CD REVIEW: City of Roses

Posted: May 12, 2011 by samedevice in CDs, Reviews
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Craig McKenzie

Various Artists, City of Roses (2011), Rockerie Records

Windsor, Ontario, Canada has been tagged ‘The City of Roses’, for its infused structure of multiculturalism, warm climate, and advocated involvement in peace (both politically and inter-personally). Living in a city you learn facts and fictions about your surrounding area. For instance, there are 100-150 species of roses within the world. Here’s another, the Windsor coat of arms has not one but two floral sprays, each containing roses.

Thus, to see Windsor as a multicultural stigma within Canada doesn’t surprise me. On the end of another election day gone the way of the Business class, we see a new opposition: the working class. Some can see this as the end of a ‘middle class’, and in some ways this may be true, but in another, a select number of votes came from an unusual source .. the artists. Those anarchistic, fire-breathing, harmonica toting poets spoke up. So, it doesn’t surprise me to see that a city so rich on working class politics can be so high class on a grass roots arts campaign. And succeed.

Breaking open this compilation disc (which was assembled by musician Jamie Reaume as a charity project for The Hospice of Windsor-Essex) is the excellent ‘Unnatural Disaster’ by Dave Russell. A genius in songwriting, he opens the gates to what is a cavalcade of songwriting success .. local brilliance at its best. Dave Russel has quickly become a favorite in the local acoustic scene, but don’t let this wooden stringed unplugged box in his hand fool you .. he may be the best musician in the city. A local Wilco-esque lumberjack of pop, opening this album pushes him to the upper echelon of local talent in a hurry.

Followed are a series of eclectic bands and songs, sounds and people who create the cityscape of what is a true artistic hub in Canada. One Man’s Opinion, who recently broke up, push out their most catchy tune ala the swan song ‘Save the Last Chord’ . At first listen I was skeptical, but after a few listens I admit I couldn’t get this song out of my head. The power pop continues with Inoke Errati‘s “Make Outs & Movie Stars”, a song catchy enough to be blasted on national radio and lead by what could be Windsor’s answer to Rivers Cuomo .. the true pop kings of southern Ontario. The producer, Adam Miner‘s soft poetic embrace of hermetic songwriting kicks in the center of the album. What a rush of upbeat, thank-goodness tunes.

Windsor see beautiful waters and wildlife, instrumental artist can bring this form of fast indignation to life. Reaume’s Foreign Film Star and (WH)Y.ME.?? showcase a brilliance in poetry without words. They blow out the speakers in intelligence. Yet a ghetto can shine bright too .. the heavy side of the city! Blasternaut‘s “Fever Fever!” is a song that Danko Jones only wishes he could write with members of Wolfmother and/or Jet but couldnt get the talent because they are rollicking through our own city. Greasy power tunes in the vein of Black Mountain are abundant in this city. Windsor is evolving as an Atomic Sludge/ Stoner Rock/ Fuzz Sound city and bands like Blasternaut, The Van Danglers, The Hung Jury (who are now repackaged as The FourJury), and The Standstills are making good ground. The latter (who hail from Oshawa but have been making frequent treks to Windsor’s music scene of late) is making a garage rock sound so big I wanna call it ‘post arena rock’. A power duo with a catchy song that could rival The Black Keys latest bluesy cereal box. Remember the name, The Standstills

City of Roses, our city, has a soft side as well. Tara Watts, who is a staple in the downtown scene always delivers. As beautiful as she is to look at, her words and rhythms are just as touching. An elegant, dark soul in the city. Dusty performs a great southern blues tale in ‘The Ballad of Ronnie Joe’ (featuring guest harmonica from Kelly “Mr. Chill” Hoppe of Big Sugar), a dirty ditty filled with Texas oil and Detroit crime. A guitar teacher to the rest of the city. Leighton Bain follows those blues with a great rollicking acoustic tabernacle that truly delivers.

Since writing for The Windsor Zene, I have been challenged/blessed with the opportunity to review local music: challenged in that I review a copious landslide of musical genres; blessed in that I write reviews pertaining strictly to local talents and get a chance to be part of a burgeoning movement in Canadian music. Windsor is that value cereal box which gave you a variety of flavors. While Montreal gives us the Avant-Garde, Toronto has the radio power pop, Vancouver does the greasy rock and Winnipeg has a Heinz 57, we can agree that Windsor is a face-punch of all these genres., producing full flowers blossoming at any genre. A plentiful city of hearts, guitars, and roses. Roses. The rose as a prolix genre .. well Windsor can be a that of a prolix for the artistic flair that grows in these streets.

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