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Dala and the Undesirables (June 21, 2008)

We’re just back from the most AMAZING show in Meaford tonight, featuring Dala and the Undesirables. Oh baby, this show was hot!

You know, we’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to see both groups perform separately, thanks to the brilliant booking skills of Susan and Irwin at the Knox Acoustic Cafe. But to have both duos on the same stage in one night and even, for a few songs, on stage at the same time? I call that heaven!

My lovely wife phoned for tickets on the day they went on sale, scoring us seats front row and center, so we couldn’t have gotten any closer to the action. Seems to me we sat in the front row for both of their Knox shows as well, so it’s kind of become a tradition at this point…

The setting was the Meaford Town Hall, which is really quite a beautiful building, and we were admiring the recent renovations to it and talking excitedly about the imminent show when the house lights went down and out came Dala!

There’s no other way to say it, so here it is: Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther are so talented! They can sing like nobody’s business, and their harmonies are perfectly timed and pitched. Their songs are intelligent and bright, loads of fun, and they’re always telling a story from their life experiences to great effect. We really enjoy their inclusive banter on-stage as well, that easy-going rapport that brings the crowd right up there with them.

As with their recent Knox show, this set was brilliant. They played a lot of the same songs they played last time, and even some of the between-song stories were familiar, but it hardly mattered at all given the power of their performance. Really! Each song was awesome. Have a look at the set list:

Drive-Through Summer
Both Sides, Now (Joni Mitchell)
Sunday Dress
Where Have All The Boys Gone
Anywhere Under The Moon
Hockey Sweater
Marilyn Monroe
All I Have To Do Is Dream (on ukulele)

Now, that’s only 8 songs, which I might argue is a little short, but I’m probably just greedy. After all, I could listen to them sing all night long, any night of the week.

There was a brief intermission, during which I had a huge grin on my face caused by Dala’s skills, and then on came the Undesirables. Lucky us! This is another group that we love, and they too were in fine form on this evening. Sean Cotton’s guitar work was stellar yet again, his fingers flying and the riffs were continually amazing. Corin Raymond’s seemingly boundless kinetic energy and body language, propelled by the music, had him prowling the stage as he sang. He even howled off-microphone on occasion, as only he can. This pair is really something to behold when they’re in full flight.

Their unique take on the blues was strong in the air tonight, and with many of the songs they chose to play involving dark themes, it was made even more spooky by their excellent vocals. It all fit together very well indeed. You know, if Corin hadn’t pointed it out, we probably wouldn’t have noticed that just about every one of their songs mentions the rain. Interestingly, this turned out to be a prophetic observation, as we later stepped back onto the street after the show and into a pouring rain. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. The Undesirables’ set was completely fantastic, check it out:

Credit River
Night Train
The Dog You Forgot To Let In
Singing Bones
This Town
Up Above The Clouds

Again, only 8 songs. But it was at this point that the night became even more amazing, as the Undesirables asked Dala to join them on stage for a few songs! Imagine! It was like a Supergroup, and the results were wholly riveting. All four together melded perfectly into one unit that sounded like it was meant all along to be just like that. They’re definitely great each on their own, and then together it all gets multiplied! Oh, the harmonies. My word.

So, together they played:

The Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Lonely
Don’t Let Me Down (Beatles)

And then they all waved and said good night, leading us to believe, briefly, that that was going to be it for the night. But they never really left the stage as the ovation continued because, you see, there’s more to this story…

Now, Corin had let it slip in one of his frequent email newsletters that the two groups had co-written a song and would be unveiling it for the first time at this show. Once again, we count ourselves so fortunate to be there to hear it! It’s a beautiful piece, to be sure, which asks the eternal questions of tentative new love, made even more amusing as both groups acknowledged comments from fans at various shows that they should all go on a big double-date. They seemed amused by this, and had a good laugh with it all night, but it made the new song that much more poignant. Interesting.

So their encore set list looked like this:

You Really Got A Hold On Me (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles)
In My Room (Beach Boys)

When it was all over, we were spellbound. No one could argue against the genius of these performances. It was beautiful.

