Exclusive Review of Finny McConnell’s (The Mahones) Debut Solo Album, The Dark Streets of Love

Exclusive Album Review of The Dark Streets of Love by Finny McConnell

     
Title: The Dark Streets of Love
Artist:  Finny McConnell
Label: True North Records
Releasing: September 2021
Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  4.5


After 30 glorious years of leading worldwide, renowned Celtic punk rockers, The Mahoneswho have shared stages and toured with the likes of Dropkick Murphys, Shane MacGowan (The Pogues), Stiff Little Fingers, Billy Bragg, The Buzzcocks, Sinead O’Connor, and The Damned to name a few—Finny McConnell decided that it was time to make an album for himself as he winds down and adjusts to his “Van Morrison years”, although I’m sure he has enough piss and vinegar left in him that he will not go quietly or gently into the night.

Produced by McConnell and engineered by Gene Hughes (who also mixed it) of Telejet Music Studio and assistant engineer Del Cowsill, The Dark Streets of Love was recorded “live off the floor” from March 15 to 17, 2021, in Toronto, Canada. It features McConnell’s favourite songs from his repertoire as well four of his most loved covers, along with exquisite cover art by Hannah Blu.

The Dark Streets of Love opens with a superb cover of “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen (that was released as the first single, yesterday). There’s a beautiful, reflective vulnerability in Finny’s voice on this track and lyrically, it’s a terrific choice for a cover song. Kevin Hearn’s accordion is a notable addition to the mix, lending it Celtic flair, but it’s the loss, longing, and weariness in Finny’s interpretation that makes it a winner. I cannot imagine anyone bestowing a better tribute to this song, and that is coming from a lifelong Boss fan.
 
Gina Romantini’s lovely violin adds gravitas to “Someone Save Me”, a poignant love song full of hope and gratitude, co-written by McConnell and Katie Lonergan. The singer bares his soul while finding redemption through his loving saviour, and this song makes the listener want to grab their lover on the dance floor and envelop them in their arms, as they sway to and fro to the music—an anthem for so many of us who haven’t given up hope although we’ve found ourselves heartbroken and alone in middle age.

“Stars (Oscar Wilde)”, also co-written by McConnell and K. Lonergan, is an elegant ballad and stand out track, telling the tale of the Catholic boy from Dublin who suffered under a priest’s harsh gaze—a damaged loner who developed his wit while maintaining his earnestness. “The stars look better from the gutter…”, an ode to one of my favourite authors, Oscar Wilde, is melancholic while never giving in to self-pity.

Glenn Milchem’s drum tattoo opens “A Pair of Brown Eyes”, written by Finny’s friend, Shane MacGowan, whom he channels perfectly with his vocal. The sweet tin whistle from Michael O’Grady adds Irish wistfulness to this mid-tempo track that follows the narrator as he goes a roving for a pair of brown eyes. This could be a sea shanty!

Closing Side One on the album is my favourite track, “New York City”. Co-written by McConnell, D. Whelan, and K. Lonergan, it is a rocking, stylistic salutation to David Bowie, Lou Reed, and the city that made Lou one of the most relevant artists of 70s alternative rock. Toronto Trans Queen Patricia Wilson’s wah-wah guitar adds fire to this life-affirming celebration of rock, glam, punk, and loving the vibe on the Lower East Side. “New York City” should be a hit single if there is any justice in the music industry of 2021.

Side Two begins with plaintive, lonely, pining lyrics by McConnell in “So Far Away”, a song splendidly accompanied by piano and languorous guitar strumming in this restrained banshee wail. Following it is a cover of Lou Reed’s “Pale Blue Eyes”, a ballad accentuated with soft drum brushes and delicate keys by Kevin Hearn, highlighting another powerful vocal performance by McConnell. Sad, full of emotional atmosphere and empathy, “Linger on, pale blue eyes”, tugs at the heartstrings, something that many of the songs on this album do, unashamedly.

Unapologetic for who he is and always was, the character in “We’re Miles Apart” tells his former love that they can still be friends and have a new start even though they’re miles apart. This short, succinct ballad is also heart-wrenching, due to its autobiographical nature.

