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Steverino ex machina.

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Location: PEI, Canada

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Uncovering cover-ups.

OK... here's the challenge. If you want to just post your own response on your own blog or site, lemme know where it is so I can see it! I was listening to the tunes on my computer the other day, and there were a couple of killer covers. I thought it would make a good post topic. That topic being to name maybe five or ten of the best covers on your computer's hard drive (but I'm going to post more). Rules to filter out the "blah":

a) no Christmas tunes
b) no blues tunes (usually not a shocking change, and lots of tunes have lots of covers)
c) not the most-known version (like The Black Crowes' "Hard to Handle"... which Tom Jones has an awesome old version of, btw)
d) not something that isn't much of a change, like that new (crappy) cover of Badfinger's "No Matter What"
e) not a crappy version of it
f) the rarer / odder the better
g) not just a song sample (like, say, in a rap tune)

Here are some of mine, in no order:

Ryan Adams, "Wonderwall"
This one's almost creepy. The melody's tinkered with, and it's very quiet and moody. I really dig this one. Paul Anka also has a cool new cover of this one out there.

Dolly Parton, "Shine"
Dolly does Collective Soul. This one's also a more laid-back effort, but it's way more killer than you'd think.

Ella Fitzgerald, "Sunshine Of Your Love"
Ella does Cream... with balls! A cool big-band cover.

Ziggy Marley, "Drive"
Ziggy did this Cars classic for the "50 First Dates" soundtrack. It's laid-back, heartfelt, and reggaelicious.

Lizz Wright, "Old Man"
I love Neil Young, and this tune's one of his best. Wright picks it apart a bit, and sings it in an almost suspenseful and breathy way. It has a bluegrass style of instrumentation, but it's quite... moody, yet held back. Almost like a towering, enormous, black cloud. Another great Neil Young cover is k.d. lang's version of "Helpless". She did this one on the Junos this year with Cohen's "Hallelujah". Both great.

John Mayer, "The Wind Cries Mary" (live)
I wish John Mayer would just quit it with most of the radio stuff and get down! He's very gentle on this one, and very skilled. This one's a keeper.

Big Sugar, "Let It Ride"
Gordie Johnson took this BTO bull by the horns and reggae-fied it. It rocks pretty hard, with help from Warren Hayes of Gov't Mule. The reggae twist is what makes it stand out. Excellent.

Travis, "Hit Me, Baby, One More Time"
These Scots actually made this tune listenable. Done acoustically, it sounds heartfelt and... good!

Rockstar INXS
Every "Idol" show had their collective asses kicked this summer with the talent on this show. It's just light years ahead of that mostly crappy crap. Of special note for me so far were Mig Ayesa's "Baby I Love Your Way", and especially Jordis Unga's "Man Who Sold The World". They're both really heartfelt and quite well done.

Jason Mraz, "Summer Breeze"
He can do some stuff that's "meh", but he can also really shine with some jazzy acoustic stuff. This Seals and Croft number is, as Bill & Ted may say, "most excellent".

The Kelele Brothers, "I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore"
Ron Sexsmith, er, "El Rondo" sings this one. Hot damn, Ron can really sing the hell out of a tune. This one's just dripping with hurt and soul. It sounds so classic and just right. Kudos to Randy Newman for writing something so timeless.

Colin James, "These Arms Of Mine"
From his album, "National Steel"... if you just lost someone and listen to this song, you WILL cry. If you don't, you're not human. I think I actually may prefer this version over Otis Redding's. Speaking of Otis Redding, he has a cool version of "Satisfaction" you Stones fans may like.

Emm Gryner, "Crazy Train"
Emm has done a couple of cover albums now. I wish she'd do more original stuff. But that's just because her original stuff can be so good. Several of her covers are of tunes by ballsy rock bands. Check out the quiet piano-and-voice treatment of this Ozzy tune. Emm rocks. Usually quietly.

