Review of CITIZENS OF NASHVILLE - November 22, 2014

And here on my desk this week sits album No.3 from Bob Menzies entitled "Citizens of Nashville. A man who has won me over not just by being a great songwriter but by being a prolific one. By improving his muse every time he steps foot in the studio he has turned baby steps into giant leaps. He doesn’t stop traveling – physically and musically. And it allows him more fodder for his restless mind. For his latest outing he has gone directly to Nashville to punch up his latent country leanings and folk storytelling. On board are Eddie Bayers (drums), Kelly Back (electric guitar), Howard ‘The Duckman’ Duck (keyboards), Scotty Sanders (pedal steel, dobro), Kevin ‘Swine’ Grantt (bass) and Mike Rojas (keyboards, organ). Add Bob’s own acoustic guitar playing prowess and vibrant vocals and you’ve got a hot combination before the first notes are even played.

 

Menzies1A great album of songs it is, too, courtesy of Nashville producer/musician Larry Beaird (Dolly Parton, Billy Dean, Mark O’Connor). Bob makes no bones about his nervousness at being amongst legends in the confessional track “I’ve Never Been To Nashville”’, but by the ease in which the songs like “You can’t Go Home Again” and “Follow Me Down” come across you’d never know. That would come from the pre-production they did in Clarksdale, Mississippi at the Hopson Plantation where Bob’s songs – all pre-written – would take on a new life through the prism of Nashville’s magic.

What is most noticeable is that the record is filled with more uptem tracks compared to those on his last two efforts – ‘Breaking Time‘ and ‘One More Highway‘. The energy of the quick 6 day Menzies2sessions in Nashville might account for this. “My Time Has Come”, “Highway of My Dreams” and “The Only Thing I Fear” are stand-outs. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Menzies album without a few rogues and scoundrels making an appearance. “Black Cat Hiding”, for instance, paints a picture of women that men should be wary of. But ladies, you should also keep an eye on men found in songs like “Time For You To Go”. Heartache, hope and living (“Love And Glory”) will carry through this latest Bob Menzies mental travelogue. Here’s hoping Bob’s got another album in him ready to go early in 2015. http://www.bobmenziesmusic.com

Reviews Of One More Highway

Reviews Of One More Highway

Review of ONE MORE HIGHWAY - March 8, 2014

JAIMIE VERNON – TELL ME ARE YOU LISTENING (Album review published March 8, 2014) 
BOB MENZIES – One More Highway

Bob Menzies has become one of my new favourite singer-songwriters. I realize it’s a tired old phrase and describes
a million different musicians out there, but Bob harkens back to some of our long-lost musical heroes: the troubadours,
the storytellers, the minstrels.

Musically ‘One More Highway’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDwkdFa80R8 continues driving across the road
map (pun intended) as laid out in his debut release ‘Breaking Time’. Bob expands on his world travelled, in-depth
observational personality profiles featuring all manner of rogues (“Totally Wrong Side of Town”), ne’er do wells
(the Eric Clapton-esque “Black Widow Spider” and the sassy I-IV-V driving “Lucinda Night”) and lovers
(“Can’t Be Saved By Love”).  The songs bounce between folk balladry (the Dylan-like “End of the Line” &
“San Francisco” and the Chris DeBurgh styled “Totally Wrong Side of Town”) to country (“Riders of the Purple Sage”
and “One More Highway” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSPsh0clx-U).

Bob makes each song personal and descriptive – a workaday approach to lyrics that are refreshing and unpretentious.
Russell Gray’s production is A1 – allowing a full spectrum mix for all the acoustic instrumentation including some of
the final recorded keyboard, violin, and accordion tracks by the late James Gray.
Here’s hoping Bob continues
globetrotting so we can be the recipients of more of his engaging musical stories. http://bobmenziesmusic.com/

Send your CDs to: Jaimie Vernon, 180 Station Street, Suite 53, Ajax, ON L1S 1R9 CANADA
=JV=
Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.
Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada
since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years,
and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian
Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s
A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com

 

Review of ONE MORE HIGHWAY January 26, 2014

Bob Menzies - One More Highway

A fine collection rooted in a worldly wisdom
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One More Highway is a fitting title indeed for Bob Menzies' second recording.  An inveterate wanderer who's learned his share of life's lessons on treks that have taken him around the globe, he remains a restless spirit.  Many of the songs on One More Highway deal with the theme of travel, whether literal or metaphorical.

Menzies' music would probably best be described as folk-rock, but the blues and good ol' rock 'n' roll are evident as well.  Don't call it Americana, though - Menzies was born in Holland, raised in Montreal, and has worked in Germany, London, and California.  So while the musical forms are familiar enough, there's a worldly wisdom here, a sense that Menzies' true home is global indeed.

Menzies wrote all the material on One More Highway, many based on or inspired by his own real-life experiences.  There's "Riders Of The Purple Sage," employing a clever combination of Zane Grey titles to tell a tale of hobo life, and "End Of The Line," a tune about the famed Green Parrot Bar in Key West.   There's "Can't Be Saved By Love," a song infused with Fado, the bluesy-sad music of Portugal, and "San Francisco," a harrowing account of the dark side of the 'Summer Of Love.'

"Black Widow Spider" is a freewheeling yarn of unrequited love that sounds like a lost Dylan tune (yes, it's that good), and the hook-heavy title track, an anthemic celebration of restlessness, deals with the irresistible urge to keep moving, to travel "one more highway ...".