Another favourite track is “Cocktail Blues”, a Stray Cat-like bluesy shuffle with jazzy piano evoking a smoky nightclub and cocktails for two. Oh God, how I miss them! With Finny’s flirtatious intimate vocal, knowing wink, and shoutout to my favourite alcoholic beverage—tequila—this song arouses sheer delight.

The album concludes aptly with “Fiddlers Green”, written by long-time friends, The Tragically Hip. This stripped-back version with Finny’s tremulous vocal and acoustic guitar offers an emotional homage to Kingston’s own Gord Downie that is the perfect ending to this stellar collection of songs from the dark streets of love.

As always, McConnell offers a bonus track and on this album it’s the beautiful, acoustic version of his song of yearning, “Back Home”, featuring Nicole Akkordion on the accordion, perfectly evoking the naked desire of wanting to be with someone you love when you can’t. This is Shane MacGowan’s favourite song of Finny’s and it’s one of mine too.

Finny thanks his musical mentors in the liner notes and the influence of artists such as Lou Reed, Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan, Paul Westerberg, Pete Townshend, Tom Waits, and Bruce Springsteen is evident. This is his love letter to everyone important in his world and it should not be missed. For me, The Dark Streets of Love is Finny’s “Fisherman’s Blues”, a collection of his most stripped bare and personal lyrics that represent not only his truth but a truth that we can all recognize, offering us a reflection on loving, losing, grieving, and loving again—essentially what it means to be human.

You cannot take the Irish out of McConnell, nor would we ever want to. He is defined by his Celtic soul and his punk rock heart, which he wears on his sleeve here, and we love him more for it. The Dark Streets of Love is among the best, most honest, thoughtful music of his legendary, illustrious career, so look for its release in early September 2021 and buy it.

Get The Dark Streets of Love on Truth North Records
New Single – Atlantic City out now on Spotify
Finny McConnell – Facebook
Finny McConnell – Instagram
Finny McConnell – Twitter

Russell Broom-Produced LP Captures Dramatic Transformation of Young Edmonton Songstress Rebecca Lappa

Rebecca Lappa Set to Release Reckless Heart on Nov. 2

Russell Broom-Produced LP Captures Dramatic
Transformation of Young Edmonton Songstress

Rebecca Lappa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Sept. 30, 2016

Toronto ON — On Rebecca Lappa’s latest album, Reckless Heart, officially released through iTunes on Nov. 2, the wise-beyond-her-years singer/songwriter bravely dives into the complicated sea of emotions that define modern romance. She emerges with a collection sure to add her name to the roll call of Canada’s brightest new voices.

Armed with powerful songs such as the brooding “Breathe In The Storm,” the uplifting first single “Carnival Of Love,” and the hard-rocking “Crockpot Girl,” Rebecca teamed up with JUNO-winning producer Russell Broom (Jann Arden, Chantal Kreviazuk), who helped guide her toward a new musical vision for Reckless Heart.

“Russell was very open about asking me how I thought things should sound and be arranged, which was something new for me,” Rebecca says. “I came to him with about 50 songs and together we examined the strengths and weaknesses of each one until we decided the ones to focus on for the album. I learned so much going through that process with him, and it’s completely changed how I view my work.”

Watch + Share “Carnival Of Love” [Lyric Video]

 ABOUT REBECCA LAPPA

A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Rebecca Lappa’s journey in music began at a young age with classical vocal training. She is a five-time Canadian Folk Music Awards nominee, winning once in 2015 for her album Tattered Rose. She has also performed at many major events in Canada, including the Edmonton Folk Festival, Canmore Folk Festival, Winnipeg Folk Festival and Ottawa Bluesfest. She has a particularly special relationship with the Calgary Folk Festival where she is a two-time winner of its songwriting competition.

Rebecca released her first album in 2011 while still in Grade 8, and went on to compose three one-woman musicals over the next several years. As well, she has contributed songs to other live theatre productions, which have been performed at the Edmonton Fringe Festival and elsewhere. Rebecca’s primary interest during this time was traditional folk music and mythology, which complemented her formal musical education.

