The exquisite Folk music of Nicole Coward has been described by fans as "medicine" and as being "like that flower that fights its way through a crack in the pavement to bloom and make that small section of the sidewalk pretty." To me, it's an antidote to the sterility of today's radio playlists dominated by artificial, auto-tuned voices and stitched-together mish-mashes of recycled or ripped-off licks and phrasings.
She is frequently compared to Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell by first-time listeners and indeed, though only in her early 30s, she says her musical inspiration hearkens back to the days when tunes by those artists, along with Peter Paul & Mary, Gordon Lightfoot and The Kingston Trio, were being played regularly on the radio.
Like that now iconic body of music, Coward's songs emanate a sense of solidity and enduring appeal that is so notably absent from much of what is being promoted by labels these days. The lyrics speak honestly to basic themes of love and life without coming across as trying to be clever, yet are nevertheless artful and often pointedly memorable. Her sometimes haunting, often playful and always beautifully engaging voice melds with unpretentious yet intriguingly intricate melodies and guitar playing to form the antithesis of "big box" music production. See what I mean by visiting www.nicolecoward.com, where you can hear tunes and see videos of her in performance.
She'll be releasing her debut cd, `Why Don't You Care', at a show in the main hall of Tranzac Club on Fri. June 1, but tomorrow, Wed. May 9, she'll be offering a preview of what to expect as she does the feature at my weekly 7:30-1 open stage at Hirut Restaurant (2050 Danforth Ave. about ten doors west of Woodbine). She'll be accompanied by at least one backup singer and likely a percussionist for her 10-10:30 showcase set.
Last week Michael Keith absolutely entranced us with his unique feature performance on a 3-string tenor ukelele, combining Rock and Blues stylings with elements of Chinese and Persian music in a unique fusion that is all his own.
The roster last week featured 14 other acts including a few making their Wed. night debut at Hirut. Regulars who performed included Roger Zuraw, Steve Raiken, Darwin Bruce, John Layton, Murray Powell, Sandra Frieser, Kevin Davies, Fernando "The Riverdale Kid" Curcione, Pete Otis and Alan Moffat and Carla Dees also came out and joined Pete and Fernando for a set. Mike Bar also returned but this night brought his son Basil and nephew Alex with him, who accompanied him in what I dubbed "The Bar Band" on piano and bass respectively. A couple of performers who've been regulars at my new Sunday afternoon open stage at Hirut also came out this week: Sharron Katz and Franco V. We also had an awesome debut set from a friend of Hirut and husband Tibebe's when Hussein Said performed on the house guitar.
The upright Heintzman house piano, my Tak house guitar and a set of bongos, shakers and tambourines will be available for use by performers as always. True music fans and performers alike will also appreciate the warm sound, good sightlines and lack of intrusive televisions in this cozy, relaxed room.
And I haven't even mentioned yet the superb Ethiopian cuisine that Hirut makes (along with some North American offerings) and the very reasonable drink prices. Makes it pretty easy to come out and enjoy the great music we have on offer every Wednesday!