The first time I came in contact with SoHo Ghetto was when I saw one of their videos thanks to a rather extensive press package that landed my way. Around a picnic table in a park somewhere, the seven-piece from Halifax proceeded to blow my mind with a melodically rich tune played out with a simple ukulele and the rhythm tapped out with a bottle.
So here’s Humble Beginnings Make for Good Night Life, a six-track collection that reveals that the picnic table performance was no accident. Sure, there’s more studio polish and the songs sound more complete and radio-ready, but that’s the point.
Featuring Marc Antoine (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Matthew Gibbon (harmonica, vocals), Brian MacKay (mandolin, synthesizer, vocals), Alex Meade (electric guitar), Peter Smith (bass), Shawn Burke (drums, percussion), and Rachel Sunter (piano, vocals), SoHo Ghetto reveals a tuneful Nova Scotia edge on the record. They have a real sense of things, delivering a mix of open-road and coffeehouse songs.
2012 saw the band tour Eastern Canada, taking dates from Toronto to Cape Breton by storm. They played at the Halifax Canada Day concert, for one, and saw action and broke hearts at the Halifax Urban Folk Festival. SoHo Ghetto also headlined the Seaport Beerfest and took to an Ontario tour over the fall. Any plans to sweep out to Western Canada will be met with much elation. I’ll even pick them up at the airport…
Humble Beginnings Make for Good Night Life introduces the band’s strong orchestral sense as well, with some tunes (“Honourable Mention” and “Day of Saints and Lovers”) fleshed out by the strings of the Bashful Trio.
The absolutely beautiful “Arrows & Vines,” my personal favourite tune on the record, features the fiddle of Cassie Anne MacDonald and really opens up thanks to Antoine’s vocals. The tempo shift is straight East Coast fishing village magic, while the piano-and-fiddle patches touch on the finer points of baroque pop.
“Your Weapon” closes the disc with the additions Kolston Gogan on drums, Jeff Mosher on saxophone and Jody Lyne on trumpet and trombone. The effect of the horns terrifically splashes against the marching pace and Antoine’s plaintiveness. The vocal harmonies are gorgeously emotional, uttering heartbreaking lines without insincerity.
Humble Beginnings Make for Good Night Life couldn’t be a more apt title for SoHo Ghetto’s revelation. The East Coast has given the world a lot of things and these cats could easily add to that tradition, providing a uniquely Canadian experience that heartens the best of the pop tradition with the very best Halifax’s unassuming lights have to offer.