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Chris Antonik – Chris Antonik

Self Release 2010

10 tracks, 43.48 minutes.

I have never been to Canada but on the basis of some of the blues music that is produced there, I need to make travel plans as soon as possible! Following Canadian acts I enjoy such as Colin James, David Gogo, JW Jones and Downchild, here comes a new name to add to the list – Chris Antonik (pronounced Ant –onic, not as in Gin & Tonic). Chris is 35 and has played with a number of bands in the Toronto area. Now he is stepping out to front a band and promote this CD which is an impressive debut.

Chris plays guitar and produced the album. Bass and drums are handled throughout by Andrew Taylor and Chris Chiarelli respectively and vocals are mainly by Josh Williams who also plays keyboards. There are a number of additional players, including a horn section on two tracks. Chris wrote or co-wrote 8 of the tracks, with two covers.

With a new artist it is important to establish that they are more than a one trick pony so it is good to note that this CD covers a lot of styles. Opener “More To Give” follows a funky groove with Hammond to the fore and double tracked guitar from Chris. An organ solo launches an impressive guitar solo.

“Roll With It” follows with more of a country blues feel, slide dobro being featured heavily on a song that encourages us to ‘go with the flow’ in life. “The King Of Infidelity” is an impressive song with a classic rock feel to it. Stately piano and plaintive guitar underpin the lyrics which are sad and reflective while the backing vocals (Suzie Vinnick) and organ launch a great solo from Chris that reminds one of classic Allman Brothers.

Horns appear for the first time on track 4 “If We Start From Here”, punctuating the staccato rhythm of a classic shuffle. Crying guitar leads on to a harp solo from guest singer Mark “Bird” Stafford with whom Chris used to play. Track 5 is a moody solo piece for slide dobro entitled “Dhyana” which again adds variety to the album. Apparently this track was recorded in one take in the stairwell of Chris’ apartment, thereby providing natural reverb!

The horns reappear on Jerry Ragavoy’s “She’s A Burglar”, made famous by Freddie King. Chris channels Freddie’s style, with lots of sustain on guitar and the version really seems to take off from its funky underpinnings. “Almost Free” is that rarest of beasts, a blues song featuring flute! Starting with a conversation between Chris’ guitar and Josh Williams’ clavinet, the flute emerges half way through to solo immediately before a lyrical guitar solo from Chris.

Chris sings on just one track, a cover of Otis Rush’s “Double Trouble”. This is a song that has been so often covered that I worry when I see it on the set list but Chris’ version is a good one, with strong guitar and piano from the outset. Chris has a light voice, but it works fine on this track, so perhaps he will be encouraged to take the lead on more songs in the future. “Reap What You Sow” is not another Otis Rush cover but an original by Chris, a slow paced blues with harmonica by vocalist Josh Williams to the fore. Final track “Persevering Kind” is different again, Chris playing acoustic alongside the banjo of Eric Prince and vocals by Henry Lees (both co-authors of the tune with Chris). The harmonies of Eric and Henry, with the acoustic sound, lead to a tune that sounds like Crowded House or a West Coast band like CSN. A rousing chorus and an optimistic lyric provide a very positive finale to the album.

Good variety of mainly original material, smooth production, clear sound and nice guitar work – I enjoyed this album and would recommend it. It is available from I-Tunes, Amazon and from the artist’s website.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He recently attended the Blues Blast Awards in Chicago and had a great time! Back in the USA for the January 2011 Blues Cruise!

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