Reviews

"Meanwell turned out to be a rather funny standup comic" - The Chicago Tribune

 

The Winter's Tale (directed by Graham Abbey, 2016)

Jon Kaplan, Now Toronto
"There’s also a fine contribution by composer George Meanwell, whose melancholy cello melodies in Sicily and lively fiddle-playing in Bohemia capture the tone of each kingdom."

The Easy Straight (2013)

Stanley Fefferman, OpusOneReview
"There’s a folksy elegance to George Meanwell’s lyrics. Meanwell sings like a vagabond poet, a troubadour with enough of everything in his life but love and time. His musical lines are made very well. On the title track he plays the banjo alongside Anna Atkinson’s minor violin making music that engages in the way of “Cripple Creek,” or “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” Anna’s violin weeps in “One in the Morning,” as she sings deep, melancholy harmony with George and they get a good hypnotic thing going. “Song of Innocence” and “Waiting” take the mood temporarily uptempo, the former featuring swinging clarinet lines by Ian Harper, and a reference to ‘watered taffeta’–how cool is that in a folksong? “Waiting” takes a turn into bluegrass country,with Eric St.Laurent’s attention-getting lead guitar running riffs in and out of George’s guitar rhythms. Anna gets a long violin solo on the blue lullaby ” It Doesn’t Serve.” The most interesting tune is “The Words I Want” for it’s trenchant lyrics and elegiac instrumental accompaniment where Meanwell’s banjo lays down an elaborate tick-tock donkey-trot pace, Anna’s accordion overlays a chanson feeling, and Graham Hargrove manipulates unreal metallic clanks out out his toy pianos. “Ghost Light” serves up contrapuntal variations for banjo and guitar. The album ends on a surreal send up of a sermon the text of which goes “A man without gin doesn’t need less vermouth.” Michael McClennan on bass keeps good time on all tracks, most of which were made in one take. Meanwell’s work here is that of a man who is running out of time. There is more poetry and music in The Easy Straight than even sophisticates like you and I can get from one listening. Bonus: A DVD of the recording session is included.."

Mark Rheaume, CBC Music Resources
"Maybe it's because he's a cellist first and has worked with the Winnipeg Ballet and founded Quartetto Gelato that the music of George Meanwell gives a major injection of originality to the tried and true singer/songwriter genre. The songs on The Easy Straight fit into no one niche, but richly reward the listener with each spin."

Bob Mersereau, Bob Mersereau's Top 100 Canadian Blog
"Here's the difference between this and a standard singer-songwriter album: All the rich instrumentation behind isn't just plunked-on strings and such, added to sweeten or heighten the mood. Instead, it's integral to the songs, as much a part of the numbers as the lyrics or melody. It's also subtle, enjoyable, unique, with just a few select sounds. And, it's all played live, together, one take.
Meanwell gathered a small group of friends and favourite players to collaborate on these ten songs. There's Anna Atkinson on violin and accordion, Eric St-Laurent on guitar, Michael McCLennan playing bass, Ian Harper handling reeds, Graham Hargrove doing percussion, and Meanwell covering guitar, banjo, cello, concertina, and lead vocals. The idea was to find the ultimate way to capture a performance, and it was decided it would be done live, in a fine-sounding space, recording both audio and video. So we get the songs on CD and DVD, as they happened. The musicians were up for the task. Each number has its own flavour, whether it's the casual jazz of Song Of Innocence, with its sweet clarinet, from an innocent time, or the folk country of Waiting, St-Laurent whipping out a great acoustic solo. It Doesn't Serve is a haunting blues, where slide guitar, guitar and violin weave around each other.
He's quite a cat, really. This is a guy who can tread the boards with the Quartetto for ten years, create his own music for the Stratford Theatre stage, but also work in the folk world, and write poetic but universal lyrics, which are easy to relate to. There's no confusion or conflict between highbrow or common styles here, it's all one, one for all listeners."

Kerry Doole, New Canadian Music
"Vocalist/guitarist George Meanwell has a fascinating musical history. He was in '70s folk trio Short Turn, then toured the world as a multi-instrumentalist in the acclaimed Quartetto Gelato. He merges folk and chamber music seamlessly on this enchanting disc. Ace players including violinist Anna Atkinson and guitarist Eric St-Laurent add atmosphere to his well-crafted vocal and instrumental compositions."

