Bret Welty: Unlimited Edition – A Music Review

Bret Welty LiveBret Welty is a jack of all trades when it comes to his musical abilities. He’s a blues and rock songwriter, singer and overall performer who has been honing his trade for over 25 years. August 23rd sees the release of his latest album Unlimited Edition full of blues and rock anthems founded in American patriotism, religion and all around good times.

There is so much in Welty’s musical genre styles that I love and each song has its very own uniqueness to it. The tracks do carry a lot of the religious sentiment that old school blues and country songs proselyted, but despite the overt religious context to many of the tracks there is definitely something for everyone on this album.

One track, Black and Blues, stands out as a sultry jazz ballad where the music takes a touch of a backseat to a much deeper lyrical exploration. It also gives Welty a chance to showcase a more subtle vocal set, where he demonstrates his range as a musician in every facet. It also features one of the albums best guitar solos at the mid-point, reminiscent of a Jeff Beck style solo.

 Bret Welty ArtBaby Come Back is just a whole lot of fun. Classic blues style where it’s just too much damn fun. Welty’s playful baritone vocals are accented by his skillful guitar playing that never seems to falter throughout this album.

A lot of the tracks feature great harmonica riffs, playful rhythmic guitar spots and a driving drumbeat that keeps everything on point. There are no weak tracks on this album, although there are a handful that just really stand out. Sunny Day is the perfect the song to follow Baby Come Back as it continues in the same musical vein. No Fakin It For You adds more of a classic rock feel to the album.

One of my favourite tracks on the album is Bring ‘Round That Chariot which mixes the lyrical feel of an old spiritual tune with a bluesy jazz baseline, a rocking rhythm guitar and a youthful exuberance to the content.  Finally you can’t have this album without its title track Unlimited Edition more of a country-rock anthem than anything else, but it really seems to capitalize on everything that Welty carefully unpacks as this album plays out.

Bret WeltyOne of the reasons I keep this website going is because I love to discover new music and I love to share what’s good… and what’s not so good. Bret Welty definitely fits into the: what’s good category! Unlimited Edition is an album that is definitely worth the time and could quite easily become an album that I feel obligated to pop into my car whenever I travel to the United States as it perfectly captures how I imagine all American Patriots want their music to feel and sound.

For more on Bret Welty check out his website!

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Dog of Panic: Tip of the Tongue – A Music Review

Tip of the TongueDog of Panic is a prog-rock band out of Springfield, Illinois with a very cross-generational sound. With one foot in the 80’s rock scene and one foot breaking ground in today’s rock market Dog of Panic becomes a force to be reckoned with.  The three member band really pour their heart and soul into their most recent album Tip of the Tongue, released in February 2013.

Before listening to any album I always read over the titles of the track to see if I can figure out what I’m getting into. With titles like Big Fat Hissy Fit, Saurce or No Sauce? And Pee In Your Butt I truly wasn’t expecting much more than a juvenile album of beginner musicians going for shock value. Holy hell can I ever admit when I am wrong.

The Band (2)Dog of Panic’s Tip of the Tongue is a musical odyssey. The album is so well constructed and is musically flawless. With hat tips to all notions of musical genres Dog of Panic manages to mix an 80’s rock theme with current alt-rock genres, along with ties to funk, jazz and punk.

The second thing you are going to notice after the professional musicianship is the very distinct vocals for lead singer Dan Rohdhe. At first I found them off-kilter and felt like they clashed with the music, but the more I listened to the album the more they took on a life of their own. Rohde is able to take, what sound like, untrained vocals, and make them a significant part of the music. In the same way that Gordon Downie of The Tragically Hip has made his vocals the defining part of their band Rohde’s vocals stick out and really help guide the music.

The BandThere aren’t any really weak songs on the album, but some of the strongest ones include the opening track Stromboli, Admiral, Atoning Through Thought, Lysergic and Hurdles, which has a resonation very similar to one of my favourite bands out of Atlanta, Georgia, Rehab.

And, I was harping on titles earlier on this track earlier on in this review, but Sauce or No Sauce? is clearly one of the best musical tracks on this album. And despite the juvenile aspects of the lyrics of Pee in Your Butt, the music is once again a whole lot of fun… it’s a shame that the content of the song is so contradictory to the seriousness of the rest of the album.

Dog of PanicTo check out more of Dog of Panic find them on Facebook!

To check out some of their tracks find them on Bandcamp!

July 2014 Comedy Schedule

ChucklesJuly is competition month in the comedy world here in Ottawa. The competitions, overall, are just friendly endeavors, with a little cash at the end for some of the finalists and winners.

