Chris Antonik – Monarch | Album Review

Chris Antonik – Monarch

FACTOR Canada – 2017

13 tracks; 60 minutes

Canadian Chris Antonik has toured in the States, including a gig at Buddy Guy’s in Chicago, and Europe. His third album definitely repays repeated listening with its multi-layered sound. Much of the album finds Chris baring his soul about changes in his life following a divorce: the funky, horn-driven “Forgiveness Is Free” and “Gold Star” display some of the bitterness with Chris venting his angst with some ferocious guitar work but for the most part the lyrics reveal a man coming to terms with the rupture and starting to move on, as in the track that gives the album its title, “The Monarch And The Wrecking Ball” with its refrain of “we’ll find a way” and some of the most emotional guitar on the album and “The Art Of Letting Go” which probably best encapsulates Chris’ desire to move on with his life. “New Religion” also finds Chris sorting out his future as he details a new approach to life with another striking solo at the heart of the tune and the infectious “A Slip In The Rain” is another winner as Chris recognises the difficulties in his former relationship: “he was born to be loved, so he’s walking away”.

Musically there is a lot to enjoy here. Chris’ vocals continue to develop well and his guitar playing is excellent throughout. The core band of Guenther Kapelle on bass, Chuck Keeping on drums and Jesse O’Brien on keys give solid support, a horn section adds additional thrust to four tracks and harmony vocalists enhance three songs; there is even a string section on “All Of Our Days”, a moving ballad with weeping pedal steel and electric piano solo. Chris had a hand in all but two songs here and several other writers contributed, notably UK musician and writer Ben Fisher with six credits. The album opens explosively with “I’d Burn It All Down (For You)”, a song dedicated to Chris’ children in which he duels with the horns in a complex arrangement and closes on a positive tone with some fine acoustic picking and lovely trumpet on Ben and Scrapomatic’s Paul Olsen’s “Everywhere I Go”. Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites’ “You’re Killing My Love” fits well lyrically with the album and is given an Otis Rush treatment with Chris’ guitar tone and Chuck’s intricate drum patterns, the whole driven by the horns.

The whole album is great but “Love, Bettike” deserves special mention. A slow-paced tune with plenty of Chris’ trademark guitar, the song clocks in at over seven minutes, the lyrics recounting a chance meeting with a mystical figure, the song inspired by the real life Bettike, a lady who worked with the Grateful Dead and Bill Graham back in the day. “Hungry Ghost” tackles addiction with Guenther’s emphatic bass driving the tune along.

This is a mature album with thoughtful lyrics and plenty of fine playing – excellent stuff and highly recommended!

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