Entertainment

Mitchell: Great Britain realizes her own Bieber in Connor Maynard

Connor Maynard:

Contrast (Parlophone/EMI)

It seems like Great Britain wants a Justin Bieber type of pop artist just like Great Canada.

Like Bieber, Connor Maynard posted cover songs on YouTube until Ne-Yo saw a version of his own song Beautiful Monster on line and contacted the young wannabe singing star to suggest some work together.

Maynard soon went on to win the MTV U.K. show Brand New For 2012, beating out the likes of Lana Del Rey and Lianne La Havas for top spot. Hence this debut album that is very Bieberesque with plenty of puppy love pop music and a cadre of high profile guests such as Pharrell Williams, Rita Ora, The Invisible Men and the aforementioned Ne-Yo.

This debut album hit the top of the album charts in Britain in the same week the Olympics ended (for trivia buffs) and it is starting to get noticed on this side of the pond as well.

The lead off single is the synth R&B tune Can’t Say No, co-written by Maynard, that is slick and super radio-friendly with the pithy lyrics: “some girls are naughty...making me sweat,” while the stickered feature track Vegas Girl is more of the same vanilla techno R&B with the catch phrase “shake it like you’re famous girl.”

While Justin Bieber is aged 19 and who looks a couple of years younger, Maynard is actually aged 20 but looks many years younger than his actual chronology.

The fine boned and callow Maynard offers up a touch of falsetto a la Prince on Pictures while stars such as Parrell help out on the minor electro dub of Lift Off whereas Ne-Yo sings the second verse on the “nothing can stop us now” dynamics of Turn Around.

In Britain his fans are known as Mayniacs but if you feel you too can not get enough of Connor M. this domestic CD version will get you bonus material once you push it into your laptop.

C

Belle Starr:

The Burning Of Atlanta (Starfish Ent.)

Belle Starr are a new country folk trio out of Canada made up of three very accomplished musicians in Stephanie Cadman, Kendel Carson and Miranda Mulholland.

Cadman is an award winning PEI clog/step dancer as well as a fine singer. Carson has been a member of the Celtic rock band The Paperboys while she has also released a couple of very well received solo albums.

Mulholland was a member of The Mahones but she has since joined The Great Lake Swimmers while she has also embarked on this all-gal trio where all three women are also excellent fiddle players.

The group takes its name from the infamous late 1800s outlawess Belle Starr—the female Jesse James—as an inspiration for their independent spirit and innovative approach and this debut, five-song EP captures their alluring music very nicely.

The group has already recorded a full-length album that will be released in the early new year but this five-song mini album is a tasty teaser for their upcoming long player.

The ladies recorded all covers starting with Talking Heads’ This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) while most of the material is all Canadiana with solid takes of Fred Eaglesmith’s Summerlea, Oh Susanna’s Little White Lies and two-time Juno winner Jenny Whitley’s title song The Burning Of Atlanta.

The feature song to my ears is the splendid cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene that is built around a rhythm of Stephanie Cadman’s step dancing while the trio offers angelic harmonies and delightful fiddle fills that beguile throughout.

This EP was also recorded at Blue Rodeo’s studio The Woodshed and Belle Starr seems to have soaked in many of the cool country rock vibes of the setting along with their great backing session folks such as Colin Cripps and Danny Michel on guitars.

This is a lovely set of songs that will really set the table for their upcoming album and may make this beautifully packaged EP something of a collector’s item.

Check out their website at bellestarr.ca to order and you just might want to check out these winsome ladies in their gorgeous summer dresses as well.

B

Marcy Playground: Lunch, Recess &

Detention (EMI)

Marcy Playground are on a tour with other ’90s bands such as Lit and The Gin Blossoms who have sort of gone by the wayside but are still in demand by their fans for concert action.

As a result the group has released this generous 19-track, hour-plus disc of cover songs, b-sides, outtakes and soundtrack tunes.

Most consider Marcy P as a one-hit wonder band but they were a little better than that as this disc proves, although their signature song Sex And Candy is offered here twice as a re-recording as well as a disco mix by some Australian fan.

But as usual it is the interesting covers here that really sell this disc. Check out the sensitive, thoughtful and handsome takes of Neil Young’s The Needle & The Damage Done, Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade Of Pale and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah that the band admits is over-exposed but they claim their take is better than that of Jeff Buckley.

There are several outtakes especially from their album MP3 and Shapeshifter that are seeing the first light of day on this CD that old fans will want to check out.

C+

Love And Theft:

(RCA/Sony)

Love And Theft used to be an all-male country trio but one of the members quit, leaving songwriters Stephan Liles and Eric Gunderson as the two remaining main men.

The group had significant success with their debut World Wide Open that hit the top 10 country charts and scored a minor hit a couple of years ago.

This sophomore release is purposely self titled to signify the line-up change and start afresh as this disc is almost certain to solidify Love And Theft as a bona fide household name (in country circles at least).

This is a fresh sounding and likeable country album highlighted by smooth vocal harmonies and breezy songs about dancing under the stars with the preacher’s daughter leavened by whiskey and the beauty inherent in a pick up truck, as witnessed by the lead off hit single Angel Eyes.

The most controversy these lads enter into is with the lyric: “who’s got the Zig Zag, I got the Chong,” but it seems even liberalized good old boys are sparking up these days.

Check out the Zac Brown meets Mellencamp of Amen and the beach country of Real Good Sign.

The most interesting song here is the funky country of Runnin’ Out Of Air that harkens back to the Eagles’ disco crossover One Of These Nights of the late ’70s.

The goofy, novelty song Girls Love To Shake It is bound to light up country dance floors but it is the only misstep on an otherwise solid second outing.

C+

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