Eric Van Domburg Scipio, HEAVEN MAGAZINE, HOLLAND (translation)
One of the most remarkable folk albums of the year.... A unique cross-fertilization between folk, jazz, roots and alternative rock... Eleven exceptionally beautiful songs.
Laurie Brown / The Signal: CBC Radio
Three Metre Day's Coasting Notes is a heartfelt album that has you leaning in closer to the music as the voice of Michelle Willis warms you by the fire.
Gary at sleepinghedgehog.com
Coasting Notes by the Canadian trio Three Metre Day is one of the most beautiful albums I heard in 2011. It’s the debut full-length CD by this acoustic “modern roots” ensemble from Toronto comprising Michelle Willis on vocals and pump organ, Don Rooke on slide guitars and Hugh Marsh on violin. Rounding out the sound and the gently insistent rhythms are David Piltch on bass and Davide Direnzo on drums. These folks have years of experience in many kinds of music, including jazz, alternative, folk and roots, and they’ve combined all those into something that’s unclassifiable. The 11 songs on Coasting Notes are all credited to the three principals, and their influences and instruments blend into a beguiling whole, the parts nearly inseparable from each other. They create a warm blanket of music that enfolds Willis’s honeyed alto vocals.
And those vocals bring to life highly poetic lyrics that sexily and languidly twist about in all kinds of clever ways. An example from the beginning of the first track, “I’m Like An Oak”:
You’re delightful, so spiteful
It’s my righteous indication that
You’re a peach, just out of reach
I need a ladder, but I’d rather
Flatter this heart of mine
I’m like an oak how I pine …
This song is one of the most consistently rhythmic on the album, rocking along with a gentle swing propelled by Direnzo’s subtle brushwork and Piltch’s light touch on the strings; Willis’s pump organ swells and fades like those time-lapse films of blossoms opening and closing, and Marsh’s violin flits about like a throaty songbird as Willis sweetly harmonizes with herself.
These are songs that reward close attention and repeated plays, both to parse the sometimes dense lyrics and most definitely to tease apart the layers of music, the interplay of subtle melody and even subtler rhythm. “Answer My Prayers” shifts back and forth between two slightly different poetic meters, from shorter verses at the beginning to longer lines later, from free-form to a more strict beat when the drums and bass ease in. The lyrics keep you guessing as to whether the singer is going on about matters spiritual or fleshly, or whether there’s a difference:
At this age I’m sure I seem a real soft touch
Do you arrive on time, will you tell me that much
Let’s talk details, must I be home to sign
Or just ask a higher power to get me back in time?
There’s no question what she’s singing about in the lilting “Stay That Way” with its plaintive and loving chorus: “Stay that way / You’re a wonderful way to stay …”
“The Crown” is beautifully melodic, a somber meditation on personal spiritual responsibilitly. Atmosphere is key in songs like “Left At The Prairies” which is dry and open and simply arranged as a rural clothesline, and “Honey Drip,” a swampy seven-minute homage to the warm sweet heat of New Orleans. “Reputation Girl” is a funky tale of a gal who is every parent’s and teacher’s nightmare, with semi-spoken hip-hop-style verses and semi-sung choruses, the backing a sketchy, jazzy melange of percussion, slide-guitar twangs, and organ washes, moans and groans.
The album’s quiet intensity fades a bit toward the end, closing with two languid and pensive tracks, “This Day Is Getting Old” and “We Now Hope We Win,” the former sung nearly free-form, the latter in strict meter, almost sing-song verses. Both are deceptively simple but reward close attention. That could be said of the entire album, actually.
Coasting Notes is a promising debut from this eclectic ensemble.
Kerry Doole (Exclaim)
This new Toronto, ON trio features seasoned veterans Don Rooke and Hugh Marsh and young singer-songwriter Michelle Willis. Rooke and Marsh previously spearheaded the excellent The Henrys, and fans of that group will find plenty to enjoy here. Rooke's signature warm, melodic guitar work and Marsh's atmospheric violin playing dovetail neatly with Willis's pristine voice and haunting pump organ playing, while the ace rhythm section of David Piltch and Davide DiRenzo add subtle touches. While the mostly instrumental the Henrys told poetic stories wordlessly, Three Metre Day achieve a similar result with eloquent lyrics from Rooke that range from the philosophical ("The Crown," an album highlight, and "Important Stories") to the comic ("Reputation Girl"). The record is something of a grower, one that will richly repay your attention. There's no coasting here. (see website)
Laura Williams / THE MUSICAL VIEW
Toronto-based trio Three Metre Day draws on their years of experience working within a range of genres (including jazz, folk, alternative and modern roots) to create something that is noticeably their own. And judging by their new track, 'Stay That Way,' their debut album, Coasting Notes, is going to be a knock-out. The captivating vocals echo a likeness of Eva Cassidy, and pooled with the melancholy, drawn out sounds of the other instruments, create an ethereal warmth that is so easy to lose yourself within. Very close to roots perfection." (see website)
Paul Kerr, Americana UK
Impressive debut of atmospheric soundscapes. 8/10
There’s no denying the classy playing and Michelle Willis certainly has the requisite sultry voice that charms and insinuates its way into the listener. This is most apparent on the two opening songs "I’m Like an Oak" and "Absecon Bay". The latter especially is mightily impressive. (see full review)