My July calendar is pretty packed, especially as I am in all 3 of the comp’s around the city.

If you’ve been thinking about coming out to any of my sets – this is the month to do it!

Any and all support is appreciated!

The Competitions:

Saturday, July 5, 2014 – Ballygiblin’s –Lanarks Laughs Battle. 151 Bridge Street. Carleton Place. $5.00 Cover. 8:30 Start Time. 613-253-7400 for reservations. The top 3 Seasoned Comics and top 3 Up and Comer Comics will move onto the finals on Saturday, July 19, 2014. This July 5 show is being hosted by the very funny Geoff Mackay and headlined by Ottawa’s stand-up legend, the great Mike MacDonald.

Monday, July 7, 2014 – Absolute Comedy – Prove You’re a Comic Competition. Preston Street. $4.00 Cover. 8:30 Start Time. 613-233-8000 for reservations. Top 5 comics of the evening (as selected by a panel of judges) will go on to complete July 8 and 9 for audience votes. The top comic with audience votes will move onto the finals in August 2014.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 – Yuk Yuk’s Ottawa – The 2014 Fatty Arbuckle Cup Summer Comedy Competition. Elgin Street. $6.00 Cover. 8:30 Start Time. 613-236-5233 for reservations. 10 comedians take the stage. 1 comedian (I believe) moves onto the finals at the end of August.

Everything Else

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 – Patty Boland’s – Clarence Street in the Market. No Cover. No Reservations Needed. This room holds between 40 – 50 people. It fills up fairly quickly, but this room is a whole heap of fun! I will be MC’ing/hosting this show!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 – Patty Boland’s – Clarence Street in the Market. No Cover. No Reservations Needed. This room holds between 40 – 50 people. It fills up fairly quickly, but this room is a whole heap of fun! I will be headlining this show!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 – Patty Boland’s – Clarence Street in the Market. No Cover. No Reservations Needed. This room holds between 40 – 50 people. It fills up fairly quickly, but this room is a whole heap of fun! I will be MC’ing/hosting this show!

Hope to see you guys there!

Music Review: Misha Kolesoski – Scenes from the Cold

Misha Kolesoski - Scenes from the COldScenes from the Cold is an adventure in sound from composer Misha Kolesoski who hails originally from Phoenix, Arizona but finds himself settled in Eugene, Oregon. Kolesoski’s sound carries many international and cultural influences that in and of itself it feels like a trip around the world. There is so much talent in this little album that it’s obvious he is definitely going to be going places. Currently Kolesoski teaches piano, voice and music theory, while writing music and scores for independent theatre and films.

Footsteps in the Cold is the first track on this album and its cadence is flawless. Steeped in oriental culture the orchestral track turns classical music on its head with an amazing hip-hop backing, bringing classical music into the modern age and accessible for all. The song definitely continues to build to a great climatic ending which I instantly imagined fitting perfectly into a Wachowski Siblings feature film.

The following track Her Hair at Dawn continues with the oriental influences but slows down the pace. It really relies on the simplicity of having two instruments play off each other.

One of my favourite tracks on the album is Church Hymns in Wintertime which picks up the beat again and really becomes a piece similar to a variations on a theme piece. The greatest aspect of this song is you expect a specific and certain resolution and right when you think its coming, Kolesoski changes where he is taking the track, making it an adventure you can’t help but find exciting to follow along.

What She Looks Like on the Horizon sounds like the start of an indie-rock folk song. I just found myself waiting for the lyrics to kick in before forgetting that this entire album is pure instrumental.  And once it finds itself around the 45 second mark it’s transcendent and reminiscent of the sound we experienced in Footsteps in the Cold.

Snow Reminds Us of Singing does to What She Looks Like on the Horizon what Her Hair at Dawn did to Footsteps in the Cold. It slows the instrumentation down and is much more of a reflective piece. It does pick up at the midpoint but still carries the very reflective and meditational thematic elements presented earlier on in the album.

The album closes on The Sound of the Bell almost doesn’t feel like it belongs on the album in comparison to the rest of the tracks. It’s light on the instrumentation. Its beats backing don’t seem to fit the mold. It’s still a very strong track, especially once the piano enters at the 1:20 mark, but it just feels out of place on this album.

Misha KolesoskiThe title of the album Scenes from the Cold fits the pieces well, although there is a coldness to them, there is also an awakening as the album progresses. The cold is romanticized, but hopeful. The album comes across with a message like, winter is coming to an end, the cold is ending, and there is hope for bright, sunny and warm days ahead. This is the first I’ve heard of Kolesoski’s material. But it definitely won’t be the last.

