various artists,
North to Ontario 2007
(independent, 2007)

While we here at Rambles.NET get a steady flow of better-than-average music to review, there occasionally comes an album that knocks our proverbial socks off and warrants a rave review. North to Ontario 2007 is certainly one of those albums in which the pleasure is all mine. And the thing is, I don't know exactly what it is about North to Ontario 2007 that makes it so enjoyable. It's just one of those albums that manages to successfully capture all of the happiness, joy and earnest effort to play music.

Even the sad songs successfully convey the intended emotion yet simultaneously fill your ears with the musician's delight in performing. Songs like "An Angel is Waiting" by the Backwoodsmen showcase their musical skills, not to mention special guest Emory Lester's banjo and fiddle, without becoming maudlin. Another "sad" song on this album that is most likely to stick in your head is "That Old Kitchen Floor" by Switchback Road. The lyrics certainly will tug on all the right heartstrings and sentimental notions, but it's impossible to think of this as a sad song. Derek Pert plays a lightning-fast banjo, which acts as a great accompaniment to the outstanding harmonizations by brothers Mike and Dan Kirley. It's a wonderful song that will undoubtedly get repeat play. (FYI, it's track 17.)

The vocal styles vary so much on this album, but the common link is the artists' honesty and willingness to sing wholeheartedly. Be it the boisterous quality of Crosswind's chorus on "Please Come with Me," the sultry sounds of Pat Moore on "Lone Pine Standing," the sharp higher tones by Marisa Parker on "A Rock & a Hard Place" or the inherent innocence of Taylor Aran's vocals for "Francis Roy," it's impossible to not get an intrinsic understanding that these people love making music.

As for the instrumental work throughout the album, it ranges from very enjoyable to outright phenomenal. And if you've ever wondered what it sounds like when the "performer of the year" for each instrument teams up (kind of like a bluegrass Justice League?), check out "The Dry Nurse." The only critical complaint I can muster is that its running time of 3:32 is far too short.

With 18 bands, 75 musicians and 17 original songs, there has to be some kind of mathematical formula to explain how this album triggers all the happy zones in this reviewer's brain; but honestly, don't waste time on "why" or "how" when in the meanwhile you could be listening to this gem of an album.

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

5 April 2008

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