January 2006

Discoveries | Featuring Rachel Kane, Jane Hawley, Larra Skye, Kristy Cardinali with Robi Botos, and Brock Zeman
presented by Jane Harbury
January 11, 2006Hugh's RoomToronto
Five New Voices
by Andy Frank
The concept behind the “Discoveries” presentation at Hugh’s Room is magically simple. Assemble five relatively unheard of artists on a mid-week ticket; fill one of the finest listening rooms in town with mostly the performers’ family and friends, and presto! Everybody wins! The result should be an evening of music which is supported by enthusiastic and respectful fans, artists’ getting to play to an almost-full house of significant repute, and the venue’s registers ringing with joy.

However, there’s a risk in creating a concert named Discoveries. Just how raw is this material going to be? Is it worth the fourteen bucks (plus drinks, maybe dinner) to listen to a talent show featuring a group of unknowns?

You bet it is.

Contrary to what one might assume, this was not just a show filled with debutantes. Rachel Kane has been writing songs for fifteen years, and will soon release her third CD titled Unravelling (or Unraveling, as she pointed out — both spellings are correct, and appropriately, she performed two numbers titled “Unravelling”). The whiskey-voiced Kane’s performance went down as smoothly as a fine glass of single-malt, and gently left the listener with profound images such as this line from the first “Unravelling”: “Let the old scars heal, where faith and knowing meet, let the old scars heal.”

Charismatic Alberta-based guitarist and fiddler Jane Hawley was next, and she picked up the evening’s tempo with a lively set of original country-folk songs. Accompanied by superb guitarist and Calgary legend Tim Leacock, Hawley’s sweet high-pitched vocals might have reminded listeners of a blend of country stars Emmylou and Dolly. Ironically, she learned how to play fiddle performing Irish music in her hometown of Toronto.

Kristy Cardinali
Jazz singer / songwriter Larra Skye took the stage next, accompanied by pianist Eric Boucher. After a self-confessed sluggish start to the set, the tall, young blonde vocalist hit her stride, belting out lovely original tunes from her debut CD The World Disappears. The years will be kind to Larra, who will inevitably add depth to her vocals with continued performance and practice. She is clearly an excellent student of her craft.

Kristy Cardinali may have been the surprise of the evening. While she has written songs for others, and comes from a wonderful family tradition of Jazz (her father is bassist, composer and Alma record-label owner Peter Cardinali), absorbing the bright spotlight is a relatively new pursuit for the young singer.

Thanks to some brilliant strategic casting, Kristy was generously supported by the phenomenal pianist, Robi Botos. His presence immediately commanded the audience’s awe, and he deftly left just the right amount of light under which Ms. Cardinali could safely reveal her vocal gifts. And what a delightful menu of Jazz standards her satin voice served!

The evening was brought to an energetic climax by Perth, Ontario-based country-singer / songwriter Brock Zeman, who journeyed with his traditional acoustic-set side-kick, Prairie Oyster’s Keith Glass. In an attempt to avoid another Tom Waits analogy (oops – just made it), Brock sounds a little like Kelly Jones of the British rock band The Stereophonics, only better. Proudly announcing that his latest CD has just been rejected by every major label in Canada, Brock Zeman closed the evening with catchy stories about some of life’s darker shades.

The one thing each of the featured artists shared in common was a trusted musical companion, each of whom seemed to know exactly how much, or how little to support the starring attraction toward success. This is an invaluable asset for all performers, especially “Discoveries”, and one of many lessons one can learn from Jane Harbury’s superb presentation on a warm Hogtown January evening.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Andy Frank
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