Production is exemplary, rich and full, with Menzies' craggy but thoroughly convincing voice front and center; what he lacks in polish, he makes up for with unadorned honesty.  The band includes producer Russell Gray on guitars and ebow (used to coax otherwise unobtainable tones from an electric guitar) and James Gray (no relation) on keys, violin, and accordion.  (The latter, formerly of Canadian country-rock institution Blue Rodeo, passed away shortly after these sessions were recorded).

What it comes down to, though, are the songs, and here Menzies is a master craftsman.  They're all catchy, with sing-along choruses and genuinely infectious melodies.  But there's wisdom here, too.  Menzies knows there are no answers, really, and the search is what matters in the end; be thankful for  life's grace notes, but never, ever stop seeking.  As he sings on the title track, "We're only young for a minute ..."

This is wise and wonderful stuff, highly recommended.

Reviews Of Breaking Time

Reviews Of Breaking Time

Review: Bob Menzies - Breaking Time

Review: Bob Menzies - Breaking Time

Bob Menzies Breaking Time In the sixties and into the early seventies, the travelling life of a vagabond was a dream shared by many baby boomers. Now based in Toronto, Bob Menzies actually lived that dream, making his way around the world by thumb, boxcar, and freighter. He worked in Sudbury’s nickel mines and alongside migrant pickers in the fields of California. He’s been to Morocco, Norway, Greece and France, and lived and worked in Germany and England, all during a turbulent time when music genuinely had the power, if not to change the world, then at least to profoundly influence the people in it.

That experience imbues Menzies’ songwriting with a rare generosity of spirit tempered with the kind of worldly wisdom that can neither be bought nor faked. And then there’s the voice – utterly free of artifice or affectation, it’s as sturdy and honest as a well-worn pair of work boots, the kind of voice that seems to tell its own stories of life and love, quite apart from the song at hand.

Breaking Time is Menzies’ debut release, recorded at a time of life when most have long since stopped chasing youthful dreams. It’s a remarkable collection of folk-rock gems, some anthemic, some quietly affecting, but all delivered with unwavering passion and unquestionable commitment.

Menzies has a knack for strong hooks and infectious choruses, the kind that make songs seem like old friends even on the first listen. Lyrically, he’s concerned the passing of time and the things that truly matter when we face that fact that our own is finite. He doesn’t pretend to have all the answers – opener “Hey Now Joe,” for all its sing-along likability, questions what comes next once the final curtain falls, while “Happy Birthday My Friend” proves a posthumous, bittersweet rumination on the loss of those we love.

Elsewhere there’s “I’m Gonna Love You Anyhow,” subtitled “The Sailor Song,” a declaration of enduring devotion in spite of all, while “River Moon” gazes into the abyss and wonders whether it’s all worth it. “Crazy Town” is an autobiographical yarn about Menzies’ time working underground, and “Bitter Wind” is an elliptical and angry rant regarding the general state of the world, bristling with rage yet, in the end, indomitably optimistic that somehow we’ll find our way. “When This Day Is Done” and “The Day You Said Goodbye” are melancholic reflections on love, the former steadfast and true and the latter lost and longed for.

Although he’s done just about everything else, Menzies has limited experience as a performing musician, so he hired some of Toronto’s best to help flesh out his songs. Producer Mark Nakamura works wonders with the overall sound, warm and organic. With compositions evolving as the sessions progressed, contributions from guitarist Russell Gray and keyboard master Martin Alex Aucoin (piano, Wurlitzer, and organ) are particularly invaluable. Both contribute instrumental shades and textures that provide unobtrusive support yet render rich and fully realized arrangements.

It’s the vocals that carry songs like these, though, and Menzies’ homespun delivery and slightly ragged but transparently true voice is just right. Resilient even in the face of doubt and despair, there’s a genuinely heartfelt sincerity in every word he sings, leaving no question whatsoever that he has indeed lived and not just learned each song.

With songwriting reminiscent of the likes of Dylan and Hiatt, excellent sound, superb musicianship, and an engagingly warm and winning personality, Breaking Time is a collection well worth spending time with!

BY JOHN_TAYLOR

 

Review of Breaking Time by JAIMIE VERNON, music blogger posted March 23, 2013

JAIMIE VERNON: THE STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER   March 23, 2013

Meanwhile, there are still artists who are heaving into their twilight with as much grace as they can muster in a world obsessed with youth and yoga pants. This week I received a great new CD from Bob Menziesof Toronto. I must admit that I didn’t know what to expect from a guy who has been a world traveler doing the work of Everyman and finally settling down in his prime to produce a fantastic debut album nearly a year in the production – but a lifetime in the writing.

Generally, I don’t go much for Dylanesque artists, but Bob (Menzies) has shaken me out of my dislike for the Mumbling One by not only articulating with a strong and confident voice, but writing songs that are relatable and accessible to any listener.  Menzies also delivers the tunes with a slight country edge as slide guitars permeate many tracks. The disc is heartfelt and stand-out tracks include “Hey Now Joe” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1QAZa4lNcU, “Bitter Wind” (which should be sent to radio pronto!), “Crazy Town” (about Menzies’ experience working in a mine), and “Happy Birthday My Friend”. Bonus points for including his biography in the CD booklet itself and great production by Studio 92 guru Mark Nakamura and Brett MacMillan.

http://www.bobmenziesmusic.com


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.
Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

 

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com