Hot Toddy / Isaac & Blewett Live at the Black Box

The great thing about Canada is the wealth of musical talent that remains largely undiscovered by the rest of us. The joy is in the discovery and this release captures two of the East Coast’s best acts, merging their distinctly different approaches on one release. Hot Toddy is a unique amalgam of blues and roots music with a hint of jazz, their musicianship shining brightly on each new release. Isaac & Blewett command a more eclectic turf that marries blues and bluegrass to classical music with an emphasis on a somewhat serene, if not psychedelic, sound. Both bands compose to haunting effect and, despite going down slightly different roads, their sound comes together — seductively so — on Live. Five players contribute two songs apiece but as the genres blur between acoustic blues and sleepy rural jams, the instruments — cello, banjo, archtop guitar, acoustic bass, dobro, harmonica — begin to create a force that makes perfect sense. Guest vocalist Tania Breen adds some sweetness to the mix but the combined band are at their best when they attack a song, back porch style. "Help Me Make It Ta Spring” is acoustic picking at its best, the cello and bass washing over the proceedings like a winter storm. Jim Blewett’s "Look Around” sits somewhat uncomfortably above the full band mix but is instantly endearing with repeated listens. "Wrong Time Right Place/Moving Dues” begins with the dark underbelly exposed by Tim Isaac’s cello before giving way to an intricate, uplifting melody driven by Tom Easley’s warm bass lines. This is no kitchen party and more of a multi-coloured mood swing reflective of the sea of influences inspiring five very talented musicians. Get some. (Independent)