Reviews

John Brownlow Previews The Summertime at The Red Door Tonight

John Brownlow’s homemade masterpiece, a 2-CD set called “The Summertime” is due out this fall, but he has some copies pressed and he will be offering them at a discount (!) to people who come tonight to see him at the Red Door Pub and Grille in Meaford. He is part of a three songwriter night again at the Red Door.  His first introduction a few months ago to Red Door audiences was as one third of a three-parter that included Bill Monahan and Dave Hawkins.  This time he shares the evening with young talents Greg Smith and Max Breadner.

If it seems strange to release an album called “The Summertime” as the season comes to an end, it’s actually a good fit.  This album through all its meandering narrative, sounds like the summertime.

John Brownlow, who makes his living as a screen writer, has an abundance of talent (if not of time) left over for other projects.  When he mixes his prodigious imagination with an appreciation of pop music that is part fan, part academic, he creates music that sounds like it was born in radio tubes.  He’s put together this collection of 29 songs that would be impressive for the quantity of output alone but in fact each song in the bunch stands up like a pop gem that, given the right push, would find a comfortable niche on many a radio playlist.

“I went into this with no real ambition to do anything with it,” he says, “I was a bit taken aback that people liked it as well as they did.”

Life is Grand For Bill Dickson

Bill Dickson’s smooth soothing vocals and classic folk rhythms carry his CD, “Isn’t Life Grand” along a dreamy road that’s full of wonder.  It makes no sense standing there wondering why, we’re all just a bunch of monkeys and isn’t life grand (when compared to the alternative)?

The album really is about how grand life is. In Bill Dickson’s world, there is a zest for life that makes even the painful some sort of celebration.  He sings about a long drunken night counting off the hours thinking about his wonder woman that can become every woman.  He follows the lure of the sea in a light shanty about “taking my life where the wind may blow”.  He’s created a classic campfire song in “This Moment” with the sage advice to “live in this moment.  Forget about the future, it may not be here and that’s a fact,” because “if you’re watered and fed and you had your poop that’s all that matters.”

Click on album cover to preview the tunes

There are a couple of femme fatales lurking in the songs: the shape-shifting wonder woman who’s kept him up wandering all night and the girl across the street who’s “gonna, oh my, I don’t want to say, but you can feel her rhythm from a thousand miles away.”  He can’t resist being pulled toward her but she would never be his, she likes choice too much.  The way he puts it, “She’s got feet and she’ll dance.”  As dangerous as they are, these women fill him with energy and the urge to dance his life away.

The urge to roam is evident in some songs.  In “No Matter Where We Roam,” after fibbing about having been someplace he wasn’t, he claims to have been to “Oilberta”, to “Vancouver, they speak Chinese there” and “to Chicago, I got the blues there,”  but  “no matter where we roam we’re all going home”.

Summit On The Mountain On A Sunday Evening

Review of Summit in concert at The Village at Blue, Sunday Aug. 14, 2017

Featuring photos by Susan Vogan

Blue Mountain Village was still crowded on Sunday evening at the end of a perfect summer’s day and the band that calls itself Summit took the stage for their second set.  They took command immediately. As they played more and more of the flowing crowd gathered around the Coca-Cola stage to stay and listen.  Kids sat cross-legged on the ground in front of the stage and couples danced off to the side in the shadow of the speakers.

Tyler YaremaJohn Bride’s guitar solos acted like a crowd magnet with his classic pyrotechnics, playing behind his head and with his teeth.   Equally alluring was the lineup of the three main vocalists, Gracie, Virgil Scott and Chris Scerri.  On this beautiful summer night weaving casually through the little streets of the village, you couldn’t help but stop and notice when you passed this band in action.  They rock.

Friday’s Summer Concert Best Yet

Meaford’s local impresario, Chris Scerri has a real talent for putting together a musical variety show.  Often concerts that feature many acts are of a random nature, but he takes care to carefully structure shows which consistently add up to be greater than the sum of their parts.  That was certainly the case with last Friday’s Meaford Summer Concert, the third in this year’s series.

It was an all-female show, a theme designed to support My Friend’s House, a crisis centre for women that serves Meaford and Collingwood.  It’s more fitting, though, to refer to it as an all-exceptional-talent show.  A half dozen acts followed closely on each other and built through the evening.  It had been moved indoors to the Gallery in Meaford Hall because of the rain.  About seventy chairs in the main room were filled and probably 30 more people stood in the adjoining room where the bar had been opened for the occasion.  That was an ideal setup, allowing them to talk and enjoy a drink while people in the main room were completely absorbed in the show.

It began with Sequoia Koop, a diminutive 8-year-old singer that Chris discovered at an open stage.  She was typically a little kid, looking down most of the time, wandering away occasionally from the microphone, and distracted at one point by an itch on her back.  But her delivery of the songs she did never faltered and were beautifully delivered with emotion, and dynamics, not once losing her pitch.    It’s always the sign of a great singer when you notice the song more than the performance, and her rendition of Allessia Cara’s “Beautiful” brought out the true meaning of the song.

Eden Young followed with a short set that compensated for the technical difficulties that marred her set at the first concert of the season, and this time her beautiful singing voice came through clearly.