Eventually they left the stage, and we headed back to the merch tables and bought a poster which all four of them signed. It was a real pleasure to thank them all personally for such a great night, and it was unexpected and cool that Sean and Corin remembered my lovely wife and I from after their Knox gig. We passed along greetings from Irwin and Susan as well (since they unfortunately couldn’t be there for the show), and I told Corin about this site and review so if you’ve read this far, hi guys!

Folks, go get all of Dala and the Undesirables’ albums. Right now. And if either of these two groups are playing anywhere near your house, You. Must. Go. There can be no questioning, no interruption in achieving this goal, no hesitation as the time draws near. Your mission is to seek out both of these amazing groups and let their music fully into your lives for good.

This show rocked.

The Undesirables (October 27, 2007)

Last night’s Knox Acoustic Café show with the Undesirables was brilliant. This local series of shows has been a resounding success, and last night was further proof that, with the quality of acts such as this being presented, we’re very, very lucky indeed. 

Fresh off a three week tour of England, Corin Raymond and Sean Cotton may have been (deservedly) a bit tired prior to the show, but they quickly rose to the occasion and all traces of exhaustion disappeared once they got rolling. Marrying folk, blues and funky pop, the sound of the Undesirables is definitely unique, full of energy and creativity. Their songs intricately meld poetry, humour and stories from their experiences with a refreshing ease.

This was our first time seeing the band, or really hearing their music. As you’re already aware (because you’re a savvy KMA reader), a live setting can sometimes be the best possible way to be introduced to new music, and that was definitely the case last night. There’s an unspoken bond that gets created at a show like this, where the band offers their best and the audience responds in kind, everyone locked into an engaged, aware communication. Having seen this band play at the recent Summerfolk festival here in town this year, it quickly became obvious that many in the crowd last night were repeat customers and fans. The duo played a range of songs from their two albums and, judging by the reaction of this large crowd, all were favourites and many people knew every word.

They told a series of travel and music experience tales between songs, all of which had an element of humour and wonder to them, told with a quick wit and a wink that was endearing and welcoming. Sean Cotton’s guitar work was completely beautiful and intricate, and Corin Raymond certainly gets his entire body into his performance and vocals, contorting himself and giving fully with every syllable. There’s magic in these songs, to be sure.

Highlights from the set were many, but for me the gorgeous guitar work united with a harrowing tale on The Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Lonely was a stand-out, as was the wonderful new song Northern Girl, from an album apparently due out in 2009 sometime. We also loved Overwhelmed and Credit River and… of course, I shouldn’t start naming songs I liked because then I’d need their setlist so I could just give you that. But you know how it is, right? Right.

In sum, a great show and I would go again without question. If the Undesirables are going to be in your town, get out to the show. Don’t think twice, just go! It’s a fantastic time.

As an added bonus, we had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity after the show to hang out with the band and the show’s organizers and a few other fans, just telling tales and having a couple of drinks. This experience added a whole new level of amazing to the night, and it’s a memory we’ll always keep.

Thank you, Corin and Sean, for your great, great music. You’re welcome back any time. And thanks again to Susan and Irwin and the entire Knox Acoustic Café for all of your hard work and enthusiasm.


PS. I’ve got the link to the Knox Acoustic Café web site up in our Links section, so you should definitely go check it out, and come out to the shows if you can!

PPS. We also bought the Undesirables’ album Doghouse Dreams (and got it autographed!) at the show, and I’m playing it now as I type this. Of course, having just heard and seen many of these tunes performed live, I have excellent memories associated to them, but hearing some of them on the CD as arranged with drums, bass and the beautiful vocals of Treasa Levasseur and Dala make the entire experience brand new again, too. Lovely.

Track Listing:
01 This Town
02 Fill Me Up With Sound
03 Asking Me To Give You The Blues
04 Credit River
05 Danicing On The Faultline
06 The Dog You Forgot To Let In
07 The Bus Stop Walk
08 Look Out Jack
09 The Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Lonely
10 Down And Out

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