Feist, "Now At Last"
I think Feist's album was probably the best album of 2004. She came out of nowhere on most people and made this timeless album. It mixes genres, but all sticks together. Check out this Blossom Dearie tune at the very end of the CD. It's fragile and sad, with a hint of hope. 'Tis amazing.

Wide Mouth Mason, "Supersition" (also with 'I wish', live)
They can do no wrong. Funk, rock, blues, soul, it's all part of the mix. This one's an all-time fave. Also check out their cover of "Billie Jean". There's even a live version out there of it mixed with "Whole Lotta Love".

Harry Connick, Jr., "Stardust" and "This Time The Dream's On Me"
I couldn't pick one over the other. I think HC does a superb job of both of these standards. Also potential tear-jerkers.

Renee Olstead, "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby"
This actress is, like, 16... and was only 14 when she recorded this! But her voice is sooo supple and smooth. And mature. And seductive. It's like caramel. David Foster snapped her up and did an album of mostly standards with her. This one's one of the better ones, I think. I saw her do "What A Wonderful World" on TV and was stunned. Hopefully her voice won't change too much over the years.

The Pursuit of Happiness, "She's So Young"
This one isn't a cover. It's actually their song. I just think it's awesome and overlooked. Someone could have a hit with this sleeping giant. TPOH rocked.

Check out this site. It has some cool tunes on it, and if you dig around, a fair amount of covers!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Party at Tim's!

Boy, it's been a while since I was at Tim & Cheryl's. It may even be a year since I was there. Either way, that's too long to not enjoy the hospitality of a Wartman, right Tim? The music's always pumping or being manually played, liquor's always flowing... unless it's in some jelly form... and there's enough meat to clog the sinuses of an elephant.

It was a nice evening, kind of mellow actually. Not snoozy, just nice and laid-back and semi-boozy for me (damn need to drive home). Maybe since the table died the house has been exorcised of some party demon? Who knows. I haven't seen Billy so drunk in a long while, and have never seen him hit on so many things, period. I think he even hit on Bob (the dog). I think the biggest shock... ok, the only one really... is that T & T are now an item and have been for six months. I thought those two would have been sworn off of one another after watching each others' behaviour at parties over the years. It really is stupefying. I wonder if "Mr. T" has broken the news to Neal yet. I think Tim will always have to play AC/DC's "TNT" at parties now. "They're T-&-T... they're dyno-mite!" Speaking of sing-alongs, I haven't heard so much nostalgia played on a guitar in a long time... Extreme, Motley Crue, Poison... I guess we'll have to thank Shane McGillicuddy for requ... demanding them all.

I think the most interesting thing for me, though, was talking at great lengths with Janice, who I hadn't really seen or talked to in 10 years. It was really interesting to see what she had thought of me (and vice versa), and it makes me wonder what other people used to think of me, and if they'd see me differently now. I think it also solidifies the fact that we'd all probably have a lot more fun with some people from h.s. or university if we'd just hang out, chat, and drink with them. It surprised me how much I surprised her and her notions of "me". I don't know if it made me feel that I may be more interesting than I may think I am, or if I should be concerned that people may have seen me as some "cool twit" or "bland twit", which I don't think I am either. It was cool to exchange knowledge of what's become of people from our grad class in high school, and hear all the surprises. Some were "too bad", some were "cool", and some were "wha?" I also found it really interesting to talk about how we both felt when we met people we used to know on the street or something, and how we'd approach that social situation. I think we were both relieved to hear that we handled it in similar ways. That, being the method of being too shy to make the first move and say "hey", only to feel like a snob later. Anyway, it was a great chat, full of reminiscing, catching up, and story swapping. Hopefully we can continue it at some other party, and hopegully I'll run into more old classmates for such things.

Thanks for throwin' another shindig, Mad Dog! McGillicuddy!
(Note: no, this is not Janice... I think it may be Shane McGillicuddy)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Trews: Den of Thieves.

