I haven’t been back to Canada for many years, but it still remains a place that’s close to my heart. What’s not to love? The people I met were gracious hosts, the restaurants served fantastic food, and oh my God, the music was fabulous.
I think I’m feeling a pull to head up to the Great White North now and check out some more music. But until I can figure out when I can load up the car and take off (sorry, I had to go there), I guess I’ll have to settle for more great music that’s made it to my desk.
Today, I would like to share the latest CD, Monarch, from Chris Antonik. (By the way, his last name is pronounced “AN-tah-nik” not like tonic. Found that one out the hard way. Sorry Chris.) It’s an independent release, but you shouldn’t have any problems finding it in all the usual places.
The album moves swiftly after the raucous opening of I’d Burn It All Down (For You). I understand that this album was Antonik working his way through the dissolution of his marriage. This song is dedicated to his children, the ones he is trying to protect through this trying time. His guitar work is very strong and his vocals are impressive, both soothing and protective.
He follows up with one of two songs which he did not write or co-write. In this case, You’re Killing My Love, was written by Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites. Jesse O’Brien’s organ work adds a nice touch to the song and Antonik’s vocals have a dark edge to them. Having heard the circumstances by which he created the album, one can only speculate on the pain he is going through. That’s not uncommon with the blues. He translates that pain into art.
The next song, Slow Moving Train, brings the tempo down slightly, but as his liner notes point out, “It’s a forceful call for quiet in a crazy world.” Our lives tend to spiral out of control when things speed up, and let’s face it, we live in a fast paced world that never seems to let up. This one has plenty of force behind it, and it too, sometimes seems like its own momentum is not going to slow down for anything.
Antonik gets funky on Gold Star, but still manages to slide in some beautiful personal poetry to the song. The rhythm section keeps the beat going and Antonik’s guitars sing and soar while his gritty vocals carry the track. It’s a very cool song.
I have to admit, at first glance, a title like The Monarch And The Wrecking Ball seems a bit unusual. I love the music on this song, Antonik’s guitar work is superior. His voice drops into a husky whisper, inviting us to listen to the lyrics a little more closely.
Next up is the longest song on the album, Love, Bettike, which runs just over seven minutes. However, don’t worry about the length, this is a great song. It’s the story of an important life lesson taught by a mystical woman who takes in a traveler for the night. Keep in mind that all women are mystical, some are just more in tune with that side than others. He builds the world of the song beautifully with some impressive guitar. Great song, I love the story.
He follows up with another strong tune with a message, Forgiveness Is Free. It’s a great one-two punch that seems to sum up the philosophy of where he is with his life at this time. When one considers how much hurt can be erased by forgiveness, it changes our lives. Anger is the acid that eats away at our souls. And the song still has a funky beat, so enjoy it…
He continues to explore that philosophy with The Art Of Letting Go. He uses that husky whisper again to express himself. This is a very personal song that urges us to forgive and let go of the past. It’s a message that some will never learn.
I love the questions that All Our Days creates. When we look backwards at relationships, or even our lives, will we consider that we have spent the majority in good times? Have we done all we could do for each other? I love the way he builds the song, it’s modern blues with some sweet country mixed in.
He follows up with New Religion, a song that celebrates a new direction in his life. I have to wonder how much is new, and how much has evolved by the decisions in his life and the roads that he’s travelled. Still, it’s a positive song and one that looks forward to what’s coming next.
I must confess that I have not yet read the book (In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts by Dr. Gabor Maté) that inspired the song, Hungry Ghost. The book is a fascinating exploration of addiction as a case of human development that as gone askew. It is not necessarily a case of individual failure. Antonik’s take on the whole situation is that those who suffer from addiction need a more empathetic support system to combat the condition. Love the song, and anything that shows a spotlight on healing this problem is a good thing.
A Slip In The Rain has some nice imagery to start the number. It’s an evocative song with some solid music, and he brings up the Hungry Ghosts one more time. As a Buddhist term, it refers to those who are driven mad by their desires. They were thought to return to earth with swollen bellies and mouths the size of a grain of rice, making it impossible to ever be satisfied. I like the image that he uses in the song.
He ends the song with the lovely Everywhere I Go, the only other song that he didn’t write or co-write. It’s peaceful, quiet, and contemplative. Even though he didn’t write it, by recording it and placing it at the end of the album, it seems as if he might finally have found some peace for himself.
Antonik has two previous albums, a self-titled album released in 2010 and Better For You which was released in 2013. Together they comprise a trilogy of work that charts his emotional and philosophical growth. At least so I’m told.
I’ll be looking for those first couple of CDs in order to hear for myself, but after hearing Monarch, I have no doubt that they are albums of merit and deserve to be heard. I know that I’ll be playing this one for a while, trying to pick out areas that I missed on my first couple of spins.
If you find yourself wanting more, don’t be a Hungry Ghost. You can satisfy that craving by going to his website: https://www.chrisantonik.com/music to find his music and check his travel plans.