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  REVIEWS, continued
   
  Timeless tunes make the Christmas Carol Project a real gift
Tim Craddock, December 18, 2010, The Straight

A Brass Monkey production presented by the Cultch. At the Cultch on Friday, December 17. Continues December 18.

Waiting in the Cultch’s renovated sanctuary brought back the feeling of childhood anticipation on Christmas morning: praying for good presents and that Dad wouldn’t put on a Rita MacNeil record.

It’s always a gamble producing a concept album, but a musical act revolving around Charles Dickens’s classic really set high stakes. Fortunately, The Christmas Carol Project paid off with timeless tunes in spades. The greatest gauge for a show’s impact is whether it gives the audience goosebumps, and from the start, chills made their way on a wave of festive folk creativity.

Bill Bourne started with a biting “Bah Humbug” which paired the bluesy foot-stomper with Dave Clarke’s lively narration. Kevin Cook’s “On the Wings of the Wind” was another highlight of the evening. The years of musical experience shone through the well-crafted songs, and the harmonizing between the lyrics and the text was remarkable.

While Bourne characterized Scrooge the best, Maria Dunn was the most notable in her role as Tiny Tim. Dunn’s presence exuded the spirit of the show and her accordion drew the attention of the audience, culminating with “Scrooge’s Jig (or The Maid's Bewilderment)”.

Clarke transitioned between the songs with ease and comical effect. However, during the performances, his hovering around the stage was a noticeable distraction. It was hard not to focus on every movement during longer instrumentals where the audience was left without any visuals. On the same note, the epic jams sometimes droned for any unfolky patrons in the audience, but the talented cast always brought the listener back from their dreamy brink.

The other members of the ensemble: Al Brant, Bill Hobson, Dale Ladouceur, and Terry Morrison were also exceptional. If Bourne was their Bob Dylanesque leader, then he was backed by the Band. Each artist presented his or her own distinct flavour and the mélange created a memorable tapestry that was more than just a Christmas soundtrack. The brilliant ballads could stand no matter what season it was, and showed that Alberta is rich with something more than just oil.

The Christmas Carol Project was a wonderful early present and hopefully the Cultch hosts it again next season. The show was one of the best concepts we’ve heard since the Alan Parson’s Project’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Unfortunately, they’ve left us longing for more literary music. Please sir, we want some more.



Tacoy Ryde
Peter North, Special to the Journal, Edmonton
"...Brant and vocalist Dale Ladouceur have found a comfort zone that makes for smooth and satisfying interplay..."

Waterbirds just ducky
Rod Campbell, Weekend Express, The Edmonton Sun

"Al Brant and the Waterbirds took to recording like a...duck to water.
. After years of knocking about town in various guises this resourceful local roots-rocker has just released an admirable, self-titled debut album.
. Truly, this is a disc that features some wonderful original tracks — Mad Scientist, Ain't Gonna Do It and, above all, The River, being three standouts.
. These cuts resound with the same sublime, soulful craftsmanship and intensity of Paul Brady, the Irish legend who writes some of Bonnie Raitt and Tina Turner's best material.
. Brant, of course, has never heard of Brady.
. And besides, the Waterbirds — Barrie Nighswander (guitar), Cliff Minchau (bass), Kelly Pikula (drums) and Brant (12-string guitar) — spread their roots further afield than the veteran Centic soul runner to include traces of country, rockabilly and western swing.
. "Because the band didn't have a lot of rehearsal time, a lot of the album came together in the studio. It was just a space and time kind of thing, you know, getting what we got" says Brant. "The way it turned out surprised the hell out of me, man. The songs got written on an acoustic guitar, a lot of it had to do with how everyone interpreted it. "It's just the way the ship went.
. Edmonton-born-and-raised Brant started out as a cover act with Ian Skelly. Popular local arranger and composer George Blondheim took a brief interest in them and made several demos—one of which landed on a compilation album released by radio station K-97 in 1988.
. Further on down the road, Brant bumped in guitar whiz Eddie Patterson (who has since moved to Hamilton to teach).
. They formed a band and released an independent cassette, Let It Fly, in 1991. With Patterson, Brant began writing songs for the first time.
. "The stuff I was listening to as a teenager dealt with a lot of personal things about the soul. I was always into lyrics. If something made me think about myself or the world about me, I really dug it, you know. I suppose that's what stoked me to get into writing myself."
. The album Al Brant and the Waterbirds can be found at most independent record stores throughout the city as well as in HMV and Top 40."

