Dave Carmichael
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Dave Carmichael

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"CD review - Dave Carmichael, Spirit Dance"

Thursday, December 22, 2005 10:39 AM
CD review - Dave Carmichael, Spirit Dance

Happy Holidays everyone!

Every so often I get a CD I want to tell people about. Dave Carmichael’s Spirit Dance is one of those!

I met Dave when he lived in Ottawa for about a year, a couple of years back. I had a chance to see him perform as a sideman – a role he plays well; tasteful fills and leads, defers to the “main act” , and is unassuming & humble – but not a wallflower.

What a treat when he was back in Ottawa to perform at the National Library and he offered me a copy of Spirit Dance, asking for my comments.

This CD is a well balanced collection of songs, that definitely makes you want to listen more than once – in fact I’ve been humming the songs, often the sign of a “keeper”. Dave proves to be a wonderful songwriter and a beautiful singer, tackling with equal ease the soft tender ballads, up-tempo folk-pop, bluegrass, and bluesy swing tunes.

The CD starts with Smile, which right away shows off Dave’s voice and strong songwriting -- lyrics and melodies. He moves into Same Train, which uses percussion to get you moving and then treats you again to the softer country feel with Forever. Beautifully Simple has a swing to it, with a country feel, and paints images which draw you into the story.

The collection is lyrically pleasing, with lines like “the beautifully simple, simply feels better”, to tongue in cheek fun like “if you can’t live without me, why ain’t you dead yet” (from Why Me).

Dave does a version of Bury Me Beneath the Willow which will stand up against any bluegrass version I’ve heard (and I played the bluegrass circuit for 10 years in my earlier life). Really good harmonies throughout the album are by Melissa Trottier, with a few other voices added in a couple of the songs, for a tight and full sound.

The last song on the CD features the piano playing of Kim Dunn. Very nice.

I love this CD – Spirit Dance deserves to be heard! Any DJ’s out there who don’t have a copy, I suggest you contact Dave through his website www.davecarmichael.com, and get a copy for airplay. Dave occasionally tours, (home is in Halifax) – he would make a great addition to any concert series, from the house concert, to a larger venue.


Pat Moore Music

host Weekend Warm-Up
CKCU FM 93.1 Fridays at 4:00
www.ckcufm.com - MaplePost - Pat Moore

"Dave Carmichael Launches Third CD"

Dave Carmichael Launches Third CD DECEMBER 13, 2005

By Ron Foley Macdonald www.Aliant.net

Dave Carmichael is one of the East Coast's most accessible and immediate singer/songwriters. Since graduating from Acadia University's renowned theatre program almost a decade ago, the talented musician and recording artist has tread the boards in a number of dramatic productions, most recently serving as the onstage musical director of Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre's stellar staging of the songbook revue Joni Mitchell: River.

This week--in a crowded seasonal schedule competing with a thousand holiday events--Carmichael has slyly decided to launch his third CD, Spirit Dance. It's exactly the kind of album that will make a very fine Christmas present for any and all followers of the Atlantic Music Scene, so punters might just want to take some time out of their busy pre-holiday rush to relax and take in some quality East Coast music at his launch event.

The actual launch party takes place at Stage Nine in Halifax--1567 Grafton Street, to be precise--from 7:30 to 9:30 on Thursday, December 15th. Sponsored by The Garrison Brewing Company and CKDU Radio, the party will feature Carmichael premiering much of his new disc, joined by a bevy of special guests and friends.

Which, in fact, brings us to Spirit Dance, the Acadia grad's third and most recent long-player. Recorded at Common Grounds Studio in Halifax--formerly known as Solar Studios, the sound facility at Musicstop at Cunard and Hunter Streets in the Nova Scotian capital's mid-town region--Spirit Dance reveals Dave Carmichael settling for a direct, early '70s singer songwriter style that recalls the signature albums by legendary artists such as James Taylor, Harry Chapin and Jackson Browne.

Abandoning the eclectic experimentation of his first two efforts, Perspective and Emergence, the quicksilver musician has stripped his songs down to their essentials on this confident new album. Assisted by guitarist and co-producer Jamie Robinson--who recently helped propel Pictou minstrel Dave Gunning to the very verge of mass-market acceptance with his latest album Two Bit World--Dave Carmichael has left the crunchy guitars of Emergence and the cajun/reggae flavourings of Perspective behind to concentrate on clean, pure and unaffected sound. Only a few gentle touches of bluegrass influence the textural mix on the new disc; Spirit Dance is for the part, austere, stark and yet surprisingly accomplished.

