Team GDW took an enjoyable road trip recently to Toronto to catch a live show with folk-roots duo Kennedy Road (Sheila Carabine & Brian MacMillan), who were releasing their debut “A Little Fight Left Yet” album. Oh, scratch that…this is how I may have opened the paragraph before COVID-19 decided to intervene and put a hiatus on social gatherings. I digress – let’s start over. Team GDW connected to the internet from the comfort of our own living room recently, and enjoyed a virtual live-streaming album release concert with Kennedy Road via a Side Door show, broadcast using the Zoom meetings app.
Recorded and streamed live from Brian’s music room in his Toronto apartment, both he and Sheila naturally observed recommended social distancing protocol. “It’s taken us this long to play music together and be in the same room, albeit Sheila’s right at the door,” stated Brian. “Yeah, sitting in a Trinity Bellwood circle over here,” Sheila joked; a reference to the chalk circles found in this Toronto park due to some poor social distancing etiquette a few weeks ago. “She’s over there, which is great, and we were pretty devastated to have all of our shows disappear,” added Brian. “Although that’s a small thing compared to everything that was going on, but of course we were on the verge of releasing this record, so are happy that you can join us for this.”
Announcing that they planned to perform every track from their album (in sequence, although their current single, “The Heart Will Buzz,” was an exception, and saved for their rousing finale), the duo would also throw a few surprise covers in for good measure too. Of course, equally enjoyable was the wonderful chemistry and banter displayed by both artists, with good-natured jokes and off-the-cuff remarks flying back and forth all evening. “We’re gonna play Born Grieving next, which Brian renamed Bjorn Grievinn,” Sheila joked mid-set. “This is a song about an unknown Swedish tennis player.”
Comments offered about their Kennedy Road album strategically staged on the couch behind them looking like cool throw pillows brought out their comical nature too. “Oh my gosh, fans like ultimately need to get into every other type of merchandise than the actual music product they make,” Sheila responded. “You wanna lean against my head while you’re watching your show,” added Brian, gesturing an imaginary pillow in his hand. “Yeah, they hit that throw pillow idea on the head,” Sheila continued. “It’s genius.” Both viewer comments and recurring gags surrounding Brian’s eyesight and toggling of the reverb switch made the show much more intimate as it progressed; the audience drawn in to the cozy confines of Brian’s apartment for a ‘virtually-there-in-person’ experience.
Prior to the performance of their 2019 single, “Kennedy,” Brian brought out a violin bow to recreate the unique opening effects from the studio version, brushing it gently across the strings of his trusty Telecaster to eerie perfection. And just as we expected both artists to kick in with their shared vocals for the opening lines, Sheila caught us off-guard with an unexpected Spinal Tap reference: “In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history lived a strange race, the druids. No one knows who they were or what they were doing, but their legend remains. Hewn into the living rock of Stonehenge.” Delivering the lines complete with an over-the-top Nigel Tufnel impersonation, which itself is a rather dubious (but admittedly comical) parody of the English accent. Oh Sheila, as the bona-fide Englishman here, I promise not to share your grade and report card for accent fluency, but will recommend you check out Andy Shauf’s recent single, “Try Again,” which coincidentally revolves around an amusing tale of faking an English accent.
Probably the most light-hearted track on the album, and an autobiographical account of Brian’s resume up until his current status as professional musician, “Job Song” naturally paved the way for more fun banter. “I’ve modeled [nude] for art classes, I’ve scooped frozen yogurt, I’ve rolled sushi, I’ve sold Banzai trees, there’s nothing I will not do for money,” shared Brian. “That’s your quote of the show folks, take that with you,” Sheila joked. “Yeah, that’s a musician’s life,” Brian added. “There’s nothing I won’t do for money.” Progressing from “Job Song” into “The Ocean,” one of Sheila’s compositions that we had the pleasure of hearing her perform live in PA last year, the show ultimately ended with an incredibly rousing version of their current single (and soaring anthem), “The Heart Will Buzz.”
Of course, it would not be an album release party and live concert experience if the artists could not add a final surprise number, and both Brian and Sheila were more than willing to perform one more for the road. “Let’s do one more song,” Sheila insisted. “We’re gonna do a Neil Young song.” “Leave if you must, [but] where are you going anyway?” Brian added. “I wish we could be more interactive but then I guess that’s called a show, so this is as close as it gets to seeing everybody.” And adding commentary about hoping to one day tour Southern California, the duo pulled their choice of song from Young’s “Harvest” album, delivering a stunning cover of “Out On The Weekend.” Performing and conversing for just a little under two hours, with top quality audio and decent visuals, Kennedy Road provided some outstanding entertainment on a Saturday night, courtesy of the Zoom app and Side Door Concerts. Thank you Sheila and Brian for inviting us to share this fun evening with you – we can’t wait to find out more about the “Cat Stevens” and “Conway Twitty” nights.
- Oh Darlin’ Don’t You Know
- Never Enough
- Just Someone I Used To Know (Dolly Parton cover)
- Release Me
- Born Grieving
- Long Monday (John Prine cover)
- Freshen Up
- I Can’t Recall
- Job Song
- The Ocean
- The Heart Will Buzz
- Out On The Weekend (Neil Young cover)
Photo Credit: Jen Squires