Tough choices for a great evening out

Tonight, Edmonton’s Owls by Nature appear at The Hideout at Gasoline Alley while country music legends the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are at the Capri Centre tonight.

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Tonight, Edmonton’s Owls by Nature appear at The Hideout at Gasoline Alley while country music legends the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are at the Capri Centre tonight.

Making the evening’s choices even more difficult, Andy and Laura are hosting a house concert featuring two impressive songwriters from Ottawa, Amanda Rheaume and Marc Charron. For detailed information, call the Jeans Joint at 403-357-4728. Rheaume also has a show slated for The Hideout on Saturday night.

Smoky-voiced Brooke Wylie and her Coyotes take over The Hideout’s stage next Friday night.

Guitarist Pete Christian closes out the summer next Friday afternoon at The Hub on Ross with a show at 1 p.m.

Blues-rock legend Johnny Winter is booked for Red Deer’s Memorial Centre on Oct. 13.

This week’s disc reviews:

Joe Vickers

Valley Home

Self-released

Joe Vickers is a young songwriter from Drumheller and with the Drumheller Valley celebrating its Mining Centennial this year, he has produced an ambitious and enjoyable collection of music tracing the history of the region.

Valley Home is a collection of original songs of the Drumheller region with a focus on the stories and impact of the coal mining experience. Reminiscent to fellow Albertan Maria Dunn’s We Were Good People, which examined the labour history of Western Canada, Valley Home educates as it entertains.

Utilizing a variety of approaches, sounds and tempos, Vickers makes a compelling and insightful account of his home community. The music is rustic with lots of acoustic guitar, fiddle and banjo coming through the neo-traditional mix. Vocally, Vickers sounds a bit like Paul Burch.

More than a history lesson — although it is indeed that — Valley Home is an engaging set of lively folk-inspired music. A broad cross-section of tales is revealed: pit ponies, the flooded Red Deer River, Allan Cup champions, ghost towns, miners and madams.

Into the Darkness captures the starkness of the mines of 100 years ago. The instrumental Boomtown Bustle reflects the frenzied growth of the towns that rose around the collieries. Vickers borrows from Down in the Willow Garden to frame Young Black Lungs, telling the tale of a miner who finds that “the place I slave is now my grave.”

The accompanying 24-page booklet provides lyrics and information about the area and Vickers’ inspiration.

For additional information on this recording, start at http://joevickers.bandcamp.com or drive to the southwest. The album is available at Drumheller Valley outlets, including the Atlas Coal Mine and the East Coulee School Museum.

The Deep Dark Woods

The Place I Left Behind

Six Shooter Records

Perhaps the greatest thing out of Saskatchewan since Fantuz Flakes, The Deep Dark Woods’ latest album builds on everything they’ve already accomplished while taking their unique bluesy sound to impressive new levels.

In 2011 no one talks in terms of alt-country but that remains an apt descriptor of this Saskatoon band’s guitar-heavy sound. Sinister and mysterious, the title track doesn’t mess around: guest fiddler Kendel Carson weaves a cloak of darkness around Ryan Boldt’s vocals as a “good old rambling boy” pines for the place where isolation didn’t seem so obvious.

It seems silly to compare music created by today’s generation to that of musicians 40 years ago, but The Band is a natural starting place for describing the intricate, moody sounds of The Deep Dark Woods. Much like Old Reliable did a decade ago, the DDW take their craft to new places while maintaining a foundation in the past.

Burke Barlow’s pedal steel colours several songs, including Mary’s Gone and Back Alley Blues, with lonesomeness. If found on an Avett Brothers’ album, Sugar Mama would be heralded as an innovative blending of modern mountain traditions; as is, it is just one of 13-incredible aural voyages undertaken by the quintet.

Epic, The Banks of the Leopold Canal is quite unlike anything previously heard. With rich instrumentation and an emotionally charged narrative, the song charts a soldier’s final Second World War journey from Canada to Belgium.

A sure-fire contender for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize.

Donald Teplyske is a local freelance writer who contributes a twice-monthly column on roots music; visit fervorcoulee.wordpress.com for additional reviews. If you know a roots music event of which he should be aware, contact him at fervorcoulee@shaw.ca