John Millard and Happy Day Citizens Awake!

The most prized attribute a musician can possess is originality. John Millard is nothing if not an original. He's got to be the only banjo player on the planet who, becoming enthralled by the ukulele in grade eight, went on to form a polka band with a horn section (Polka Dogs) and then felt that was too constricting. Citizens Awake! is Happy Day's second album and like its predecessor is highly theatrical. Using a small ensemble (bass, vibraphone, snare, banjo and accordion) underneath a chorus of vocals gives these songs a stage musical feel — indeed many were originally written for musicals. Millard's voice, deep as Stompin' Tom's, is the omniscient narrator telling us tales of boys with artistic facial hair ("Beardy Boy") and stilt walkers at Expo ’86 ("Thirty Reasons"), and the music is nearly timeless giving the impression that it would fit equally into a few different centuries. Happy Day is an ambitious project but luckily the ambition fits the talent of the musicians involved. (Festival)