Ann Vriend’s Love & Other Messes Is One of My Top 2 Favourite CDs of 2011

CD Review
Title: Love & Other Messes
Artist:  Ann Vriend
Label: Independent
Released: 2011
Stars:  4.5

I should have written this a LONG time ago but I generally don’t review the work of my clients once they’ve become a client as this could be seen as a conflict of interest and undermine the influence of my opinions, for all they’re worth.  However, I have to make an exception in the case of Ann Vriend’s Love & Other Messes.  Critically acclaimed by numerous major Canadian newspapers & publications, listed on CKUA Radio’s Top 100 of 2011, honoured among The Ottawa Sun’s Top 7 Indie Album Picks for 2011, and following successful Canadian, Australian, Dutch & German tours to showcase it, Love & Other Messes is one of my top two favourite CDs of 2011. I’m declaring this because Ann’s a superb talent and not because she’s my client.  I started out as a fan and I’ll be one of her biggest fans forever!

Love & Other Messes, Vriend’s 6th album since 2003, is a collection of 12 exquisitely crafted songs, punctuated by Ann’s unique and easily recognizable vocals, that can’t be defined by one genre.  It falls somewhere between pop, soul and Americana, and opens with the country ballad “Everybody Sings in Nashville”, a song with backing vocals by Coco Love Alcorn & Chloe Albert that should have been a hit in Nashville and would be if Dolly Parton sang it.  (There’s still hope!)  “Best Thing” is a sophisticated, upbeat pop ditty with echoes of Motown careening through it, also supported by the very gifted Alcorn & Albert, and highlighted by Ann’s keyboards as well as Alcorn’s trumpet and the distinguished organ of David Aide (which is the case for every track).  James Forrest contributes bass, Robin Pelletier and Alan Wall play guitars and Thom Bennett adds drums throughout.

“Don’t Cry” is a revamped, stripped down version of the same pop ballad that was over produced on Vriend’s 2nd album, Modes of Transport.  This is by far the superior version of the song but it’s one of my least favourite tracks on Love & Other Messes.  “The Way You Let Me Down” is bluesy pop with some of the best playing by the musicians on the album not to mention a prime example of Vriend’s spectacular ability to hit some really high notes!  The blues make another appearance on “Possession Blues”, a simply produced song with only piano, guitar & vocals, and its’ recording reminds me immediately of Robert Johnson.

“Excuses No. 1-8” is a stark, plaintive piano ballad depicting various excuses one may give for not wanting to marry that certain someone while “More or Less” reiterates the importance of accentuating the positive while gently letting a lover down by not lying to them about your feelings.  “Tin Man” is a splendid ballad, using a brilliant metaphor from Oz, the likes of which you may have heard from the star that is Jann Arden.  Love is messy after all.

“Graffiti On My Heart (You Must Not Love)” is the only song of its kind on this CD, recorded live with a gang of vocal participants who carry on the bracketed refrain, and with its memorable gypsy/carnival romping sing-a-long gives Ann a reason to play the kazoo when she plays it live.  Sheer fun!

There are so many great tracks to choose from that it’s hard to pick a favourite.  I have three favourites including the sultry & divine duet with Matt Epp, “If You Were Here”, a ballad dedicated to the incomparable Jeff Buckley; “Long Distance Call”, another impressive ballad with background vocals by Epp that reminds me of someone special from my past; and my very favourite, the gospel charged call for divine assistance that should impress even Van Morrison and was my mantra for 2011: “Somebody On The Ground.”

Love & Other Messes’ CD packaging design by Simon Farla is the best of all of Vriend’s collection and offers a 28 page lyric booklet with terrific sepia tone photographs featuring splashes of washed-out vermillion.  Oh, and I was very honoured to be mentioned in her Thank Yous too.

You will honestly be hard-pressed to find many other female, Canadian singer-songwriters who aren’t already a household word who deserve to be more than Ann Vriend.  If she stays true to her own vision and continues to write classy songs of this magnitude, I have no doubt that she will be a Canadian music legend some day.

From Teacher to Concert Promoter: Al Rankin Brings in the Big Names

As I help Al Rankin to spread the word about his Live Wire Music Series and Rankin Productions shows and I administer the Live Wire Facebook page, I thought I’d post this article originally published in Kingston This Week for my readers.

