DAVID REED: Perfect music for giving – Goderich Signal Star

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With Christmas approaching, here are five new albums that would make excellent gifts for any serious music lover.

The Sheepdogs – Changing Colours
(Warner Music Canada, 2018)

These Saskatoon rockers proudly carry the mantle of prairie rock laid out by the Guess Who, and infuse it with some duel-guitar pyrotechnics that hint at the Allman Brothers. The first single, Nobody, will grab your attention and the rest of the record is just as good.
Guitarists Ewan Currie and Jim Bowskill are inspired and connected, and brother Shamus Currie lays down some sweet piano, organ and mellotron parts (Cool Down is phenomenal). Other highlights include I Ain’t Cool, Saturday Night, Let it Roll, Kiss the Brass Ring and the six-part medley that closes the album.
Sounds best with headphones.

Metric – Art of Doubt
(Crystal Math Music, 2018)

This Canadian quartet has been releasing consistently excellent records for two decades. If you consider yourself a fan of Canadian music you should have all of them in your collection.
Vocalist Emily Haines is a dynamic stage performer with a killer voice. James Shaw crafts a myriad of guitar tones. Together, the two complement and compete, pushing upwards. Joshua Winstead (bass) and Joules Scott-Key (drums) create a foundation that propels the sound.
Highlights include Die Happy, Dressed to Suppress, Love You Back, Art of Doubt and Dark Saturday. Crank it up.

Mumford & Sons – Delta
(Universal Music, 2018)

This British band has reinvented themselves from folk/bluegrass beginnings to something that almost resembles hipster Coldplay. (Not an insult – I love Coldplay.) The thick vocal harmonies that made Mumford & Sons famous are still there, but the sonic tapestry has thickened, even including an orchestra.
Highlights include Guiding Light, Slip Away, Rose of Sharon, Woman, October Skies, 42 and the spoken word on Darkness Visible including segments from Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Spend the extra few bucks for the deluxe edition. The three bonus tracks are live acoustic performances
that are worth every penny (even though nobody has pennies anymore).

Mark Knopfler – Down the Road Wherever
(Blue Note Records, 2018)

Dire Straits’ founder, singer and lead guitarist has released eight solo albums since the band called it quits in 1995, in addition to lots of film scoring. His fingerstyle guitar playing first caught my attention on the track “Sultans of Swing.” I’ve enjoyed just about everything he’s released since then.
This new record is mostly laid-back blues and roots with a few twists like the funky Nobody Does That.
Highlights include Back on the Dance Floor, Drover’s Road, Slow Learner, Floating Away, Good On You Son and Every Heart in the Room.

Prince – Piano & a Microphone 1983
(Warner Bros Records, 2018)

Recorded at Prince’s home in 1983, this recording features some exploratory and improvisational piano work and song development. This group of unreleased demos was recorded in one take on the same night.
We’re not used to hearing Prince sounding relaxed. He was known for his obsessive perfectionist tendencies. Hearing his foot stomping along and the occasional sniff or breath is oddly intriguing. Most notably, there is an early rendition of his iconic Purple Rain. The traditional song Mary Don’t You Weep is delivered with a bluesy vibe.
Other highlights include 17 Days, Cold Coffee & Cocaine, Why the Butterflies and Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You. This intimate performance is a gem.

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