Posts Tagged ‘Concert’

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.

O Canada!

December 27, 2008

This post bears an appropriate title from the first song of Part II of this running diary. Thanks Kathleen Edwards. In case you are confused I’m listening to Kathleen Edwards on demand from CBC Radio 2. It’s her concert at the Ottawa Bluesfest back in July.

O Canada seems like another bitter song from Kathleen Edwards.  She is definitely mad about the world, guns, global warming etc. And honestly of all the countries in the world Canada is probably at or near the bottom of the list for many of the major global problems. Low murder rate, improving pollution record, a boat load of untouched natural resources, and generally healthy happy people.

Scared at Night. And underneath my sheets I could barely breath. This is an interesting little song featuring Kathleen and her acoustic guitar.  I think most people have been afraid of the dark, even just a little bit. The unknown is scary.  But this song is so much darker.  People and cats die in this song.  Songs about death are always hard to listen to. But this one is beautiful, and having Kathleen do it alone was a solid performance choice.

The piano returns early in Summer Long. You couldn’t keep me around if you tried…don’t look back and don’t call. Very nice harmony in the second verse and chorus. Ooooo a little feedback there. That’s the first noticeable audio mistake of the entire concert.

Here is a well known song that is also a favourite of mine, In State. I am curious to know if Kathleen really dated an ex con. Or if she just used her imagination. She writes songs about the most random and interesting things.  This version is being played up tempo. A bit faster than usual. I don’t usually like it when bands do that, it removes the familiarity of the song I think.  My face couldn’t make you leave it behind, maybe 20 years in state’ll change your mind. You know it’s true, when someone has a problem, love will not overcome it. I don’t think romantic passion has ever outdone the drive to use drugs, abuse alcohol, or steal.

Oil Man’s War. The title kind of gives this one away.  Back to the music.  This has been a good concert in terms of performance. The singing is mostly spot on and the band is rocking. I would like to hear a nice big organ solo but I’ll take what I can get from his work behind the guitar.

Is Hockey Skates her quintessential Canadian song? Anything to do with hockey likely ought to be.  I was so tired of playing defence I don’t even have hockey skates. This is a sweet little song.  The guitar work is classic alt country.

Our final song 12 Bellevue.  The concert has been highly enjoyable. It’s unfortunate that they cut out all the in between song talk. I think I might have learnt something from it.  The recording is good, and the performance is solid all the way through.  This one is definitely worth checking out.

There are only about 300 or more concerts on the CBC Radio 2 site. This is going to take awhile.

Cheapest Key

December 26, 2008

Maybe 20 years in state’ll change your mind.

Kathleen Edwards

In State

As a new feature here at The Alder Fork Blog I am going to be dipping into the deep collection of concerts on demand available on the CBC Radio 2 website.  People seem to like it when I review/talk about music. Maybe more than my philosophical meanderings.  I’m kicking this off with the ever-pleasant Kathleen Edwards.  She was captured at the Ottawa Bluesfest this past summer.  Kathleen is one of my favourite Canadian artists these days so this should be a fun ride.

She starts things off with Asking for Flowers, title track of her latest album. I think this song sums up what we should expect the rest of the way.  Gord Tough provides some solid lead guitar work in this song. The music is secure in it’s alt-country style.

Run. There have been a lot of songs with the name Run over the years.  This one has a bouncy bass line, one that invokes older country songs by the likes of Johnny Cash or Conway Twitty. Kathleen has a voie that would work for a number of genres, but like Neko Case she has found a home in this style. At one point she yodels her way through an emotional bit. There are keys in this song, but I’m waiting for a big organ solo. The song just begs for it.  There is just a hint of it towards the end, and we get a guitar solo instead. That is a little disappointing.

I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory starts out like a Paul Brandt song. Not one in particular, just any.  She caters to the crowd by letting them know she’s in her home town.  I’m Elvis Presley in the 70’s. This song is filled with popular references from Masarati to Marty Mcsorley (does he count as popular?).  Your the buffet I’m just the table. Now that’s a compliment!

Goodnight, California begins with a lovely instrumental jam. Big organ chords sit on top of an eccentric bass line.  I like this song because it is more or less an excuse to jam on top of a cool bass line.  Once again Gord Tough gives us some nice guitar work.

After a very Doors-esque jam, we get back to the alt country pop. Cheapest Key is a well known track.  It’s one of those naming songs, “A is for this etc.” You always play me in the cheapest key. I think Kathleen’s been burned a few too many times, someone needs to buy her some ice cream. Hey! Chris Martin offered some back in the Coldplay Live 2003 running diary. We should set them up.  As this is the 6th song I will shut it down for today and come back tomorrow with the usual part two.  If you aren’t familiar with this song, then you probably aren’t that familiar with Kathleen Edwards, shame on you!