Reprinted from Kingston This Week

His love for Canadian roots music has opened up a second career for retired-teacher-turned-music-promoter Al Rankin of Inverary.

Rankin retired as a high school teacher six years ago, but continues to promote emerging new talent as owner of the Rankin Gallery in Inverary and as a longtime volunteer with the Live Wire Music Series. He also brings in established award-winning artists through his company, Rankin Productions.

On April 22, Rankin Productions presented [sic] An Evening with Judy Collins at Sydenham Street United Church. In February, Rankin brought The Arrogant Worms to Kingston, and last year he presented Mickey Rooney at the Grand Theatre.

Rankin never set out to be a music promoter. As a theatre arts teacher and founder of the Theatre Complete program at Queen Elizabeth Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Kingston, Rankin often brought in theatre and musical performers. In the 1990s, he served five years as artistic director of the Blue Skies Music Festival north of Sharbot Lake, where artists such as Serena Ryder, Kathleen Edwards and David Francey made their festival debuts.

At around the same time, he built at addition on his 150-year-old house near Inverary, that was originally intended as an art gallery, but that instead became an intimate concert hall featuring up to a dozen concerts a year.

His skill?

He catches the acts on the road.

Rankin invites touring musicians travelling to or from gigs in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa to fill a mid-week spot in their schedule at his place. Since opening, the Rankin Gallery has hosted artists such from across Canada and around the world, including Valdy, The Wailin’ Jennys, Bill Bourne, Coco Love Alcorn, Kate Reid, Rick Fines, Lynn Miles, The Marigolds, Dala, Fruit from Australia, The Pacific Curls from New Zealand, Jez Lowe from the UK, Maeve Mackinnon from Scotland, The Carolina Chocolate Drops and, most recently, Amelia Curran and the Good Lovelies. Next up is Oh My Darling on May 15.

“People bring something to drink, maybe a snack, and a donation for the musicians. The audience loves the intimacy of the space and getting to talk to the artists. The musicians love it too, as it allows them to connect in a way that is different than a large concert hall. It is open to anyone on my mailing list and works on a first come first served reservation-only basis. I have 50 spots and room for about 10 more standing and it usually fills up very quickly.”

Rankin has become well known to agents through his work with the Live Wire Music Series and Blue Skies and the Rankin Gallery is so popular that he has to turn down most of the requests he gets to play there. Musicians, particularly solo musicians, like it because they are guaranteed an audience of 60 people and they can spend the night in the Rankins’ limestone house, enjoy breakfast with Al and his wife and then be on their way.

Rankin Productions is the name he uses for bigger, riskier shows that are beyond the scope of Live Wire.

Arlo Guthrie was the very first big show I did,” Rankin recalls. “I found out he was playing at Massey Hall and I saw he had a Thursday night available en route to Montreal. He had never been to Kingston.”

That was in 2006. A couple of years later, Rankin brought Pete Seeger to Kingston.

“Now the agents know we’re here and we get far more requests than I can handle.”

Ever the teacher, Rankin still brings young performers such as Ariana Gillis, The Good Lovelies and Welsh guitar phenom Gareth Pearson into schools with the support of the Limestone District School Board and Live Wire.

“They are such role models for these kids,” Rankin says. “And they are spectacularly talented.”

Pearson, whom Rankin describes as one of the best guitarists in the world, spent two weeks at Rankin’s house. Each day they would load up his sound equipment in Rankin’s car and visit different high schools.

“A lot of artists are uncomfortable going into schools,” Rankin admits. “They don’t just perform, they talk about what music has done for them. They play a few songs and the kids ask questions and they always love it. Gareth, for example, was dyslexic and barely passed high school. So he talked about struggling and finding his passion and turning his life around.”

Rankin says he has no “dream list” of artists he would like to bring to Kingston. “I’m happy with the quality of the musicians we do get and the performances are always so great.

“Pete Seeger was 89 when he was here – I love that – and he and his grandson put on a great show. I love the brand new acts too; I get a kick out of introducing people like Serena Ryder, Kathleen Edwards and Ariana Gillis. It’s fun to do both ends of the spectrum.

