Ultimate Interviews

Ultimate Interviews

Monday, December 18, 2017

Craig Dougan - Still Rising - Album Review

Track Listing

1.Deep Inside
2. Here We Come
3. Out On Patrol
4. Drop The Puck
5. Someday Soon (for Gord Downie)
6. Inherit The Sun
7. I'm Feeling Glad
8. Casey Is Gone
9. I'm Home
​10. Do What You Want To
© 2017

All songs written & Produced by Craig Dougan
Mixed by Wayne Bond at Black Ridge Studios, Cambridge, ON
Mastered by Harry Hess at HBomb Mastering
View on iTunes

Since the Fall of 1990, Craig Dougan has fronted  The Almost Hip - the longest running Tragically Hip tribute in Canada. An assiduous musician that's evident by the tracks on his latest release 'Still Rising' (released on December 1, 2017).  A collection of tunes that illustrate Craig's songwriting prowess mated with his expertise on the guitar and bass. Vocally, Craig delivers his words with conviction and feeling. The listener can't help but believe every word he is singing and find some correlation to their own experiences. Along with new songs, there are four previously released tracks that can be found on the EP 'Hard Rock Rising'  (released in 2015). 

He has assembled some fantastic musicians to play on 'Still Rising'. Rob Taylor, Wayne Bond, George Petrou all appear on drums, John Petrou on bass. ​Paul Woods on lead guitar, and Craig handles the remaining guitar, bass and vocals.

​The Kitchener native is no stranger to some of the most sought after stages in Ontario. He's played at the iconic Horseshoe Tavern with its checkerboard floors. The once longest bar in the world, LuLu's Roadhouse. Even appearing at numerous Ribfests & festivals throughout Southern Ontario and countless other venues.

For anyone who has seen Craig live, be it with 'The Almost Hip' or the 'Craig Dougan Trio', one thing that is undeniable is he has that charisma that a frontman requires to captivate their audience. Regardless of the size of venue or number of people in attendance, Craig is entertaining to watch and delivers a great show.  

​​Right out of the gates 'Deep Inside' opens the album in true rock guitar fashion. Straightforward lyrics, it's definitely a terrific tune with a catchy beat and hook. A balance of each instrument, vocals included, it creates a fun, high energy song to get the album started.

​There's no unnecessary layering or addition of bells and whistles on any of the tunes. Proof that the "less is more" mentality is present on songs like  'Here We Come' and  'Out on Patrol'. The latter which was the song Craig entered in the 2015 Hard Rock Toronto competition.

Watch Video: 'Here We Come'

Many of the songs on 'Still Rising' have that simple blend of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals all which make them enjoyable to listen to. The songs are genuine and not contrived.

It doesn't get any more Canadian than the hockey themed 'Drop The Puck'. It's a perfect example how a catchy hook and relatable lyrics can make a song a hit. Containing all the right elements, it could definitely be a commercial success.

​On October 17, 2017 the Country mourned the passing of Gord Downie. Obviously fronting The Almost Hip for decades, it was no surprise that Craig pays tribute to the late Hip singer, who he had the pleasure of meeting back in the late '90s. The song 'Someday Soon' is fitting for anyone who has lost someone important in their lives.

A personal favourite on the album is 'Inherit The Sun'. With a slight acoustic feel, it features fellow Almost Hip member, Paul Woods on lead guitar. It's a gentler side to Craig's vocals, but still powerful. A great example of a song that combines rock, country rock with a bluesy feel to it. It really can cross over and appeal to multiple genres.

You can easily hear similarities in his music to Sam Roberts, 54-40 and of course the Hip. He has shared the stage with some iconic Canadian musicians namely, Kim Mitchell, Colin James, April Wine and Trooper. Ironically the very first time I ever seen The Almost Hip was when they were support for Trooper back in 1998 at the legendary LuLu's Roadhouse in Kitchener.

The next two tracks, 'I'm Feeling Glad' and 'Casey is Gone'  were also on the 'Hard Rock Rising' EP. Both tracks possess that unmistakable Craig Dougan sound. ​ The vocals saturate the tracks with the addition of wicked guitar riffs and solos.

Most tracks I found hit me the first time listening to them. I had a greater appreciation for 'I'm Home' after a few listens. While it wasn't one particular thing that stood out, I was drawn to the more rock oriented tracks on the album over this one. But as I listened to it more, it did grow on me and found myself singing along and actually enjoying it.

The closing track on 'Still Rising'' is another track previously released on the EP.  'Do What You Want To'. ​

The song has that instant hook and melody that in no time you are grooving along with. 

Watch Video for 'I'm Feeling Glad'

Individually, the tracks can carry themselves fine. Collectively they are a cohesive group of tunes that showcase different aspects of Craig's vocals and playing style.

Having had the opportunity to hear some of these songs performed live, I was already a fan of some of them. Listening to the cd multiple times now,  I can say I have a greater appreciation for the songs and Craig's songwriting in particular.

If you're looking for a straight up rock and roll cd, with no unnecessary gimmicks and not overproduced, then 'Still Rising' is the perfect choice.

'Still Rising' is available at any of Craig's live shows. Or contacting him through Facebook for purchasing. Some of the proceeds from each CD sold, will go to The Brain Cancer Institute.
​For show dates, for both the Trio and Almost Hip, follow both bands on Facebook (Links below). 

                                                                                         Also Available

 Special thanks to Craig for the cds and for always being welcoming at his shows. Definitely looking forward to more gigs in 2018. I wish you all the success!

