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Agnes On the Cowcatcher


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Album Review

Folk enthusiasts can take heart in the fact there will always be groups such as Ontario-based Tanglefoot. The group's seafarer-evoking vocals are evident from the opening notes of "Backyard Sailor," which has the additional tin whistle throughout. Another maritime-oriented track is "Summer Ghosts," a brief a cappella track and one of the album's finest. But the traditional folk genre is replaced at times by arrangements influenced by bands like La Bottine Souriante, particularly the Francophone traces and down-home feeling of "Feu Follet." The commoner theme throughout the record gives it a soothing quality, but the narratives told aren't forgettable. "The Commodore's Compliments" describes the War of 1812, while "Miners and Mercy" pays homage to the Sisters of Mercy organization. The latter song has a few problems though, particularly when the band opts for a soft harmony instead of a louder, vibrant pitch. Singer and pianist Rob Ritchie gives a stellar performance on "The Garden," a song fitting the softer element of the group's dynamic. Storytelling is also quite strong here, especially on "Crashin' Down," a tune describing a tragic mountain slide in 1903. Only "Willow Dan" has the aura of being a mistaken arrangement, running out of steam around the song's middle.


Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

When Tanglefoot formed in the early '80s, the group bore little resemblance to the version that audiences see now. Schoolteachers Joe Grant, Bob Wagar, and Tim Rowat used to wear period costumes as they sang old traditional standards and their audiences were usually their students. The theatrical presentation was a way for them to bring Canadian history alive for the kids, whose knowledge of historical events was weighted heavily on America's past rather than their own country's. The students could...
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Agnes On the Cowcatcher, Tanglefoot
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