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The East Mag Reviews Port Cities Self-titled Debut


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By Andrew Sketchley, The East Mag

After years of building hype with promotional videos, steady performances, and even an international tour, Port Cities have finally released their self-title debut album. A collaboration of acclaimed Nova Scotian singer/songwriters Carleton Stone, Dylan Guthro, and Breagh McKinnon, Port Cities lays out a stunning performance with unapologetically honest lyrics, smooth three-part harmonies, and slick production. Much like their namesake, Port Cities’ sound is a melting pot, a brilliant blend of country, rock, folk, RnB, and pop influences. Having been years in the making, the intense level of polish and finesse put into the album is clear, but the delicately-tuned final product doesn’t betray the band’s authentic sound in the least.

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Port Cities opens strong with the pop-country styled ‘Back to the Bottom’, a catchy, upbeat track with gentle harmonies, a steady rhythm, and an almost hypnotic chorus. One of the album’s most outstanding tracks, ‘Back to the Bottom’ is the perfect track to introduce audiences to Port Cities, showcasing the band’s talented vocalists with an immediately charming feel. Following on this powerful start, Port Cities take a shift to harder rock. ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’, hooks immediately with an infectious beat, high energy, and a Maritime feel in its core melody, while ‘In the Dark’ pairs a pulsing bass line with a catchy chorus for a driven, engaging sound

While the album is solid from start to finish, some tracks still stand out as the cream of the crop. ‘How to Lose You’ is a stunning pop-heavy piece with serene harmonies, meaningful lyrics, and a sound that would be at home amongst Top 40 hits, while ‘Half the Way’ is a catchy, rhythmic rock/country hybrid with a solid bass groove and a hook-filled chorus. Another of the album’s prominent songs, ‘On the Nights You Stay Home’ combines charming Nashville sound with Cape Breton mannerisms to tell an upbeat but dark tale of jealousy and paranoia.

Perhaps the most memorable track on the album is its final one, ‘Astronaut’. [READ MORE]

Top 100 Canadian Blog by Bob Mersereau reviews Port Cities


By Bob Mersereau, Top 100 Canadian Blog

The long-anticipated debut from this young Nova Scotia supergroup has finally arrived, after almost three years of gigs and planning. The trio is made up of established solo artists: Carleton Stone, Breagh MacKinnon and Dylan Guthro, who first got together at the annual Gordie Sampson Songcamp in Cape Breton. Slowly over a few years, they became friends, co-writers and eventually started doing shows together. Finally they realized there was an undeniable magic happening.

Produced by their mentor Sampson, what jumps out the most is the group harmonies, which come out at you in every possible combination. Which each member a singer and writer on their own, they shares the leads, but each track has an arrangement that lets them use that strength to full advantage, coming at you in twos and threes. It’s not even safe to speculate on who wrote what, as they all contribute in multiple combinations. It’s certainly a situation where the whole is bigger than the parts as well, since the songs take off in surprising ways. Each member has complementary yet distinctive skills. While all write, sing and play, they differ as much as they compare; [READ MORE]

Music

Port Cities (2017)
1. Back To The Bottom
2. Don’t Say You Love Me
3. In The Dark
4. Sound Of Your Voice
5. How To Lose You
6. Half The Way
7. On The Nights You Stay Home
8. Where Have You Been
9. Burn That Bridge
10. The Out
11. Body + Soul
12. Astronaut

Bio

bio-picA port city is a place where cultures and histories collide, where goods and ideas are imported and absorbed into the local bloodstream. The trio of celebrated Nova Scotian songwriters who now call themselves Port Cities honour that tradition. Their chosen name isn’t just indicative of where they’re from (the harbour hamlet of Cape Breton) but what they do: fuse divergent styles and experiences into a singular roots-rock sound.

Port Cities’ self-titled debut may be the group’s first effort together, but its members share deep, intertwining roots in the Maritime music scene. In addition to releasing three solo albums, Carleton Stone has written songs for and with everyone from Quebecois soul sensation Bobby Bazini to beloved acoustic troubadour Donovan Woods. Dylan Guthro has parlayed his own folk/RnB fusions into match-ups with Halifax hip-hop hero Classified and EDM crew Neon Dreams (whose 2015 single “High” featured Guthro alongside rap superstar Waka Flocka Flame). And Breagh MacKinnon is a jazz-schooled chanteuse whose 2012 album, Where the Days Went, was nominated for an ECMA Award; she has since lent her voice to recordings by East Coast pop icons David Myles and Ria Mae.

Port Cities is a collaboration six years in the making. The trio first crossed paths in 2011 at a songwriter’s workshop hosted by Gordie Sampson, the Nova Scotia native who has become one of the most in-demand writers and producers in Nashville (his roster of past collaborators—Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Florida Georgia Line among them—could fill up an entire Grammys telecast). That initial meeting would eventually lead to triple-bill tour in 2014 that, MacKinnon recalls, “was originally supposed to be a songwriter’s circle, but by the end, it had more of a band feel than three musicians performing separately. It was just magic when we sang together. Shortly after that, we started throwing around the idea of making it official and starting a band.”

