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Carolyn Mark and Tolan McNeil RULE THE WORLD!!

It all starts with me making a bit of a pain in the ass of myself, bothering whomever I could think of who might be able to help me get my hands on a copy of the new CM & TM tour-only record, called The Sound of the Tone-Echoes from the Past. All of this because I had to miss her recent show close-ish to my house because of work (gah!), yet I dearly wanted to support these two fine artists. And then yesterday, guess what arrived in the mail! With an Air Carolyn sticker on it, and a hand-written (wine-stained) note from Carolyn herself! Oh yes!

You know, I like to think I know my way around the English language fairly well. But standing there in my porch, words failed me. Completely. The joy, it… damn. This is SO SWEET!!!

And the record itself? So awesome. A window into theis pair’s genuine, funny and bright world. Trademark gigantic songs, with Carolyn’s stunning vocals and Tolan’s stellar guitar and so much more, intercut with hilarious answering machine excerpts. Oh yes. Any one of these songs is better than anything you’ve heard lately. Seriously.

My SINCERE thanks to everyone involved (you know who you are), and especially to you Carolyn (if you ever read this). You rock!

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Tolan McNeil, Circus Devils, Anne Lindsay, Sarah Jane and Corey Heuvel

First off, a note to let you know that I’m done with the haiku, for now. It was interesting, but it’s time for another shift. So, be it a sentence, a paragraph or a full-page diatribe, it will be what it will be.

Ready? Go!

Tolan McNeil – Give ‘Er

We offer our MASSIVE thanks to Andrew, formerly of Red Cat, for ensuring we got our sweaty little hands on the happy sounds of this long-sought record. Thanks heaps, Dude! We love Tolan, here at the KMA, and what a treat this record is. Completely brilliant guitar work all over the place, whip-smart thoughtful and funny lyrics, and a wry wink and a smile that comes naturally. This is the stuff of dreams, of talent displayed boldly, of music that ought to be heard by everybody everywhere. This country-tinged truckrawk rules!

Circus Devils – Gringo

Here we have wee-hours basement experimentation done slightly more quietly, so as not to wake up the house. Every Pollard record has a mood – here it’s a brilliant, gentler breeze fuzz-rockin’ us from the summer of love.

Anne Lindsay – News From Up The Street

If you can you get Anne Lindsay, Jason Fowler, Al Cross and Oliver Schroer (among many others) together, you just know the resulting record is going to be a blast. To me, it sounds simultaneously like being down east, and those Scottish bands that have been taking old standards and dressing them up in new clothes, and jazz torch song vocals and instrumentation and some ‘world music’ and… Wow!

Sarah Jane – Kind Of Day It’s Been

We caught Sarah Johnston at this year’s Knox Youth Showcase (may Knox R.I.P.), and here she offers up a tasty disc of Lisa Loeb-like acoustic folk pop songs mixed with a sense of the blues that feels great. Her vocals, in both English and French, are powerful and clear, and what she’s saying needs to be heard. Yes, I liked this very much, indeed. Keep an ear open for her, folks. Hers is a name you should be hearing more shortly.

Corey Heuvel – Evers

Another performer to whom we were introduced at this year’s Knox Youth Showcase (may Knox continue to R.I.P.), Corey’s disc is a display of guitar and songwriting prowess that got multiple plays here in our house. My only complaint is that, as a 5 track EP, it’s tasteful but I’m greedy and find it a bit short… A full album is anticipated, Corey!

Carolyn Mark and Tolan McNeil – Live Bootleg 2005-08-26 Main Hall, Montreal

It is completely awesome and fitting that my first actual review of 2009 is of the lovely and exceedingly talented Carolyn Mark, together with the brilliant Tolan McNeil. Hooray!

Thanks to our friends at the Vinyl Diner in Saskatoon (Hi Stu!), we have a real gem in our happy little hands. This is a home-made bootleg on CD-R, probably done by Carolyn and friends during some late-night packaging project. It’s blue-stitched cardboard stamped with a record player on the cover and a bird on the back (presumably a bird on a wire?). Surely this was a tour-only, limited edition thing, and I am entirely honoured to give this beautiful artifact a good home here in our collection.