Still Rising (CD No.3) - 2017
Hard Rock Rising (CD No.2) - 2015
Craig Dougan - The Project (1998)
Craig Dougan 
​Official Facebook Page
Official ReverbNation Profile
Official YouTube ChannelOfficial Spotify

The Almost Hip
The Almost Hip Official Website
The Almost Hip Official Facebook Page                                                                                

Also published on Kaotic Notes

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Mojo Stone - Chasing Ghosts Album Review

Track Listing

1. Soulsucker
2. Losing My Mind
3. Come With Me
4. On The Killing Floor Again
5. Lighten Up
6. Tangled
7. Calypso Calls
8. Time Passes By
9. Chasing Ghosts

Mojo Stone
Simon Visco: Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin,Keyboards/Synthesizers
Ryan Burow: Bass Guitar
Nick Militello: Drums, Auxillary Percussion
All Songs written & performed by Mojo Stone
Produced by Mojo Stone & Ron Hensberry

In two short years, since releasing their self-titled debut album on December 15, 2015, Mojo Stone is back with their sophomore album 'Chasing Ghosts'. The nine songs on the disc present each member's growth since the debut release. The deeper lyrics and tighter arrangements allow each song to have its own dynamics that ultimately resonates with the listener. 

After meeting Simon (vocals) in the summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to review Mojo Stone's first CD. From the very first listen, I was instantly a fan of what Simon, Nick (drums) and Ryan (bass) were trying to convey through their music. When I had heard that they were working on new material and a possible second release was going to happen in the Fall of 2017, I was eager to hear it.

Photo courtesy: Michael Patenaude of High Gain Photo
'Chasing Ghosts'  was released on October 13, 2017.  Sometimes artists fall victim to the sophomore album curse. After listening to the the disc numerous times, it's safe to say that Mojo Stone has avoided that sometimes tragic end to bands just beginning to find their place in the music world. 

One thing that I've come to appreciate with Mojo Stone's music is that they effortlessly appeal to a wider cross section of listeners than just those who may enjoy the classic rock genre.

If you're a fan of the '60s to the late '70s, then 'Chasing Ghosts' is just for you. As a listener, I can see how the songs could draw from the influences of the giants from those time periods.

The album does however, cross all eras and genres, and surely will have something for everyone who loves rock and roll. ​The trio do a brilliant job in playing their music with heart and soul.

Photo courtesy: Michael Patenaude of High Gain Photo
On 'Chasing Ghosts', the vocals are profoundly powerful. Simon once again delivers his words with precision and passion, which is evident that he not only believes what he's singing but feels every word. 

An extraordinary lyricist, you sometimes forget that this is a young man just barely out of highschool.  The words in the songs are reminiscent of an old soul who has felt the pain and sorrow.  You can hear this in the track 'Time Passes By'

Another stand out track that demonstrates Simon's vocal range and sincerity in his deliverance of the song is the sophisticated, yet haunting 'Calypso Calls'. 

The structure of the song, whether it be intended to or not, takes the listener on a sonic roller coaster ride for five minutes.

All instruments, work well together and from the drums, bass, guitar and vocals, it showcases each member's astounding talent.

Photo courtesy: Michael Patenaude of High Gain Photo
Ryan acts as a liaison for the drums and vocals/guitar. Throughout the album, he embellishes the groove yet remains in the bass player's role, in the pocket. A personal favourite track off the album is  'On The Killing Floor Again'.

​The first 13 seconds is just Ryan and there is that hook that draws you in. The track takes me back to John Paul Jones' iconic bass intro in 'Dazed & Confused'. 

The track plays with vocals, bass, drums and when you throw in a harmonica on top of that, you have one hell of a game of tag. The play between the vocals and harmonica is striking and makes for a great song all around.

Ryan's playing adds depth to each song, along with a groove that collectively with Nick's drumming, they form a strong rhythm section which is a great asset for Mojo Stone.

Fast out of the gates and kicking the album off is 'Soul Sucker'. With an array of unbridled sounds and effects, the song is a foolproof way to introduce your album.

Photo courtesy: Michael Patenaude of High Gain Photo
The commerciality of the album's first single, 'Lighten Up' could easily find it's home on any rock music radio station's playlist. You can't ignore the fact that Mojo Stone has a solid beat keeper in Nick. 

Nick's drums are prominent throughout 'Chasing Ghosts'. He doesn't avoid the occasional fill if it's going to enhance the song overall. Anchoring the band, he maintains the tempo for each song.

​'Losing My Mind' is another one of those songs that begins with a hook and with addition of the guitar and bass, it keeps you there until Simon's vocals come in like a freight train.

​Track six, 'Tangled', is a labyrinth of guitar picking, with an intro that brings back memories of an early Led Zeppelin track. The fusion of lead and backing vocals give that haunting feel to the song. Yet again, another superb track on the album.

Much like 'Lighten Up', track three 'Come With Me', could without a doubt be a radio hit. At first listen to, this listener can pull a bit of what feels like a Doors influence, but don't get too comfortable. Within 30 seconds, the song kicks into second gear. It's just another great rock track on 'Chasing Ghosts'.

The heavy hitting title track '
Chasing Ghosts' is a wonderful blend of all the instruments, including vocals wrapped up in just over four minutes. It's one of those songs that is not overly produced or editted, and just comes down to being the perfect way to close the album.  

Sure you can make comparisons to legendary rock bands or even your local bar bands, but Mojo Stone is truly one of a kind group. The album overall is a great effort by the Buffalo, New York trio. There's no grandstanding by any member. They all excel with their instrument and with the numerous live shows that they've done over the years, it's greatly assisted in helping them hone their craft.

It has recently been announced on their Facebook Page, that after two upcoming concert dates, (December 9th & 31st. Both in Buffalo, NY), Mojo Stone will be taking a hiatus. Here's hoping that it is only temporary and we will once again will have some new music by these great talented men.

Photos by: Taylor Sorrentino

Extra special thanks to Simon, Nick and Ryan for the amazing music!
Originally posted on KaoticNotes.com