Record Review – Pandemonium

“Pandemonium” by My Sweet Patootie reviewed by Bill Monahan

My Sweet Patootie has laid claim to a special niche with music fans and “Pandemonium” their fourth independent CD is a treasure that highlights the range of emotions from heartfelt to zany, and the excellence of musicianship that have become their particular style.  It’s a style all their own in which everything old is new again.

Click on the album cover to sample the music

The most outstanding aspect of this band is their musicianship, but their songs hold their own as vignettes of romance and joie de vivre.

Some of the songs are stuffed with delightful wordplay that mimics their lightning licks on violin and guitar.  The title song is one of these, with lines that you have to listen to several times to pick up on all the clever references.  It is truly a “pandemonium epiphany” and a whole lot of fun to set the pace for the album.

They perfect the humourous take on the complications of love with “The Epic Tale of Doris and the Pig Latin Lover”, a wonderful odyssey through a loveless marriage, romance born in the supermarket over mango sorbet, with a tasty little meringue of latin guitar work in the middle, all with a happy ending, despite the fact that “love is ickle-fay”.

The other side of My Sweet Patootie is in the warm, emotional songs that are sincere and moving, often expressed in imagery that reflects the natural environment of their Grey County home.  “More Than I Need” particularly hits home in this way.  It’s a hymn-likeplea for opening up our hearts to those in need.

And they touch on Grey County history with “Damnation”, a look at temperance-era Owen Sound, when the infamous intersection of “Damnation Corners”, with its taverns, was a block away from “Salvation Corners” with its four churches.

Despite the upbeat and comical element that is so much a part of their music, they can get a bit testy, even though it’s tongue-in-cheek.  “Wear Out Your Welcome” starts as a plea for friends to come calling but ends in a bitter sense of who cares, anyway, you’ll be sorry.  And “That Certain Someone” pretends to be about a sweet infatuation but just a few bars in you recognize that all too common species, the garden variety arsehole: “If you tell him where it’s at, he’ll tell you where to go.”

Throughout the recording, every time her bow strides across the violin strings, Sandra Swannell evokes emotion like few players can.  She can be sad, ironic, teasing, syrupy or bursting with life.  It’s interesting that the on the most sincere song on the record she puts down her fiddle and lets her voice tell the story of “I Feel Your Love.”

Terry Young is her match in instrumental facility and when they take on “Orange Blossom Special” it is a tour de force that completely re-invents the old standard in a way that will have you jumping out of your seat.  They have a way of doing that with songs you’ve heard a million times.  This time is was Sandra’s playing on “Orange Blossom Special” and on the last CD, it was Terry’s extraordinary guitar work on “Over The Rainbow”.  Their voices, blending in harmonies throughout the record, are particularly pleasing on “Orange Blossom Special”.

My Sweet Patootie is not afraid of sentimentality.  Their cover of the depression era song  “Make Yourself A Happiness Pie” celebrates the style of that era when songs were specifically created to provide optimism through tough times, when the bluebird was the ubiquitous symbol of optimism (an image they revisit in “Diane”).  For me, their authentic rendition evokes images of Busby Berkeley movies, Ruby Keelor, Dick Powell, and a hundred pairs of ladies’ legs.

“Rendevous” is an original take on the same mood, a song that has you strolling the streets of Paris to the strains of a Stephane Grapelli style violin, staring into the eyes of your sweetheart .  And “Diane” is another romantic dream in a similar style.

A My Sweet Patootie record wouldn’t be complete without a country dance tune where the fiddle and guitar go to town.  There are three on this CD,   “Lead Me Now”, “Broken Fiddle Blues” and “Stop, Drop and Roll”, a song that deserves major airplay.

“Pandemonium” is a great celebration of life and music, great summer listening, but it is even more effective after you have seen the band live, reminding you of the energy they put into their performances.  You can catch them this Sunday evening, July 30th, performing for free at the next in the Owen Sound Harbour Night series.  As the songs says, “You’ll be shocked and amazed, it’s a pandemonium epiphany”.

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