There’s an open stage with a difference going on halfway down Roncevalles Avenue in Toronto’s mid-west. The first Catweazle Toronto took place in February 2013 and it’s still going strong 18 months later. I’ve been to it 4 times and tried out my 3 most recent songs in an intimate, acoustic, supportive atmosphere in the company of high quality exponents of a variety of performing arts. It has the atmosphere of a house concert, with very little indifference and distraction, but it’s held in a public place (Smock Cafe) which serves alcohol and, at least judging by the last time I went, attracts non-performers who are up for taking in the show.

It seems to me that Michael Holt is at the heart of the event, even if he is often out of town doing what he does. For those on Facebook, I highly recommend a perusal of his mission statement in the ‘About’ section of Catweazle Toronto’s page.

All 4 Michael Holt CDs which I possess (there are 9) have great songs on them and are worth getting hold of. However, 2008’s ‘Windows’ remains my joint favourite all time album. The artistic principle wins out over the commercial principle throughout and the listener is pulled through a rich sequence of classical piano, acoustic indie pop and ballads. The overall effect for me is a glimpse through the window of how life could be if we made it so. Michael’s next album will consist entirely of original classical piano pieces and I’m sure it will stand up alongside any Deutsche Grammophon title.

The other host at Catweazle Toronto is Luke Jackson. His CD ‘And Then Some’ eschews the quirky, lo-fi approach in favour of a classic big arrangement/production sound while still managing to be concise. Maybe the fact that Luke hails from Britain, where any musical effort which sounds less than professional is unlikely to be tolerated by strangers, has something to do with the album’s uniformly strong, commercially viable material as well as its relatively short, but completely appropriate, duration.

The lead vocals sound great and there are some simple yet memorable guitar figures on tracks such as ‘A Little Voice’ and ‘The Fear’. The addition of Robert Kirby’s fine string arrangements is tasteful rather than boastful and there is no unwarranted eclecticism, which is helpful in sustaining the mood. This positive yet slightly mysterious CD/LP was recorded near Malmo, Sweden and superbly produced by Christoffer Lundquist.

Anyone who’s in Toronto on the last Friday of the month could do a lot worse than get along to Catweazle at Smock Cafe, 287 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto where the creators of the music described above, as well as several other equally talented people, can be found. Expect the unexpected…

Catweazle Toronto

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