The sound quality is superb, and (as you can imagine) the song selection is totally excellent. Just like when we saw her perform in St. Catherines that time (see review), this set illustrates to us yet again that Carolyn Mark has a genuine charm and humour, a welcoming warmth and a huge, pure talent that is undeniable. You really should own all of her records.

It should also be shouted from mountaintops and into crowded rooms that Tolan McNeil is one of Canada’s greatest and most underrated guitar players. Damn, man, we mere mortals are in total awe of your prowess! One day you will be huge.*

Now, put the two of these artists together? Pure bliss.

You may never hear this bootleg, since I imagine that copies are few and far between out there, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to find it!

Oh, to have been in the Main Hall that evening.

Track Listing:
01 Introductions
02 Two Days Smug And Sober
03 Inevitable
04 Fuzzy Slippers
05 Chantal & Leroy
06 The Business End
07 Don’t Come Over Baby
08 Point O’ View
09 Get Along
10 Fireworks
11 It’s All Just A Matter Of (Where You Draw Line)
12 Catscan
13 North Country Fair
14 You Belong To Me
15 Bigger Bed
16 Both Ways
17 Edmonton
18 Unlisted

* Check out Tolan’s album There Will Always Be A Salesman for a blast of greatness. And if you have a copy of his other record, Give ‘Er that you’d be willing to part with, I am still hoping to find one for myself, so let me know. Thanks!

Tolan McNeil – There Will Always Be A Salesman

Tolan McNeil has apparently played in a whole bunch of bands, but I came to learn of him a while back through his work with the incomparable and awesome Carolyn Mark. It should be noted that any friend of hers, and the equally amazing Neko Case’s, is definitely a friend of the eager ears attached to this reviewer’s head. So it pleased me quite a bit to learn that he’d released a couple of solo records, too. Of course, I had to have them for my collection.

Red Cat Records got this particular album, McNeil’s second, into my hands via snail mail in less than a week (not even the Corporate Whores at Amazon can manage that, usually), and that shouts loudly to me of people who have their shit together. They were mighty friendly about it, too, and that was absolutely great. You should check ‘em out at3w recat dot ca slash label for a whole list of cool records that’ll totally make your week.

There Will Always Be A Salesman explores a wide range of sounds, in really awesome ways. Bright and cheery pop songs share space with tunes that could slink along well on a David Lynch movie soundtrack. There’s a twang in places, and some really great guitar pickin’, as one would expect. But more, there’s instrumental piano, and weird fuzzy sound-experiment freak-outs too. This record’s chock full of lyrics that catch and hold your attention, and a sense of humour that is honestly refreshing. There’s a little bit of everything you could ever want, from all points of the musical map.

On first listen, I thought that this somewhat unsettled approach was the album’s Achilles Heel, that McNeil never managed to find one sound and voice that worked and just went with it. But I’ve realized, after repeated listens, that he never had to – only a strong and worthy musician with an agenda to challenge themselves as much as the listener could create something complicated like this and pull it off. This album does it. It just works. Right on.

You would do well to go order a copy of this record, and to play it for all of your friends. It’ll perfectly fit all kinds of situations, like late-night studying in a dorm room, or on long road trips through vast prairies, or while holed up on a comfy couch in a warm room while the winter howls bitterly outside.

McNeil released another CD called Give ‘Er before this one, but it’s proving to be difficult to find. It’s out of print and Red Cat hasn’t got any left, although during my order they mentioned that they (among many others) have been bugging him to re-release it and I think that’s a fabulous idea. Whatcha waitin’ for, Tolan? Let’s have ‘er! Anyway, my own list of places for finding such things is proving fruitless as well, so far, so a re-release would kick ass. Short of that, I have a question: Anyone out there got an original copy for sale? It’d be going to a good home, I promise!

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