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Tom Keenan sounds like a darker Dylan

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Winnipeg musician and actor Tom Keenan’s new CD Romantic Fitness contains gritty and poetic folk music about all kinds of different topics like committing crimes, sniffing glue and starting fights at weddings. There is a quite a bit of  Beatles influence on tracks like ‘Please Don’t Think Less of Me,’ and some Bob Dylan, but grittier.
 It’s beautiful music utilizing a variety of instruments and even more beautifully dark lyrics.
I like Keenan’s voice which is reminiscent of Shannon Hoon of Bind Melon. The old  style countryish ‘River Street’ is a highlight, which features The D-Rangers’ Jaxon Haldane on banjo. I also love his lyrics, which are wry and witty stream of consciousness rants yet immediately appealing. The  lyrics and arrangements remind me of a toned down (popular Vancouver roots band) Swank.
Twilight Hotel’s Dave Quanbury figures prominently on this CD too, playing drums on six tracks, organ on three, pedal steel guitar on two, something called a box shaped heart on one and even trumpet  on ‘I Committed a Crime’ which is very cool, not to mention one of the outstanding tracks.
 There is lots of unusual instrumentation piano, organ, banjo and a couple of weird things I don’t recognize, but it all works. Keenan’s lyrics come out loud and clear. There is even Ruth Moody on violin on a couple songs ‘Another 100 Hours’ and ‘Lullabye.’
I like the story of “I Don’t Want to Lie Down,” which is Keenan’s song about starting a fight at a wedding because he doesn’t get along with the father of the bride — and losing it. And you have to give him credit for setting a Shakespearian sonnet (With Heigh) to music.
It’s just an interesting combination of folk and assorted weirdness that just begs you for repeated listens.
— by Richard Amery L.A. Beat Editor

CD: Romantic Fitness
Artist: Tom Keenan
Genre: folk
Record label: indie

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Double Jack at home on modern rock scene

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Local grunge/alternative band Double Jack is back with their third CD, well a four song taster of a soon to be released full length CD. The tracks are ‘Into The Flood,’ ‘Sleep Tight,’ ‘Bullets,’ ‘Disappear.’
Click here to hear Double Jack.there are elements of pretty much any ’90s grunge/alternative rock on this sampler from Soundgarden and Pearl Jam to Living Colour (especially on the first track) a fair amount of Metallica and even a little Kiss.
So there are plenty of detuned riffs, some classic rock blues tinged  solos and thunderous drums.
On the other hand they also have a slower darker themed number with pretty arpeggios on ‘Bullets.’
They also have a straight ahead power ballad on ‘Disappear.’ Marc Belisle sings the slower numbers as well as he can scream like Soundgarden’s  Chris Cornell on the more up tempo numbers.
Throughout there is some excellent guitar work happening with complicated riffs and some excellent solos which would put any of the tracks at home on modern rock radio.
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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CD: Into The Flood
Band: Double Jack
Genre: grunge/alternative
Record label: indie
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Steve Keenan and Fat Baby Jake play like Stevie Ray Vaughan

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It’s great to finally have a CD out from local blues rock trio Steve Keenan  and Fat Baby Jake. Granted, the new, six track CD, ‘Better than Gold’ which was recorded in James Oldenburg’s GPS studio, isn’t the current incarnation of the band including Shane Love and Geoff Stuckey, but instead includes the ‘classic’ lineup of bassist David Popovitch and drummer Darwin Romanchuk.
As typical of guitarists who come from what I’m going to start calling the Paul Kype School of the Blues (people who have played with Paul Kype and Texas Flood) including Leah Marie King, Keenan, and Greg Gomola) there is a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan influence.

Vaughan’s influence is especially prevalent on ‘Don’t Lead Me On, ’ which  sounds similar to‘The House is Rocking.’ King’s voice also sounds a lot like early Colin James. In addition to straight ahead blues rock like the outstanding uptempo ‘Don’t Lead Me On’ and ‘Whiskey Drinking Blues,’ there are also quite a few slower blues numbers  ‘Lucky One’ and ‘No Place to Hide.’

