Rock N Reel Magazine UK
Over The Moon
The Musician, Leicester UK
Postponed for a year because of Covid, this is the first UK tour for Over The Moon, aka Canadian couple Suzanne Levesque and Craig Bignell. Endearingly, they describe themselves as 'cowbillies' but they are a lot more than that, as a delightful evening demonstrates.
Theirs is a charming and warm performance, with songs from both of their albums, Moondancer and the new Chinook Waltz, mixed in with some well-chosen covers including a fine take on Paul Simon's 'Homeward Bound' and a rehabilitatingly good 'Take Me Home, Country Roads'. It's their own pieces that shine the brightest though, with 'Lonesome Bluebird', complete with glorious harmonies, and 'Chinook Waltz' itself, the standouts.
They are naturals on stage, clearly delighted to be there and interspersing entertaining, tongue-in-cheek banter with stories of their lives in the tiny (population 297 according to the latest census) village of Longview, Alberta. There's even a bit of yodelling, which the crowd joins in enthusiastically. Sue's double bass drives things along at an easy loping pace while Craig's banjo and guitar (which Suzanne also essays on occasionally) sit on top, as comfortably as you could wish. Their songs are classy too, by turns sad, funny and insightful.
The pair also do the most important thing for any gig, namely, establish and maintain a connection with the audience, something perfectly demonstrated later when Craig notes that everyone who came bought an album. It's a safe bet that they'll all be there next time, too.
Todd Miller... Canadain Indie Music Hour
It’s taken me most of today to sort out my thoughts about the concert I attended last night in the tiny hamlet of Greenbank, and to cobble them together into a somewhat coherent review.
Over The Moon is a Juno nominated Canadian treasure, let’s get that out of the way from the get-go. They are proudly and distinctly Canadian, spinning tales and songs about this great country, mainly Alberta, and more specifically Longview…at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It sounds like a charmed existence - living a simple life heating with firewood, gazing up at the vista of snow capped mountains, being neighbours with the dearly-departed Ian Tyson. I’ll let Craig tell the story again in concert, so you can hear the tale in all its glory. Their latest CD “Chinook Waltz” is a song diary of life in Longview, and *what* a life. They packed concert halls in China with their music and instruments, truly great music crosses borders and languages easily.
Craig Bignell and Suzanne Levesque are a couple as well as band mates. There’s a story there as well which you’ll hear at one of their shows, but their banter, interplay and eye contact while they play clearly demonstrates their dedication to each other and their craft, and that the stars pretty much aligned to put them together. For that we are grateful.
And oh, that craft. Well written, witty, engaging and catchy songs invite you in from the first measure. Some are quite funny, they have a definite way with words, chords and musical styles that some may call country swing, or a half dozen other musical styles, but every song is different and oh so memorable. The mark of a great song is one that can be played on a single instrument and still have the same impact, and this duo injects so much passion and skill into their songs, you’d be hard pressed to better them with a full band. And on a side note - Craig claims to be drummer/percussionist which I joked with him about, but he plays flawlessly advanced banjo and guitar, so there’s a genuine aptitude there as a multi instrumentalist. And how Suzanne can deliver a studio quality vocal while playing an harmonically interesting bass part, while smiling at Craig or the audience is beyond my musical vocabulary. They truly are effortless performers.
This was their very first appearance as part of the Greenbank Folk Music Society’s 2023 season, and as Craig said, Greenbank took a chance on OTM, and I think everyone marked it as a massive success. I hope that I’ll get to see OTM again in this lovely, intimate venue with an adoring crowd. In conversation with some of the other attendees it was clear a few of them were there to see opener Rory Taillon and may have been somewhat unfamiliar with OTM, but by the end of the first song many new fans had been gained. Cathy and Greenbank Folk will hopefully continue to take chances on many other artists, and I’ll be there to support them. I play them often on the Canadian Indie Music Hour, which is a real treat. Thank you for performing Lonesome Bluebird…hearing it live was pretty special.
Craig and Suzanne will be spending the next few weeks in Ontario, and will be joined by a full band of music vets at some if not all of these shows. I urge you to spend an evening being truly entertained with funny, comedic and entertaining stories of Over The Moon’s life at home and on the road, but mainly for those songs…those wonderfully written, emotive songs. Check out their Facebook page for stories about their truck being stolen; driving to Ontario with the tack door of their trailer open, and their precious instruments mere feet from the open road; a carpool concert; digging their trailer out of ice to travel to start the tour of Ontario, or just to find out where they are playing next. I plan on catching them at least once more before they and their lovely dog head back west.
