums.  This song is robably the most obvious one I’ve heard in this set.  It is the most like compositions by other musicians, and thus the least unique.  There is an understated building solo that turns into a duet with her voice.  The guitar tone is fantastic, very dirty and full. After the song she introduces the band. Looking over Martha’s discography, she has featured an astonishing number of guests on her albums. I guess that is one advantage of having famous musician parents.

G.P.T. from her self-titled album is the third-to-last song of the set.  This is a more rock song than anything we’ve heard in this half of the show.  It’s a very catchy tune.  I should probably thank the CBC for putting these concerts online.  It is a great opportunity to enjoy musicians I may not get out to see very often. I imagine if I lived somewhere like Moose Factory, where big musicians seldom go, I’d be even happier about the streaming COD’s.

We now have the first real cover of the night, because covering your mom’s music doesn’t count, Dis Quand Reviendras-Tu by French musician Barbara.  I have not heard the original yet, though I plan on checking out, but I am familiar with some French music.  This is a beautiful song featuring just Martha and piano.  The crowd seems deeply appreciative for this piece.

We finish up with what appears to be the whole family, in attendance, singing Factory. This has been a fun show, and I bet Montreal is the ideal place to see Martha.  This song shows off a lot of what makes Martha a highly entertaining musician.  It must’ve been cool to see the many talented singers together for this final song.  Once again the CBC has given us a fun and enjoyable concery.  Check it out if you’d like an hour or so of great music from one of Canada’s bright musical stars.

I’m In The Hearts Club Band

February 27, 2009

There’s a rush, when we touch.

Martha Wainwright

So Many Friends

It’s been awhile but it’s time for another CBC Radio 2 Concert on Demand Live Blog.  I have to admit I am more familiar with the work of Rufus Wainwright than that of his little sister Martha, but it is her December 12th, 2009 performance in Montreal that I am interested in today.  Being the daughter of two well known musicians, and the sister of another would cetainly aid in the career of a young singer-songwriter.  But Martha has certainly carved out a nice niche for herself away from the family.  In this concert we are apparently going to be blessed with an appearance by Kate McGarrigle, Martha’s mom, and her aunt Anna. There will also be some Christmas fare.  Let’s get to the music.

I Wish I Were gets us started with just Martha and an acoustic guitar. She is accompanied by a lot of yelling people in the crowd. She is beloved in Montreal (and a lot of other places). Her voice certainly reminds me of the great songstresses of the psychedelic and folk movements of the 60’s and 70’s.  It’s a classic sound that is beautiful and gritty all at the same time, like a tropical beach.  Indeed her voice overpowers anything her guitar does.  I can picture her prancing about the stage as she performs, though I’m not sure she actually does that, the song just gives the impression of a musician in motion.

Before Bleeding All Over You we get a nice little story about her travels and work en francais.  She must be in Montreal, a truly bilingual place. There are days when the cage doesn’t seem to open very wide at all. What a lovely line, I’ve had times like that.  Her songs are so whimsical, almost like they are blowing around in the breeze.  There is an interesting contrast between Martha’s voice and her backup singer Lily Lanken. I wish I could explain it but you’ll just have to listen yourself.

Coming Tonight starts out with a 50’s sci fi sound effect, and it occurs to me that Martha emits a sound that would be comfortable on vinyl.  I wonder if you can get her albums that way. She gets roaring applause for ending the song with coming tonight to my home town.

The drums kick off Hearts Club Band.  Martha is doing something musically that is a bit off the predominant indie, folk or pop modes of singing.  Although her songs would fit on a number of other band’s releases, Martha’s expressive singing is unique to her.  You’ve got the funniest smile I’ve ever seen.  This concert has already had a number of great lines and we are just getting warmed up. This song ends with some interesting use of apparently out of tune note combinations. I think it’s intentional. The value of that is the shock it causes our ears.

The crowd is excited about this one. It starts out like many  Dave Matthews Band song, but it’s So Many Friends.  This seems like a bitter sweet song, and I think Martha feels that way about it too.  I can’t make out every word because of the way she is almost cackling some lines.  I still love this vibe.  It’s just so different than other things out there, and in many ways reminiscent of an earlier sound.

Somewhat of a reminder that it’s Christmas, as the drums come up for Jesus and Mary.  This is a dark little song. It really should’ve been used in an episode of Due South. I love the atmosphere she creates, with dissonant guitar sounds. Rehersals must be a blast for this group. They seem like they love to play around in the music they are making.