But there is also a strong classic rock influence on ‘Something New,’ another excellent track which would be at home on the modern classic rock airwaves and definitely should. The title track, ‘Better than Gold,’ is a six minute long slower number along the lines of old school southern rock like Lynard Skynard.
Keenan is also a fine fiddler, but there isn’t a a fiddle to be found here, just the blues and pretty good, tasteful upbeat and catchy blues at that.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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CD: Better than Gold
Band: Steve Keenan and Fat Baby Jake
Genre: Blues/ blues rock
Record Label: Indie
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Marianas Trench brings out the pop for Masterpiece Theatre

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If the Backstreet Boys played their own instruments and dabbled in punk music, they might sound like Vancouver pop band, the Marianas Trench’s new CD ‘Masterpiece Theatre.’ All right that might sound a little harsh, they have a lot cooler influences than that. There is quite a bit of an orchestral  Queen influence, especially on the first track ‘Masterpiece Theatre I’ which has  some beautiful orchestration and some impressive vocal harmonies.
 Throughout though, the pop tinged vocal harmonies are what draws the Backstreet Boys comparison.
‘All To Myself ’ is an enjoyable slice of pop.
‘Cross My Heart,’ is another crunchy and catchy piece of Sum-41 style pop punk, with a neat guitar riff.
 On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is a Hedley meets Backstreet Boys style power ballad ‘Beside You,’ which has some soaring vocal harmonies.
‘Masterpiece Theatre II’ is  another soulful orchestral number while ‘Sing Sing’ is a more punk influenced  catchy number with some orchestral vocal harmonies. ‘Celebrity Status’  is another catchy, more rock tinged number.
 While the CD in general strays too far over the pop line for my tastes, there are some highlights, and you can’t knock those voices. You also can’t knock the production values. Rainee Maida (Our Lady Peace) lends his ear and touch to the CD as does David Genn (Matthew Good Band, 54-40).
The CD ends with an upbeat number which combines elements, riff, lyrics and titles from all the rest of the tracks on the CD in a grand orchestral grande finale in the highly orchestrated ‘Masterpiece Theatre III.
—By Richard Amery, L.A Beat Editor
CD: presents Masterpiece Theatre
Band: Marianas Trench
Genre: pop
Record label: 604 Records
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Little to be cynical about Armchair Cynics

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There is very little to be cynical about Victoria based pop band Armchair Cynics’ new CD ‘Starting Today.’ It is obvious they have been listening to the Cure and grapes of Wrath plus lots of 80s pop of that ilk. The Cd is chock full of upbeat vocal melodies plus catchy guitar and synth riffs. And at  just over 35 minutes long is easily digestible on a warm summer or spring afternoon.  If  you really listen to the lyrics , there are beautifully conveyed stories of the lovelorn and lost  and even an office murderer, while  somehow maintaining a positive, uplifting life-affirming vibe throughout, thanks to lines like ‘Never let the bastards drag you down,’ on  ‘The World is Mine,’ and ‘Today could change everything,’ on ‘Starting Today.’
‘Never Gave it a Chance’ is a deceptively upbeat ska tinged ode to a misfit who shoots up his workplace before being cut down by police.
‘Kelly,’ is a terrifically pop fueled catchy  and whimsical look at a drunken night out  which should be a massive radio hit. ‘All the Way to You,’ another ode to being drunk and in love.
‘Believe’ is another upbeat number with a  strong Cure influence about growing older and remembering the love of the past.
The Armchair Cynics are a lot of fun thanks to catchy melodies, a smattering of ska and pop fueled hooks.

They play Henotic with Maurice, March 4, 2010.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

CD: Starting Today
band: Armchair  Cynics
Genre: pop
Record label: 604 Records

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