Wed, May 8, 2013.
This is a New Brunswick album people have been waiting for with quite a bit of anticipation. Over the last couple of years, Moncton's Shaun LeBlanc has been establishing himself on the local scene, gaining quite a name as a singer and songwriter. A debut E.P. introduced him last year, but that was just a taste of things to come. Lots of live shows have left audiences impressed with his songs and style. He's a pop performer, but with serious songs coming from his pen. Plus, these days it's pretty rare to hear a keyboard player front and centre, at least one playing actual piano, composing that classic way.
His biggest break happened last fall, and it wasn't even in his home turf. Selected into the finals of Fredericton's Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival's Galaxie Rising Star competition, LeBlanc wowed the judges and audience, and walked away with the top prize in that tough battle of the bands. So the time was right to get going on a true first album. And it gets launched Thursday in Moncton. It's called Kaleidoscope, and is the result of months of hard work, first writing, and then recording and producing 10 intricate, well-crafted numbers.
LeBlanc can play these songs as stripped-back compositions live, just piano and some percussion, which I've seen him do on a couple of occasions, but for the album, he's gone for big, bright, multi-instrument arrangements. Most of the songs have a lot more than just a verse-chorus-verse structure. There will be whole middle sections, second movements that take the tunes to a different level, complete with complicated vocals, and a lush feel, numbers that take me back to the rich productions you used to hear on radio back in the late 70's. Specifically, some of the songs here remind me of those glossy 10 CC and Queen hits, with so much going on, and so much to enjoy. There's a ton of sounds and voices coming at you, and its all rich and highly melodic.
To make things so big, you have to have a hard-working team, and LeBlanc relied heavily on the talents of Moncton's Robin Anne Ettles, who produced the album and contributed guitars, bass, keyboards, some drums, vocals, hand claps, anything that was needed. Ettles is more than a secret weapon these days. Long one of Moncton's top players, she was honoured at the recent Music New Brunswick awards with both Musician of the Year, and Fan's Choice Artist of the Year. You can tell this was a true partnership, and that a lot of sweat went into it. It's an A-team effort right across the board, with other players including Allan Cooper on electric guitar, who also co-wrote one number here.
The album release party happens Thursday at the Empress Theatre in Moncton, and it's the perfect after-work event. It's happening at 5:30 to 7:30 with a concert of course, and best of all, it's free. Come say hello, I'll be your genial MC for the event. If you haven't seen him live before, it's a great chance to see what the buzz has been about.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).