This week in the Midweek Music Mix we look at the latest releases from The Montgomery Street Band, Jamie Comeau & The Crooked Teeth and Kusta Valli.
The Montgomery Street Band – The Basement Bytes
The Montgomery Street Band aren’t quite a bluegrass band, at least not in the traditional sense. But they’re also not exactly what I’d call a folk group either. Drawing heavily on the foundations and common instrumentation of both these roots-based genres, Patrick Gushue (mandolin/ﬁddle), Liam Keith-Jacques (guitar/dobro) and Jason Flores (upright bass) are helping bring a fresh face to Maritime folk music with progressive arrangements and a willingness to challenge tradition.
The group have gone through a few changes since releasing their last album. Banjo player Scott Michaud and guitarron player Calum Jackson are no longer with the band although Jackson remains a collaborator when time allows between his commitments as a solo performer. The loss of these two players – Jackson particularly – has lessened in Jazz aspect of MSB’s compositions but appears to have strengthened the bluegrass side of things by placing the guitar, mandolin, and bass at the heart of the band.
The Basement Bytes is the group’s first release with its current lineup. And while MSB is now a slightly smaller unit, their adventurous approach to roots music remains a defining part of the ensemble. The album begins with a distinct bluegrass feel that carries through the first few tracks and returns occasionally throughout the record. Embers, the album’s third track finds the trio playing with song structure a bit more freely, a trend that continues into the instrumental track Bushfire, culminating in the final track, Taking Turns @thesametime, where Gushue, Keith-Jacques and Flores seem to break all the rules when it comes to traditional soloing.
The Basement Bytes finds the Montgomery Street Band well on their way to creating a sound all their own.
Jamie Comeau & The Crooked Teeth – self-titled
The opening track on Jamie Comeau & the Crooked Teeth’s self-titled full-length debut sums up a lot of what this band and this album is all about. From the opening blues riff and accompanying rhythm that dances between locomotive shuffles and straight ahead rock patterns, the band quickly lay out the foundation for the seven tracks to follow in an expertly calculated manner creating a fierce hybrid of country swing and punk rock intensity.
Throughout much of the album, Comeau and his band sound as if they are on the edge of letting loose, struggling to rein in the intense energy their live shows are known for. As a result, Jamie Comeau & The Crooked Teeth moves from track to track building power and excitement all the way through.
Recorded by Jay Merle at Marshall Studios and mastered by Brad Perry and Evan Hansen at The Recordery, the album features a number of guest appearances including sax work by Kelly Waterhouse of The Hypochondriacs. This combination of supporting talent backing an already powerhouse quartet help make Jamie Comeau & The Crooked Teeth one of the strongest full-length albums to come out of the province in 2019.
Merlin Mortician – Kusta Valli
What would a Midweek Music Mix be without featuring a new noise project from somewhere deep below the surface of traditional music practices?
Static, feedback, phase hums and overdriven synth lines that hold steady while knobs are turned and levels manipulated. That’s probably the best I could do to describe what this seven track album presents. A piece of challenging contemporary art, Kusta Valli by Merlin Mortician could best be described as Black Noise. It’s not the kind of recording you can leave running in the background while you attempt to read a lengthy essay of grab a quick snooze. There is little relaxing or meditative about any of these tracks. It’s all or nothing like few other releases are. 0-100.
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