Album Review - Bradford Monk & The Foggy Hogtown Boys

Tutelage Led By Vinny "Bond" Marini Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Americana, bluegrass, roots; it seems recently these are the fastest growing musical genres. Many bands try to capture the pure sound of mountain music but most end up with a weak impersonation of the music.

Out of Canada comes country-bluegrass that would make Bill Monroe smile.

Brad Monk has been making music for years, mostly country and gospel styled recordings. On his newest release, Bradford Monk & The Foggy Hogtown Boys, he teamed up with the Toronto-based Foggy Hogtown Boys to make an album of bluegrass music that will please the musical soul of any fan of the genre.

Brad met the Foggy Hogtown Boys during a record release party and he and the band immediately hit it off and decided to record together. The Hogtown Boys consist of Andrew Collins on mandolin, Chris Coole on guitar, Max Heineman on bass, Chris Quinn on banjo and John Showman on fiddle and they are each superb musicians in their own right.

The album would be less if the band backing Brad were not as skilled as these gentlemen, but make no mistake; this is a Bradford Monk album. He is an excellent storyteller, which is the first mark of a true country/bluegrass artist. His songs all tell stories that could be put to rock or pop music, but they would not have the same impact as they do here.

Songs like “Maybe Baby” with a solid banjo laid underneath lyrics like “I may be crazy, but maybe baby, I was wrong. I never meant to make you cry, maybe there is a way or something else we can try”. Now, who has not had to say words similar to that after a relationship has gone bad? Bradford has real balladeer skills in his telling those waltzing country ballads such as the above mentioned song, and the equally fine “Suzanne” and the most stirring ballad on the album “Rosie”, where the story-teller laments the loss of his lady and his plea; “Oh Lord, please lay me down, please lay me gently into the cold ground”, so as to join her.

He is equally adept in the stirring bluegrass up-tempo songs such as “I’m Alright” that contains some great banjo picking by Chris Quinn and superb fiddle by John Showman. The whole band joins in with the call and response type lyrics on this one.

On “Titanic,” Monk puts his spin on the tale of the great cruise ship and its destiny. “Remember Everyday” is a soft ballad wherein Monk tells his love “I hope that we remember everyday, it feels like it’s supposed to be this way. It has taken too long for me to say, to tell you that I love you.” Singing over a slow weeping fiddle, Monk makes you want to grab your gal and give her a big hug.

“Sweet Mary” will make you want to snap your fingers along with the band as Monk tells you all about his lady. Included in this song are some of the best lyrics on the album, including the line; “You know my woman makes love like a submarine. It’s up and down and side to side. When the water gets rough you gotta hold on tight,”

This is an album that deserves a comfortable chair, a fine lady sitting close, maybe a libation, and no interruptions to be enjoyed to its fullest the first time out. Bradford Monk is a true country singer-songwriter with too much talent to not be noticed and the Foggy Hogtown Boys are a first class band of musicians.

One wonders if this collaboration will have legs and continue onward. It would seem a shame not to continue to build on a solid starting point, and we can only hope that Brad and the Boys decide to hit the road together. From the sounds on this album, a live show would be filled with laughs, stirring banjo and fiddle and some of the most well constructed lyrics you will hear, no matter the genre.

If you are one who says “I don’t like country and bluegrass,” it is strongly suggested you take an hour and listen. Bradford Monk & The Foggy Hogtown Boys will turn you into a fan.

4 out of 5 turntables