I see a lot of performances, this one was truly one for the memory banks.
5 stars out of 5, HIGHLY recommended.
Roots Music Canada
Well it was just after the full Moon in May that Craig Bignell and Suzanne Levesque came to the Moonshine Café in Oakville to show off what they’d been working on in the past while. Calling themselves Over The Moon, Craig and Suzanne are indeed over the moon about their relationship, their optimism for life and the simply wonderful music they are making together. Some might call it country music Some might call it bluegrass, or western music, but we know that with its accomplished songwriting, fantastic harmonies and great arrangements, it’s just darned good music.
The couple met by happenstance at a musical gathering seven years ago and have now been married for almost four years, but by the way they share glances while they sing, you’d think they were newlyweds. These two entirely charming and massively talented individuals now find themselves writing wonderful songs together. They pretty much finish each other’s sentences on stage. They’re that in tune.
Suzanne’s clear and beautiful alto voice seems to echo the environment of the Alberta foothills, where the couple currently lives. The crystal atmosphere and massive views of the mountains from the Longview ranch where they reside inform her sound. Suzanne grew up in the British Columbia interior and learned music from age 12, playing electric bass in her family band. Today, she plays stand-up double bass in Over The Moon and wishes she had a nickel for every time someone tells her she’s channeling Anne Murray.
Craig, who started learning drumming at age 13, has spent much of his adulthood playing percussion and drums in other people’s bands. He has played all over the world with artists such as Susan Aglukark, Bela Fleck and Vassar Clements, but Craig, who also plays banjos and guitars, was frustrated at the artistic limitations and wanted to go his own way musically. Meeting Suzanne was the best kind of serendipity. Theirs was pretty much love at first sight and “we now can tell musical stories about living in this ‘outpost’ on a ten thousand acre ranch with nothing between us and the mountains,” said Craig, who wishes he had a nickel for every time someone says he channels Tommy Smothers.
Over The Moon grew out of the immense connection between these two accomplished musicians. The first song they wrote together became the title for their first CD, Moondancer. The title for the song was given to them by their Longview neighbour, none other than Ian Tyson.
“I really like it when we make people happy,” said Suzanne.
“We have our own stories to tell and have something important to say,” said Craig. “Now we’re able to meet our audiences and other musicians and have real connections with people, something I couldn’t do playing in other people’s bands.”
In the Moondancer album, 60 per cent of the songs were co-written by Suzanne and Craig.
“The rest were favourite songs,” said Suzanne. “Songs that are meaningful to us.”
There are bluesy numbers and one that’s rather gospel, but most are remarkable for their lovely harmony singing.
The album was recorded in their home studio on the Longview ranch, south west of Calgary.
“One night, the beautiful silence was interrupted by a pack of coyotes,” said Craig, “and we had to decamp to the skinny walk-in closet because Suzanne couldn’t sing under a ‘portable isolation booth’ – a howl-muffling duvet!”
Craig and Suzanne are working on their next album now, and their live show has some very cool previews of the tunes to come. There is a song about the London wartime blackouts when not a chink of light could show from your window at night, lest the enemy bombers find their target.
“They can’t block out the moon, so you can still go out walking with your sweetheart,” Craig and Suzanne sing in perfect, creative harmony.
Craig and Suzanne also share a love for the environment. They have plans to create an organic farm in the next place they live, but also plan to go much further with this music. Ireland and the U.K. have already discovered this talented couple, and an eighteen-day tour to China is planned for next year. They’re hoping to buy a farm of their own near Sault Ste. Marie, where the northern Ontario temperatures are moderated by the Great Lakes. Music as a career with an organic farm on the side is their goal.
The live stage performances of Over The Moon are charming and engaging. You can’t get more real than these guys, with their story songs and their way of telling wholly engaging tales that bookend the songs. Theirs is a gentle, beautiful approach to harmonies, but they have a wonderfully fun and playful side as well, heard when they sing on “You Stole My Heart.” “Tonight I’ll stay your best friend, it’s your kisses I’ll be missin’!”
Harmony yodeling, two styles of banjo, stand-up bass, guitar, great stage presence, and two amazing voices make you sit up and pay attention. In “Texas Love Song,” a cover of the Slaid Cleaves composition, they sing with wit and wisdom, “I love you even more than I love Texas.”
The audience is in stitches as Texas is rhymed with words that include perplexes, Lexus, multiplexes, solar plexus and finally ‘text us’!
It’s a very different approach to country, western, and bluegrass. These guys are the real deal and approach those musical styles in a distinct way that will steal the heart of every member of the audience. Festival artistic directors, take note!
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