Archive for June, 2011




Appealing and melodic Ron Hawkins’s Straitjacket Love is the best Americana album you will hear this year

And of course it’s by a Canadian. But wait. This cd offers more than that.  It’s a touchstone to the human condition circa 2011.

Let me put it this way. If you mixed in elements of  Neil Young,  mid 60’s Bob Dylan with a small hint of  acoustic John Mellencamp and Gordon Lightfoot’s 70’s work into a cup of coffee and drank it,  your buzz would be Ron Hawkins’ album Straitjacket Love.



Whether Hawkins’s wants to acknowledge or not this cd has universal appeal in the best kind of way. It’s done on it’s own merit.

It this sounds like  high praise for any work by a songwriter in 2011 it’s because the songs take the spirit of  classic singer-songwriter recordings and make them relevant to today’s busy and detached world.

Remember when you put on an album and listened to it.

Tracks like the opening One Hundred Five and Corner Room take that rustic sound of Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding and Neil Young’s Harvest era and knock you over lyrically and emotionally. Thank god, that Hawkins had the idea to include his lyrics in the cd booklet.

Elsewhere Hong Kong Station has a Blue Rodeo-esque drive and Waitin On Something That’s Already Here has the pure magic of of making you feel like your hearing the song for the first time, every time you play it.

The title track has a great rollicking stream of conscious-ness lyric and Lucky Street Lazarus has a John Mellencamp feel that would kill anywhere on Americana roots radio.

Make no mistake. This cd has nothing to do with Hawkins’s Lowest of the Low era.

Straitjacket Love shows Hawkins growing as a songwriter 20 years into a career!

Diamonds In The Water and Prairie Girl although vastly different in compostiion offer up two more reasons why this album is one of the most important singer-songwriter albums released this year.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Sun Media contributor, musician and radio show host


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John has a bit of musical fun at and



Jeff Healey Band  fans worldwide will simply eat this up.

This is the original band of drummer Tom Stephen, bassist Joe Rockman and second guitarist Pat Rush “on fire and smokin”

This cd  justifies that when this band was “on” and playing blues they were dangerous.

Hell you could cut yourself with the dynamics of  Albert King’s As the Years Go Passing By, or Pat Rush’s and Healey’s solos on Ain’t that Just Like A Woman

Check out the band’s righteous take on The
Beatles/ John Lennon White album classic Yer Blues

It should be also be said that Rockman and Stephen play their asses off on this recording.

Harmonica wizard Michael Pickett steps up to the plate and blows lean and mean on Crossroads and Who’s Been Talking.

The band’s take on All Along The Watchtower is nothing like their studio take. It is original in spirit and astonishingly accomplished in a fusion way.

In fact, they even throw in a Claptonesque nod to Layla for good measure.

The interplay between the four players on Watchtower is nothing short of  galvanizing.

If this cd is any indication of the quality of what we can expect  from the Jeff Healey Band Archives, it will be a goldmine well worth investing in. 

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, musician, and host of the popular blues/ roots radio show Collection of Songs You can also visit John and


SHERYL CROW-TAKING THE “HI” ROAD-with a big groove-miles from memphis blu-ray review-john emms


Sheryl Crow and her killer band simply re-invent Crow’s sound while hitting the groove cleaner then most bands would  even dream about doing.                                                            Like any good vocalist Crow loves to be surrounded by intuitive players.  Her band at this show is exceptional and the section of Tommy Simms on bass, drummer Victor Indrizzo and guitarist Chris Bruce are cohesive but not afraid  to extend the groove machine for the purpose of bumping up the tracks.

In fact it should be said Crow and the band get heavy duty spiritual in some of the extended pieces

A lot of the highlights on this blu-ray are on new tracks like Our Love is Fading, the well written title track, and the slow burn of Sideways. 

Guitarist Doyle Bramhall 11 is on board and a joy to watch.

 His presence and  groove is like glue.

In some small instances on the 5.1 mix I wish his solo guitar lines were mixed a little higher in volume. It’s a minor quip, because most of the time it”s fine and the band is in flames.

A lot of Crow’s hit material like A Change Would Do You Good and Every Day is a Winding Road has been funkified and retooled

The concert takes on those particular  tracks may throw the audience at first.  But the format is loose and juicy like Exile era Stones and Otis Redding road bands. This is where  Crow and her band  let the audience take them to another place.

That my friends is good company 

18 songs in hi-def..with a very strong 5.1 and stereo mix. Not a greatest hits show. Excellent bonus feature with Crow and the band

Simply a dandy to cherish in your blu-ray collection.  This is no phone in show folks.


JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, musician and has a killer online radio show



Opening The New Kids on The Block/Backstreet Boys 11 date tour across Canada.












Playing for literally thousands of more people than you could ever hope to play for is a gift.

Heck, any band would dive at the chance and do it for free.

Neverest is getting that big chance. From where I sit these four talented guys will eat it up.

Despite only having a 6 song EP out the group has managed two monster hits in Canada with About Us and the new track Everything.

There is a huge piece of pie still not claimed  in “Bieberville” and the so called “tween’ is out there and waiting for artists just like Neverest 

From the standpoint of a long time player and songwriter I can honestly say this band has writing and playing chops that have not even began to surface.

These guys are bursting at the seams to show it.

Watch out as this band gets to display even more of that talent duirng 2011

If that was not enough with talent as big as songwriter Angelo Themelkos and producer/recording engineers Murray Daigle and Mike Kiofos on hand to lend their experience the sky is the limit for Neverest.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, online radio host and musician

June 2011