Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jim Bryson & The Weakerthans with Sunparlour Players - The Mansion - Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011, Barrie, Ontario

I went to The Mansion last Wednesday to check out a couple of bands that looked interesting. The Mansion is basically Barrie’s best sounding venue where you can catch original music. I found out about this show from a Facebook message and followed up with the promoter, Brad Dingle so I could come in and do my review. Unfortunately, I missed the opening solo act, Daniel Ledwell.

I arrived to hear Sunparlour Players, a Folk/Rock trio of multi-instrumentalists from Toronto. Their stage was an interesting setup of: two stripped-down drum kits with three kick drums of different sizes, a bell, a cowbell, a tambourine on the hi-hat and an xylophone. Other instruments also present in the performance were an accordion, a Yamaha DX7 keyboard, a Fender Jazz Bass, a banjo, a Gibson SG, a steel string acoustic guitar and even a violin bow for the xylophone.

Lead vocalist Andrew Penner is a very expressive singer and the whole band is exciting to watch. Penner’s lyrics are very much in tune with nature, with the band getting its name from Andrew’s hometown of Windsor, or more specifically Leamington; which according to Wikipedia “lays claim to being the "Sun Parlour" of Canada due to its southern location”. The band’s name is well suited to their music with all three musicians also being well suited; donning matching black suits looking somewhat like Mennonites in their Sunday best. I would call Michael Rosie Rosenthal the drummer of the group with Dennis Van Dine as mostly the bassist and keyboardist and both members add vocals to the band’s eclectic sound.

Headlining the show was Jim Bryson & The Weakerthans. I was unable to stay to the end to speak with the band and find out the exact identities of this showcase’s lineup, however the core members are Jim Bryson, Jason Tait, Greg Smith, and Stephen Carroll with other occasionals cited on the band’s Facebook page. Jim is a dynamic performer and his fingerstyle guitar really makes use of the subtle nuance of the tubes in his little Tex combo amp. The other guitarist had a very nice guitar with a Bigsby tremolo that he played through a Garnet head into a Fender Deluxe Reverb, which produced some really nice tone. The pedal steel also added richness to the band’s performance and although the drummer’s style was simple, he had some tasty tricks playing maraca in hand with drumstick and incorporating brushes and mallets into his performance.

I would say their sound is a combination of Wilco, Lou Reed and the Cowboy Junkies. My only comment is that I think Jim sings a little close to his microphone, none the less he is just as comfortable playing without any accompaniment except for his own guitar as he is with a band. Jim is also comfortable with his sometimes-anticipative awkwardness in speaking to his audience and brings his fans right up to the stage, clapping along to the music.

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