“I guess retirement gave me the opportunity to get more involved in music. I hadn’t anticipated that.”

Copyright © 2011 Kingston This Week

Ann Vriend News: AB Tour, How To Get In The Liner Notes, Aus Pics

Ann at the Palais in Hepburn Springs

AB Tour

Hello mates!

I made it back to “Canadia” as they say in Aus. Got to hear all fasten your seat belt instructions in 2 languages again — really missed that.

May plans: Filming a video and then — touring and recording my next studio album.

Doing a few house concerts with Coco Love Alcorn (nominee of 2 East Coast Music Awards this year) who will be singing vocal harmonies and opening up the band shows. She is fab — check her out, www.cocolovealcorn.com. Then taking the whole 7 piece band on a mini tour of AB, and then recording the album right afterwards. Yay!!

At the Edmonton and Calgary shows WE WILL BE RECORDING THE AUDIENCE DURING 2 AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION SONGS and those participating will have the opportunity to put there names down to be included in the album liner notes! I may regret this decision as it may end up I have QUITE long liner notes. But I promise the album artwork will be made from 100% recycled material, so no one need feel bad. Except maybe the graphic designer.

Here are the show details.

NANTON Date: May 22, 2010 Venue: House Concert Address: Nanton, AB, CAN Description: double bill with Coco Love Alcorn, deets TBA

MEDICINE HAT Date: May 23, 2010 Venue: Ye Old Jar Barn Address: Medicine Hat, AB, CAN Description: double bill with Coco Love Alcorn; contact Piet at pietina@shaw.ca for tix; space limited– will sell out!

CALGARY Date: May 26, 2010 Venue: Cantos Music Foundation – http://www.cantos.ca Address: 134 11 Ave. S.E., Calgary, AB, T2G 0X5, CAN Description: with full band – including new songs from Ann’s next album, never performed before! Concert goers will have the option of participating in 2 audience participation songs which will be on Ann’s next album — recorded live at the show! Participators will get their names printed on the album liner notes! For show details contact Greg Curtis at gtcurtis@ucalgary.ca / 403-543-5115; opening act: Coco Love Alcorn – http://www.cocolovealcorn.com; All Ages Show; 7:30 pm; Tix $16 – available at https://primeboxoffice.com/Online/seatSelect.asp?BOset::WSadmissions::admission::performance_id=C2940ADD-0DF8-4E30-AE53-E1039105D7B8

DRAYTON VALLEY Date: May 27, 2010 Venue: Eleanor Pickup Arts Centre Address: Drayton Valley, AB, CAN Description: with band, more details TBA; opening act: Coco Love Alcorn

EDMONTON Date: May 29, 2010 Venue: Myer Horowitz Theatre Address: 8900 114 St. NW, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2J7 CAN Description: with full band, including new songs from Ann’s next album, never performed before! Concert goers will have the option of participating in 2 audience participation songs which will be on Ann’s next album — recorded live at the show! Participators will get their names printed on the album liner notes! Tix now on sale here: http://www.tixonthesquare.ca/event/detail/1687/. Opening act: Coco Love Alcorn

LETHBRIDGE Date: June 4, 2010 Venue: House Concert Address: 2227 21st Ave., Coaldale, AB (Lethbridge), CAN Description: double bill with Coco Love Alcorn; contact Ryan at 403-634-2357 for tickets; Tix $20, doors 7:00 pm, show 8:00 pm

www.myspace.com/annvriend

Direct Link to Edmonton Show Tix

Here u go mates:

http://www.tixonthesquare.ca/event/detail/1687/

Direct Link to Calgary Show Tix

And in “the other” big AB city:

https://primeboxoffice.com/Online/seatSelect.asp?BOset::WSadmissions::admission::performance_id=C2940ADD-0DF8-4E30-AE53-E1039105D7B8

More Aus Faux Toes

I am slow at sorting thru photos. There are still “heaps” more, but I have songs to finish! So here’s the next batch, at least. See them here. I think even if you’re not on Facebook you can still view them?