Voici mon autographed cover of Le Trews' latest disque compact. I like The Trews. They rock in a classic-rock-sound way, and have good energy. Plus, they're kind of local, so that's a plus. Their Gordie Johnson connection is also a plus. Their last CD was good, but I found it wasn't one I took with me all the time or played the bejeezus out of. While I only got this one yesterday, this one seems to be about the same for me. They've tried a few new things, like horns, for example, but it's still got their sound. On a couple of songs, I found myself thinking, "Oh, they should have done this / done that differently". There's nothing that's too daring or too much of a stretch. Overall, so far, I like it. It rocks out, and there are some cool things they've done on it. However, I don't know if it's the songs or the sound, but I find it only semi-memorable. For me, they're kind of like the Black Crowes. I like 'em, but the wows are a spotty (and not overall) thing. On DoT, they're good, but not outstanding. I'd give it about a 7 out of 10. Good, but no classic. I think they have it in them, but this one isn't it. On a brighter note, I think the songs they have here may be enough to make a headlining show of theirs more interesting the whole way through. They used to peter out interest-wise after about a half-hour, but that mightn't happen now.

Monday, August 22, 2005


This morning I ate Alpha-bits and was disappointed. Not in the taste, no... but in the selection of letters my bowl held. I poured out a generous helping. Surely, I thought, there must be a cornucopia of letters in there! There must be multiples of every letter (statsitically speaking).
Well, statistics doesn't enter into the Alpha-bits equation, it seems. First, I tried to spell "ding dong". Not a "g" to be found. The letter "n" was also rather scarce. I found one, and the second was a stretched-out "z", I'm sure. Then, in disgust, I tried to spell the f-bomb. No "u", no "k". Just an "f" and a "c" for "f this cereal". I also observed an apparent lack of other letters, like "s", one of the five consonants Pat Sajak just gives away. It's free on TV, but not in my bowl. Get your act together, Post... I want to spell in the morning!

Sketchy Characters

Friday, August 19, 2005

Sketch 22.

I'm a fan of some local theatre. Basically, anything done by a certain circle of folks. This includes shows like Annekenstein (R.I.P.), 4Play (R.I.P.), Enemies, and Sketch 22. I generally find that their senses of humour are really up my alley. In the past, in all shows, something usually happens that pushes the boundaries of good humour or taste (I, personally, don't think they've crossed it yet... for me). Of late, it usually seems to be Rob MacDonald or Graham Putnam who's willing to go that extra mile for a laugh, shock, or gross-out. Things like nudity, ripping a pube out and putting in their mouth before they offer it to someone (it suited the moment), or just graphic description aren't necessarily expected, but it's not shocking to see one of these cats do such a thing.

This is why I was kind of surprised to hear some of the reviews of Sketch 22 this year. Last year was awesome. Really, it was. I can find humour in almost anything, but it takes something really good to make me genuinely smile or laugh out loud. It takes something really special to create "happy tears", and these shows/folks have done it a few times. Sketch 22 did it last year. But this year... some prude wrote a very poor review for The Guardian, and friends of friends said "don't bother", etc. I was perplexed. Did the absence of Matt Rainnie and the addition of this new Dennis Trainor fellow really change things all that much? Had they really gone TOO gross? Had they really gone TOO far? Well, either way, I was going to see it.

Last week, the day after the review in The Guardian, we got in line (what? an outdoor lineup? I don't like this...) at 7:10. This was 10 minutes after the doors had opened, and 50 minutes before the show. When we got to the door about 15 to 20 minutes later, it was sold out. That sucked. That warning of a review must've really brought the curious folks out. So, we waited until last night to try again. We got there even earlier, and were within the first 10 in. We sat in the centre of the 2nd row.

Well... I don't want to do a full review, as it's getting late... and I don't want to spoil toooo much, so I won't go into too much detail from here on. However, if you want nothing but total surprises, maybe just stop reading.

I didn't have any "happy tears", so I've seen them be funnier. But overall, it was very funny. Was I grossed out / shocked / insulted? No, no, and no. I thought it was all humourous. Of course, some stuff was funnier than others, but a good point / sense of humour was in all of it. Some people didn't see it all that way, though. Some of my relatives who were there last night questioned the harsher language and its overuse (I kind of expected more, actually... but thought it was good where they cut it), and may have found some of the subject matter a little harsh, expecially in the second half.

