Masterful slice of transatlantic roots music from Scottish/Canadian Ensemble led by Ewan Macintyre.
Release Date: 14th November 2020
Label: Broken Car Recordz
Formats: CD, digital/download
Ewan Macintyre describes the sound his band makes as “transatlantic roots”. It’s a game attempt, but it goes nowhere near capturing the full breadth and depth of the music that he, along with fellow conspirators Karine Bouchard and Peter Menzies (along with able guests Antoine Larocque, Ian Belcourt, Alex Auldsmith, Dana Babineau-Burns and Amanda Gibeau) have produced on this masterful album.
I’ll have a go myself. Built on the solid foundation of Ewan’s Celtic roots, the music incorporates, in equal measures, splashes of blues, soul and American folk along with some heavy lacings of jazz It’s all delivered with a stunning subtlety and presented via a mix that showcases each individual’s contribution and which is an absolute aural delight.
Ewan left his native Scotland to settle in Montreal in 2014. He plays guitar and mandolin and sings with a versatile voice that covers the spectrum from jazz/blues lounge-lizard, via crooning balladeer and Dylan wannabe to a John Martyn slur. He’s used his transatlantic connections to best effect in choosing his band members. Quebec cellist Karine and Scottish fiddler Peter combine exquisitely to fill out these songs and tunes. Add Antoine’s accordion and Ian’s thundering double bass to the pot and the combination is stunning. Dream On Sally is Ewan’s first studio album since 2018’s Road Junkie and it’s certainly been worth the wait.
The only non-positive comment I can offer is to ask why the album is so short? The running time is just over 30 minutes and yet the music is so exquisite that I would happily have listened to and enjoyed an album of at least double that length. There are eight tracks and the allusion to songs such as God Bless The Child and Such aANight in the press handout indicates that there’s more material in the vaults. Still, I’m sure that Ewan knows best…
Opening track Same Story gives a clear indication of what to expect. The rich, full sound hits home right from the off. The accordion, guitar, bass and strings given equal billing to deliver an instantly likeable tune with the jazz/folk flourishes that pervade throughout the album. Eyes On The Road continues with the jazzy theme and features some wonderful pizzicato playing from Karine and Peter and lyrics that offer the sound advice to “Keep your eyes on where you are, as opposed to where you’d like to be.”
Each To Their Own opens with a warble from Ewan that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Tyrannosaurus Rex album. Intended as a subtle ode to Dr John, its loose and jazzy and ends in a nice instrumental refrain. Bright Lights And Pictures is truly outstanding. The song is inspired by the fjord setting of the town of Tadoussac, QC,the beluga whales that frequent the fjord and vivid night sky with its views of the Milky Way. Folky and jazzy, with vocals that recall John Martyn, the song’s inspirations are mirrored by the sweeping cello and violin dressings.
Ewan’s Celtic roots rise to the surface with Muckle Mooth, a stunning set of reels played on fiddle and mandolin over a beautiful cello backing. It’s a compulsive foot-tapper and has been wisely selected as the album’s first single. Pieces is, perhaps, the most conventional song on the album, but even then, it has it’s jazzy moments and the impact of the bass and strings is wonderful. Breaks And Waves is another high point. A luxuriant tune with strong Scottish undertones, a bluesy, soulful vocal from Ewan and some lovely Celtic violin breaks.
The singalong title track closes the album. As dreamy as its title suggests, the song is driven along by Antoine’s accordion and features some beautiful harmony backing vocal and yet more exquisite violin and cello. It’s a fitting end to an excellent (if short…) album.
Recorded during studio snatches that were taken during the band’s tour of Northern Europe and Eastern Canada during August 2019, the production succeeds in blending the urgency of a live performance with the richness that can only be achieved by careful mixing and mastering. The Ewan Macintyre Band has come up with a wonderful, highly enjoyable piece of work. Heartily recommended.
Listen to Muckle Mooth from the album here:
And watch the Ewan Macintrye band play Each to their Own, live in Montreal, here: