The common grackle has few friends in the animal kingdom, with its aggressive behaviour to steal food straight from the mouths of other birds and penchant for mimicking the sounds of other birds and even humans.
But Gregory Pepper found a sort of harmony in the bird after reading about it in a bird-watching field guide. And so it became the moniker of his latest project, now on tour across the country.
“I just remembered the description calling it ‘A poor but spirited singer.’ It loves to sing and have its voice heard even though it doesn’t have the greatest voice,” Pepper said in a phone interview from London, Ont.
“They’re beautiful birds who like to ransack other nests and kick all the eggs out. I loved the tenacity of it – the ugly/beautiful juxtaposition.”
Common Grackle’s debut album, The Great Depression, combines Guelph-based Pepper’s acoustic comfort with the suave, hip-hop grooves of Saskatoon-based producer Factor.
The result is a rather haunting sounding, must-listen album – impressive considering the duo wrote the album thousands of kilometres apart, never having met.
“It’s very weird making an album with someone you never met face to face,” said Pepper. “I generally work on my own, I’m a controlling, domineering songwriter.
“It was a challenge just to see if I could let go over every little element and write melodies over melodies and chord progressions (Factor) had made.”
Catch Common Grackle perform at the Lo Pub Thursday, Feb. 3. Visit www.myspace.com/wearecommongrackle.
– Matt Preprost
You’ve probably heard of and seen at least half of the roster on the upcoming Bluebird North songwriters’ showcase.
Don Amero has amassed two trophies and seven Aboriginal Music Award nominations since walking off his day job in 2007 to pursue music full time.
Dana Kowalsky, who performs under the moniker Bean, is at work with Carlin Hiebert (The New Lightweights) and Los Angeles-based Adrian Bradford (Jodi King, Amanda Falk) on her debut album.
Meanwhile Scott Nolan has five full-length recordings, two Western Canadian Music Award nominations and countless tours on his resume, and a new album slated for release in the spring of 2011 on Transistor 66 Records.
James Struthers, still young, is garnering praise and comparisons to John Mayer and Jason Mraz.
The showcase, put on by the Songwriters Association of Canada, will put Amero, Kowalsky, Nolan and Struthers on the stage at the Park Theatre this Tuesday, Feb. 8, where the artists will take turns sharing songs and stories in an informal, acoustic atmosphere.
It’s one of a number showcases taking place across Canada.
CBC Radio’s Kinsey Posen will emcee the event. Kinsey is a strong supporter Manitoba’s music scene, while his network regularly features local talent on shows including The (204) and The Weekend Morning Show.
The showcase takes place Tuesday, Feb. 8 at the Park Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door, or $12 for Manitoba Music, or Songwriters Association of Canada members.
For real. For real. For real. For real. For real.
Say that 10 times fast, and what does it sound like?
That’s how this Regina soul-funk quartet got their name, after vocalist and lead guitarist Justin Sheppard noticed how ubiquitous the phrase “for real” has become.
With their lineup formed somewhat by chance (bassist Travis Reshaur joined when Sheppard sold him an amplifier) little over eight months ago, the band is set to release their debut album, Elephant Summer, on Feb. 17.
“We just clicked instantly,” said Sheppard in a release. “There’s no ego involved, just a common passion for the music.”
The band, rounded out by guitarist Thomas St. Onge and drummer James Belle, clearly has fun with their music, with its rhythmic and shuffling funk flair of jazz guitars, chunky bass and perky keys.
The band’s soul and funk influences shine through in their live show as well, which are known to include covers of Prince and Queen.
With both Sheppard and St. Onge having penned the album’s eight tracks, the album wanders from soul-searching to philosophical.
Sheppard says the songwriting dynamic gives the album the charm and diversity of a Beatles album.
“It wasn’t just Lennon. With all the Beatles contributing, it made for a more interesting listen,” he said.
Fur Eel play Sam’s Place (159 Henderson Hwy.) on Saturday, Feb. 19. Local artist Justin Lacroix will also perform. Show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $5 at the door.