The Christmas Carol Project
by Tim Craddock, Georgia Strait December 18, 2010
Waiting in the Cultch’s renovated sanctuary brought back the feeling of childhood anticipation on Christmas morning: praying for good presents and that Dad wouldn’t put on a Rita MacNeil record.

It’s always a gamble producing a concept album, but a musical act revolving around Charles Dickens’s classic really set high stakes. Fortunately, The Christmas Carol Project paid off with timeless tunes in spades. The greatest gauge for a show’s impact is whether it gives the audience goosebumps, and from the start, chills made their way on a wave of festive folk creativity.

Bill Bourne started with a biting “Bah Humbug” which paired the bluesy foot-stomper with Dave Clarke’s lively narration. Kevin Cook’s “On the Wings of the Wind” was another highlight of the evening. The years of musical experience shone through the well-crafted songs, and the harmonizing between the lyrics and the text was remarkable.

While Bourne characterized Scrooge the best, Maria Dunn was the most notable in her role as Tiny Tim. Dunn’s presence exuded the spirit of the show and her accordion drew the attention of the audience, culminating with “Scrooge’s Jig (or The Maid's Bewilderment)”.

Clarke transitioned between the songs with ease and comical effect. However, during the performances, his hovering around the stage was a noticeable distraction. It was hard not to focus on every movement during longer instrumentals where the audience was left without any visuals. On the same note, the epic jams sometimes droned for any unfolky patrons in the audience, but the talented cast always brought the listener back from their dreamy brink.

The other members of the ensemble: Al Brant, Bill Hobson, Dale Ladouceur, and Terry Morrison were also exceptional. If Bourne was their Bob Dylanesque leader, then he was backed by the Band. Each artist presented his or her own distinct flavour and the mélange created a memorable tapestry that was more than just a Christmas soundtrack. The brilliant ballads could stand no matter what season it was, and showed that Alberta is rich with something more than just oil.

The Christmas Carol Project was a wonderful early present and hopefully the Cultch hosts it again next season. The show was one of the best concepts we’ve heard since the Alan Parson’s Project’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Unfortunately, they’ve left us longing for more literary music. Please sir, we want some more.

The Christmas Carol Project: Critics' Choice, Henrietta Walmark
The Toronto Star
"For a genuinely lovely Christmas treat, this is just the thing. Adapted for television from the live stage show that has been playing to sold-out audiences in Edmonton for a decade, this is a musical version of the Dickens holiday classic. A group of Canadian roots and folk musicians got together and wrote original lyrics and music based on specific characters like Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and the various Ghosts of Christmas to remarkably moving effect. The tunes are eclectic in style and content, from bluesy to funky to Celtic to gospel, yet it all melds into a wonderfully entertaining whole. Two songs are especially memorable. Kenneth Brown's The Men Who Toil, about the miners "who dig the deeps," and Maria Dunn's Tiny Tim song God Bless Us Everyone, with its sweet reminder: "When the world is feeling cold and the sky more grey than blue/ And the snow it seems to lie heavy heartedly on you/ To the counting house of blessings may we often chance to stray/ And in company together spend many's the night and day."
The Toronto Star

The Christmas Carol Project
See Magazine, Edmonton
"Folk music and Christmas are both steeped in traditions, so it’s no surprise that local contemporary folk and roots artists have created their own traditions to go with the season.

The Christmas Carol Project was originally conceived and first performed in 1996 at Catalyst, and despite the uninviting -40 degree temperatures, the single show sold out and was a limited critical success. Over the years, the venue has changed, the number of shows presented each year has increased, and new, original music has been added, but the tradition of celebrating the timeless Dickens’ classic with original music composed and performed by some of Edmonton’s elite folk artists has remained unchanged. While all of these artists pursue successful performing and recording careers throughout the year, they take a couple of weeks each Christmas to get in touch with a tradition that they themselves created.

Bill Bourne continues as Ebenezer Scrooge, while Tom Roschkov takes on the role of Bob Cratchit. Kevin Cook is the ghost of Marley, Terry Morrison the ghost of Christmas past, Al Brant the Ghost of Christmas Present, Dale Ladouceur the Ghost of Christmas Future, Maria Dunn is Tiny Tim, and Kenneth Brown narrates. Bill Hobson provides the drums and percussion for all.

Edmonton’s folk fans have embraced this show from the outset, and since the Project made Theatre Network—Live at the Roxy its venue of choice in 2000, it’s been a perennial sell out."



SMAC
See Magazine, Edmonton
"SMAC play what bassist John Armstrong calls, 'A fusion, definitely, of the folky, pop/rock material that Al Brant brings to the band, to world music, and the bluesy perspective that guitarist Tom Roschkov brings to the table....' "


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