After building a fervent fanbase in Eastern Canada through steady gigging over the past two years, the trio laid down the bed tracks for their debut album in Nashville, tapping into Sampson’s deep Rolodex of ace session players. But then they took the recordings back home and “just messed with things,” Guthro explains. “We’d do these big weird group vocals, create and experiment with sounds—and through that, we landed on a vibe that’s consistent across this whole record.”

The result is a perfect balance of Nashville and Nova Scotia, of the rustic and atmospheric, of indie intimacy and the sort of arena-pop anthems that betray Port Cities’ globe-trotting ambitions; the fall of 2016 saw the band set out on their maiden cross-Canada and European voyages. It’s a record that draws on Port Cities’ collective songwriting expertise, but also reveals the dark emotional undercurrents lurking beneath the heavenly harmonies and heart-racing stomp of “Back to the Bottom”, or the intimations of infidelity tucked into the relaxed country-rock lilt of “On the Nights You Stay Home.” Even on the album’s most ebullient tracks, nothing is as it seems on the surface: the gentle Afro-pop groove of “How to Lose You” coaxes the tension out of a love song that’s consumed with the possibility of loneliness; “The Out” is a disco-kissed break-up song perfect for dancing on your own.

As Stone explains, “One thing we all seem to connect with lyrically is showing a less-than-perfect idea of love, and not being scared to talk about how everything is not great, or call out a lot of what normal, traditional love songs would be about.”

The album closes with the desolate ambient ballad “Astronaut,” a song that invokes outer-space imagery only to send us crashing back down to Earth, contrasting childhood dreams of interstellar exploration with the harsh, hopeless realities of navigating adult life. It’s a fitting finale for an album that’s nestled in the liminal space between familiar and foreign, pairing sounds that comfort with lyrics that confront. Because that’s the thing about living in a port city: the place you call home is also a gateway into the great unknown—and, at any moment, that scenic, open-water vista can give way to crashing waves and fierce undertows.

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Shows

Shows

Thursday
March 2nd, 2017
Al Whittle Theatre
Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Port Cities CD Release - Deep Roots
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Saturday
March 4th, 2017
Marigold Cultural Centre
Truro, NS
Port Cities Trio - Record Launch
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Monday
March 6th, 2017
Club One New Releases
Port of Spain
Trio Only
Sunday
March 12th, 2017
Club One New Releases
Port of Spain
Trio Only
Wednesday
March 15th, 2017
Ironwood Stage & Grill
Calgary, AB
Special Guest to Rose Cousins
8:00 PM
Thursday
March 16th, 2017
Ironwood Stage & Grill
Calgary, AB
Special Guest to Rose Cousins
8:00 PM
Friday
March 17th, 2017
The Arden Theatre
St. Albert, AB
Special Guest to Rose Cousins
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Saturday
March 18th, 2017
St. Ann's Auditorium
Victoria, BC
Special Guest to Rose Cousins
Buy Tickets
Sunday
March 19th, 2017
Wise Hall
Vancouver, BC
Special Guest to Rose Cousins
8:00 PM
Buy Tickets
Friday
March 24th, 2017
The Mack Theatre
Charlottetown, PEI
Record Release Full Band
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Monday
April 3rd, 2017
Club One New Releases NL
St. John's, NL
Trio Only
Saturday
April 8th, 2017
Club One New Releases NL
St. John's, NL
Trio Only
12:00 AM
Sunday
April 9th, 2017
Club One New Releases NL
St. John's, NL
Trio Only
12:00 AM
Monday
April 10th, 2017
Club One New Releases NL
St. John's, NL
Trio Only
12:00 AM
Thursday
April 13th, 2017
Casino Nova Scotia Schooner Room
Halifax, NS
Full Band - CD Launch
8:00 PM
Buy Tickets
Saturday
April 15th, 2017
Evergreen Theatre
Margaretsville, Nova Scotia
Trio Only
8:00 PM
Sunday
April 16th, 2017
Membertou Trade & Convention Centre
Membertou, NS
Cape Breton Record Release Full Band
9:00 PM
Buy Tickets
Saturday
May 27th, 2017
Lunenburg Opera House
Lunenburg, NS
Lunenburg Folk Harbour Spring Concert Series
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Saturday
June 24th, 2017
Chester Playhouse
Chester, Nova Scotia
Port Cities Trio
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets

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Contact

Management:
Sheri Jones
sheri@jonesandcompany.ca
902.429.9005
Publicity & Promotion:
Grace Russell
gracelouiserussell@gmail.com
902.223.1460
Bookings:
Wayne O’Connor
whatwhatoconnor@gmail.com
902.452.4826
Bookings:
Tom Kemp
kemp@feldman-agency.com
416.598.0067