While she felt comfortable as a folk artist—one project she is particularly proud of is her album based on poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson, which was named Adult Alternative Recording of the Year at the Edmonton Music Awards—since releasing Tattered Rose, Rebecca has felt the urge to break away from these influences and establish a new musical identity. Part of that has also included forming a new trio, Rebecca and The Revelry, which will be hitting the road in support of Reckless Heart.

REBECCA LAPPA RESTLESS HEART RELEASE SHOWS:

Oct 28 :: Calgary AB :: Calgary Folk Club
Oct 30 :: Edmonton AB :: Have Mercy
Spring Tour To Be Announced Soon!

Rebecca Lappa Reckless Heart


REBECCA LAPPA – Reckless Heart

Track List:

1. Crockpot Girl
2. Crawl
3. Yesterday’s Wine
4. Love In A Killing
5. Mary Jo
6. Till The King Comes Home
7. Breathe In The Storm
8. Carnival Of Love
9. Bonnie And Clyde
10. Baby Set Me Free
11. Secret Love

For additional press materials and interview requests, please contact:
Jason Schneider :: jason@jasonschneidermedia.com :: 226.500.4865

Rooted By Sasha Lewis Is Roots Rock Worth Shouting About!

CD Review
Title: Rooted
Artist: Sasha Lewis
Label: Independent
Released: 2010
Stars: 4.0

It has been a while since a female singer-songwriter in the roots rock genre has wowed me with her debut album, but Salmon Arm, British Columbia’s dynamite Sasha Lewis has done just that with her stunning 10 track CD, Rooted.

Sasha doesn’t immediately remind me of any other artist, although if you’re a fan of Melissa Etheridge or Feist you will probably love her sound. Her passionate vocal performances, skillful strumming, bleached blond, tattooed, punk goddess/alternating brunette earth mother vibe is one I haven’t seen in an acoustic artist who writes groovy and powerful folk/rock songs. This makes Sasha stand out in a crowd and her music stands out too. Her tenacious vocals and poignant lyrics that reflect the ways we deal with love gone wrong, the exorcism of our demons and the search for a better life, blend perfectly to create a memorable listening experience that becomes more profound with each spin of the disc.

Sasha’s eclectic influences range from Ani Difranco, Jimi Hendrix and Joan Jett to Bruce Cockburn, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Johnny Horton, Alison Krauss, Hank Williams and Ryan Bingham. She wrote all of the songs on Rooted and was accompanied by Jesse Clarke on guitar, percussion & back-up vocals, Jake Verburg on guitar (on Still Photograph), Darrin Herting on bass & cello, Roxy Roth on piano, Leon Power on drums and Stephanie Webster on back-up vocals.

Rooted opens with the slow-burning, evocative rocker Shot You Down, followed by another mid-tempo, melodious rocker, Your Safe Hands. Sasha’s voice morphs from clear-voiced and plaintive balladeer in Roots, Still Photograph, Until Your Home and Monsters (a lullaby about monsters under the stairs) to a feisty, banshee-like wail that stirs the loins in Your Safe Hands, Supergirl, and Following One (my favourite tracks on the album):

FOLLOWING ONE

you’re fragile and young, think you got everything under your thumb,
mercy child you don’t know anything but the mess that you bring,
and the pain from your past, oh the pain from your past

heavily guarded but easily influenced,
you become the poster child to this fake facade
of the next best thing that society brings, society brings

no no no, no no, no no no, no no
I won’t go the way you tell me
no no no, no no, no no no, no no
I’ll tread these waters till I reach land
no no no, no no, no no no, no no, no no no, no no

harnessed my tone,
guided by my gut,
humbled by the packs

following one like the propaganda on your tongue
mercy child you don’t know anything but the mess that you bring,
and the ghost from your past, the ghosts the ghost from your past

Rooted concludes with the reggae-laced Reasons, leaving you wanting more.

After a successful showcase at the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival this summer as well as support from CBC Radio, it’s highly likely that Sasha Lewis is a name you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the future.