Check out Misha Kolesoski’s material on YouTube! 

Check out Scenes from the Cold on Amazon! 

Check out Misha Kolesoski on Facebook! 

June is Fringe Month! Montreal & Ottawa Fringe Plans!

Montreal FringeThis coming weekend I am going on an adventure!  As a representative and reviewer for On Stage: Ottawa’s Theatre Arts Magazine I will be travelling out to Montreal and covering some of the shows taking place at Montreal Fringe this year. I’ll be in Montreal, alongside my buddy Sarvesh Kumar, seeing and reviewing shows from June 13 – June 15.

You can follow the adventures on Twitter @matthewschamp where I will be posting tweviews (Twitter Reviews) after each show. You can follow the full reviews over at On Stage or check out some of the reviews as we post them to our Facebook Page.

Ottawa FringeIf you’re in Montreal, I highly suggest you check out the Montreal Fringe, it’s always a great time and you’re guaranteed to see theatre that you won’t get to see anywhere else in the world!

The following week I start my intensive coverage of Ottawa Fringe (June 19 – 29) which will also be hosted over on On Stage.

Fringe is one of my favourite times of the year… you get to see some of the best and some of the worst theatres ranging from the independents to seasoned professionals!

Happy Fringing!

The Burden of Self Awareness – GCTC – A Theatre Review

GCTC-2013-14-posterloop-BurdenThe Great Canadian Theatre Company is finishing off their 2013-14 season with the world premiere of George F. Walker’s The Burden of Self Awareness. The play follows Michael (Eric Coates), a very rich man, who, after having an existential moment of self-discovery decides to give away his entire fortune to those in need. The only hindrance to Michael’s plan is his wife, Judy (Sarah McVie), who despite having signed a post-nup, plans on finding a way to keep all of the money for herself. Enter private detectives, hit men, screwy psychiatrists and escorts for what is one of the most absurd dark comedies I have ever seen on stage.

The Burden of Self Awareness takes a little while to really find its footing. As the show begins the audience finds Michael and Judy arguing about finances with Judy’s psychiatrist. The scene becomes increasingly maddening as the characters continuously talk in circles around giving money away vs. keeping money for themselves. The screwy psychiatrist provides no help and by the end of the scene Michael is offstage and Judy is taking off her panties and sliding onto Stan the Psychiatrist’s (Paul Rainville) lap.

Burden - Sarah McVie backlit with Eric Coates and Paul Rainville - Photo by GCTC Andrew AlexanderThis becomes the perfect setup for what the audience can expect content wise. It does have a mature content warning for a reason, but a lot of time there seems to be no real need for much of the crass and base content except for filler. It’s definitely not for character development, if anything; it’s for the degradation of each individual character, who transformed from deplorable to despicable very quickly.

While the characters were quite despicable the cast was actually quite talented. Eric Coates is an extremely skilled actor who was always engaging when on stage. Paul Rainville, another extremely talented actor, provided the few chuckles that I needed to stop myself from truly despising the content of this play.
Burden - Samantha Madely, Eric Coates, Sarah McVie with gun - Photo by GCTC Andrew AlexanderLike the stage setup (3 small columns that swivel) there was a lot of vacancy and free space in the production. The depth of each character was shallow and superfluous and each time there was remotely a connection to anyone in the play the audience is greeted to a 30 – 45 second black out between the relatively short scenes, which is where I instantly lost attention to what was going on with the distracting, overtly loud and ill-placed music that was meant to fill the time that each black out took.

Burden - Samantha Madely, Paul Rainville - Photo by GCTC  Andrew AlexanderThere is no ending to The Burden of Self Awareness. And while I can understand the use of the “not using or needing an ending” as a theatrical convention it doesn’t work in a play that is as linear and direct as this play is. This play definitely does not work on a theatre such as the GCTC’s and would probably find a better, and more forgiving, audience on a Fringe stage. God knows that without it’s unnecessary 20 minute intermission it could fit into a 60 minute time slot.

Overall, good acting can only take a play so far and The Burden of Self Awareness quickly becomes a burden to sit through.

Burden - Samantha Madely, Paul Rainville, Sarah McVie - Photo by GCTC Andrew AlexanderThe Burden of Self Awareness runs until June 22, 2014 at The Great Canadian Theatre Company.

You can find ticket information here.

Also check out the review for The Burden of Self Awareness by my colleagues at On Stage: Ottawa’s Art & Theatre Magazine who enjoyed it much more than I did!