Reviews

Justin Stone (Fatea Magazine/Roots & Blues Radio), March 2015

TimelineUK-born song master is a revelation

Sometimes you just never know what’s going to land on your desk. The album cover suggests Chris is trying over a song before a gig to make sure it’s polished. I put the CD in the player and then bam!! I realise straight from the outset this singer-songwriter is very polished and accomplished both with his lyrics and the message contained within.

The first track “Chaperone” slickly introduces you to the well thought out percussive touches and instrument arrangements that will follow. The story in song and the beautifully arranged harmonies also set the tone for what’s to come. This Vancouver based, UK born song master is a revelation on tracks such as “Freedom To Flourish” and “The Busker”, comparisons to Neil Young, Paul Simon (who he directly names in the song ” The Busker “) and Dylan came into my head as the opening bars resonated through the speakers. His warmly toned vocals hooked me into the message conveyed. “Cold Light Of Day” cleverly put together will be a favourite with radio stations I’m certain.

Ronald has to be congratulated on the team put together to bring out the very best in this album. Producer, John Ellis, adds his fabulous guitars, dobro, banjo, and mandolin to tunes very tastefully. There’s even an amazing instrumental “Entr’acte (The Sneeze)” that opens with a recorded sneeze. It starts off gently easing you into a Bluegrass style wild musical ride of ever increasing tempo, plus Mike Sanyshyn’s fiddle, along with Rob Becker on upright bass and drummer Pat Steward’s brilliant brush work.

I believe that an album cover makes a difference to my perception before a track is even heard. A good job has been done on Timeline setting me up for a fantastic 11 track listening experience. I listened to this album three times straight off the hop, and have tucked it away in my “wherever I go, that goes with me” corner.

Essential listening from an artist who needs to be more widely heard, hence the new push on the album.

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Ken Eisner (The Georgia Straight), October 2014

TimelineThird time’s the charm with Chris Ronald’s Timeline

Talk about progress! Chris Ronald’s first two releases showed a Vancouver singer-songwriter with a solid, gentle talent. Third time’s the charm, however, as Timeline shows off an artist more than ready to break out of the good-for-a-local-guy bag.

Part of the evolution must involve hooking up with producer John Ellis, who adds his outstanding guitars, dobro, banjo, and mandolin to tunes that deserve that variety of sound. There’s even a bluegrass-breakdown “Entr-acte (The Sneeze)” that includes all those, plus Mike Sanyshyn’s fiddle, along with Rob Becker on upright bass and drummer Pat Steward’s nifty brush work. Some numbers are as spare as the jazzy “Twenty Little Stars”, which features the leader on ukulele, with melodic punctuation from Steve Hilliam’s clarinet. He goes old-school country on “The Mountaineer” and more commercially current with “Cold Light of Day” and other tunes later in the disc. Graeme Coleman’s piano anchors the radio-friendly “Final Throes”, which also features relaxed backing vocals from Deanna Knight and Melissa Bandura.

Elsewhere, the English-born singer-guitarist’s debt to classic folk-rock is clear, with subtle influences from James Taylor and Paul Simon; the latter is quoted directly on “The Busker”, about all those guys and gals you breeze past near subway stops and liquor stores. You can hear the U.K. side more clearly, with hints of Ralph McTell and Dougie MacLean on the elegiac title tune, which shows off his un-pushy literary skills.

Just nominated for songwriter of the year by the Canadian Folk Music Awards, Ronald possesses a keenly luxuriant voice matched with immaculate songcraft and a superb sense of tonal variety. The CD package’s nifty mid-century-modern design adds to an offering that is certainly among the year’s very best, local or otherwise.

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Stuart Derdeyn (The Province), March 2014

Timeline: Solid songwriter with good ears

This rootsy singer has a really easy flowing way with a lyric on this John Ellis-produced album. Musically, he has a backing band of some of the city’s finest – including Pat Steward (Odds), Melissa Bandura, Deanna Knight and more. They manage to give a track such as the opener “Chaperone” both a laid-back twang and a surprising drive too. One of the best tunes is actually the vocal-and-ukulele-lead “Twenty Little Stars,” a vintage jazzy ditty that just caresses the ears. It’s clear that Ronald is more informed by the country and folk rock that came out of both Laurel Canyon and, more so, the British Isles in the mid-seventies. Nothing rushes here and nothing tries too hard to be more country than the next band. He is clearly comfortable being who he is and that is a solid songwriter with good ears.

