Melanie Peterson’s “Christmas Breaks My Heart” a gentle, melodic nod to holiday heartache

Melanie Peterson, live at Free Times Cafe for last night’s “Christmas Breaks My Heart” launch.

 

It was standing room only at Free Times Café last night, as Melanie Peterson celebrated the launch of her new holiday single “Christmas Breaks My Heart”, featuring the talents of fellow Toronto-based singer/songwriter guests Matt Gerber and Angela Saini.

The evening opened with the whimsically playful sounds of Matt Gerber, whose delightful tunes borrow from folk, barber shop and pop—from songs for kids for all ages, to sweet and nostalgic romantic musings. Gerber had us singing along with his acoustic set, accompanying himself on guitar and ukulele, punctuated by kazoo and some impressive harmonica chops. Give Gerber a listen, and check out upcoming dates, on his website.

Shining with positivity and poignant at times, Angela Saini both moved and entertained with genuine, heartfelt, and sometimes cheeky, observations of life, love and self-image in a pop-inspired acoustic set. And I dare you to not smile, sing along and tap your feet to her upbeat, energetic sounds. Keep up with Saini’s music, merch and gig dates on her website.

Main attraction Melanie Peterson more than lived up to her “Mary Poppins with a broken heart” reputation, treating us to a selection of folk-infused songs from her earliest recordings to her new release in an acoustic guitar set accompanied by Peter Collins on bass. The lyrics and vocals are melancholy, but hopeful, resilient and determined through heartbreak; and full of gratitude and joy in love. Combining cheer with heartache—sometimes with hilarious results (the tequila song)—Peterson’s sounds get real with the warmth and gentleness of a good long-time friend; all delivered with her signature sweet, lilting vocals.

“Christmas Breaks My Heart” offers a rarely heard take on the holiday season—not always a joyful time for some—acknowledging the loss, grief and wistful nostalgia of missing that someone special by your side. Check out the lyric video; and wrap your ears around Peterson’s catalogue and videos.

Next up for Peterson: Live at Sauce on the Danforth on Sat, Dec 28 from 4:00-7:00 pm.

Here are some snaps I took at the show last night.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Melanie Peterson’s Anywhere From Here a heartfelt, beautiful mix of playful, introspective & melancholy

Melanie-8687-03
Melanie Peterson – photo by Bri-anne Swan

Saskatoon-born, Toronto-based singer/songwriter/actress Melanie Peterson celebrated the launch of her new CD Anywhere From Here at The Piston last night, with guest artist Bri-Anne Swan opening the festivities. And what a celebration it was!

DSCN2143
Bri-anne Swan

Swan opened with a short solo acoustic set of mostly original songs, opening with a gorgeous interpretation of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.” Featuring crystal clear vocals, with a subtle haunting, wistful quality, Swan’s lyrical storytelling includes hints of folk – her latest CD Letters Home also includes a Lightfoot cover of “Now and Then” – and country (opening track “Have You Seen My Ghost”). Her sounds conjure up images of windswept, lonesome plains, big skies and misty, strange forests. Give her a listen/look-see on her YouTube channel. Bri-anne Swan is also the cover designer/photographer for Anywhere From Here.

Then, the main event. I first met Melanie Peterson about two years ago, when she was performing in a line-up of amazing, talented women at ovarian cancer fundraiser She’s Listening II, and I interviewed her last year. Peterson has been described as Mary Poppins with a broken heart. The songwriting is genuine and self-aware, and there is a positive tone even in the heartbreak. In fact, the progression of the songs on Anywhere From Here – which Peterson and her band played from top to bottom – reads like the life of a romantic relationship. From the initial magic sparks in “Truth Talking” and “Fallback Plan,” to words of warning “Where There’s Smoke (Lust Ain’t Love),” to the devil may care of “Just the Right Amount of Wrong,” and into the stall in “Holding Pattern” and when it’s over in “I Miss You Already” – she’s got all the feels. There are also lovely expressions of gratitude here (“A Path Laid Out Like Gold,” featuring backing vocals by Kasandra Sharpe) and love that’s so good (“A Gift” – the CD’s title comes from these lyrics).

DSCN2168
Melanie Peterson

Peterson’s sounds feature folk, pop (including a kicky Beatles-inspired riff in “Fallback Plan”) and country, with some reggae flavour (“Truth Talking”) – delivered with lovely, lilting vocals and sweet harmonies. Joining Peterson (guitar, lead vocals) last night – and also playing on Anywhere From Here: Mitch Girio (guitar, backing vocals and producer – he also produced Swan’s Letters Home), Pete Lambert (drums, violin, backing vocals) and Peter Collins (bass, backing vocals). By the time they got up to play their set, the room was packed with enthusiastic friends, family and fans – so much so that the crowd coaxed three encore songs, including “Cinema Girl” (my request – thanks again, guys!) and “Unbreakable,” from Peterson’s Unbreakable CD.

