May 2012 Issue. The Powerhouse women musicians feature!

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Leuty Station is like walking into a beautiful dream and not wanting to wake up from it.  Each song is a story of a life event that everyone can appreciate and associate a part of their own life with.  It’s hard to pick just one favourite song as the album is a mix of all the music genres I love.  As the sounds of Jazz, Latin and R&B flow out of my speakers, I find my self entranced with every single song.

How Long and Strawberry Girl are both powerfully touching songs.  One is about the fear of a cancer diagnosis and the emotions one goes through and the other about two people who have been married and madly in love with each other for over 50 years.  The listener will be gripped by the vivid power of the words and lyrics.

Last Train is a powerful rock ballad with a great Santanaesque riff in the middle of the song.  I’ve heard this song being compared to Tori Amos, but I personally think Heather Hill gives Tori a run for her money. The lyrics are so emotional and wrenching that I can feel what the protagonist of this song is going through as she is being chased.

Leuty Station, You Won’t Leave Me and Between the Leather and the Lining are biographically sensational.  The passion in these songs sends butterflies through me.  Though not a wife or mother myself, I as an artist and woman can appreciate the struggles one must go through when making life changing decisions.

Heather Hill is not only an incredibly talent musician, who weaves beautiful stories into music, she is an inspiration to her fellow artists.  Leaving the corporate world to pursue her dream as an artist is both brave and terrifying and you can feel the power of her love for her chosen profession in each and every song.

Leuty Station will be available online on May 12th and at the Drake Underground at 7:30pm for Heather’s CD release party. To book your advance copy, please email heather@heatherhill.ca.

Tracks
How Long
27
Leuty Station
Last Train
Second Chance
You Won’t Leave Me
Wading Through Normal
Between the Leather and Lining
Strawberry Girl
Never Grow Old

Do you ever listen to a CD and visualize the artist or band playing in a large stadium, to a massive crowd.  When I listen to Jessica Speziale, I see her on that stage.  This girl has rock star quality and if you’ve seen her live, you will agree that her amazing stage presence and powerful voice fills the room.

Right from the get go you are thrown into the world of rock with Brace Yourself and brace yourself you should.  The rest of this album is one amazing hit after another.  A perfect mix of rock and rock ballads and rock your socks off tunes, Jessica Speziale has the formula that hits the mark.

Though I loved each and every song on the album, Baby Face and Dear Reverie really stood out for me.  Baby Face should become every woman’s anthem for the type of man not to get involved with.  Dear Reverie is just an amazing rock song that makes you want to get up and dance your ass off.

The album itself is not only fun to listen to, Jessica Speziale herself is a tonne of fun to watch live.  A great musician, a talented song writer and a helluvah performer.  Get out to see her up close and personal, she will be kicking off her summer tour starting May 25 with tours all over Southern Ontario.

Tracks
Brace Yourself
Don’t Look Down
Turn Me On (Leave Me On)
Babyface
How To Be A Man
Dear Reverie

Upcoming Tour Dates:
May 25 – Mississauga
May 30 – Hamilton
June 2 – Bracebridge
June 8 – Ottawa
June 22 – Toronto
More to be confirmed!  Visit http://www.jessicaspeziale.com for up-to-date listings.
Website: http://www.jessicaspeziale.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jessicaspezialemusic
Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/jessicaspeziale
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/jessicaspeziale
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/spezzie
EPK: http://www.sonicbids.com/2/EPK/?epk_id=329968
Online Store: http://www.jessicaspeziale.com/store
Dear Reverie on iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/dear-reverie-ep/id483294418

Arlene Paculan is one beautiful and talented artist, musician and woman.  The brainchild behind the amazing Wonder Women events and of the production company Lene Green Mean Productions, she is a force of nature with an incredible voice to back it up.

Listening to Arlene’s CD ‘I’m Worth It’ feels like I’m at a tea party with all my favourite people, sipping from beautiful tea cups.  Each and every song on the album is a lyrical trip down a petal covered road with inspiring lyrics and a velvet smooth voice.

When music pulls out emotions in you that you would ordinarily hide, it says something about the strength of the songwriter.  One More Day does exactly that for me.  The line ‘cherish me for one more day’ pulls hard at my heart strings.  The entire song is an emotional roller coaster for me.

I’m Worth It has a 90’s R&B nostalgic feel to it.  Some names that came into mind as I listened to it are artists such as  Karyn White and Jody Watley. Some of my favourite ballads have been from those artists and Arlene’s music brings me back to a time when I would be not only listening to, but singing along with many of those great R&B artists.

Without sounding corny, this album is Worth It and is in my collection of favourites.  Pick up a copy or download the album at iTunes and get out to see Arlene Paculan live, she preforms all over Toronto and Mississauga and another edition of Wonder Women will be happening this summer.

