Montreal-based singer-songwriter, composer, stage designer, artist and photographer Michael Reinhart is no stranger to desperate times and the school of hard knocks. His latest collection of original songs, entitled eCHO, provides glimpses of a life story that resonates with the souls of many. He has come a long way down a path of strife and dogged determination to get where he is in this world.
A trained accordionist and self-taught finger-style guitarist, Michael first began by playing the ukulele. It wasn’t till the age of 17 that he finally bought a guitar and was well on his way to discovering a whole new musical realm. Not content to limit himself to just one form of creative expression, Michael graduated from The Ontario College of Art and has wide and varied experience in the worlds of both visual art and music, having exhibited his artwork in Toronto, Montreal, New York & Lyons, France. His illustrations have been published nationally and internationally in books, magazines and newspapers. He has also designed stages, lighting, music and video installations for a number of modern dance & multidisciplinary performances.
Reinhart’s upcoming performance in Toronto on May 17 will mark the 20th anniversary of the harrowing experience he had in 1993, when he sustained a spinal injury, was paralyzed from the waist down and underwent major surgery. Over the following five years, his life was spent learning to walk all over again. The experience was certainly not wasted on him, and served to deepen his love of the guitar, as well as sharpen his ability for writing strikingly penetrating and profound lyrics. Newly transformed, and with resounding courage, he began what he calls his second life with renewed fervor. This incredibly versatile renaissance artist now brilliantly echoes the old life throughout this latest 12-track album.
The scope of Michael’s work is vast. In addition to having recorded a collection of acoustic solo guitar pieces on cassette in 1996 entitled Night Traffic, a soundtrack CD, Woman As Landscape, was released in 2000 along with presentations of the performance of the same name, a collaboration with dancer and longtime partner Lin Snelling, at Usine C in Montréal and the Theatre Centre in Toronto. Michael has also created music for film including Ningiura (2000), and in 2007, the award-winning (Best First Feature / Toronto International Film Festival) and much nominated (Genies & Jutras) feature film Before Tomorrow. Concurrently in 2008, the renowned director Zacharias Kunuk (Attanarjuat) used some of Michael’s music, which included throat-singing by Rhonda Uttak, in his most recent film documentary Kiviak vs. Canada.
Michael completed two recordings in 2002, a recently mastered suite of improvisations with Toronto percussionist Barry Prophet entitled White Desert Blue Shadows. The other album, recorded in collaboration with nine Inuit singers, entitled Quaraaluktuq, was released in May 2003, where the compositions that included throat-singing were based on traditional Inuit songs and influenced by his visit to the Arctic in 2000. As a solo artist, Michael has shared gigs and stages with such talented artists as Jon Brooks, Annabelle Chvostek, Alise Marlane and Antoine Dufour. His music’s been aired on various CBC programs over the years as well as community & college radio, with his previous album Lost and Found spending weeks in the folk/roots/blues Top Ten on numerous charts across the country.
Having mostly created instrumental pieces, Michael didn’t really venture into singing until very late in his career. On eCHO, his rich and rugged vocals meld beautifully with his passionate lyrics and melodies, reminiscent of the depth and wisdom of Leonard Cohen. With themes that have echoed through his whole life, of breaking away from family and his hometown to become his own man in “Take Me Away” or nirvana unrealized in “Sand Inside A Pearl,” we can feel the struggle of a young man searching and sometimes succeeding through the many mistakes and trials along the way. The tune “And You Said Yes,” which features stunning violin, is a hauntingly sweet “echo” of a very desperate time when the artist says yes to life, after a good friend intuitively intervenes by saying the three words that tip the balance in favour of hanging on. The title track, in which New York singer Alison Wedding shines on backup vocals, speaks of long-term relationships, and how that lover’s influence echoes through your life, in how you see, how you speak, how you live. Nothing corny or too cliché here, and certainly not without humour. Michael delivers the message with a unique perspective and there are many lyrical gems such as on the first track “Horizon Line” where he sings “I haven’t gathered much except a limp along the way.”
All in all, eCHO is a beautiful, stripped down-to-the-basics musical autobiography. Guitar and vocals are front and centre, with stellar utilization of Sarah Frank (The Bonbadils) on violin, and Robert Stagg and David Ryshpan on accordion throughout, especially tasteful on the waltz-styled “Nola” about hurricane Katrina. Jeff Bird (Cowboy Junkies) on mandolin is outstanding on that tune as well. Inspired cello by Vancouver composer Peggy Lee, percussion by Montreal musician Patrick Graham and guitar enhancement by Toronto’s Noah Zacharin all add sparkle and sweetness to this collection of all original material.
May 11 @ 8:00 pm – Magnolia Café, 88 Yarmouth St., Guelph, ON / (519) 766-4663
May 17 @ 8:00 pm – Musideum, 401 Richmond St. W. (Main Floor), Toronto, ON / (416)-599-7323
June 20 @ 8:00 pm – Robin de Bois, 4653, boul. Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC / (514) 288-1010
“Michael Reinhart makes country-folk sound jazzy on his latest release, Lost & Found… Reinhart… is finally gracing Canada with his first solo release, and it’s an immensely pleasurable listen.”
~ Randi Beers, EXCLAIM! November 18, 2011. Review of Lost and Found
WHO: MICHAEL REINHART
WHAT: CD Release of eCHO
WHERE / WHEN:
Saturday, May 11 – Magnolia Café @ 8:00 pm
88 Yarmouth St., Guelph, ON / (519) 766-4663
Friday, May 17 – Musideum @ 8:00 pm
401 Richmond St. W. (Main Floor), Toronto, ON
to reserve a seat
Thursday, June 20 – Robin de Bois @ 8:00 pm
4653, boul. Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC / (514) 288-1010
TICKETS: $12 / $25 w/ CD