I am going to wrap up Part I of this review with BMFA so look for Part II tomorrow.  Those letters stand for something I don’t want to publish on my blog, and are in reference to her father Loudon Wainwright III, who was apparently not a great dad.  I have no idea what that’s like because my dad rocks.  This is an angry song though, and Martha is not going to play around.

Across the Prairies and Past Them Great Lakes

January 4, 2009

A summer spent out by the ocean, a rock band always in motion.

The Wheat Pool


Westerners The Wheat Pool are a thoroughly Canadian band.  Their songs bear the names of Canadian icons and events. A February 2008 concert in Edmonton was captured by CBC Radio 2 and is available on demand from their website. I decided to check it out even though I was only vaguely familiar with the group. What follows is my running diary. This is a shorter concert so I will fit it all in one post.

The set kicks off with Neil Young.  They definitely owe some of their sound the music legend.  The Wheat Pool are an alt country band, and this song features generous helpings of harmonica and pedal steel.  Sometimes I remember all the reasons why we made each other scream.

I feel like this band should be playing in a barn somewhere with hay all over the place.  Unlike some other CBC Radio concerts this one has between songs banter.  The band points out that they have an album called Township. The way this set is going I’m going to want a copy. FBD is next. The pedal steel in this song is great.  I know the band wears ball caps on stage, but they need cowboy hats. I’m not a big new country fan, but I do like alt country. It’s a fine line between what I like and what I don’t. The Wheat Pool is on the right side of the border.

I’m assuming Whyte Ave is a place.  Someone yelled out a random comment from the back, but I couldn’t make it out.  This song is for “anyone who’s ever had a crush on a CBC Radio personality.” Nice lead in. Ah the song mentions Sook Yin Li, well known as a Much Music VJ back in the 90’s. She’s out in Vancouver now I think.  The song goes all over Canada, from Calgary to Toronto. We belong outside the warm glow, stumblin’ down streets we used to know, the cold embrace of Whyte Ave, this city ain’t the same without you.

At the midpoint we get Evergreen. An appropriate name for any song about Canada. The start of this song is more indie pop than anything else I’ve heard so far. This could be a Death Cab for Cutie song so far.  I like the variety of this set so far. The harmonies in this song aren’t quite perfect but are still good.Whyte Ave. gets mentioned again in this song.  From the Pacific to Lake Ontario.

The next song is introduced as being about “important historical events,” and how Canada has had many despite being a young nation.  It deals with Louis Riel and The Red River Rebellion.  This is a dark song with an interesting moaning guitar between verses.  You were born on the banks of Red River, I’ve seen your home. It’s amazing how Riel went from executed enemy to Father of Confederation. It only took a hundred or so years of consideration, and some softening of hearts.  Louis Riel at the right hand of God’s stone. I think he is definitely more of a Western, Native, and possibly francophone hero than an Ontario or eastern one.  But to some degree he was a cilvil rights type leader well before most others.

Between You and Me sounds like some kind of break up song.  The guitar has taken centre stage in this one.  You could almost slow dance to this song if this was a high school dance and not a concert.

Lyrically, The Wheat Pool are definitely story tellers.  None of the songs in this show metaphorically avoid the point. It’s clear what each song is about from the opening lines.  It definitely suits this style of music.

The song Geographic Centre of Canada has an interesting title. Most people would acknowledge that the economic and political centres of the country have traditionally been in Ontraio and to some degree Quebec, where the vast majority of Canadians live.  But with such a wide and tall country (second largest in the world) the physical middle is a little further West and North. The track opens with wide open instrumental part.  This is my least favourite song so far.  It’s just not that remarkable and nothing stands out.

The last song is named after one of my favourite artists, Emily Carr.  Apparently, the CBC has been instrumental in helping this band to grow.  It’s good to see the CBC doing what it is intended to, namely promoting Canadian culture.  Emily Carr is probably my favourite of the whole set. The balance of pedal steel, guitar, and everything else is just perfect.  I crave different way to cut through all this noise, cause the fields are real in my mind, so leave me the choice, to stay here or run away so far, you and me and Emily Carr. The song includes some Gordon Lightfoot lines for good measure as it winds down.

Overall I give The Wheat Pool an arbitrary “A” for this effort.  I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I like the concert so check it out if you are into alt country, and Canadian music.