reviews

Jon Epworth & The Miracle Sweat (s/t) – 2016

In his latest incarnation, the ever-morphing Jon Epworth has fully submerged himself in the sound and aesthetic of classic soul to create a musical persona of a calibre that would nestle sublimely between Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings or Charles Bradley on a well-curated festival schedule. The immensely talented multi-instrumentalist and highly malleable songwriter (check out his brilliant one-man King Crimson album as Failure Epics) leaves the fret, key and stick work to a top-notch backing band aptly dubbed the Miracle Sweat, freeing him to fully unleash his absurdly powerful voice.

The potency, expressiveness and range of Epworth’s vocals can’t be overstated. This man can wail like James Brown or Robert Plant, then comfortably dip into the buttery heart-tugging emotional resonance of the aforementioned Sharon Jones, or, dare I suggest it, Aretha Franklin.

Epworth’s reflective, confessional lyrical introspection jibes (and jives) well with the expertly constructed throwback sound — complete with classy horn harmonies, warm backing vocals and sophisticated key signature modulations underused by many a modern songwriter.

Whether this cathartic soul workout is a one-off look back while pushing forward or the launching of a new island of sound to explore as time and the creative muse permits, Jon Epworth’s Miracle Sweat is a divine endeavour. (Independent) – Scott Gray/Exclaim! Magazine

Shop Sounds – 2013

Shop Sounds is appropriately titled; Epworth is the consummate musical craftsman. Recorded literally in a wood shop, this is largely a one-man tour de force. Epworth seems to like an angle for his creativity (his last pair of releases were a metal-influenced prog-rock opera and a Stax Records-influenced soul-rock throwdown) and this time out it’s as straight-ahead a rock record as we’ve heard since 2006’s full-band effort Wet On Wet. The hook here is that the songs were written and recorded as quickly as possible, entirely by the man himself. He’s invited a different guest contributor to each track, to work with the same approach: listen once or twice, lay down the first thing that comes to mind. The resulting album is both focused and eclectic. The kicker is that wearing all of these (hard)hats doesn’t dilute the musical pool; Epworth is himself a thoroughly kick-ass band all over this thing. An obvious reference point is Queens of the Stone Age, but it’s never that simple. This is an album Dave Grohl would love, but his fanbase might not get. Required listening for rock fans who think they’re smart. – 107.3  Saint John Radio

 

Failure Epics – 2012

Failure Epics is 36 minutes of astute prog, all wrapped in a glistening chrysalis of intrepid ideas and aspirations. It’s a grower—the more you listen, the more you discover, and that seals its credentials as a grand prog debut.   – segment from a track-by-track reveiw at Six Noises metal blog.  Full article can be read here.

Soul Mange – 2012

“Are you scared of the future, are you scared of time?” The Canadian singer and multi-instrumentalist Jon Epworth digs deep on an EP of extreme soul rock, dredging up a poignant suicidal dream (on the title track, where harrowing aspirations are laid out beautifully on a Stax-style ballad), profound darkness and fear. Don’t Hold Water is churchhall Black Crowes uplift. Happening pits Sam Roberts against Chris Cornell and his black-holed sun. Strong stuff all around – ninnies need not apply.  – Brad Wheeler/Globe and Mail

Soul Mange is a great effort, and I am glad I had a chance to experience what Jon Epworth has to offer.  I am impressed with the delivery and give all those involved full marks both for musicianship and vocal abilities.  I would recommend this album to anyone who has an ear for the Blues and a hunger for something both powerful and soulful.  Far from being mangy, this puppy – um, album – is well groomed and parasite free.  And may just be the hair of the dog that you need to cure your personal blues. – from a track-by-track review from the Grayowl Point blog.  Full article can be read here.

Turn Off Your Name – 2009

“The drunks in front can yell that I’m the greatest/ I’ll just stay at home, if that’s what fame is.” Cheer Jon Epworth if you will – his album of thoughtful alt-rock, progressive pop and piano-driven rock-and-soul is absolutely vital – but the Halifax/Toronto music man isn’t in it for back-slaps and marquees. This poetic small-cogger, who at times who recalls the drama of Rufus Wainwright or the 10-fingered sensibilities of Elton John, is under no grand illusion – on the softly affecting Passing Chords he asks only to be considered. He’s against self-pity (on the brashly motivational The Driven ) and fat egos and “dance hall irrelevance.” I could tell him that Long Way Down would have been a radio hit in the seventies, but he probably wouldn’t care much. Who is this guy, anyway? – Brad Wheeler/Globe and Mail

WHEN HE LEFT FOR Toronto two years ago, singer-songwriter Jon Epworth was known for his stint in the Halifax punk trio the Dean Malenkos as well as some impressive solo work backed up by his band the Improvements injected with the nervy new wave energy of musicians like Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. But he returns home this weekend for the launch of his new CD Turn Off Your Name at the Paragon Theatre on Friday night a changed man, with a markedly different sound inspired by soul, folk and progressive rock and deeply introspective and poetic themes. “Gotta grow up, cool down, get with it/Dig deeper, stand harder and mean it!” Epworth wails on The Driven, channelling the spirit of Stevie Wonder, and it sounds like he does mean it, as he taps a well of rage, guilt and ultimately understanding on a record that scales lofty peaks of self-realization as well as plumbing the depths of self-doubt.  Epworth’s songs have been dramatic in the past, his last CD Wet Wet Wet is full of impassioned performances, but Turn Off Your Name takes the drama to an unheard of level, finally exploding in the horn-laced manifesto of Post-It Note. – Stephen Cook/Halifax Chronicle Herald

The music industry’s dying, but the music is doing just fine. In the battle between gimmick and pure talent, it’s the latter that Jon Epworth fights with. Despite mastering almost every talent musically and technologically, it’s Epworth’s voice and thoughts that are exposed in the spotlight. The soul-rocker’s lyrics read as poetry out of context and his voice ranges from a Bon Scott wail to a serene Thom Yorke mumble. On “Passing Chords” he sings: “I’m a small cog on a smaller set of gears and perhaps we’ll reach a few handfuls of ears.” Turn Off Your Name deserves more than a few handfuls.  – Ryan Hemsworth/The Coast