Tarantuela Media Roundup

Cameron House in 2011

It was a busy week for the Cameron House family.  In addition to the usual first-rate lineup of bands every night of the week at the historic bar, there was also the long-awaited launch of Tarantuela’s Good Luck-Black Cat-Bad Luck album at the Horseshoe Tavern on May 18th.

Lead singer Jay Swinnerton was thrilled with the experience, saying, “Friday night at the Horseshoe started with the Peterborough nine-piece band The Silver Hearts performing one of the most haunting/dynamic/fun performances I’ve seen in years.  It got the crowd going instantly. Shortly after, The Devin Cuddy Band kept the train rollin’ with Devin’s New Orleans blues and country gems. By the time we hit the stage, people were ready for some rock and roll. We got into it and even had some label mates up to sing back-ups. Good Crowd, Good Staff, Good times!”

Wall Street Journal currency pundit, Cameron House regular [Thursday’s at 6pm] and veteran troubadour Corin Raymond had this to say, “…was blown away by Tarantuela last night…they killed it at The Horseshoe and I felt lucky to be there. Devin Cuddy [when is he not at the Cameron House?] and his band knocked me out too–amazing to see all these younger guys bringing such a rock-solid, classic and extremely soulful sound to everything they’re doin’…Jay Swinnerton brought it, and gave me the Mad Joy. What a night. Congrats to Cameron House Records!!”

Some photos of the Devin Cuddy Band from the night courtesy of Max Power (http://www.maxpowerphoto.ca)


Some photos of Tarantuela, courtesy Max Power (http://www.maxpowerphoto.ca)

Major media outlets took the opportunity of the Tarantuela release to swoop down on the Queen and Spadina institution for feature stories and video interviews.

The May 15th piece that ran in the Financial Post started with a description of the CHR business model, and then illustrated that model by focussing on Tarantuela:

Its not a get-rich project, it’s a roots indie record label that can hopefully make some bands better off and better known” he says. “We’re just taking it slow, building a brand and finding something in common that people can expect from Cameron House acts…That philosophy is on full display with their latest act, Tarantuela, a band from Peterborough, Ont., whose first studio album, Good Luck-Black Cat-Bad Luck, invokes both The Kinks and The Band. Singer/guitarist Jay Swinnerton even travelled to Woodstock, N.Y., in 2008 with his friend Jeremy Kelly, who was making a documentary on The Band’s Richard Manuel. It proved to be an influential trip for Swinnerton, who admires The Band’s “earthly quality” of music. Tarantuela, which started as a Kinks cover band four years ago, finally settled on a style of music when they realized they wanted to “capture the spirit of The Basement Tapes,” Swinnerton says, referencing the famed recording from Bob Dylan and The Band’s time spent at Big Pink in Woodstock.  Paying homage to The Band doesn’t end there: the name Tarantuela comes from Dylan’s novel Tarantula; their song Early Morning Blues references the time they tried to watch Levon Helm (The Band’s recently departed drummer/vocalist) and Dylan onstage, but were denied entry by U.S. border agents; and Swinnerton’s vocal delivery is clearly influenced by Manuel’s, although he also cites Ray Charles and James Brown when the conversation switches to his occasional “gutteral” high notes.

Next was a piece in Now Magazine, saying, among other things:

…Mike McKeown and Cosmo Ferraro (nephew of original owner Paul Sanella) have done more than uphold the bar’s close-knit music and arts scene – they’re also fostering its next generation.  That next gen is on display on the Cameron House’s small front patio when I arrive to interview Tarantuela, who appear frequently on the venue’s back stage and, come tomorrow, become the third band to release an album on Cameron House Records…Tarantuela’s “loose, rootsy, bluesy community vibe” fits the bar like a glove. Their upcoming debut album, Good Luck-Black Cat-Bad Luck, embodies the spontaneous friends-jamming-in-a-basement mentality of Bob Dylan and the Band’s legendary Basement Tapes. 

Exclaim!’s Jason Schneider had this to say in their review of Good Luck-Black Cat-Bad Luck:

Maybe it’s because Ronnie Hawkins still lives near Peterborough, ON, but there has to be some explanation as to why there’s recently been a slew of young bands from there that unabashedly carry on the lessons he once taught his first Canadian disciples, who became the Band. Tarantuela are the latest to emerge from this scene and the most compelling in their devotion to recreate the Band’s all-too-brief glory days. The quintet’s focal point is singer/guitarist Jay Swinnerton, whose soulful howl is remarkably Richard Manuel-esque. But it’s only one component of Tarantuela’s overall dexterity, best displayed on the rollicking “In the Middle of the Street,” the bluesy stomp of “Make A Fool” and breezy country excursion “Practice What You Preach.” There is chemistry within this group, something nicely accentuated by producer James McKenty of the Spades, another fine Peterborough outfit. As the Band proved, most of the time chemistry is all you need, but Tarantuela have a great deal more.

Lee Fraser of Sticky Magazine also wrote a glowing review of the album, headlined Peterborough band, Tarantuela, release rocking debut album:

There’s been a lot of focus lately on blues-infused rock bands, bands with southern soul, bands that produce that sound of the late 60’s. Bands become “overnight” successes with spots on Letterman and magazine covers. They’re touring the continent in big fancy buses and playing large, unfriendly venues.

But here’s the good news: you can find this soul-moving music right here at home. You can catch them while they’re still on their way to being a success.  Peterborough band Tarantuela have talent, ingenious musical timing, and presumably parents with great record collections. Lead singer Jay Swinnerton has a swagger in his voice like a young Mick Jagger. He’s supported by a band centered around guitars, keys and percussion, but that’s just the beginning of the story.

Good Luck-Black Cat-Bad Luck is the debut album for the young band and the third release for the burgeoning Cameron House Records. The Tarantuela album is a perfect addition for the homey label, joining Kayla Howran‘s solid country offering, Pistol. Co-produced by James Mckenty (Greg Keelor, The Sadies), this record is a collection of very memorable tunes, each one well-crafted to capture the spirit of such a great sound.

What stands out about these songs is the how they are composed. There are horns, accordion, violin, mandolin and harmonica. Some tunes feature organ while others are littered with plinky piano. But the boys in the band are not scattering instruments liberally because they can; each note is carefully placed, each instrument provides just the right accent in just the right place.

The timing is another strength here. On the title track, the band expertly plays with the beats, slowing the bridge right down, using an increasing tempo for the refrain that gets you completely lost in the song in a hurry. They build suspense in their songs, keeping you wrapped around their skilled little fingers and wanting more. Several of the songs have a New Orleans feel about them, but there are also songs that might have you doing a double-take, wondering if someone threw some early Stones into the mix. Swinnerton’s vocals range from boozey blues to growling anger to bashful jubilance.

The record is full of highlights (“In My Parade”, “Educated Man” and “Three Time Loser” are constantly going through my head these days), but possibly the most enjoyable is the final track, “Rita May”. Recorded in the back room of the Cameron last September with a boat load of musicians and one great dog, this track will have you hooked after your first listen. The accordion, the violin, the gang vocals, the escalating refrain; it won’t be long before you’re belting this one out in the shower.

You can check out Tarantuela at their CD Release at the Horseshoe Tavern on Friday, May 18. And do yourself a favour: pick up the album so that you’ll be able to belt out the choruses.

Finally, the website My City Lives shot and released this beautiful video of the Cameron House featuring an interview with owner Cosmo Ferraro.


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