Nova Scotia born and now residing in North Vancouver, Katherine Penfold is a former piano-turned-jazz vocal major at Brandon University’s School of Music who took more than two years to complete her third album entitled Love. (SUBMITTED)
When I was an entertainment writer for a few years at the Winnipeg Sun in the ’90s, I never realized that one day a good part of that profession would virtually disappear.
When I wasn’t doing phone interviews with touring acts for upcoming concerts, or writing my weekly column about the goings-on in the bar scene in Winnipeg — yes, I got paid to do that — a lot of my time was spent listening to new album releases for the weekly review section of the paper.
My specialty was country music, but I would also delve into other genres as needed. But that was then, this is now.
Many papers have cut back their entertainment departments and either purchase wire-service reviews, or have cut them altogether.
The Brandon Sun long ago stopped publishing record reviews (we still offer movie reviews on Fridays), but we still will write advance stories about local bands, as we did with Sebastian Owl prior to its New Year Eve gig at the Double Decker.
A recent Canadian Press story asked the question: In an online age where most music streams for free, do album reviews still matter?
Here are some excerpts from that piece:
"It sure seems these days that the importance of the music review could be rapidly diminishing," reporter Nick Patch wrote of the music reviewing trade. "These wise souls were the all-knowing gate-keepers to a musical world that still required some degree of unlocking. Or, at least, they were valuable curators with free and early access to records whose content was a hazy mystery to fans desperate to learn more."
But the digital world has changed all of that.
The record labels no longer pepper newsrooms with review CDs — they used to be cassettes in my time — and there seems to be a blogger around every corner who is more than willing to offer his or her opinion on the new recording — for free.
And there’s also a great chance you will be able to steal the song online and simply judge for yourself. Heck, many artists even distribute their music for free online and make their incomes by touring and merchandise sales.
All of this has made the role of the record reviewer about as obsolete as a typesetter or town crier.
That’s why I was a bit taken aback this week when former Brandon chanteuse Katherine Penfold — whose development with her band NuPhunk Orchestra frequently graced the pages of the Brandon Sun — emailed me to let me know she has just released her third album, simply entitled "Love."
Nova Scotia born and now residing in North Vancouver, the piano-turned-jazz vocal major at Brandon University’s School of Music took more than two years to complete the album, recording in Winnipeg with her producer, then sending the rest of the vocal tracks from Australia. The 26-year-old Penfold released "Love" in September 2012 while living in Melbourne.
From Jan. 22 to Feb. 14, Penfold will be giving away, through her website katherinepenfold.ca, "Love" — Valentine’s Day album sampler consisting of four songs (plus a secret track read by her grandmother). It features two of her singles, "Love" and "Shining Star," to promote as much "Love" — and love — throughout the world as she can.
Penfold will be in Manitoba next month for two shows — one private (she’s a hit at corporate functions) and another small show at McNally Robinson Booksellers in the Grant Park Shopping Centre in Winnipeg. Nothing yet booked in Brandon.
And now, please allow a former record reviewer to try his hand at Penfold’s new release:
On her third outing, this classy chanteuse continues to stretch her musical wings. In this 10-song offering, the soulful singer keeps things simple and personal, almost like a love letter to listeners. Her voice is pure gold, the pop-soul arrangements spun loosely around her brilliant, shimmering vocal notes.
While studying voice at the Brandon University School of Music, Penfold would use her pipes as more of a weapon while fronting the gutsy R&B-funk-infused band NuPhunk Orchestra.
Her recent years of collaboration and study with some top players and teachers have given an international flavour to her approach, which on this recording is more mellow than menacing; more lovey-dovey than just letting ’er rip.
Penfold’s vocal maturity is without question — her phrasing near perfect, her timing and tone a charm — evident on impossibly irresistible tracks such as "Love" and "This Time."
The simple arrangements on most of the self-penned tunes are almost raw at points, with fingers heard scraping along the guitar strings on tracks such as "Can’t Explain" and "Be There Soon," where the singer lays her emotions bare.
This is the perfect album of music to enhance an evening while sipping your favourite beverage with your favourite person.
It’s full of hope, a touch of sadness, armfuls of optimism and, well, love.
Penfold, a masterful student of the voice, has evolved into one of Canada’s top young vocalists and performers. Her talent is much deserving of everyone who loves fine singing.
"Love" is now available on iTunes and other digital outlets throughout Canada and the United States.
HHHH out of HHHHH
Three more things:
• One of the worst recent decisions city council has made is to cut funding to Renaissance Brandon by a whopping $50,000 — that’s 20 per cent of its annual $250,000 operating budget. But wait, since the province matches Ren Brandon’s funding, the city is saying in its tentative budget a loud "no" to free money at a time of austerity. That’s a full $100,000 less for the agency. And you can say sayonara to the provincial matching cash forever — once the cash-strapped province sees we’re not interested in that area, it’s gone for good. The councillor behind the move that will hinder our downtown becoming a more attractive and vibrant place was none other than the relentless adversary to Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and Coun. Stephen Montague. He represents the suburban Richmond ward and I believe only ventures downtown to hit a bar once in a while. He also ran Rock the Block, taking over Rosser Avenue for a night when he was BU Students Union president. But he doesn’t really appear to have a clue of how close the downtown is to turning itself around with help from groups such as Ren Brandon.
• A mini Liquor Mart outlet in a grocery store — as we heard about in a Sun scoop this week — might sound like a great idea "for folks who want to grab a bottle of wine with dinner," but it can also pose some serious risks to folks battling alcoholism. Many people entering treatment programs such as AA often try to turn their unhealthy lifestyles into healthier ones, which includes going to the gym and eating a proper diet. Wow, what a "trigger" for a possible relapse for a recovering alcoholic to be faced with a bright booze store right beside the vegetable aisle? But I’m sure the liquor store will have plenty of posters and pamphlets available at the mini-outlets for those with problems.
• I received a copy of the menu from the new Ye’s Buffet on 18th Street North in Brandon. I noticed it not only features "family dinners," but also has a special price for toddlers younger than four. So that is clearly a kid-friendly family restaurant. And there are several kid-friendly eateries in this area. Why then, do some parents insist on bringing their offspring to restaurants or lounges that are clearly designed for adults looking to enjoy a drink and quiet conversation? Face it, folks, if you have kids, your lives have changed forever. Many people choose not to have children. And they don’t want to share yours while trying to have a nice evening out. Hire a sitter or go to a family restaurant, please.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 19, 2013