The result shows off the willowy singer-songwriter in his best light yet. Carmichael's own songs are emotionally honest, structurally simple and delightfully affecting; delivered--as they are throughout Spirit Dance--in a manner that lets the songs speak for themselves, the material is immediate and memorable.

With titles that neatly sum up the singer's direct and unencumbered approach--Smile, Forever, Beautifully Simple are just a few of the notable tunes--Carmichael has found an effective way to translate his musical and poetic gifts into clear and resonant recordings.

Home Boys, for example, is a modestly rollicking selection that suggests a camp-fire sing along without all the itinerant bluster. Why Me?, a solo piece just featuring Carmichael's vocals accompanied only by his deft guitar playing, is a poignant and involving song that sees the singer/songwriter looking at questions about love and life and everything in between.

Carmichael's supple singing style gets a firmer workout on one of the albums' two cover songs, Leon Russell's classic ballad A Song For You. A standard that has served as a showcase for vocal giants such as Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, this is a song that boasts a scaffolded melody that soars to the heavens and will test the ability of any singer who dares to tackle its extraordinary summit.

And while Dave Carmichael can't quite compare with Aretha or Ray, he carries Russell's stellar melody with coy style and great panache. Accompanied only by a restrained keyboard arrangement, the Acadia grad easily makes the melodic leaps using a mix of falsetto and his own sense of dramatic mastery.

It's a nice, unexpected surprise that might just point Carmichael in yet another direction, that of the musical theatre. Until he takes that turn, however, Spirit Dance will serve as pinnacle of his recording efforts.

It's a strong, career-making album that reveals a mature, confident artist just breaking into his prime.

Suffused with warmth and intelligence, Spirit Dance is an album that might just bring Dave Carmichael that wider audience he so richly deserves.

© Ron Foley Macdonald 2005
- Aliant.net - Ron Foley MacDonald

"Carmichael gets to the heart of the matter"

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA | Thursday December 15, 2005

Carmichael gets to the heart of the matter - By ELISSA BARNARD

Singer/songwriter stays true to self on acoustic-based Spirit Dance

Love and Joni Mitchell played a part in Dave Carmichael’s new CD Spirit Dance.

Montreal-born, Halifax-based singer-songwriter Dave Carmichael, seen here with an antique wooden carving of Louis Armstrong and his band at The Daily Grind, releases his third CD Spirit Dance tonight, 8 to 10 p.m., at Stage Nine, 1567 Grafton St. (JEFF HARPER)

The rootsy and direct emotional songs with flickers of jazz, blues, bluegrass and country music were written during two key events in the Halifax-based singer/songwriter’s life.

Carmichael’s girlfriend Melissa Trottier, whom he’d only recently met in Ottawa, spent last winter in New Zealand.

"Here she was on the other side of the world and I felt a stronger connection than ever," says Carmichael. "Sometimes you meet somebody and there is an undeniable soul connection and you feel you have known the person forever and that’s where the song Forever came from."

This summer Carmichael was musical director for Joni Mitchell: River at Festival Antigonish. That meant learning 13 different tunings and 29 songs by Canada’s musical innovator.

"She’s just fearless. She has stayed true to herself throughout her career," says Carmichael. "Having worked on The River while I was getting ready to record inspired me to be true to myself and allow myself to come through."

Carmichael, who produced this CD with guitarist Jamie Robinson, decided not to tailor his songs to a particular radio station or audience. "I wanted to stay more true than I had in past albums to what I do live," he says. "It’s more acoustic than it is slick.

"In this day and age with digital recording there are so many options. Your palette is limitless. We chose to have a smaller palette and the initial idea was acoustic. Then we added some electric guitars and keyboards but always kept in mind that this was an acoustic-based album."

Though he played guitar at campfires and in high school, Carmichael only "woke up" to music as a career when he left his hometown of Montreal to study at Acadia University. A friend’s parents, originally from Quebec, had studied and met at Acadia and raved about Wolfville. Keen to avoid an extra year of study at CEGEP, Carmichael and his buddy headed to Acadia.

"It was there I realized I wanted not to be a businessman. I studied theatre and got into songwriting."

Nova Scotia is "home," says Carmichael. After living in Ottawa and Montreal for two years he moved back here to record his CD among musicians he knows and respects at Common Ground Studios (formerly Solar Audio).

Playing on Spirit Dance with Carmichael are Jamie Robinson; Tom Easley, upright bass; Geoff Arsenault, drums; Kim Dunn, keyboards and piano; Dave Christensen, clarinet; Andrew Watt and Chris Mitchell with vocals by Jill Barber and Trottier, who moved to Nova Scotia in May to be with Carmichael and now performs with his band.