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=13581945518&aid=204433&s=20&hash=c36eb33a4dacb91fb3132550000d3ea5#!/album.php?aid=204433&id=13581945518

Press I Forgot to Post

http://annaeangel.blogspot.com/2010/04/rave-magazine-issue-936.html

And This One re Vegemite…

http://www.timeoff.com.au/html/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5620:ann-vriend&catid=10:sixpack&Itemid=9

Thanks mates!

A really big thank you to all the people who helped me out SO SO much in Aus this tour. There are heaps of you, but in particular a big thanks to Barry Swayn, Penny Hope, Steph Hille, Abby Edwards and Onya Soapbox, Nicole, Christian, and Josh (Casio), James Parry, Chris Flanagan, David Ross McDonald, Brianna Carpenter, Bob Nixon and Pete Green, Klanger, Mat and Kathleen Smith, Cat Leahy, and Heidi and Paul.

You all rock. And/or frock (folk-rock).

AV

Ann Vriend Talks About: Video, 1 Sydney Show Tues, Aus, AB, Album, Poland

Video For “On Your Street”

Shot this summer in one hour with my bassist, James Forrest (also known to some from recent tours as “Agent Many Trees”).

Story: Me and James played an impromptu and very fun house concert in Edmonton this past summer. Director Steve Ashworth was in the audience and was so inspired by “On Your Street” that he immediately organized a video shoot for us — for free! — by calling in favors from camera men, editors, etc. We had only one hour to shoot it so it was pretty intense!

Thanks to Ponytails and Horseshoes for donating hair styling, James Kershaw for once again donating make up services to me, Shoshona Kish for lending me her red dress, Brett Manaluck for donating his camera and immense talent, David Kelso for editing and keeping track of everything (Steve included!), and to Steve Ashworth for directing.

Comments welcome 🙂

Watch by clicking here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfDxi–rRTA

One and Only Sydney Show This Tues (tomorrow)

Yep, a brief stop in the big Aus city. Sharing the bill with Melanie Horsnell, who is AMAZING, and one of my top most favorite Aus artists. Please pass this info on to any Sydney folks you may know. I can’t wait for this show! And can’t wait to see the Sydney gang again! And can’t wait to get out of this airport where I confess I have missed my flight out of Tas (semi long story) and spent 3 hrs working on this newsletter, among other less exciting things….

Deets:

Melanie Horsnell, Ann Vriend, and Jason Walker

The Raval (above the Macquarie Hotel in Surry Hills)

8:00 pm

For more details see the flyer to the right of this newsletter or call the Raval at 02 8262 8868

Advance tix here: www.moshtix.com.au

Drum Media Article

Not keeping you very abreast of the (what seems like) hundreds of press things that have been going on — mainly because I have been so busy DOING them! (and oh boy getting around by car on the other side of the road has been good for the adrenalin levels).

But here’s one in Drum Media (see jpeg to the right).

Got a phone call from an old lady in Tasmania today who saw one in a Tas paper — so apparently there was a story in there, too. I told her my website but she said she’d never used the internet. But somehow she got my phone number! Wow.

If you missed the last newsletter I also made the front page of The Australian last month– see my website for the hyperlink. I’ll get organized one of these days and post the rest…

Other Aus Dates

Here’s deets for the rest of the Aus shows. It’s been amazing so far! I am learning Australian at an alarming rate, thanks to my new mates here. For instance, I def have been chucking my fair share of u-eys (sp?) this week, due to my first bout of driving on the tour (and yes, I have a GPS but still find myself screwing up anyways– am discovering there are Elizabeth Streets in every friggin’ town in this country! And not all of them have ABC stations on them). Also there is a Perth in Tasmania, which is not where I thought Perth was, but then there is one in Ontario, too, which is also not where one would expect Perth to be.