Some things, for some people, really pushed their boundaries of funny. Things like, a singing used tampon, gratuitous male nudity, language, a lesbian comedian with a "gunt" the size of an inner tube, religious and gay themes, men kissing with a frog's worth of tongue... there were lots of ideas, visuals, and phrases which pushed people's limits. However, I think the fact that nobody left, and that the crowd gave a standing ovation after a couple of hours of laughing says that a crowd could enjoy or at least "take" it all. When the stage gets rushed like Monty Python, then they may have a problem (although the funeral parlor sketch was always a favourite of mine).

Some of the stuff was just so funny, but in such a "wrong" way. You know, sometimes things ARE funny, but people think it's not right to laugh at them. Had I not been around, say, strangers (some of them pretty), I may have laughed more at the "inappropriate" stuff. For example, "Big Donnie".

Big Donnie made an appearance last year as well, but was less vocal. How can I not find humour in Rob MacD, with that facial image... playing a person with mental deficiencies and wearing a bicycyle helmet? That, on top of him talking like such a person, is really funny. To laugh at a person like that is wrong. But Rob, like that, is fuckin' hilarious, I think. It made me feel guilty to laugh, in a way, but I had to... as conservatively as I could.

In short, everyone performed well, and I enjoyed it. The video stuff was great again, as were the skits. They pushed the limits a bit more, and I loved that, really. It doesn't please the odd person, or the "parental-age" person... but for a person in their late 20s like me... who loved growing up with Kids In The Hall, etc., it was great to see some local folks put something like that together and have it succeed. I hope I can go back with some more of the right people.

Sketch 22
The Annekenstein Monster

Monday, August 15, 2005

A Day In the Life...

Of New Brunswick? Yes, New Brunswick. We just kind of went on a whim today, to watch some relatives do some fancy dirt-bikin'. Of note:

Well, the motocross, of course (it was my first time). It was at a new track (B-series, not for points) near Port Elgin, called "Strang's". It was rainy, but it was still good, what we saw. Dwayne (C's bro-in-law) got 4th in one race, and we're not sure what he got in the other race. Still, it's good, since it's his first year. Morgan, his son, did pretty good, too, but he was a bit too nervous to really attack the jumps. I'd like to say no pressure, 'cause he's only... 9 or 10, I think... but his folks push him hard. It was fun to watch, especially the jumps. That and the kid who spilled, got his pants caught near the tire, and well... you can guess the next step. No ambulance needed, maybe just a belt.

The sign in Dieppe that says RUE PAUL ST. I love unintentional humour.

Jungle Jim's in Dieppe... I'd never been to a Jungle Jim's. I liked it. Plus, our waiter, aka "weeter", was a fun spaz. A nice spaz, but a spaz. He had the energy of a chipmunk on ecstasy and the personality of a floundering stand-up comedian. He was like some very happy yet nervous european without an accent. He'd try to joke around, and be all smiley, but he was too quick at it... it was like, "BAM!", so it wasn't funny. He seemed like he was trying so hard to be funny, but he could tell we were a tough crowd... which we really weren't. Well, OK, C's dad kind of tore a strip off him because they didn't have any "light" salad dressing... but he was awkward to watch. It was unintentionally funny. I liked him.
He asked about our matching blue wristbands, and we told him about the motocross thing. Who would have known that our fellow with the Rowan Atkinson physique and lack of social finesse was once a dirt-biker and knew of tracks, etc.? He went on to ask about it, and talk about it... he talked of how he used to have a "YZ", and how there was a man near him that owned a track. They used to ask the man to use the track, and he demonstrated how they'd ask... something along the lines of, "Excuse me, Mr., do you suppose that we may be able to utilize our motorized bicycles on your track? We'd be ever so grateful". Well, that's not a quote, but that was the mood of it. I bet the track owner was like, "Wha? Just go use the track again if that's what you mean, you little bastard." I'd go back to JJ's there, just to get that guy again.