"One of the main themes in the album is that of the inner world, the inner workings," says Carmichael, who named the album for his song Spirit Dance.

Home Boys (Carmichael, Campbell/Putnam), a powerful lamenting song about soldiers longing for home, grew out of a songwriters’ symposium during Nova Scotia Music Week in which trios of songwriters were sent to a hotel room to come up with a song.

"I’d always had a notion in my journals and notebooks of going home, especially spending so much time here and seeing people from Cape Breton or Newfoundland who have to leave here to find work. That was one level." On another level going home is like a "spiritual going home," he says. "You might call it heaven. I believe there is a sort of going home.

"At the same time there was all the trouble in world politics and Americans were being sent out to fight this war."

Carmichael brought in Rose Vaughan and Cathy Porter on Home Boys’ vocals and was also influenced by listening to British folk singer Kate Rusby. As Carmichael says, "I’m influenced by so many different styles of music that seep into my writing." Listening to Spirit Dance puts one imaginatively at a piano bar late at night, in a country music club, at a bluegrass festival. There’s a heartfelt clarinet, the soul of a troubadour, lively pop and rock edges.

The Spirit Dance CD launch is tonight at Stage Nine, 1567 Grafton St., 8 to 10 p.m., with Barber, Rose Cousins and Meaghan Smith giving a preview of their Friday performance on CBC’s Mainstreet for Friday’s CBC Radio Food Bank Day.

( ebarnard@herald.ca) - Halifax Herald - Elissa Barnard


December 15, 2005

DANCE CARD - by Chris McCluskey

Dave Carmichael used time away and Joni Mitchell's influence to help craft his new album, Spirit Dance. Chris McCluskey gets into it.

Honesty is an attempt at which people often fall short. While searching to find the perfect terms and expressions, authenticity erodes and meaning is sacrificed in translation. With his third album, Spirit Dance, roots musician Dave Carmichael has composed 11 songs with the approach that what we want to say is always right on the tip of our tongues. He explains the title of the record characterizes the songs perfectly.

"Varying degrees of matters of the spirit, you might say," Carmichael says of his headspace during the writing of his third album. "The overall theme was, you know, the question of love in all its different forms. That's what a lot of these songs are about. There are quite a few different genres, but I think there's a through line, which is basically, you know, me."

Carmichael's first album in five years is undeniably a sentimental effort, chronicling the artist's good fortune after leaving Halifax for two years. Spirit Dance, featuring a prominent cowboy vibe and hints of bluegrass, could be accurately described as a snapshot of its conceiver's coming of age, with lyrics that are honest and meaningful. After spending some quality time where he grew up in Ottawa, he returned last winter. The hiatus—both from recording and from living in his adopted hometown—have been nothing but positive.

"I had been in here for five or six years, released a couple of records, went through the whole…I just wanted to get away actually. I had left here knowing that I was going to a new area where nobody really knew me. I had to sort of start over, which was exciting for me at the time," he says. "While away I met, sort of like the girl of my dreams or whatever, and that heavily influenced my life, obviously. And when I did think I had enough material to start in earnest on this album, I wanted to come back here and do this because it's sort of a homecoming, I have more connections here, and it just seemed to make sense."

The woman he speaks of is Melissa Trottier, who performs vocals on the record. Carmichael's return to Halifax coincided with his gal taking a break of her own last winter in New Zealand.

"We were on opposite ends of the world, basically, and still connected," says Carmichael. "That kind of became a theme. 'Spirit Dance,' 'Forever,' 'Beautifully Simple'…these are all songs directly written with that in mind."

Trottier wasn't the only musician invited to lend talent to Spirit Dance, which was originally released in September. Twelve artists appear on the record—performing various duties—including multi-instrumentalist Jamie Robinson, Hot Toddy upright bassist Tom Easley, The Heavy Blinkers' clarinet player Dave Christensen and vocalist Jill Barber. Carmichael says the idea behind choosing a diverse range of musicians was a conscious departure.

"The idea is Spirit Dance was to be a very acoustic album, which it is compared to my previous recordings," he says. "Because the idea was to do an acoustic record, I figured upright bass would be good."

Experiences in Carmichael's life have a penchant for overlapping with one another, and the actual recording process of the album was no exception. The guitarist was chosen as the musical director of Joni Mitchell: River at Festival Antigonish last summer. The engagement, billed as a retrospective of the Canadian icon's career, featured three actors as well as Christensen and Carmichael playing the instruments.