Tracks
I’m Worth It
Get Over Yourself
Closer To You
One More Day
Your Voice
Forgive Me

Finally, someone in the Canuck indie scene has forged through the smithy of their souls poppy.  Ophelia’s Syndrome is an infectious combination of Kate Bush with Coldplay and are out of the common bread of the everyday ho-hum scene that we all have to endure to some degree or other. These days the celebration of the mediocre has reached some kind of apotheosis, whether endless revels of TV shows digging out the innards of pawn shop owner travail to Desperate House Wives of Bel Air to light bulbs for midgets.

This has to be the most banal cultural time in the Western Society. We have reached a kind of backwater awards show for the great unwashed, the philistines of the boondocks the bedrock of trash and detritus that should have been buried in some landfill but is instead dredged up and elevated to the light of day and then put a giant spotlight on it just in case you missed the point.

Fortunately we have groups like this Hamilton, Ontario wunderkind’s who, realizing this, explore this affect of Late Civilization, make fun of it and then dispose of it and move on especially in songs like, Passing Time, Heroes and Villains and As Long as There’s a Fight and Don’t Care. There is a kind of Cabaret element embedded in these tracks that adds irony to the lyrical refrains.

The band consists of Adrian McFarlane: drums, percussion Trina Nadeau: cello, percussion Deanna Wells: vocals, piano, B3, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, bells, percussion Josh Kohler: bass, vocals, percussion Andrew Barbisan: guitar, lap steel, vocals, percussion, siren Leon Furs – vocals, percussion, synthesizer, programming Loretta Hale: trumpet — all excellent musicians if somewhat lacking in imagination regarding arrangements but this is a small criticism  for this entertaining group’s  newest CD, released in April of this year. There are eleven tracks of which Passing Time and  Long Wait and How to Say Goodbye are the best pop tunes. Recorded at Catherine North Studios in Hamilton and produced by moon and 6 and Ophelia’s Syndrome. This CD has the listener friendly vibes of a winner for this group. Thumbs up!!

Tracks
Passing Time
Heroes and Villains
Today
Fight interlude
As Long as There’s a Fight
Don’t Care
Glue
Fire and Sea
Long Wait
Feet on Ground
How to Say Goodbye

MIP Power Trio’s Haggard & Bedraggled feels like a fun house party on a summers night.  I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun listening to a CD.  I found myself, on a few occasions, wanting to break out into dance while listening to Haggard & Badraggled on my iPod.  A little over a year ago I saw them for the first time at The Hard Luck Cafe.  That night, they not only stood out amongst the other bands they were on the bill with, the name Mip Power Trio has stuck in my craw since.

Growing up on Punk Rock music, I always appreciate when I can hear the influence in other musicians songs.  Mip’s quirky rock ballad’s such as Stone Wall not only have a punk influence, but there is some definite Rockabilly creeping out, making it one of my favourite tracks on the CD.

This album is a great mix of punk, folk, and country. Haggard & Dedraggled is a good time and a whole heap of fun.  An album that every type of music lover can appreciate and should have in their collection.

Band members
Mip (Guitar, vocals, songwriting)
Greg Kowalczyk (Bass)
Shane MacPherson (Drums)

Tracks
Bedraggled
Hometown
Grand Marquis
Whiskey Ain’t Cheap
Beowulf
Sweaters
Danger Ranger
Stone Wall
Northern Lights
Hidden

Life With More Cowbell’s Theatre Reviews

   

A history of hurt – Gruesome Playground Injuries @ Theatre Centre

When we were kids, my brothers had this friend, Stephen MacDonald, who was always getting into accidents and seriously injured. Like the time they were playing leap-frog over those large chunky wooden stakes that acted as a kind of fence/vehicle barrier around the park near our house. Stephen slipped and his leg came down on the stake, tearing open the inside of his thigh. Then there was the time when he fell on his elbow and dislocated it so it was bending the wrong way. My mum was a nurse, so the kids invariably came running for her. Surprisingly, Stephen survived his childhood of freak injuries, and he and my brothers lost touch over the years as childhood friends often do. Hopefully, he’s still with us.

Seeing BirdLand Theatre’s production of Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries yesterday afternoon reminded me of that kid – and I’m sure everyone knows, or may have even been, a Stephen MacDonald – although, unlike the play’s character “Doug,” I don’t know that Stephen had a “Kayleen” as  a close friend and intimate witness to the his history of scars.

Kayleen and Doug first meet in the school nurse’s office when they’re eight years old. Doug – pretending to be Evel Knievel, complete with cape – rode his bike off the school roof and cut his head open, while Kayleen has ongoing stomach problems. And thus begins a history of Doug being injured and Kayleen being there to witness, always asking “Does it hurt?” – and Doug believing that Kayleen has some magical touch that makes him feel better. The action of the play takes place out of time and space – the actors entering from a door upstage left, dressed only in their underwear. They emerge, back-lit, through fog and a cacophony of indiscernible sounds (design by Christopher Stanton) – like the garbled voices of memory, alien and distant, almost like they’re onboard an alien spacecraft. The stage (set design by Joseph Pagnan, who also did costumes, and lighting by Gareth Crew) is set with a variety of macabre and medical pieces: bubble wrap bodies, in various states of dismemberment, hanging on chains and sometimes lit red from inside; a bike chained up on the stage right wall; a jungle gym-like structure of scaffolding pipes up left contains one of the twisted plastic corpses; and the hospital items – IV bags, a wheelchair, crutches. Projected photos and scene titles (designed by Jordan Tannahill) guide the audience through the shifts in timing and events, the actors changing costume onstage.

