Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters // Maxwell Street // Stony Plain Records
For almost 100 years Maxwell Street was the most unusual street in Chicago. It was home to an outdoor market that ran for about a mile and, because it had easy access to electricity, was a place a lot of blues musicians could set up and busk. This is where you would go to hear Robert Nighthawk, J. B. Lenoir, Arvella Gray or even a young Mike Bloomfield before he joined the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. It’s been claimed that post-war Chicago Blues was born on Maxwell Street.
The empty piano chair on album cover belonged to David Maxwell, the longtime keyboardist with the Broadcasters. Maxwell, who died of cancer in February 2015, was a master of the Chicago-style, touring with people like Freddie King and Bonnie Raitt. Often compared to Otis Spann, Maxwell famously replaced Spann one night in Muddy
Waters’ band—perhaps the highest compliment that could be paid to a blues musician.
Ronnie Earl is no slouch either. Widely considered to be one of the finest blues guitarists working today, he draws on an enormous sonic palette of blues and jazz influences. He is as likely to play a Coltrane or a Monk tune as he is a blues standard.
The original Broadcasters formed in 1988 and now, 24 albums later, they continue to get better. Ten tracks are split evently between instrumentals and songs featuring the powerful vocalist Diane Blue. In honour of Maxwell, pianist Dave Limina contributed his composition “Elegy for a Bluesman” and Earl wrote “Blues for David Maxwell.”
Earl’s combination of spirituality and deep soul make his music a deeply felt experience.
The Infected Mass // Those Who Walk Away // Constellation
Those Who Walk Away is as interesting as it is hard to describe. With some effort, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the ambient soundtrack to the funeral of a stranger that you regret not meeting.
The opening track, “Before the Beginning,” impressed me with the feeling that I had woken up in a casket floating in the ocean.
As the songs—if you can call them that—slightly shift in tone, I was overwhelemed by the minimalist tone.
Created by Winnipeg-based composer Matthew Patton, this collection is a haunting study of sound—flowy and boundless.
Those Who Walk Away is interlaced with voice recordings of cockpit conversations on airplanes in distress. These recordings are not there for sensational impact, rather they embrace the sombre mood of the work.
For audiophiles, this is a must.