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Good Morning Canada, CTV
... not only a celebration of our nation's greatest popular songs, but also a light-hearted look at the history of the artists and the stories behind their best - and a few of their worst! - songs ... featuring Gregg Lawless and The Acoustic Orchestra, four seasoned roots musicians playing the acoustic instruments that have come to define the Canadian sound: 6- and 12-string guitars, mandolin, accordion, piano and bass ... a big, loose-spirited singalong with a real down-home feel!
The Barrie Examiner
... a very impromptu, ridiculously fun feel ... you haven't lived until you've heard "American Woman" on accordion!
The Kitchener-Waterloo Record
... Lawless is a personable performer and his down-to-earth charm is ideally suited to a show of classic Canadian songs, augmented by a handful of original compositions from his three albums, including his new release Something Beautiful ... in addition to paying homage to great Canadian songs, Lawless takes a lighthearted look at the history of the artists and adds a little comic relief with a segment of groaners called Songs in the Key of Cheese ... every musician enjoys their moment in the spotlight ... Suzie Vinnick is a powerful vocalist and her medley of Joni Mitchell songs ("Carey", "Woodstock", "Both Sides Now" and "Big Yellow Taxi") provides a concert highlight ... Steve Klodt is a strong vocalist and tinkles the keys with the best of them ... hearing his scorching rendition of Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" on the accordion had to be heard to be appreciated!
The Sarnia Observer
... a very fresh, rapid-fire delivery of over 50 of Canada's greatest songs!
The Brantford Expositor
... an unabashed salute to one of this country's richest resources: the songwriter... a high-energy performance with wide musical range and emotional depth ... deliberately informal, Songs in the Key of Canada features lots of stage patter, with Lawless divulging some little-known tales behind the tunes ...
The North Bay Nugget
... Canadian songs that people know and love! ... the concert is modeled after an East Coast kitchen party ... an intimate atmosphere and lots of opportunities for the audience to participate!
The Oakville Beaver
One of Lawless' best qualities as a performer is his sense of humour, and he's the perfect person to perform a tribute to Canadian songwriters ... the songs are played in a slightly different way than anyone is used to hearing them ... the beginning of "American Woman", usually bold chords played on an electric guitar, is played on an accordion ... that was what made the songs played on the Oakville Centre's stage remarkable; they didn't sound precisely like the song you would hear on your CD player ... this was a new way to approach them, and an upbeat way ... Lawless is part of the next generation of Canadian songwriters and threw in four of his own upbeat, well-written songs.
The Record (Waterloo Region)
Oh, Canada ... What Great Songwriters You Have!
Covering standards has become as fashionable as duets were a couple of years ago in the world of pop music. But some background is needed before anyone accuses singer/songwriter Gregg Lawless of morphing into a Canuck version of Rod Stewart for his Songs in the Key of Canada concert. The idea of performing a selection of songs by some of the country's greatest songwriters emerged in the wee hours of a theatrical showcase in St. Catharines 18 months ago. Lawless was at the showcase strutting his stuff before provincial theatre presenters, including Centre in the Square general manager Jamie Grant. At a party after the official showcase, Lawless pulled out his guitar. "Someone said, 'Do some songs we all know,' " Lawless recalls. "Invariably we'd all sing a verse and a chorus and then move on to the next song. After about an hour, I looked over at Jamie and he asked, 'Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Wouldn't it be fantastic to put together a show of songs everyone knows, even if they don't know the entire songs?'" Hence, Songs in the Key of Canada: A Celebration of Canada's Greatest Songwriters.
Lawless -- who has just released Something Beautiful, his third solo CD of original material -- had two stipulations. First, the songs had to be by Canadian songwriters. Second, he would be able to "throw in a couple of my own songs." Grant responded with his own stipulation. The show had to make its premiere at the Centre. Lawless was happy to oblige, having performed an On-stage Concert three years ago.
The show, which travels to 10 cities, is intended as a tribute to exemplary songwriting, the affable songwriter explains. "I thought for a year about what artists to include," he says. "I wanted stellar examples of songwriting that I know other people like." Eventually he whittled his list down to Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Leonard Cohen, Paul Anka and John Kay and Steppenwolf, among others. But, as anyone familiar with Lawless' music might suspect, his playful, offbeat side would not be denied. Although he wanted to praise good art, he felt he couldn't ignore bad art. So in addition to paying homage to great songs, he decided to take a lighthearted look at the history of the artists and to acknowledge their worst songs -- appropriately titled Songs in the Key of Cheese. "Let's face it, even the best songwriters have written duds," Lawless observes with a chuckle. "Some songs are so embarrassingly bad they're good."
Lawless wanted the show to have "a loose-spirited, singalong kind of feel" and he has assembled The Acoustic Orchestra -- with Suzie Vinnick on bass and backup vocals, Steve Briggs on guitar and mandolin and Steve Klodt on keyboards and accordion -- to help him create an informal atmosphere.
Although he has a loyal core audience that's slowly and steadily expanding, Lawless is hardly a household name. So the question arises as to whether he risks eclipsing his own songwriting with a show that has the potential to become wildly popular. "Yes, I'll be performing the songs of other songwriters, but I'll also be performing my own songs to a lot of people who would not otherwise be exposed to my songs." People should indeed be pleased to hear material from Something Beautiful. Although the album is an extension of the intelligence and songcraft that characterizes his previous albums, Greggorian Chance and Wicked Little Buzz, it has the relaxed feeling of talented friends having fun playing together. In this respect, the album is very much like a Gregg Lawless concert.
January 24, 2004
We had ring-side seats in Hugh's Room last night for the CD release of Something Beautiful by Gregg Lawless.
The place was packed (seriously packed) and the show was outstanding. The fact that early-morning people that we are, we stayed for both sets is a testament to Gregg's ability to root you in your seat.
Gregg mostly played songs from Something Beautiful although he threw in a a couple of faves from his previous release Wicked Little Buzz, as well as two Elvis Presley tunes - done uniquely Lawless style.
When Gregg pulled out this "chopped" electric guitar and started wailing away, it showed us a completely different side to this versatile artist. He knows how to coax some sweet sounds from his instruments, and his slide playing was a treat.
It's not just that the music was good, or that Gregg's band is good, but for me, it's that Gregg has both a very dynamic and a very charismatic presentation style. (In my view, there are quite a few other, better known artists who could surely take a leaf out of Gregg's book.)
When he tells you which song he's about to perform, he tells a story about it, or about what led to its creation. Sounds pretty easy, right? But it's HOW he tells you about it. You feel that you've know Gregg forever, are among his circle of friends and you are darn glad he put you on his mailing list. (Another favourite artist of ours, Chris Smither, has the same way of drawing you in.)
A particularly nice touch was that Gregg invited long-time Hugh's Room wait-staff Todd, to introduce him. Todd did a great job and I feel sure that being asked to do the introduction made Todd feel really good, and I bet he will become another Lawless fan.....this is just one of the ways that Gregg has of reaching out to people, and it's no darn wonder that people love to come out to hear him - judging by the large numbers of enthusiastic people (of ages from 20 to 70's and maybe older...) there last night.
While there may be a few in the folk scene who think Gregg's style is too edgy, too pop or rock influenced, personally - I think that his music appeals to a wide variety of people BECAUSE he refuses to stay "in the box". He is not afraid to work in whatever style suits his particular song of the moment. Gregg Lawless pushes the folk envelope, but what emerges is fresh and interesting.....
Oh, and did I mention that we loved the show?
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