Angela Saini brings her sweet, soulful sound to Hope on the Stereo celebration at Cameron House residency

as hope on the stereoI had the pleasure of attending the final performance of Angela Saini’s May residency at The Cameron House last night, which included a selection of tunes from across albums—with a special nod of celebration to her new record Hope on the Stereo—along with a few choice covers (I especially enjoyed Saini’s interpretation of Melissa Etheridge’s “Come to my Window”). Sharing the stage with Saini was her band: François Martin (guitar), Jeff Scale (bass) and David Sufrin (drums).

The sounds are rich, inviting and catchy—with snatches of soul, country and pop—including some haunting and driving guitar licks reminiscent of Chris Isaak and U2’s The Edge, courtesy of François Martin. And Saini invites us to sing and dance along. Whether taking us on the “love train” (“Right Beside You”); getting nostalgic (“My Once Upon a Time”); shouting out positivity (“Living on the Bright Side”); or grappling with issues of body image (“Something Like I’m Beautiful”), identity (“U Turn”, “Black Sheep”) and challenging human interactions (“Sweet Sweet Mouth”), Angela Saini’s songs are profoundly honest expressions of humanity and compassion—offering astute and ultimately hopeful glimpses into the human condition.

Last night was the final performance of Saini’s May residency, but you can give Saini’s music a listen and check out her upcoming gigs.

Here are some snaps I took at The Cameron House show last night:

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A celebration of music & musicians – Shannon Butcher’s EP Butcher Sings Baker

Shannon Butcher celebrated the launch of her new EP Butcher Sings Baker, performing two sets of songs from the Chet Baker songbook at Paintbox Bistro last night. Accompanying Butcher, an amazing three-piece band: Jake Wilkinson on trumpet, Ross MacIntyre on bass and Mark Kieswetter on keys.

Opening the first set with “It Could Happen to You” and “Old Devil Moon,” Butcher took us from chipper to melancholy with “I Fall In Love Too Fast,” and into the heartbreaking and beautiful “Almost Blue” (written for Baker by Elvis Costello, inspired by Baker’s “The Thrill Is Gone”). Butcher’s arrangements – with Kieswetter acting as both collaborator and sounding board – also covered Baker’s emotional spectrum, including the whimsical addition of a horn riff of “Pure Imagination” (rom the movie musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) at the top and bottom of “Imagination.” Wilkinson was channeling Baker on trumpet throughout the evening and MacIntyre brought out his six-string electric bass for a duet with Butcher on “Little Girl Blue,” bringing out deep-bottomed, guitar-like sounds to accompany the song.

Butcher opened the second set with quintessential Baker ballad “Funny Valentine.” During the course of the evening, she connected another music history dot, telling us how Baker played trumpet on Chris Isaak’s “Blue Spanish Sky.” Who knew? More classic Baker, this time with just Kieswetter – playing on a gorgeous Steinway – on “Everything Happens To Me,” one of the seven songs on the EP. Butcher and band closed with “Time After Time” (not to be confused with Cyndi Lauper’s song of the same name), returning to croon “You Don’t Know What Love Is” for the encore (a song that movie buffs will recognize from the soundtrack for The Talented Mr. Ripley).

Butcher’s vocals and presence perfectly evoked the mood and tone of each song, taking the audience on an emotional ride through some well-loved tunes. And her band represents the very best of Toronto’s jazz musicians. It was truly a pleasure to hear them.

I will definitely go back to Paintbox Bistro. I wasn’t able to make it for dinner, but I heard the food is amazing and they do a great brunch – and the atmosphere is fantastic. Also need to get my hands on some Chet Baker recordings.

Shannon Butcher & Ross MacIntyre
Jake Wilkinson
Mark Kieswetter
Shannon Butcher

If you haven’t heard Shannon Butcher, do yourself a favour and wrap your ears around her sound – Butcher Sings Baker is available on iTunes and CD Baby. You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.