Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Commoners Find A Better Way 

Possessing a sound tapped from an oaken belly, four-piece Canadian classic rock roots and blues rock band, The Commoners, will release their brand-new album, Find A Better Way on Friday 4th November.

The album will be released on CD, limited edition vinyl and digitally by Gypsy Soul Records while first single ‘Fill My Cup’ is out now, available to buy and stream here, with the official video ready for viewing right here at RAMzine.

Described as “a classic rock and roll affair,” the nine songs are said to take the listener on a sonic voyage through the lives of the band, from the dusty back roads of rural Ontario to the bright lights of the big city. Offering their own blend of rock and roll, southern blues, and roots music, the Toronto-based four-piece band are known for high-energy riffs, soulful vocals, and rich harmonies. The result has been described as “an authentic Southern-style rock experience”.

The group slowly forged over the course of a decade, adapting through numerous obstacles to form the unit as it exists today: Chris Medhurst (vocals/guitar), Ben Spiller (bass), Ross Hayes Citrullo (lead guitar), and Adam Cannon (drums). Often joined by their friend, organist Miles Evans-Branagh, The Commoners unite under a shared dream: to write, perform, and share music that is an authentic nod to the greats who paved the way before them.

“The new album authentically embodies the rock and roll, soul, and blues rock experience,” said the band’s lead singer, Chris Medhurst. “That’s something we really wanted to bring back. That’s the roots. That’s what we listen to.”

The first single ‘Fill My Cup’ is quintessential roots rock, featuring high-energy guitar riffs, a groovy verse and an uplifting chorus rounded out with an inspiring full band chant. Showcasing a powerful vocal performance by lead singer Chris Medhurst, and the soulful harmonies of Chantal Williams, ’Fill My Cup’ is a fine introduction to the band for new listeners.

“The Black Crowes are a considerable influence for us,” said Medhurst. “Derek Trucks, Marcus King, Led Zeppelin, and The Allman Brothers Band, too. These are the bands that we wear on our sleeves as we aspire to create our own music and sound.”

The Find A Better Way album opens with the lines: “If I scream at the top of my lungs, and stamp my feet, ’til the floor comes undone,” informing that a wild ride lies ahead. The album was recorded and produced at RHC Music in Toronto by the band’s guitarist Ross Hayes Citrullo, who collaborated with executive producer Renan Yildizdogan to strike a balance between new and old recording treatments. The goal was to create something that felt new and original, yet still familiar to their target classic roots rock and blues rock audience.

“The vision from the beginning was to marry old and new southern rock together in a way that was unique to the band’s Canadian roots,” explained Citrullo. “By adding the soul and rock elements of The Black Crowes, and the southern blues rock undertones of the Allman Brothers to a production style akin to Blackberry Smoke and Rival Sons, I think we developed an authentic sound that compares sonically to some of our favourite records across all of those music genres.” 

The album’s lyrical themes drill into the essence of humanity: love, regret, ambition, and fear. Circling the forever challenge of doubter versus desire, The Commoners place themselves into the shoes of the everyman. The result? Nine tracks that are intended to function as a comfort and companion through all of life’s trials and tribulations, with melodic solos, soaring organ, and a punchy rhythm section to drive the messages home.

Drummer Adam Cannon said, “Music, like so much in life, is about the exchange of energy,” and The Commoners make more than a fair trade. Striving to present an impactful, memorable, and downright exhilarating live experience that accurately represents their recorded works, the band carries the listener over spirited choruses and group chants, before returning them back to earth in need of a shot of something smooth. You can expect to leave fully satisfied, sweat drenched, and heart racing, a good time guaranteed – Just what we all need.

The Commoners enlisted a handful of Toronto’s finest musicians to help bring their record to life. On the title track ‘Find A Better Way’, the band brought on keyboardist Jeff Heisholt (The Trews) to lay down an iconic organ track. For the rest of the album, keyboardist Miles Evans-Branagh performed organ, piano, and Rhodes.

 On backup vocals they also enlisted three of Canada’s top backup singers. Tash Lorayne and Shezelle Weekes (The Arkells), and Chantal Williams, while local legend Michael Eckert lent his pedal steel talents on ‘I Won’t’ and ‘Alive’. The final cherry on top, came in the form or multi-instrumentalist Ben Healey’s guitar solo on ‘Deadlines’.

“Every time we brought an outside player into the studio, they would offer their own unique instincts and interpretations of each song. This helped the album grow into a collaborative art piece that continues to surprise us with every listen,” was The Commoners’ comment.

A rock anthem to its core, the title track, ‘Find A Better Way’, carries a message that encapsulates the entirety of the record. With growing uncertainties, society faces challenges previously unseen, leaving the collective in a perpetual state of questioning, with doubt directed towards governments, public leaders, and our neighbours. From the aftermath of COVID-19, the increasing mental health crisis in North America, war crimes in Ukraine, and the explosion of social movements and protests, one thought unites us all—we need to find a better way to co-exist on this planet. ‘Find A Better Way’ takes an inward look at confronting our tumultuous past and accepting personal accountabilities to uncover the strength needed to seek a solution.

It is also the only track on the record to mixed outside of Canada. The band worked with lproducer/mixer Kevin Shirley (The Black Crowes, Joe Bonamassa, Led Zeppelin) at Caveman Studios in Sydney, Australia. His mix helped set the tone for the album, that Citrullo was then able to follow for the rest of the record.

Mastering was also an important consideration for the band and their label. For this stage, the team sent their record all the way to Nashville, Tennessee to Pete Lyman (Tedeschi Trucks, Blackberry Smoke, Chris Stapleton, Rival Sons) at Infrasonic Sound. Lynan’s specialty for mastering southern rock made the mixes come alive, making them sonically competitive to the band’s influences.

As a collective, we find ourselves emerging into a changed society, with uncertainty looming and shadowing the future. In their upcoming release, The Commoners’ goal is to remind us that music has a unique ability to heal, a medicine of extraordinary merit, and balm for the soul during dark times. Every major movement in history gave rise to change makers, and The Commoners are taking their stand, here to lead and inspire us all to Find a Better Way.

Find a Better Way features the tracks ‘Find A Better Way’, ‘Fill My Cup’, ‘More Than Mistakes, ‘Too much’, ‘Naturally’, ‘I Won’t’, ‘Deadlines’, ‘Hangin’ On Again’ and ‘Alive’ and is available to pre-order by clicking here.

Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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