Thursday, July 2, 2015

C is for: Cold Specks and, of course, the incomparable, Leonard Cohen.

     When it comes to music in Canada, it really does begin and end with one man....Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen is one of the world's great cultural titans; with a artistic canon that is recognized and respected around the planet!  He is a national treasure to those of us who call Canada our home.
     His works of poetry have earned him a seemingly endless series of awards such as the Governor General's Award (which he declined because, "the world is such a callous place and I will accept no reward from it.")  His novels have won prize after prize, as well.  For music, he has won Juno Awards and Grammys, too.  He is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, as well as, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the U.S.   His singing style can best be described as that of a raspy-throated crooner. He is sexual and romantic to a fault; adored by men and women with equal zeal and conviction.  His lyrics, pure poetry.   

"Now I've heard there was a secret chord That David played, and it pleased the Lord But you don't really care for music, do you?"

    Despite having many hits of note, it is "Hallelujah" that he is most famous for writing.   This song has been covered to great acclaim by many great singers such as Jeff Buckley and by K.D. Lang, (as sung during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.)  But, hearing the song as sung by Leonard Cohen, himself, is to hear it as the writer intended it to be heard. His interpretation, while lacking in the power and range of a K.D. Lang, for instance, never-the-less, is incredibly soulful and is my favourite rendition of a truly classic song.  Please enjoy the words and music of Canada's great treasure, Mr. Leonard Cohen!

     I was channel-surfing one night, a couple of years ago, when I happened across a trendy new show on the nation's broadcaster called The George Stroumboulopolus Show.  Normally, I avoided "Stroumbo", the self-declared, "Canada's boyfriend" but, as luck and timing would have it, I found the show just as a feature on Cold Specks was starting.
     Cold Specks is a Somalia-born Canadian resident who is carving out a place for herself on the national music scene.  Also known as Al Spx, Ladan Hussein, opted for the moniker of Cold Specks after reading James Joyce's Ulysses and, in particular, the line,

     "Born all in the dark wormy earth, cold specks of fire, evil, lights shining in the darkness." 

     Needless to say, Cold Specks writes with a literate bent that belies her young age. Her songs are soulful, sometimes jazzy but, always lyrical and imaginative.  She was awarded the title of "Best Female Artist" at the 2012 Polaris Music Prize Awards
     Since that night, watching her sing on the CBC, I have been transfixed by Cold Specks. She is my go-to performer whenever I need to get into my "writer's head space". Her words and music take me to where I need to be and, for that, I am indebted to her.  I hope you will enjoy and appreciate Cold Specks as much as I do, too. 

    Here, as always, is a tip of the old chapeau to the following great Canadian "C" talents:  
Let's begin with a one-hit wonder who defined Canadian music for a generation, Crowbar, East coast legend, John Allan Cameron, Guess Who lead singer and successful solo artist, Burton Cummings, Electronica stars, Crystal Castles, french collective, CANO (Thanks, Davey-boy!), Broken Social Scene co-founder, Brendan Canning, Singer/producer, Jarvis Church (of the Philosopher Kings), Singer and performance artist, Meryn Cadell, Comedian, Tommy Chong, modern-day Country singer, George Canyon and Country legend, Wilf Carter, Indie rock darlings, The Constantines,  Singer turned Politician, Andrew Cash, R & B stars, Keshia Chante and Deborah Cox, Hip-Hop trailblazer, Choclair, Canadian legend, Tom Cochrane, Jazz superstar, Holly Cole, Singer and activist, Bruce Cockburn, the one and only, Stomping' Tom Connors, Oshawa's own, Cuff the Duke, the cerebral Cowboy Junkies,  Alternative stars, City and Colour, Crash Vegas (Thanks, David Antrobus) and, finally, Maritime songwriter, J.P. Cormier.     

    What a list of talented performers!  Any one of these ladies and gentlemen are worthy of the full treatment in this post and, as such, I urge you to explore their musical catalogues further.  It will be well worth your while to do so.

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