I also ate at the Blue Goose on PEI for the first time. The only thing of note there was the embarrassed SUV man who backed up into the metal pole with the restaurant's sign on it. About 5 of us in the lot all stared at him. He dared not get out and check... he just drove off with his trailer hitch between his tires.

If I remember anything else good about the trip worth noting, I'll note it.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

"Are You Ready"... for Blue Rodeo?

If I had to pick a favourite band, I think I'd say it was Wide Mouth Mason. I have the most history with them. I've seen them more than any band, gotten to know them over the years... but I haven't seen them at all in about... almost three years. That's just sad. Almost as sad as when Gordie Johnson told me he (and the rest of Big Sugar) would probably be back to PEI within the year. That was almost six years ago now, I think. Maybe seven. Then I look at a band like Blue Rodeo. They have come here three times in the last three years, I believe. They're to the point now that they are somewhat of a Canadian institution / iconic band. Yet, they come and play for us on our wee Isle, and seem to like it here. That, coupled with their top-notch tunage, sometimes makes me feel as if my musical allegiance is stretching their way.

I saw Blue Rodeo tonight for my third time. I was front and centre, mere feet away, and it was fantastic. I caught myself a couple of times looking, listening, and thinking about them individually, and as a group. They just may be the most Canadian band (going right now, anyway). What's that mean? Well, that there is something really "Canadian" about them. Maybe it's kind of like our identity as Canadians. We largely define ourselves by what we're not. They're not overly famous (yet they are). They're not obviously egotistical. They're not overly-produced (they play and sing just fine, thanks). They do have an average image / country-ish look, play a mix of rock, folk, and country... and they really can kick out a stompin' rock tune better than any other. Not RAWK, but kickin' stompin' rock. Their songs (and place in our culture) are somewhere close to the heart of Canadiana whether we all know it or not. It feels comfortable, familiar, and just really good.

Individually: Greg Keelor. Kind of like the John Lennon to Jim Cuddy's Paul. A little psychedelic, grey, visceral, gritty... sometimes almost oddball. Yet, I think he's the one I'd like most to have on my deck for a bbq. He seems interesting. Jim Cuddy... I think I like his tunesmithing a bit more. And what a voice. Yet, if any has an ego or temper, it may be him. At least Dave Bidini of the Rheostatics has written about him in that light when it comes to playing hockey (see "On A Cold Road" and "Tropic Of Hockey"). Bob Egan looks more like someone's uncle... but the man can play anything with strings. He 's done some great musical things (say, being in Wilco?) and met some great people (like, oh, Johnny Cash) . I think the addition of his pedal steel is perfect. Like how Daniel Lanois ("...I can play that steel guitar and make you cry") has helped U2's sound, Egan gives Blue Rodeo's music that extra emotion... and extra sense of space which mirrors that of the wide gaps of our country. Glenn Milchem is a fantastic drummer, and his style makes him fun to watch. He has also worked with some important groups, like Change of Heart, Andrew Cash, Colin Linden, and Big Sugar among others. To me, he's a major name in the Can-rock renaissance. Bazil Donovan... reminded me of Neil Young tonight. He looked frazzled and sly, rocking out in front of his amps save for singing one song. He's rocksteady, and just kind of likable. Tonight was the first night I saw their new keyboardist. I don't know his name, but he was stellar... sometimes swaying towards those odd chords like Keelor. Whoever he is, he's got mad skillz like Napolean Dynamite and seems to suit the band to a "T".