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Joe Ross (Roots Music Report), January 2012

Turning Tides: Underlying sweetness and a sense of wonder

Vancouver-based singer/songwriter Chris Ronald is usually heard in intimate listening environments where there is ample stage space, cold beer and good burgers. Restaurants, music circles and open mics are great places for small, attentive audiences to experience his music in its purest, unamplified form.

In concert, he also talks about his influences, song ideas, inspirations, and the songwriting craft. Chris Ronald has been writing music for nearly three decades, and Turning Tides is an ideal way to bring the songcrafter’s relaxing music right into your own living room. With folk, pop and even a few soft rock influences, this album is a definitive portrait of his music with its thoughtful lyrics and insightful observations on family, love, places and life.

Chris’ warm tenor voice is soothing, and he usually tracks his own vocal harmonies. The uncluttered production results in songs that emphasize Chris’ guitar, vocals and occasionally some harmonica. I particularly enjoy hearing clear, resonant lyrics which are easy to understand and relate to. I would encourage him to upload his words and messages right to his website.

Chris plays all instruments on “Turning Tides,” with the exception of a few contributions from Fred Beach (bass), Kent Anderson (mandolin), Ily Barnes (drums), Kamile Kapel (piano, backing vocals), and Steve Taillefer (electric guitar). Chris moved from Great Britain to Canada in 2002. He was embarking on a career change from sales into teaching. About that time a college course in multi-track recording software allowed him to economically document some his music on disc. His first album Pacific Time was released in 2004 and is only available from the artist. Eight years later, Turning Tides is a strong and delightful second effort that displays the ebbs and flows of his life.

He opens the set with a warm, upbeat, well-arranged rendition of “Sunshine” that is probably a testament to his wife and three children that bring “color to the world.” The importance of family and love are emphasized when the album closes with a lean, fingerpicked reprisal of the same song. The same theme is found in “Evergreen” and “Simple Things” with their distinct echo of sensitive and sympathetic singer/songwriters from decades ago. While Chris’ songs have marked appeal to baby boomers of my generation, songs like the contemplative “Please Don’t Come for Me Now” and “Best Place on Earth” have some charming contemporary folk elements that will pull in a younger demographic of fans for Chris’ pure, unadulterated music.

Chris Ronald’s soulfulness complements the intimacy of this project. His clear, plaintive vocals work best on the most introspective tracks, as well as with the beautiful melodies and subtle, lyrical charm of songs like “Sailing from Nanaimo” and “Home to Roost.” Chris Ronald has found music as the perfect medium for sharing thoughts and musings with underlying sweetness and a sense of wonder.

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Ken Eisner (The Georgia Straight), October 2011

Turning Tides: Chris Ronald keeps it simple on Turning Tides

Every once in a while you bump into a local artist who makes you wonder where his obvious talent has been hiding for so long. English-born Vancouverite Chris Ronald is one of those. His beautifully clear tenor voice instantly makes him sound like an old friend you forgot you knew. But that would only be a pleasant feature if he didn’t write such great songs.

There are no American Idol barnburners on Turning Tides, just a lot of catchy, strum-happy numbers in the ’70s singer-songwriter tradition. Certainly, extra-smooth voices from that era, such as Jackson Browne, Marc Jordan, Stephen Bishop, and the late Kenny Rankin, come to mind on acoustically driven ditties such as the opening (and closing) “Sunshine” and the breezy “Sailing From Nanaimo”. But the spare, self-produced record isn’t particularly retro. Songs like the relatively lush “So Long” and “Home to Roost”, with their moody keyboard interludes and stacked male harmonies, fit in with contemporary indie sounds. And the showstopping “Please Don’t Come for Me Now” has the Celtic tug of the Swell Season—although when pianist Kamile Kapel adds her vocals on “Let Her Go”, the feel is more country, albeit in the Richard and Linda Thompson direction.

These comparisons are misleading, since the album—his second, but the first to be widely available—stands as a well-integrated program of refreshingly original, unguardedly personal compositions. Some of the arrangements, centred on the artist’s basic guitar and occasional plaintive harmonica, could be a little more complex. (The only other thing the album really needs is a new cover; its murky Photoshop package makes this look like a John Tesh throwaway side project.) In any case, the music’s simplicity keeps clutter away from that glorious voice.

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