Chris Antonik – Morningstar
Moondog Music/Second Half Records
14 tracks/69 minutes
Chris Antonik is a fiery Canadian blues rocker who has received many accolades in Canada and across the globe. There is not a want for guitar here; he serves up many a riff and solo for guitar lovers to enjoy. Coming out of the pandemic, and life’s loves and losses, Morningstar pays tribute to a line from Thoreau as Chris Antonik plays on the theme of new beginning and being diligently aware of ourselves and surroundings. While each song was written and performed to stand on their own, Antonik weaves a web of interesting music where each songs transitions to the next and are designed to elevate the mood of the listener.
The players includes Derek Downham and Riley O’Connor on drums, Jesse O’Brien and Alan Zemaitis on keys, Marlene O’Neill and Ciceal Levy on backing vocals, Alison Young and Tom Moffett arranged horns with William Carn and Tom Moffett rounding out the horn section, Burke Carrol on pedal steel, and Rob Christian on flute. The late Guenther Kapelle plays bass throughout. There is certainly a talented cast of musicians assembled here. And, of course, Antonik handles the vocals and lead guitar.
“Waves of Stone” features Jarekus Singleton on guitar along with Chris. It’s heavy on guitar and features some psychedelic stuff. If you were half asleep as this album began, it would be like three cups of coffee hitting you all at once. Antonik blasts off for the moon with this opener. “Pilgrim” follows; also not for the faint of heart. A soaring guitar introduction and a hard rock feel. It’s more of a ballad and features some cool backing music and some large guitar parts. Inspired by Clapton, it also espouses Carl Jungian philosophy.
“Back to the Good” has a throbbing bass line and some more huge guitar. Antonik wails out the vocals and adds his forthright guitar front and center a la Jimi Hendrix. Next is “Trust In Me,” a slower rock anthem with a bit of funk and hip hop to it and a heavy groove. Another over the top guitar solo is featured here, this time with some interesting distortion. The theme here is the challenge of parenting in the Trump era.
The tempo and pacing slow up for “In Our Home” where Allison Youngblood does a duet with Antonik. Melodic, a little somber, some nicely done slide guitar, this one is a big change of pace, hearkening to a Led Zep ballad. It concludes with a long guitar solo/outro. “The Greatest of the Americans (Part I) and (Part II) are the next two tracks. The first is a shorter instrumental. A bit ethereal and spacey, it’s a cool guitar piece that serves as an introduction to Part II which laments the relationship of Canada and America.
“Learning To Love You” is a tribute of sorts to the Layla album, a rousing and slide guitar forward cut. “How to Be Alone” with drum machine and a bit of a Bruno Mars feel follows. Next is “We’re Not Alone,” adds guitar by Paul Deslauriers, the bluesiest of the album cuts. A big old shuffle and some boogie woogie make this one fun.
“The Promise of Airfields” runs over eight minutes, a celebration of eight years of sobriety in a Latin style mixed with jam band and psychedelic rock with organ and horns that make this one interesting. “Little Man” is about his son where Chris urges his boy to remain independent and become who he wants to be. It’s a slick number with lots of feeling.
Vocalist Mike Mattison joins Antonik on “Be Here Now,” with lots of solo guitar work and Mattison backing Chris. The album finishes up with the furtive ballad “Grace.” Solo piano and vocals kick this off, then the backing vocals, the band and his guitar appear, The conclusion of the piece is a huge guitar solo with choir-like vocals drifting over the guitar.
This is an out and out, balls to the walls rocker. Sure, there is some blues here and there, but for the most part Antonik rocks the joint and does so effectively. This is a big and powerful album of all original music.