Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ottawa concerts: Ron Hynes, Finest Kind

There are a couple of concerts coming up here in Ottawa that I’m really looking forward to.

Ron Hynes is performing Wednesday, February 29, 8:00 pm, at Irene’s Pub (885 Bank Street; 613-230-4474).

As I noted in my review of Stealing Genius, his most recent album, Ron “is, without question, one of Canada’s greatest singer-songwriters – a writer whose genius can be found in decades worth of great songs.”

Ron is also a great performer and Irene’s is the smallest venue I’ve ever seen him in – so it should be a treat to hear him in such an intimate setting.

Pictured: Ron Hynes and Mike Regenstreif at the 2007 Branches & Roots Festival in Ormstown, Quebec.

In a concert I can walk to, Finest Kind will be performing Saturday, March 10, 7:30 pm, at St. Martin’s Anglican Church (2120 Prince Charles Road). Information and tickets are available at this link.

Finest Kind (Ann Downey, Shelley Posen, Ian Robb), whose repertoire ranges from traditional British, Canadian and American folk songs to contemporary songs mostly arranged in glorious three-part harmonies, are fabulous whether singing a cappella or accompanying themselves on such instruments as guitar, banjo, bass and concertina.

Pictured: James Stephens, Finest Kind (Ian Robb, Ann Downey, Shelley Posen) Tao Rodriguez-Seeger and Mike Regenstreif at the 2009 Ottawa Folk Festival.

Here is my review of For Honour & For Gain, Finest Kind’s most recent album, from the November, December 2010, January 2011 issue of Sing Out!

For Honour & For Gain
Fallen Angle 09

On their fifth CD, Finest Kind – the Ottawa-based trio of Ian Robb, Shelley Posen and Ann Downey – continue to offer superbly arranged versions of traditional and traditionally-oriented contemporary songs from Great Britain, the United States and Canada, including two written by Shelley. Half of the 18 songs are sung a cappella and half feature instrumental arrangements featuring Finest Kind and a cast of several guest musicians.

My favorite a cappella track is “John Barleycorn Deconstructed,” Shelley’s brilliant parody of the British folksong “John Barleycorn – which they recorded on their previous CD, Silks & Spices, released in 2003 – in which they explain, line by line, how and why they arranged the song. Not only is it hilarious, but it gives us an understanding into the work that an accomplished ensemble like Finest Kind puts into their arrangements.

Other highlights among the unaccompanied songs are “Bay of Biscay,” in which the sleeping Mary is visited by the ghost of her long lost lover, and “From Dover to Calais,” a modern shanty written by Toronto songwriter Howard Kaplan.

There are also lots of gems among the songs with instrumental back-up. Favorites include the shanty-meets-Cajun arrangement of “Bully in the Alley” featuring Ian’s lead vocal, Shelley and Ann’s harmonies, the fiddle of co-producer James Stephens and Jody Benjamin’s triangle; the Appalachian folksong, “Short Life of Trouble,” featuring Ann on lead vocal and banjo; “Lowlands Low,” a variant of “The Golden Vanity” that Shelley, a folklorist by trade, collected in the Ottawa Valley; and a beautiful, poignant version of Utah Phillips’ “He Comes Like Rain (Like Wind He Goes).”

If I have one minor quibble with this album, it’s that Ann is too seldom heard as lead vocalist (not that I have any problem listening to Ian or Shelley’s leads). ---Mike Regenstreif

--Mike Regenstreif

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the heads-up about Ron Hynes at Irene's. A terrific concert by a terrific artist.