"It was daunting, all these lush arrangements that she has on her records and everything," he says. "And then having sort of all of these songs, just seeing how different tunings came into her writing. I ended up…there are four different tunings on my record."

Carmichael says Mitchell is more of an inspiration to the record outside of her guitar preferences.

"She's always been a source of inspiration to me lyrically because she paints beautiful pictures and images. Her unfaltering dedication to her art, she never seemed to be dictated by market shares or target audiences, she always followed her muse," he says. "What is being produced, in my case this album, and any album that Joni ever did, was never dictated by outside forces." - The Coast - Chris McClusky

"Dave Carmichael's latest CD rewards the attentive listener"


Soundtrack for snow Season - By Sandy MacDonald

Spirit Dance (indie)

The East Coast is accustomed to watching her sons depart for better futures, waiting patiently until they return - sometimes better, sometimes beaten down. Always with a story and happy to be back on familiar turf.

Singer-songwriter Dave Carmichael uprooted from his adopted Halifax home in the summer of 2003, first to Montreal to spend time with his family. Then down the highway to Ottawa, singing and playing guitar with other artists in the local club scene.

"When I left Halifax, I just needed a break," says Carmichael. "I felt I was spinning my wheels and needed to get away and gain some perspective. I needed to come to terms with what I do."

When the urge to record some of his new songs grabbed him though, there was only one place to make a new album - back to Halifax. "I had managed to scrimp and save a few dollars... it was easier and cheaper for me to make a CD here."

Carmichael returned in January, partly to work on his new CD and also to prepare the arrangements for a Theatre Antigonish stage production called Joni Mitchell: River, where he'd been hired as musical director.

"I picked away at the album all summer as the Joni thing was up and running."

A supple singer who slips into different styles as easily as slipping on a new coat, Carmichael moves his music around on this CD.

The opening track, Smile, is a gentle waltz-time pop tune, with a simple but lush arrangement. Carmichael and co-producer Jamie Robinson went for a rootsy sound, pushing the vocals up front. Robinson played in Carmichael's live band for years, and the pair worked well together on this project.

"I set out to make an acoustic record, although there are electric instruments all over it. But I've mellowed out as I got older."

Why Me? taps into a funky blues vibe, putting the cold brakes on an obsessive admirer. "If you can't live without me, why aren't you dead yet," snarls the rebuffer. That's cold.

He pulls out an earthy earthy version of bluegrass standard Bury Me Beneath The Willow, with a lovely harmony from Melissa Trottier and some chunky mandolin from Jamie Robinson.

"I feel this album is the closest I've ever come to what I am. I'm more relaxed about the process. not pushing so hard."

Carmichael recorded the bed tracks in three days at Common Ground studio. Bassist Tom Easley and drummer Geoff Arsenault laid down the rhythm parts behind Carmichael and Robinson. Kim Dunn adds some fluid keyboard parts.

Like other top East Coast artists like Bruce Guthro, Gordie Sampson and Lennie gallant, Carmichael's music is built on a foundation of folk, earthy pop rock and country. It's smart songwriting framed in inventive arrangements.

Spirit Dance is a listener's album, a soundtrack for a snowy afternoon or a drive down a quiet country road. - The Daily News - Sandy MacDonald

"Carmichael is guitar man behind play based on works of singer-songwriter Mitchell"

Thursday, July 7, 2005
The Halifax Herald Limited

Tuning into Joni


Joni Mitchell: River, opening Friday at Bauer Theatre in Antigonish, has a cast of three - or 13 depending on how you look at it.

The Festival Antigonish production, which explores love through 29 songs by the Canadian singing-songwriting legend, stars Raquel Duffy, Margot Sampson and Mark Uhre.

Music director Dave Carmichael will play 10 different guitars - each with its own personality and nickname given by the stage crew.

There's Hekyll and Jekyll, two Norman B18 guitars - identical except one has a wood "birthmark" and Taka, a Takamine guitar, used in the performance of Carey and All I Want, for instance.

"This show is all acoustic," said Carmichael, who is making his Festival Antigonish debut in River, which runs in repertory to Aug. 19.

"The Takamine is usually plugged in. It has a very trebly, high sound, like a dulcimer, so I'm using it as a pseudo dulcimer. In terms of the tunings - there are 13 in the show - it's the hardest to wrap my head around. It's tuned DADDAA.

"Joni really messes with the equation with her tunings. She's said she'll be outside tuning a string to the rustling of a tree, a bird singing, a dog barking and it could be true. The tunings are weird. But once you know how to play the songs, you find things easier to grab."