John Miller, Stratford Summer Music
"The quality of the sound is amazing, so alive and real that I feel you're over my shoulder in the kitchen. Several of the songs bring back happy memories of last summer at Rundles! Your backup colleagues are all terrific, too. A genuinely relaxing, comfortable, positive experience to hear your poetry, your voice, your musicianship, your character."

Late (2008)

"Highly diverse and entertaining" - Mississauga News

Jurgen Gothe September, 2008
CBC Radio Host and creator of DiscDrive, Canada's most-listened to national music program for over 23 years.


Perhaps the most over-used - and mis-used! - term in music today is "singer-songwriter"; there really are only very few practicing that craft today who are worthy of hanging the name on what they do. Singing and songwriting - particularly songwriting - require solid musical skills, poetic craft, economy of words, genuine stories-to-tell, a sense of humor (I mean, look at Cole Porter), style, phraseology, musicianship, cleverness, quirky and insightful lyrics and a sense of polish that makes the recipient of the singing and writing feel they have just witnessed something special being created. Hey - I've just described what George Meanwell does, perfectly.

You can count the true singer-songwriters at work in this country on the fingers of both hands. While most sing their diaries to mediocre music, George Meanwell has craft and skill, a sardonic sense of humor and, when the moment and music require it, genuine emotion. Put him near the very top alongside the Joni Mitchells, the Leonard Cohens, the Gordon Lightfoots and a handful of others. And pack all the rest in the big blue box and put it out on the curb.

I love George Meanwell's words and music. Here is a genuine singer-songwriter who is worthy of the term. In fact, among contemporary Canadians hanging on to that label these days, he stands head and shoulders above 99 and 44/100 per cent of them. Give me songs that work, that make me want to listen, that make me smile or frown or laugh or cry - that evoke a reaction. Not many can claim to be able to do that these days. It takes a true master of the form to bring it all together. George Meanwell remains one of Canada's best-kept secrets and that's a shame. He should be on everybody's radio, iPod, answering machine. If anybody was ever ready for the big time this is the singer-songwriter.

George Meanwell's songs are original, clever, often brilliant, incisive, passionate in a wonderfully sardonic way, frequently very funny, and above all ultimately musical - in short, the sort of thing the rest of that sorry cadre of soi-disant singer-songwriters can only fantasize about. Long may he reign.


Stanley Fefferman (Showtime Magazine)

"It is a terrific album... The opening tune - "What Have You Done With My Heart" - is so good, it ought to be a big hit. I played it for my son-in-law, who likes Blue Rodeo and he liked it. I played it for my 16 year old grandson who likes Kanye West and Bob Marley, and he liked it. I like to let this tune haunt my head, which it does, quite a bit. And somehow, rhythms or bits of melody of the other Meanwell tunes are called to join the party in my head...
Behind it all is Meanwell's flexible, gentle, capable voice giving music to words that feel sincere. This honest work is shared by Meanwell's band, The Loss Leaders, which includes Rick Whitelaw, Ray Parker, Chad Irschick and Dave MacDougall."


Another Street (2003)

Jurgen Gothe

"Jurgen Gothe would like a copy--another copy--of George's CD because he is tired of having to sneak the DiscDrive play-copy out of the building to listen to the tracks he hasn't yet played on the air, in the car on the way home. So, like, he wants his own copy...
Jurgen Gothe is very grateful the CD came so quickly. It is living in his car and amusing his drive home (which, of course, doesn't coincide with everybody else's drive home, given the nature of the time-zone thing). Were he still the music director at CHAT [The Voice of the Gas City], 1270, Medicine Hat, Alberta, as he once was (in 1960) he would put the CD into heavy rotation."


Stanley Fefferman - (The Live Music Report)

"This album is a rich mixture. Meanwell has listened to a lot of music and absorbed what he needed to forge a style that is unmistakably his own...
His voice is clear and present, and in his attack you can easily hear tones of Mose Allison, Dylan and Lightfoot and Hank Williams and Leonard Cohen, Lyle Lovett and the Beatles.
The proof is in the songs. Thirteen originals here, all marked by, can you believe it, intelligence, and a sensitivity often arrayed in a wry wit. The tempos vary, the personae are multiple, the arrangements are great. The title song is excellent."


iClassics.com

"A terrific new song, "Words That I Want," written by the quartet's George Meanwell..."


"You know Phaedrus, that is the strange thing about writing, which makes it truly correspond to painting. The painter's products stand before us as though they were alive, but if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. It is the same with written words; they seem to talk to you as if they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you just the same thing forever". Plato: Phaedrus 275d