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.

New Ann Vriend Album Available For Download

From Ann Vriend’s Latest Newsletter:


Folks, I am very happy to announce that my new album, “Love & Other Messes”, is now available for download via the link below. You can download the whole album and front cover artwork, or individual tracks.

I produced the album myself, co-produced with engineer Alan Wall and my bassist James Forrest. I have to say it’s the one I am most proud of to date, and I’m dying to know what you think of it!

Now, before you do anything reckless like download the songs immediately, read this little insider fan tidbit of info, because it might affect your decision:

1) the physical album will be available in a matter of days or even hours to order online, and it contains a 28 page lyric booklet which has blurbs about the songs and a lot of photos, as well as the lyrics and musician credits, and the whole package is made from 100% recycled material. So, you may want to wait to get the real deal vs the digital deal for only a few more bucks than downloading all the tracks. There will be a Paypal button posted on my website shortly, and on it will be an option to get it signed and/or a personalized message written on it by yours truly. Makes an excellent Christmas present if I don’t say so myself! (bias accusations accepted).

2) the album is going to be pressed on vinyl in a month or 2, and the vinyl album will come with a download card for the songs. It will cost about $25 – $35 because it costs a lot to manufacture them, but in case this is an option you prefer you might want to hold off til then. HOWEVER: the record on vinyl will ONLY BE AVAILABLE AT LIVE SHOWS so be aware of that!

So, you see, it pays to be on the AV Mailing List :).

By the way, my stance on downloading versus album sales is that while I don’t want to give away my music for free I think hey, this is the new medium, people want to have songs digitally, CD cases take up storage room, and as long as in general I can keep on making a living from music I am happy– which is the case so far, thanks to YOU. I feel very supported by the fans of my music so I’d rather have you download my music and pass on the word about it then never get around to listening to it because it’s too expensive/cumbersome to get the actual CD. My hope is that you’ll like the songs so much you’ll either come to a show, bring your friends, pass the music on to other people who will then become fans, host a house concert, or something else that puts $ into my pocket one way or another down the road. I do make some income from digital downloads so this little paragraph is to clear your consciences about downloading my music. Download away, and thanks so much for your ongoing support 🙂


I have one week of shows remaining in Deutschland. So far I’m having a blast! The concerts have been going really well and I am learning a (mostly unrelated) mix of German words, visiting castles and cathedrals, loving the lack of speed limits on the Autobahn, and slowly figuring out the Deutsche Bahn train schedules (still working on that one). Biegen sie links ab! Rot wein! Genau!

Here’s a list of my remaining tour dates in Germany. Full details for the shows are posted via the link below.

Danke to everyone in Germany who has made this tour so fun so far!

Wetzlar November 16

Dillenburg November 17

Trier November 18

Düesseldorf November 19

Mülheim an der Ruhr November 20


It’s on Sunday, November 28. Which, I just discovered today, is the same day that the Grey Cup will be held in… Edmonton. Argh! If only I was on top of Canadian football news I would have known this. But alas, I regret to say that I am obviously not on top of that, and my excuse is that I’ve been out of the country for a few weeks, and out of the province since the end of Sept. (But I did vote in advance for the municipal election, does that count for anything?)

Anyway, it occurred to me that not all Edmontonians are football fans, and so I have decided the unofficial title of this next Bluebird North Event will be: The Alternative Show to Men Jumping On Top Of Each Other For Fun And/Or Money”. (Or TASTMJOTOEOFFAOM, which admittedly is not the best acronym there ever was.)

It will be my first week back in Edmonton after a long hiatus, so, my fellow Edmontonians, do come by and say hello, and enjoy a show– in which I will be very surprised if anyone, male or female, jumps on top of each other. But it still will be entertaining– I’m excited about the line up and the shows are getting rave reviews from attendees!

I am the host and producer of the show, and will play a song at the beginning of each set, but in general it features 4 other songwriters from across Canada who will play 2 sets in the songwriters-in-the-round style. This show’s 4 featured songwriters are:

Karyn Ellis, Brian McCleod, Kim Wempe, and Dave Newberry.

For advance tickets and complete details please visit this link:


Kelowna show and live internet streaming thereof on Friday, December 11 (deets via the link below). Looking for a house concert or 2 that same weekend as a duo with my bassist for the 10th and/or 12 in the Okanagan area, so if you’d like to host one let me know at

Coming up in 2011:

Full 7 piece band tour to release the album across Alberta at the end of January

CD Release Tour of Australia late February – Early April

CD Release Tour of Canada May – Mid June

Details are slowly coming together for each, so stay tuned and keep checking in!

Thanks for your support!