Though Carmichael, who has earned three ECMA nominations is often thought of as a singer-songwriter, he's no stranger to the stage, having graduated from Acadia University with a theatre degree in the early '90s.

He also spent two years with Windsor's Mermaid Theatre, as a puppeteer and musician for seven shows, starred in Death the Musical at Neptune, and worked with Barnacle Theatre in Wolfville.

He's excited to play in the very intimate Bauer Theatre with "three great singers."

"They're not trying to be Joni Mitchell," he notes of the actors, who are also joined by Juno Award-winning musician/composer Dave Christiansen, who plays piano, flute, clarinet and percussion in the Jean Morpurgo-directed musical.

Carmichael says his role is to learn the tunings. But playing so many guitars is more of a challenge than he expected.

"Every guitar has its own guitar-ality," he says coining a word to describe sounds and feel that are unique to each instrument.

"Take a 1967 Gibson J-45. It's a famous guitar that John Lennon had. You might have an idea in your head of how it would sound, but you don't know until you have a couple of conversations, a night together, how it will actually sound. The more you get to know the instrument, the more it will reveal."

The Gibson J-45 came from Bill Fraser, who Carmichael met by the appetizers at a Festival Antigonish meet and greet. Carmichael's jaw dropped when he heard the model Fraser had and he thought he'd feature it as the main guitar in the show.

"But when I got it it was in really bad shape. It had been neglected and the bridge was lifting. But I didn't want to give up on it and sent it to a local luthier - Campbell Calder - and he fixed it, but that time most of the guitars had been cast.

"I thought I knew where Gabby (the Gibson) would fit. I thought it would be perfect for Magdalene Laundries, a very heavy song about the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland (the subject of the critically acclaimed movie the Magdalene Sisters). But the J-45 was too sweet sounding so I used it on A Case of You."

Carmichael, who has been learning Mitchell songs since February, marvels at the number of guitars that have been donated for the show, which was created by Allen MacInnis and Greg Lowe.

"Antigonish has a fantastic community. The theatre put an ad out asking for guitars and so many people responded with offers it was cool."

The guitars include: the Gibson; a Larivee, donated by Doug Sampson of Bedford MusicStop nicknamed Larry which is the main guitar Carmichael uses in the show; a Fender F65 (Freddy) from Maureen Shebib; a Fender CG7 Classical (Daisy) from Scott MacDonald; the Normans from Blue C Music, an Antigonish store owned by Carson Roulston; a handmade guitar by Calder nicknamed Collie; Patsy Boudreau's Mann A303 B (Mr. Mann); Ryan MacIntyre's Tanglewood (Ryan) and Carmichael's own Taka.

He has never seen the multiple Grammy-winning artist Mitchell, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997, perform live but spent the winter immersing himself in Mitchell biographies including Shadows and Lights which he picks as his favourite both as a book and as a movie.

Carmichael's been a fan since he heard Mitchell's music on the radio growing up in Montreal. Help Me and Coyote stick in his mind as his earliest Mitchell memories.

"She's such an innovator, musically and lyrically. Every song is like a play in itself. I'm fascinated by how Jean handles 29 plays within a play.

"And as a fan, I've always loved Joni's balls. She never, ever compromised her artistic integri - The Halifax Herald Limited - ANDREA NEMETZ







Feeling a bit camera shy


Dave Carmichael is a Canadian singer/songwriter currently based in Montreal, Quebec.

Dave has released 3 critically acclaimed albums and received several ECMA and MIANS nominations along the way. His latest CD, SPIRIT DANCE was nominated for a 2006 Canadian Folk Music award. Spirit Dance features stellar performances from some of Dave's favorite musician's on the East Coast (where he recorded all of his albums to date) including vocal harmonies by Melissa Trottier, whose beautiful voice blends perfectly with Dave's. Her singing is now an integral part of their performances.

Dave and Melissa have toured in support of Spirit Dance throughout the Maritimes as well as Quebec and Ontario. In 2006 they were very happy to be artists in residence in Luzern, Switzerland for 6 weeks and are looking forward to returning there in the near future.

Still very active in theatre, Dave developed a tribute to Gene MacLellan and presented it at Festival Antigonish in August 2006 with members of Gene's original band, where he was musical director the previous season for the presentation of Joni Mitchell:River which drew rave reviews. He also recently starred in a tribute to Buddy Holly at the Stephenville Theatre Festival as well as in a revival of the "Singalong Jubilee" at Eastern Front Theatre.