It’s not all nasty and pain, though. Gruesome Playground Injuries has great beauty in the relationship between the two characters – both living with physical and emotional pain, but unable to connect in the long term. Doug and Kayleen’s reunions occur around dire and painful events. It’s like their relationship is too painful to maintain, but too intimate to dissolve entirely. What was especially intimate and tender were the moments when the actors applied make-up injuries to each other, then wiped them off each other after each scene, reinforcing the love and support between these two characters. Powerful, moving and darkly funny performances from Peter Mooney and Janet Porter.

Gruesome Playground Injuries continues at the Theatre Centre until May 13. For more info, visit the BirdLand Theatre website: http://www.birdlandtheatre.com/

Brilliant crazy fun @ Alumnae Theatre’s Così

“Asylums are the most inefficient places on this earth.”

But they can be a very effective place to produce an Italian opera by Mozart.

Alumnae Theatre’s production of Così opened on the main stage last night. Written by Louis Nowra and directed for Alumnae by Jane Carnwath, assisted by Seema Lakhani, Così takes us on a crazy dream of a journey as we follow Lewis on his first job out of university: directing patients in a play at a mental hospital. The rag-tag assortment of patients, all with various conditions, is led by Roy, who conceived the project and is hell-bent on performing Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte. Only thing is, no one can sing opera. Or speak Italian.

The play takes place in early 1970s Melbourne, in a burnt-out, graffiti-riddled theatre. Ed Rosing’s set (built by Lionel Boodlal, Doug Specht & Michael Vitorovitch) and lighting design gives just the right atmosphere of grimy, charred destruction and darkness, gradually evolving as the play progresses to the opera performance – exploding into circus-like colour, lights and disco ball stars. Costumes by Margaret “The Costumator” Spence follow the same trajectory, going from somewhat shabby, worn 70s street wear to fantastical period costumes, as envisioned by the hospital’s occupational therapy group. Rick Jones’s sound design complements the physical design, bringing popular music of the time, as well as selections from the opera. Lighting and music combine beautifully – both at the beginning and the end of the play – to accompany the magic that Roy experiences as he dreams of becoming a part of the music of the spheres, book-ending a lovely lyrical fantasy.

Carnwath’s incredible cast includes some familiar faces from previous Alum productions, and the actors playing the patients did some especially nice work committing to their respective characters and their conditions: Joanne Sarazen (Lewis’s girlfriend Lucy), Jamieson Child (Lewis, previously seen in You Are Here), Ryan Kotack (Lewis’s friend Nick), Michael Vitorovitch (the unpredictable and likely bipolar Roy, GuineaPigging & You Are Here), Sean Speake (social worker Justin), Matt Brioux (pyromaniac Doug, stage debut – and he’s a natural), Christopher Kelk (the silent former lawyer Henry, Palace of the End), Patricia Hammond (impulse control-impaired Cherry, A Delicate Balance & The Queens), Tina McCulloch (Ruth, who has OCD, After Mrs. Rochester), Laura Vincent (heroin addict Julie, GuineaPigging, Palace of the End & Closer) and James Warner (pill-popping musician Zac).

Lovely work from this cast, who displayed commitment, passion and respect for characters who refuse to be defined by their conditions and are driven by a desire to rise above the chaos of their lives to create something beautiful. Just a few of the stand-out moments include: Ruth counting her steps as she sorts out her blocking; Cherry’s constant force-feeding of Lewis (her crush) and scary adeptness with a flick knife; Zac in lederhosen, playing Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries on accordion; and the various hilarious and astute pronouncements (like “Humility can limit you.”) issued by Roy throughout.

Holding all this together are co-producers Natalya Demberg (who, along with Sandy Schneider, put on a tasty opening night reception spread), Ellen Green and Barbara Larose. And presiding over the run from the booth is SM Margot “Mom” Devlin, who also operates lights, assisted on deck by intrepid ASMs Barbara Blonska, Sandra Burley and Pona Tran, and in the booth by sound op Emily Macnaughton.

Alumnae Theatre’s production of Così runs until April 28, with a talkback with cast and production team after the matinée on Sunday, April 22. Please visit their website for details and reservations: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/1112cosi.html

p.s. – As promised, I added a few pics from The Beautiful and the Damned to yesterday’s post. Tonight, I’m off to George Brown Theatre School to see the third year class’s production of Orpheus Descending, featuring Tennille Read (who Alumnae Theatre folks/audience will remember from Lady Windermere’s Fan & Pride and Prejudice).

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  1. Pingback: Lipstik Indie Reviews: « Ophelia Syndrome

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