John Larson “Songs About Music”
As long time frontman for The Marlowes, John Larson has plenty of stories about life as working musician. With the help of his bandmate Justin Capaldi and Mick Chorba (The Dispomaniacs), he puts these observations in his new solo LP. Larson opens with the hook filled “Girl in the Band,” about a hook up at a music convention. “They’re Not Writing Country (In This Country Anymore)” is a pretty accurate jab at the current commercial country rock scene.
John’s vocal is limited in range, but clear and best used on “Kiss and Yell” and “Billy and Wiggy” a description of meeting Billy Bragg’s brother. The harmonies and lead work to great effect on the melodic “She Just Wants To Talk” and the obsessive thoughts of a vinyl record collector “Track You Down” combines a vintage Zombies-styled organ melody with a sing-along chorus. “The Lifer” is a gorgeous autobiographical ballad that has echoes of Van Morrison and Lou Reed about how “the critic’s darling” can’t afford to even get gas for the car. Many musicians hearing this album will nod in agreement – a strong effort by a veteran road warrior.
Doctor Ew “Gadzooks”
Don’t judge an album by its cover. Despite looking like a horror soundtrack or punk album, Doctor Ew is the solo debut from Toronto pop musician Drew Smith. Right from the get go on “The House Of Many Mansions,” you’ll hear those XTC and Rundgren influences in the beat and synth compositions. The happy hand clapping melody of “Dance All Over My Grave” is in direct contrast to the dark psychotherapy in the lyric. “Be A Dreamer” is another endearing melody that echoes Brian Wilson with its tinkling piano, and the follow up “To Be Your Man” is an equally wistful Beach Boys styled tune. Ew’s nasal tenor works well on these short lo-fi songs (most under 2 minutes) and the added horn flourishes, guitar rhythms and backing harmonies enhance each melody.
No filler here and every track is interesting, although Drew’s vocal on “Do As The Lord Tells Me,” doesn’t quite fit. Also impressive is the beautiful and creepy “If You’re Happy” and the self depreciating “I’m Getting Fat” with the funny backing chorus of “Hey Chubba Bubba!” Overall, a delicate and fun diversion for those with a musical sweet tooth.