Reviews by Paul McGee

Amanda Rheaume Holding Patterns Self Release

This talented singer-songwriter releases her fourth record and shows plenty of growth and maturity since her Keep a Fire release in 2013. Produced by Jim Bryson who does a really excellent job, the twelve songs featured are full of melody and catchy arrangements. The musicians gel together and display great talent in bringing the songs to life. Blair Hogan and Jim Bryson shine at various stages with some tasty guitar moments.

Many of the songs are coming from a personal place and the woes of relationships are covered in Blood From A Stone and Dead Horse. The prospect of turning attraction into something more substantial is covered with Get To The Part, Mind Over Matter and Time to Land. Keeping a positive outlook on life is the subject of Beat the Rain, Wolf Of Time and the outstanding track here, All That You Need, a song that asks for belief in our own strength and talents. Red Dress, finds Rheaume honouring the over 1,180 murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada. 

The song The Day The Mountain Fell, refers to a 1958 landslide in Prince Rupert, British Columbia that crushed small community of houses and two men who rescued a baby. The baby was a cousin of Rheaume’s and they called her ‘The Miracle Child’ because she was the only survivor.

Rheaume sings in a sweet but strong vocal with a nice tone to her voice, while the folk- tinged feel of the songs lull the listener into a nice cosy place of seemingly familiar territory. Nine of the tracks are co-writes with Amana writing two others and Jim Bryson pitching in with the closing song, On Disappearing, a perspective on passing time and our sensitive natures. A very engaging release and one that asks to be heard.  

Brian Cullman The Opposite of Time Sunnyside

Twelve songs and all written by an artist who has gathered an impressive list of musicians to bring this project to life. Co-produced by Cullman and Jimi Zhivago (great name), who also contributes on multiple instruments, this NYC writer/producer/musician shows enough confidence here to be a real player. This is only his second solo outing but he has Jenni Muldaur on backing vocals joined by Leni Morrison (The Darling Sins), Glenn Patscha (Ollabelle, Sheryl Crow) on piano and organ, Byron Isaacs (Ollabelle, Levon Helm) plays bass, Aaron Johnston & Didi Gutman from the Brazilian Girls are on drums & keyboards respectively, Jimi Zhivago (Glen Hansard, Rufus Wainwright, Kim Taylor) plays guitar, and Hector Castillo (David Bowie, Bjork, Lou Reed) engineered and mixed.  

Wow, this guy has some CV, having shared experiences in London with the likes of John and Beverly Martyn, Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, Richard and Linda Thompson and writing for such publications as Creem, Musician, Rolling Stone and The Paris Review, among others. He also produced sessions for Lucinda Williams & Taj Mahal, Ollabelle, and Persian-Indian group Ghazal; collaborating with Youssou N'dour on a record for Senegalese guitar wizard Jimi Mbaye; producing the soundtrack to the documentary Gypsy Caravan, and scoring Padre Nuestro, winner of the 2008 Sundance Festival.

Eclectic does not really cover it all but the songs here are the culmination of all these influences and really hit home as a work of real accomplishment. The swamp groove of Walk The Dog Before I Sleep is pitched against the slow gentle groove of Time If There Is Time and Hands Of The Rain. Beneath The Coliseum is a folk strum that harks back to an earlier time of innocence and easy days while the sound of Memphis Madeline is Dylanesque in content and delivery. Well worth investigation.

Robin Greenstein Tears & Laughter Windy 

This artist has been playing and recording since the 1980’s and this release is her first in over a decade. Robin plays both guitar and banjo, describing her music as "Acousticness". She mixes many styles with folk, jazz and blues highlighting her acoustic talents. She has also looked at women's lives thru traditional Anglo and Afro-American folk songs, releasing Images of Women Vol 1 & 2

There are similarities to both Dar Williams and Mary Chapin Carpenter in the strong vocal delivery and the story-telling narratives. Hole in the Ground speaks of the troubles in the World while the light jazz groove of West Coast Swingin’ sits well against Eric Clapton cover of Tears in Heaven, co-sung with Frank Reno and a new take on a well-known song. A Tale Of Two Cities is about the aftermath of 9/11 and the coming together of communities in N.Y.C. and New Jersey. 

The relationship woes of Where There’s A Will There’s a Way reflects on a love gone cold with the routine of life; finely observed and well perceived with a message of enduring hope. The death of a child is sensitively visited in Happy New Year and the spiritual message of Buddha Watches Silently reflects on the inner journey we all must balance along our weary path through this world. 

John McDonough Surrounding Colors McDonough

Austin, Texas is home to this singer songwriter who releases his second collection of songs in the last 2 years. Dreams & Imagination was reviewed here previously and this time out the same studio band has remained, with the players delivering on all fronts. The 10 songs featured all display a confidence in the delivery and writing as we are given a strong mix of rock ballads and up tempo workouts. He is a fine guitar player and the piano and keyboards of Cole Gramling add real colour to the arrangements. Co-produced by McDonough and Kevin Butler (drums & electric guitar) the drive of the opening songs Tonight’s The Night, Save A Life and Open My Arms And Breathe lead into the more reflective Nowhere Else To Run. The Place Where I Belong is a country influenced groove that sits well alongside the easy tempo of All The Gold. Another solid project brought to fruition by this interesting artist who is quietly involved in a d.i.y. career that has to be applauded. 

Mary Beth Cross Feels Like Home MBC

Six songs on this mini release from a folk/roots artist who hails from Colorado. She has been making music since 2006 and has 4 previous releases to her name. Cross sings with a clear sweet voice and the cover versions of Kathy’s Song (Paul Simon), Long, Long Time (Gary White) and Shady Grove (Doc Watson) are given a bluegrass treatment that sits nicely alongside her original songs, Threshing Time, and Cottonwood Creek

However, it is the eight-minute medley of Summertime/Moondance (George Gershwin/ Van Morrison), mixed with her own original Pas De Deux (Francais) that is the highlight here. It is an audacious attempt to link 2 standards with unknown melodies but it does work well. The musicians play superbly together with bass (Adrian Engfer), banjo (Chris Pandolfi) and fiddle/mandolin (Jeremy Garrett), prominent in the mix and doing a fine job in backing up the fluent guitar work of Tyler Grant and vocals of Mary Beth as she follows her muse. Production by Chris Pandolfi is very impressive with a clear and spacious sound highlighting the excellent musicians throughout.

Amanda Rheaume 'Keep a Fire'- Self Release

A third release from this Ottawa based singer songwriter with a country folk influence. These ten songs are written by Amanda and her musical partner John McDonald, with the project being produced by Ross Murray.

The vocals are very distinctive and her roots are based in the Metis people, one of the aboriginal settlers of Canada. The songs pay tribute to her ancestors who endured sea voyages, navigated around North America, lived in mixed-race relationships and who framed early legislation in the province of Manitoba. Titles like Strongest Heart, Write You a Letter, Passed Down the Line and You Walk Beside Me give a sense of the look back through family history and the need to keep the heritage alive.

These story songs are well arranged and delivered with a sound that is based around an ensemble of musicians that serve the songs with an impressive economy in the playing.