Concert Review: The Lonesome Ace Stringband, The Engineers, November 1, Tranzac Club

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Veterans of the Toronto bluegrass scene, John Showman, Chris Coole and Max Heineman have been playing around the city for years now, having appeared regularly at both the Silver Dollar Room’s bluegrass nights and the Dakota Tavern’s bluegrass brunch shows. Together, they make up The Lonesome Ace Stringband, a group that’s put out five albums and played a whole lot of shows since their inception in 2007. And on Wednesday night, they played an album release show at the Tranzac in honour of their latest, Try To Make It Fly.

Opening the show were a band that had been specifically formed for the sole purpose of playing this very show – The Engineers. The brand new band was comprised of Gavin Gardiner, Andrew Collins and Jason Mercer, the three recording engineers who worked on the new album, assembled Avengers-style by Lonesome Ace just for this occasion.

“We’re a boy band they put together” said Gardiner, joking that they wrote the songs earlier that afternoon and then recorded them all too. In fact, aside from a Bob Dylan cover, the songs were mostly ones Gardiner had written for his old band The Wooden Sky as well as one from his latest project, Moon River. Before playing that tune, he took a minute to plug his new band a bit more, noting that they have their own album release show coming up and also noting that everyone in the band was wearing Moon River shirts. And though Gardiner added that there weren’t any shirts at the merch table, mandolinist Collins joked that we could buy the shirts off their backs if we wanted.

Following The Engineers, Lonesome Ace Stringband took to the stage and performed a solid set that showcased both their instrumental prowess and their impressive harmonies. Focusing on the new album, the band played a selection of songs from throughout their discography, with Showman noting that they made up their setlist about five minutes before they started playing. And though they’d been touring for a couple of weeks playing more or less the same songs every night, Showman noted that this setlist looked a bit different from what they’d been playing on tour.

“It’s gonna be great though. I can tell.”

“It is great!” someone in the audience shouted in response. She was right, this was indeed a great show. While many of the highlights, such as “The Echo”, “Smoke On The Shoulder” and “Simply Going Sideways”, came from the new album, other memorable moments came from older songs like “Fool’s Gold” and their cover of Brennan Leigh’s “Only Other Person in the Room” as well as any of the fiddle tunes that Showman led the band through.

The band closed out their main set with “Sweeter Sound” before returning to play a couple more songs as an encore, but that song, the opening track on the new album, does make for a fairly apt descriptor of the entire evening as the band definitely made some pretty sweet sounds up on that stage.

Song of the Day: Nadine Shah – Topless Mother

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“Topless Mother” is the lead single from Nadine Shah, taken from her upcoming fifth album Filthy Underneath. The album comes out on February 23 and will be the inaugural release on EMI North, which is billing itself as the UK’s first major label to be based outside of London.

Check out the video for “Topless Mother” below.

Song of the Day: Doro feat. Rob Halford – Total Eclipse of the Heart

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I can’t say that two metal legends taking on an ’80s pop/rock power balled and karaoke staple was a move that I saw coming, but when those two legends are Doro Pesch and Rob Halford and the song in question is “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” well then, at the very least you’ve got my attention.

And while the duo don’t offer up an interpretation that’s dramatically different from Bonnie Tyler’s original rendition beyond beefing it up with some heavier tones, they both sing the hell out of it. And it’s also fun to see Halford gesture dramatically while possibly wearing laser gloves (or maybe it’s just a trick of the light), a look that brings to mind what Freddy Krueger might look like if he was also a Sith Lord.

“Total Eclipse of the Heart” is taken off of Doro’s latest release Conqueress – Forever Strong And Proud, out now via Nuclear Blast.

Song of the Day: Newmoon – Fading Phase

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“Fading Phase” is the latest single from Antwerp shoegazers Newmoon, a mellow, dreamy number taken from their upcoming album Temporary Light, which comes out March 22, 2024 via PIAS Recordings/Manifesto Entertainment. Check it out below.