Date: April 14, 2010 Venue: Woonona Bulli School of Arts Address: 479 Princes Hwy, Woonona, NSW 2517, AU Description: solo, show 8:30 pm

Date: April 15, 2010 Venue: The Clarendon Guest House – http://www.clarendonguesthouse.com.au/ Address: 68 Lurline St., Katoomba, NSW 2780, AU Description: triple bill with Jason Walker (8:00 pm) and Melanie Horsnell Band (9:50 pm), show 8:50 pm, Tix $20

Date: April 16, 2010 Venue: Bon Amici’s – http://www.myspace.com/bonamicicafe Address: Shop 13-14, 191 Margaret St., Toowoomba, QLD 4350, AU Description: double bill with Brianna Carpenter, show 9:00 pm, Tix $10

Date: April 17, 2010 Venue: Brisbane Jazz Club Address: 1 Annie Street, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, QLD 4169, AU Description: duo; doors 6:30 pm, show 7:30 pm, Tix $15 members, $20 Non-members, $17 Concession; contact Malcolm Wood at (07) 3391 2006 / 0407 063 375

Date: April 18, 2010 Venue: Peregian Originals, Peregian Beach Surf Club Address: 7-11 Kingfisher Drive, Peregian Beach, Sunshine Coast, QLD 4573, AU Description: solo, show 2:00 pm

Date: April 18, 2010 Venue: The Troubadour – http://www.thetroubadour.com.au Address: 1st Fl., 322 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, QLD, 4006, AU Description: triple bill with Ben Stewart and Brianna Carpenter, show 7:30 pm, Tix $15

Date: April 20, 2010 Venue: Ric’s Bar – http://www.ricsbar.com.au/ Address: 321 Brunswick St., Fortitude Valley, QLD 4006, AU Description: double bill with Eleanor Angel, show 8:30 pm

Date: April 22, 2010 Venue: Premiers Bar, Brisbane Conrad Treasury Casino (Top of the Mall) Address: 21 Queen Street, Brisbane, QLD 4000, AU Description: solo, show 9:15 pm

Date: April 23 – 25, 2010 Venue: Mount Beauty Music Festival – http://www.musicmuster.org.au/ Address: Beauty Ave., Mount Beauty, VIC 2699, AU Description: solo

Date: April 30 – May 3, 2010 Venue: Wintermoon Folk Festival – http://www.wintermoonfestival.com/ Address: Brodies Road, Mackay, QLD 4798, AU Description: solo

www.myspace.com/annvriend

Alberta in May– you can be on the new album!

Yep, there are also some Alberta shows on the horizon. Full details and ticket info will be announced soon– but for now let’s just say that I will be recording my next studio album with my band IMMEDIATELY following these shows. I will be bringing the whole band with me so that we can air the songs out in front of you before we go into the studio and record them. (Plus of course we’ll be playing some favorites from the other previous albums.)

The band is going to be stellar!! And it will include background harmonies and trumpet by Coco Love Alcorn, who will also be opening the shows. We toured together in Feb. and it was SUPER fun! She was nominated this year for 2 East Coast Music Awards and is amazing!

www.cocolovealcorn.com

PLUS: we will be RECORDING THE AUDIENCE for at least 2 songs on the album for which I have written crowd background vocals and percussion parts. So, if you show up and participate and write your name down after the show your name will be in the liner notes. Yep, there will need to be an extensive liner notes booklet but I will make sure it’s printed on recycled paper. More on this later. But for now make sure to mark these dates down in your calendar:

Date: May 23, 2010 Venue: House Concert Address: Medicine Hat, AB, CAN Description: details TBA

Date: May 26, 2010 Venue: Cantos Music Foundation – http://www.cantos.ca Address: 134 11 Ave. S.E., Calgary, AB, T2G 0X5, CAN Description: with band, for details contact Greg Curtis at gtcurtis@ucalgary.ca / 403-543-5115; opening act: Coco Love Alcorn – www.cocolovealcorn.ca

Date: May 27, 2010 Venue: TBA Address: Drayton Valley, AB, CAN Description: with band, more details TBA; opening act: Coco Love Alcorn – www.cocolovealcorn.com

Date: May 29, 2010 Venue: Myer Horowitz Theatre Address: 8900 114 St. NW, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2J7 CAN Description: with band, details TBA

www.annvriend.com/shows

Poland

I have been invited to play at the International Leonard Cohen Festival in Krakow, Poland this coming August. Very excited! Never been to Poland before. That’s all. Just wanted to tell you.

That’s all for now.

Gotta go board flight and not miss THIS one!

–AV