By Martine Ehrenclou
Canadian roots rockers The Commoners pack their upcoming album Find A Better Way with a series of gems. Set to release November 4th on Gypsy Soul Records, it’s no accident that the album is titled ‘Find A Better Way’.
A band with a conscience, The Commoners are known for their high energy riffs, soulful vocals, rich harmonies and songs that actually stand for something. Offering their own blend of rock & roll, southern blues and roots music with a modern vibe, they fold influences of The Black Crowes, the Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin into their own unique style. Produced by Ross Hayes Citrullo, the band’s guitarist, they created nine tracks that are wholly original and unique to their Canadian roots.
The Commoners remind us that music has the ability to heal in a time of looming uncertainty and challenging times. The theme throughout the album is a rallying cry to find a better way to co-exist on this planet and to take a look at ways we can approach things differently.
With a heck of a vocalist Chris Medhurst at the helm, this four-piece creates songs that are unlike their counterparts in similar genres. Not just outstanding musicians and songwriters, The Commoners are a southern rock and roll band with soul.
The group is made up of Chris Medhurst (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Ross Hayes Citrullo (lead guitar), Ben Spiller (bass, vocals, piano), and Adam Cannon (drums, percussion, vocals.) Guests include Michael Ekhart (pedal steel), Jeff Heisholt (keys), Michael Evans-Branagh (organ, piano and Rhodes) and multi-instrumentalist Ben Healey.
Kicking off the album is “Find A Better Way,” a roots rocker directed towards governments, public leaders and even one’s neighbors. It blends jangly guitars, sinewy organ (Jeff Heisholt), a tight rhythm section and killer vocals. An uplifting scorcher, it reminds us that genuine, honest values still exist. How refreshing.
A southern rock & roll anthem, “Fill My Cup” is a high energy kicker with mighty vocals from Medhurst and harmonies from Chantal Williams. It’s about finding one’s way home and honest self-insight. The slide guitar rides the melody and vocals, creating a rich sound.
After a few listens, Find A Better Way hits its stride and sets the band apart with the third track, “More Than Mistakes.” A rock and roll stomp with powerful drums and organ, this number is a standout. You can easily see the band performing this live.
The album’s lyrical themes dive into the lives of the members, complete with love, fear, hopes and regrets.
An album standout, “Naturally” reflects the band’s originality in the form of a country rock ballad with a beautiful melody, innovative chord changes and harmonies. Medhurst absolutely breaks new ground with compelling vocals, including a few spots sung in his head voice. Backed by singers (Chantal Williams, Shezelle Weekes and Tash Lorayne), it’s a stunning song of heartbreak with special attention to the craft of songwriting. Soulful.
Yet another standout, “I Won’t” moves into more country with Toronto legend Michael Eckhart on pedal steel. The harmonies here are lush—moving and graceful at the same time. The lyrics speak of humanness in a song flooded with musical resonance.
This band that has carved out its path with musicianship and songwriting you might not expect. Among others, “Hangin’ On Again” proves that point, an aching tale of love and loss. Allman Brothers comparisons to guitar and organ aside, this band needs to be embraced without comparisons because the slide guitar (Ross Hayes Citrullo) is a true highlight as are the harmonies. Medhurst’s vocals range from quietly soulful to full on profound.
The Commoners seem to come into their own with the country rock tunes on Find A Better Way. Opening with acoustic guitar, “Alive” is another example. Medhurst’s voice is front and center in the mix where it deserves to be. Effortlessly he changes into head voice—impressive—and it adds to the moving quality of the introspective song. Pedal steel and acoustic guitar add flavor and texture to the melody. Someone walked into my office while this song was playing and said, “Wow, great song.” Yep. That’s The Commoners.
Pre-order Find A Better Way Here
“Fill My Cup”