Well... how did the show ce soir go down? Some would be disappointed at the lack of some hits: "Try", "Rain Down On Me", "Bulletproof", and "After the Rain" were all absent, as were some others. I can see how that'd miff some people. I appreciated the variety, though. If they played only their best-known stuff each time, and did the same set every visit, I may see them twice and think "oh, that was the same", and that would be it. You just hope they play it next time. They played songs tonight and did things in ways they didn't do their last couple of visits. There were some similarities (lighting, how they did "Hasn't Hit Me Yet", etc.), but it was different overall. They played several songs from the new CD, and they all came off well. They turned "Palace Of Gold" into a totally different tune. They played a couple of acoustic songs with just Keelor and Cuddy on stage. They played right through a fire alarm. It was a good mix of old songs and new... slow and quiet with loud and raucous. Pretty with gritty. Keelor had some funny moments, and seems to inspire the most intense and odd fan hollering of the group, but the quote of the night went to a guy in one of the two rows in front of us. Between songs in the encore, right after "5 Days In May", it was dead quiet for a moment. He said plainly, "That was awesome", and I think everyone heard him. The crowd and band laughed and the band said thanks. The man was right. It really was awesome.

I know this has all come off disjointed and gushy, but I think it makes my point. They have made me a bit disjointed and gushy. Their songs are written and performed honestly and skillfully. They tour everywhere... and often. They possess some kind of intangible Canadian quality... we wouldn't be the same without them. How can I not like all of that? I just hope they continue to be as loyal to the area as they have been. I can't wait to see how they change things up and once more get some people hootin' and hollerin' in our city's refined theatre.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

This IS "Old School"... Stray Cats.

Keeping with this literal "old school"theme... I give you stray cats. No, not the old "Stary Cat Strut" of Brian Setzer's group, but real stray cats. There were a couple of entries before it, about the tilt-a-whirl, and Halloween, but this one was better. It reads, "Stray cats sometimes live in dumps. It is not a very pleasant life, but it's OK for stray cats." Long before our province had Waste Watch, we had dumps. Just put your crap in the car and drive it to the local dirt hole. Leave all your crap there, hazardous or not, for free. It was a good deal, except for the environment, and maybe the dump's inhabitants. I like how I worded my entry... that it wasn't a pleasant life, but it was OK for stray cats. It was like I devalued their little mangy lives, so living that way was ok for them, just not "normal" cats. If you click on the picture, you can also see how I drew a wild-eyed kitty hunkered down in some wee waste crater. Maybe I saw this one day at the dump and it weirded me out. Who knows. Perhaps it was the half-rabbit half-cat thing that people said lived there. I don't know. I only heard of this "cabbit" yesterday from a cousin. Perhaps I should make a return to the area in search of a "cabbit trail".

Monday, August 01, 2005

School Journals

I think I mentioned, in an older post, about cleaning out my room in my folks' place and finding some gems. I think this one is perhaps the most precious. It's my old LA journal from my old elem. school. I don't know what year it's from... it looks like it could be from a couple of years, given the mix of writing and printing. One hint of its date is that near the end I wrote about my first communion. So... I'm guessing maybe grade one or two. Another hint is my entry about "Thriller". Those things will come later.

Today, I'm going to show the cover and the first page.

The ol' Hilroy journals. Was there much else? The only thing of note here, I think, is my practicing of writing logos for KISS and Twisted Sister. I wasn't much for KISS back then, but their logo was kind of cool. I liked Twisted Sister more back then... they had a couple good videos on Video Hits. I have no idea whoever started writing these logos with bones... but they probably didn't have any idea of their to-be wide-spread influence. "Bones" was standard font back then. Almost like that dumb "smile" S that kids write all the time. It's stupidly simple.

Then we have my first entry. Mom said I didn't like to write much back then (you'd never know that now). I would also write about the same topic for days. It's kind of like reading in school. From grades 8 up, I hated having to read novels that didn't really interest me. So, in some cases I didn't read them, and found ways of getting by well (no test cheating or anything, though). I still have a book report for "The Hobbit" due for my grade 8 teacher.

Here, you can see my favouring of art over words. I wrote one word, "one", and it looks like I tried to do something else first. My favourite part is the cows. Anyone who lives next to a cow field recognizes this. Cows doing #1 and #2, perhaps with their head stretched out... as well as two cows playing "stack". I can only assume this is what they're doing. Either that or trying to form some bovine pyramid. What else could it be? Either way, they did this a lot.