Let me take you back to before the April showers we’re experiencing. February was finishing and March was poised to “come in as a Lion” as it is prone to do. Although the end of our bitch of a winter was in sight, I desperately needed a thaw. Enter Rachael Cardiello and the Warm Electric Winter. Their “neon soul” moved feet and warmed bones – what a night. With Motown groove and brassy fury Cardiello (with ten-piece band in tow) set to banishing the frost from the Dakota Tavern. Featuring exemplary support from Barrie’s Stonetrotter and Toronto’s Michelle Willis, it was a night of stellar songwriters and monstrous instrumentalists – I was worried the Dakota would burst from the sheer mass of talent present.
Michelle Willis had the honour of opening the evening with smooth and mellow jazz-infused soul. Intricate while immediately accessible, Willis does a fine job of walking the tightrope that is easily listenable jazz. I think that the shot of folk that’s present in her writing style does a good job of counterbalancing her obvious (and impressive) jazz chops. Doing everything but staying still since graduating the prestigious Humber jazz program, she has worked as a sideperson, session player, and in other bands; all the while writing and arranging her own pieces. In addition to working with Iggy Pop and Snarky Puppy, we were lucky enough to be graced with a performance at The Dakota. Currently in the process of recording her debut solo record “See Us Through”, Willis has proved herself as not only a talented player, but also as a moving songwriter the world over.
I guess if all the acts in a night are fantastic, it isn’t so tough to be following each other, right? Regardless, Stonetrotter had no trouble hitting the stage and absolutely slaying. The sunny sound of Stonetrotter (how’s that for alliteration?) made for an excellent addition to the evening at the Dakota, and jumpstarted my slow-building excitement for the summer months. In describing their sound as “feel good rock and stroll”, the band puts it pretty succinctly. With easygoing and catchy melodies, the group makes no mystery of their early east-coast rock, country, and folk influences. Obviously a close-knit group of artists, this outfit made for an entertaining act to not only listen to, but watch as well – there is a vital distinction between the two. The tune “I’m Going to Sleep” killed me! Great song. Stonetrotter recently released their second EP “The Truth don’t Look the Same to Me and You” in November of 2014, and they’ll be playing many a gig in the coming months. I’ll see you there!
Almost as exciting as the music itself was watching Rachael Cardiello try to fit a ten-piece behemoth of a band on the intimate Dakota stage! Despite perhaps being a slightly more numerous group than the stage was likely intended for, Cardiello unleashed something truly excellent that chilly February night: The Warm Electric Winter. Now, I’m a sucker for brass. To say that I was tickled pink to see a section on stage wouldn’t quite cut it. In addition to some truly impressive horn players, Rachael somehow snagged a fellow who’s quite possibly the fastest keys player North of the 49th parallel. Originally a folk-singer/songwriter, Cardiello decided to add a little heat in her second release “Warm Electric Winter” which was recorded with a full band in Brooklyn, New York. Close your eyes and you’ll find yourself somewhere between early Motown and the E-Street Band, with some folk wit and intellect (and the occasional bit of blues grit) for added flavour. Not only does she have a world-class band behind her, but Cardiello is a gifted instrumentalist in her own right. With endless hooks in her arrangements and melodies, she weaves-in sensible lyrics and excellent storytelling. I am often cautious when hearing about folk artists “going electric”, but Rachael Cardiello has done so in such a fresh and honest way. Nothing feels forced or strained, this is just the next step for her as a writer, bandleader, and performer, and I can’t tell you how much I love it.