Melanie Peterson’s Anywhere From Here is a heartfelt, beautiful mix of playful, introspective and melancholy. Wrap your ears around it soon.

You can keep up with Peterson on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Soundcloud, among other platforms – see her website for all the platforms.

Here’s the poppy, fun the video for “Fallback Plan”:

Department of corrections: The song “Just the Right Amount of Wrong” was originally written as “Just the Right Side of Wrong” – that has been corrected and the link to the video has also been added.

 

 

Good times & great sounds @ NSAI Toronto Tin Pan North songwriter round robin

I was out at the Black Swan Tavern last night for the early round robin set of singer/songwriters, part of NSAI Toronto’s annual Tin Pan North music fest – featuring headliner Wendell Ferguson, with Tori Hathaway, Shaun Devlin and John Cheesman.

Host Jennifer Noble, a singer/songwriter herself, introduced the songwriters and off we went on a round robin of good country sounds. Hathaway (who is 15 years old) has been busy travelling and recording, and treated us to one of the songs she’s been working on in the studio: “I’m Ready,” a sweet, poppy song about new love. Devlin’s warm, folksy storytelling style paints pictures of relationships and places – my favourite is of a couple who play bars together and are still so much in love after all these years. Cheesman has a passionate, blues-infused sound – and “I’m Not Superman,” his heartfelt ballad about a friend coming to terms with his three-year-old son’s diabetes diagnosis, brought tears to my eyes. Ferguson’s songs combine outstanding musicianship with hilarious lyrics – mostly memorably, one song warning women against marrying a musician.

It was a great night of music, storytelling and friends – the upstairs bar at Black Swan feeling more like a kitchen party as each songwriter showcased his/her work. Here are some snaps I took last night:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tin Pan North continues today (May 24) – check out their schedule for the final day of music festivities, then get out there and support the artists.

Erika Werry & the Alphabet: video for Think yer so Smart opening track “What”

For those of you, like me, who missed last night’s launch of Erika Werry and the Alphabet Think yer so Smart CD at The Piston – and with it the premiere of the video for the CD’s first track “What” – here’s the video:

For more Think yer so Smart tunage, check it out on the Erika Werry and the Alphabet Bandcamp page. You can also find them on the CBC Music site.

Erika Werry & the Alphabet upcoming CD launch: Think yer so Smart

4109506142-1Toronto Singer/songwriter Erika Werry recently gave me a shout about her upcoming Think yer so Smart CD release, recorded by her band Erika Werry and the Alphabet and featuring co-producer Ian Blurton on guitar. While I won’t be able to make it to the April 4 release this week, I was able to give it a listen so I could tell y’all about it.

An eclectic 14 tracks, Think yer so Smart is an energetic and soulful mix of folk, roots and alt country, with a bit of punk thrown in. The CD opens with punk rock rant “What” (the video will be premiering at the CD launch on Thursday), an anti-anthem for posers, tools and jackassery, changing gears in the next track with the bluesy country ballad “Matchless,” a hint of gospel flavour with its organ arrangement. “Neil” has a kicky pop sensibility, with playful guitar licks and a story of love from afar. Later tracks are poetic, lyrics painting a picture in the introspective “Uh Oh,” and in the wistful memories and haunting harmonies of “Shirley.”

The songs on Think yer so Smart move and breathe, with Werry exhaling each story with all the ache, heart and soul-searching of life – some with a driving beat, others comfy and slow – like sitting by a campfire, wrapped in a blanket. Check it out on the Erika Werry and the Alphabet Bandcamp page. You can also find them on the CBC Music site.

The launch for Think yer so Smart is Thursday, April 4 at The Piston (937 Bloor St. West – near Ossington) – doors open at 9 p.m. Opening acts include Tim Vesley (who also co-produced Think yer so Smart), and Lost and Profound. Erika Werry & the Alphabet will also be premiering their music video of “What” (the opening track on the CD). Tickets can be purchased at the door only: $15 with CD or $8 without.

Some cool trivia: Think yer so Smart was recorded at the Woodshed (Blue Rodeo’s studio) and the video for “What” was shot in Toronto last summer at Trinity Bellwoods Park on one of the most scorching hot days of the season.

Drop on by cowbell again after April 4 – I’ll have the vid link for “What” posted.