New Reviews: July 20, 1998

Mack MacKenzie is one of Canada's most underrated singer/songwriters, yet has displayed more talent in his handful of criticaly-acclaimed releases than many, more commercially-successful, artists have done in the lifetime of their careers. MacKenzie's self-titled album on the Justin Time label, a Québec-based independent label covering some of Canada's best in the worlds of jazz, country, and gospel, is his first collection of all-new songs in over ten years. The delay caused by various upheavals in MacKenzie's personal and professional lives, this album contains nine songs showing off what he does best: penning songs with blunt, heartfelt lyrics, delivered by his soulful yet somewhat raw voice. Many music fans in Québec know MacKenzie as the former leader of the now-defunct band Three O'Clock Train, a band which shook up country, rock, and folk to new levels. In fact, some critics have asserted that if Three O'Clock Train had hailed from Toronto, like the oft-compared Blue Rodeo, instead of Montreal . . . it's the age-old curse in the music biz of having to be in the right place at the right time. Even still, Train was an extremely influential band, and MacKenzie's songwriting is still up there with songs like "Pennies, Fountains And Stars," a song he wrote for Celine Dion (which she liked very much, but was nixed by her "people"), and the single "I'm Not Your Indian Boy," a very interesting assertation with the fact in mind that MacKenzie is of Native descent (Micmac to be precise, in addition to Scottish, Irish, Dutch, and French ancestry). I am going to be interviewing Mack in the weeks to come, so stay tuned to my feature slot!

Danny Boudreau hails from Petit-Rocher, New Burnswick, and is one of the hottest French-language acts in the area. He has a very simple and direct style, writing and performing songs about life and love. Twelve of his songs are on his debut album Sans Détour, an independentally-released album featuring his soft-spoken folky sound, tinged at times with the rhythms of Acadiana. I recently interviewed Boudreau for an article about the experience of being a Francophone performer outside of Québec. When I asked him what the biggest challenge was of performing in French in New Brunswick, his answer was simply making sure that his language can survive. This album is actually from 1994, and he has a new one in the works at the moment of more original songs. It will be interesting to see how Boudreau has developed as a songwriter over these past four years.