Sunday November 23, 2014

CD same old country

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Force of Horses
Jay Semko
4 out-of 10

I'll be the first to admit I'm not the biggest fan of "commercialized" country, and although I have massive amounts of respect for artists such as Merle Haggard, Townes Van Zandt, and Hayes Carll, they're in a league of their own. True troubadours of the road. And I do realize, as with any genre, there becomes a set of standards; standard themes, sounds, tones. I for one, am getting really tired of hearing about tail gate parties, car metaphors, leaving a bad woman/man and 'filling someone else's cowboy boots'. Jay Semko's record Force of Horses is nothing short of prepackaged country ideals and tunes.

It's a short album, only six songs, and in this limited time frame he touches base with every cliché known to Nashville. To say the least, I was bored after the second song. Yes, I was tapping my toe while humming the same familiar borrowed tunes, but mostly out of habit.

Maybe I'm a snob, or maybe I just like originality in art. If a musician can take a country tune but saturate it with amazing songwriting and bring something unexpected, I'm all over that. Semko, however, has done nothing to please these ears besides pick and choose guitar riffs from a limited catalogue that I seem to have a soft spot for. In my mind the only thing that saves this record is the great musicianship.

Well, there it is. Yes, I feel bad for ripping apart this album but I cannot pretend to be impressed; but don't let my personal bias stop you from hearing this record, it's probably best that you make up your own mind.


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Sweet Alibi
7.5 out-of 10

Once in a while an independent album will come along that is so interesting, well put together, and bursting with talent that you can't help but become an instant fan, even if it's outside your usual liking. This happened when I popped in Sweet Alibi's self-titled record Sweet Alibi. This young Winnipeg trio fold intricate vocal harmonies into a batter of jazz, folk, R&B, and soul stylings.

The opening track "Pick Me Up" works around a steady reggae groove and is an excellent introduction to the blend of voices that you hear through the album. The harmonies here are tight and tasteful and continue as such.

The girls of Sweet Alibi are also multi-instrumentalists as well as fantastic singers. They play all off the accompaniment on the record except for the percussion, bass, and trumpet. Speaking of the trumpet, it was one of the highlights of the album for me. As sparse as it is, it cracks with just the right vibrance every time it kicks in, adding another level of great melody to every track it graces.

The album stretches many genres and crosses many musical paths. At times it edges on cliché, but I'd rather say it's just familiar. What sets things apart is the use of the harmonica and banjo. For example, "Don't Tell Me" brings a unique folk roots feeling to the album without feeling out of place amongst the jazz, swing, or soul in the rest of the tunes.

I feel that Sweet Alibi is still a new outfit looking for their pronounced voice. Though they seem to be talented enough to nail any genre they decide to work within, I would have liked to see a clearer train of thought. Overall the record is a great listen for anyone who likes a wide variety of music.

Sweet Alibi will be performing at the 5th Avenue Cup and Saucer this coming May.




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