‘The Sweet Lowdown’ (2011)
“Album of the Year” Nominee, 2012 VANCOUVER ISLAND MUSIC AWARDS
Released June 23, 2011.
Recorded January 2011, in Parry Sound Ontario, with special guests Andrew Collins (mandolin), and Andrew Downing (bass). Produced by Andrew Collins.
Our albums are available in Victoria at Larsen Music, Lyle’s Place and Gordie’s Music.
CD Baby (North Amercia)
Fish Records (UK)
NEXUS NEWSPAPER Review by Carol-Lynne Michaels
Local band The Sweet Lowdown feature fiddle, banjo, and guitar backed by crisp female vocals that can tear down the night like it’s Virginia, 1957.
The Lowdown ladies are experts at their instruments; they found them at a young age. They champion the DIY spirit. Show bookings, album art, sound tech, and promotions—they do it all.
Live off the Floor, their self-recorded first album, has a modest seven tracks that leave the listener wanting more. The follow-up album comes out in May. The old-time musical genre is associated with a specific era, but has yet to fade from the scene
“What keeps it alive is the harmonies,” says Lowdown’s fiddler Miriam Sonstenes. “People are drawn to the sound of pure harmonies, and that feel.”
Sonstenes says people will always relate to harmony as an uplifting symbol of what we all strive for in our lives.
“The tradition is rooted in the past, but it’s very much a living tradition, even though its roots go back very far,” adds guitarist Amanda Blied. “But people are still writing music in this genre.”
Blied, Sonstenes, and banjo player Shanti Bremer spent 10 days recording after wrapping up a national rail tour between Vancouver and Toronto. The VIA Rail On-Board Musicians program had them play their way across Canada as main entertainment in lounge and dining train cars.
Their new album is sure to kick down the door their first album got its foot into.
“We are definitely rooted in old-time music,” says Blied. “But then, we do quite a bit of bluegrass now, too—sort of hard-driving bluegrass songs, pickers, and instrumentals. And a lot of originals.”
The band will tour the Gulf Islands and Vancouver before coming home to celebrate in June for a CD release party at the Victoria Event Centre. Bluegrass and old country fans can also lap up the Lowdown weekly show at the Fernwood Inn
The music brings together an entire demographic. People pack the back room of the neighbourhood pub to carve grooves in the dance floor, toe-heel-toe, and pat bouncing knees in time with the trio.
On some nights, their shows even find kids up past their bedtimes, gleefully spinning about in pajamas. Link to article.
ROOTS MUSIC REPORT Debut CD Review by Joe Ross
From Victoria, B.C., The Sweet Lowdown is a trio that plays a blend of old-time and roots music. The three women are Amanda Blied (guitar), Shanti Bremer (banjo), and Miriam Sonstenes (fiddle).
Blied and Bremer have performed together since 2008, and Sonstenes joined up in 2010. While their old-time instrumental groove is engaging (albeit a tad restrained), it’s the trio’s breezy vocals that are the center of attention on this project. Take a listen to the trio’s a cappella “Lights Across the Water.” Their rustic purity and earthy sensuality is the heart of the current roots music revival. The Sweet Lowdown reminds me of another west coast group of accomplished women, Misty River, which unfortunately is no longer together. The Sweet Lowdown’s rendition of the traditional “Western Country” imparts powerful rhythmic intensity and cohesive vocalizing.
Each of the young women sings with their own unique flair, with Sonstenes demonstrating more bluegrass influence in her rendition of the self-penned “Don’t Walk Away” that also features guests Andrew Collins’ mandolin and Andrew Downing’s bass. Bremer vocalizes with wistful nostalgia on her own compositions, “Sing It High to Low” and “River’s Deep,” as well as the traditional “Going Up on the Mountain.” Blied’s lead vocals are prominent on her compositions that open and close the album, as well as on Chris Goole’s song, “$100,” that laments the fact that a C-note doesn’t go far and that nobody pays for music anymore. While that song conveys a lot of truth for musicians, I hope these three gals keep on trudging and don’t get the least bit discouraged. They have a great deal of potential and could go far.
With a fresh sound and originality, they’re walking a musical road with a clear vision for their songs. (Joe Ross) Link to article.
THE PROVINCE Debut CD Review, Jan 22, 2012
And sweet it is. Victoria folk trio makes its album in Parry Sound, Ont., which has a way of purifying its sound. Nothing fussy here, just some lovely vocals with harmony, banjo and acoustic guitar for a spare but sturdy backbone and emotional colur added by Miriam Sonstenes’ fiddle. The few trad songs have a slight gospel flavour but they fit well with some beguiling originals written mostly by Amanda Blied or Shanti Bremer. (B Tom Harrison) Link to article.
EARSHOT MAGAZINE Debut CD Review, Nov 22, 2011 by Marshall Hignett
The Sweet Lowdown are an acoustic roots trio from Victoria, British Columbia. The band consists of guitarist Amanda Blied, banjo player Shanti Bremer, and fiddle player Miriam Sonstenes. All three share vocal duties, with Blied taking lead on most songs.
After releasing an EP in 2008, The Sweet Lowdown is their debut full-length album. The CD is full of great three-part harmonies, finger-picked melodies, and technically advanced fiddle soloing.
Bremer takes lead on a few tracks, and has a quite interesting tone to her delivery. Her vocals are featured mainly on “Sing it High to Low”, “River’s Deep”, and a cover of the traditional folk song “Going Up On the Mountain”. The album also has a cover of bluegrass artist Chris Coole’s “$100”, and a traditional rendition of “Western Country”.
Andrew Downing is featured on bass on some tracks, including “Don’t Walk Away”–which has mandolin from Andrew Collins as well. The Sweet Lowdown also have three instrumental jams that showcase astounding exchanges of melodies between all members.
The Sweet Lowdown is an incredibly original CD that recreates an old-time feel for contemporary compositions. (Marshal Hignett) Link to article.