When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the world locked down, our working musicians lost their main source of income when the venues shut down and all the tours were cancelled. Some tried ‘busking’ on facebook, some sequestered themselves home to write in anticipation of new projects to come, while others just shut down completely to wait out the storm.

But a select few cases, the artists took to cyber-space to connect with other players and create new music remotely. A brilliant use of technology, fueled by the desire to create and made possible by the home studio. Mike Goudreau’s “Isolation Blues” is a perfect example of this, but also a celebration of music and friends, even if they couldn’t get together in the same studio. 

The nature of this album, the rich and lush sound (particularly the horns), the undeniable energy in every track, is a measure of the love and joy of music. It is Mike Goudreau telling COVID which way ‘off’ it can go, celebrating life in the face of a Global Pandemic.

It opens with “Let’s Go Down to the River”, a lively little slice of sonic happiness. An ideal opener, it gets the toes tapping and the heart pumping, but also shares an optimism that has been in short supply of late. The second cut is the smooth and jazzy “Speak to Me Softly”. The opening line asks “Speak to me softly, tell me things will be alright”. One of the greatest dangers of this pandemic, and the lockdown was cabin fever. This cut reaches out and connects with the listeners heart, asking for the one thing we all need most in stressful times… Connection.

Up next is the title track, which steps away from the horns in favor of the wonderful harmonica of Pascal “Per” Veillette. This song pulls no punches, there are no clever metaphors, it speaks directly to the effects of isolation due to the virus. It goes straight to the heart of the matter and into the heart of the listener. The fourth track is a fast and fun little ditty, “The Mooch”. Something that would be quite at home in a Montreal bar on a Saturday night with that one buddy that never seems to have a ride, money for drinks or even a light for the cigarette he bums from you.

Up next the horns are back for “Tonight’s The Night for Big Fun”. This up-tempo toe tapper is a promise that some day this virus will be over and we can once again get out and celebrate life, love and music with those closest to us. The sixth cut is a lovely little harmonica-driven shuffle called “Take a Chance on Me”. I think what distinguishes this cut is the wonderful interplay between Mike’s smooth guitar and Pascal’s gritty harp.

The next cut is one of those cool grooves we sometimes find unexpectedly. We all have that one friend we can connect with. The one who eases our mind, calms our fears and walks with us through life, even in a Pandemic. That’s the friend behind “Count on Me”. The eighth cut is “Sea Breeze Blues”, a song I definitely relate to, living on the coast. This instrumental is like a cooling sea breeze on an intolerably hot day, fueled by Dany Roy’s brilliant horn arrangement. It is also a breath of fresh sea air in the stuffy confines of our forced isolation.

The next cut is a swampy road song that carries a distinctive CCR feel in it. Any hardworking travelling musician will tell you that longest part of any journey is that last “Half a Day From Home”. The tenth cut is “My Only Lady”, a lament to lost love and unfulfilled desire, which folds perfectly into the next cut, a happy hand clapper called “I Got A Good Feeling”. This cut is pure optimism in the form of music.

“She Got The Power” is a groovy homage to the undeniable power the right woman can have on you. She can be a force of nature, an unstoppable and unavoidable influence that can ‘cast a spell on you’. The next cut is “Since My Baby Left Me’, a laid back groove that sounds like a heart lamenting the lost love at 3 am, in the middle of a sleepless night. The final track is “I’m Still Cryin’”, which is a deceptive title. This cut has the same upbeat energy that carries throughout this entire album.

When you listen to the tight sound on this album, it is hard to believe that it was recorded remotely. As we finally start to emerge from this Pandemic is it important that we launch into the new reality with positive energy. Isolation Blues exudes positivity that is a monument to the artists that created it.  (Terry Parsons)