Bywater Call grabbed our attention as contestants – and winners – at the 2018 Toronto Blues Society Talent Search. Their performance, led by Meghan Parnell’s powerful voice and Dave Barnes’ soaring slide guitar made the band instant favourites on the Canadian blues scene. Their 2019 debut album garnered rave reviews and won over new fans internationally.

Bywater Call’s 2022 sophomore album “Remain”, combines outstanding songs and tight performances. This 11 track album was written by the band, with co-writing support from Tom Juhas on “Locked” and “Falls Away” and offers a listening experience that makes the album’s 51 minute playing time seem too short.

Inventive arrangements integrate the horn section (Stephen Dyte and Julian Nalli) and keyboards (Alan Zemaitis) fully into Bywater Call’s sound.  Mike Meusel’s bass along with Bruce McCarthy’s steady drums propel the tracks. 

This album is “all killer and no filler”.  Highlights include:

Album opener “Falls Away” – which sets up the irrepressible sound of Bywater Call.   A memorable chorus brings in the horn section and Dave Barnes’ guitar fills under Meghan’s full-throated vocals, leading to a slide break that signals to the listener that they are listening a band operating at the peak of their abilities

“Lover Down Slow” brings the influence of Southern Soul to the forefront.  The track begins as a slow-burn before building towards a forceful close.

“Remain” – the album’s title track – is a soul-ballad featuring a nuanced, yet dramatic vocal performance supported by the horn section.

“Left Behind” starts with a blast of horns and keys before it evolves into a showcase for Meghan’s vocals – as the song goes through a number of dynamic turns.

“Sea We Swim” – a funk influenced track that would fit right in on a playlist between Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” and “Rock Steady.” Bruce McCarthy’s drums and Mike Meusel’s elastic bassline set the song up while Alan Zemaitis’ organ solo is a highlight of the track.

“Ties That Bind” continues with the funk and with added rock/blues energy.

“Go Alone” opens with a powerful guitar line that brings to mind the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” while Meghan Parnell’s vocals soar over the song’s steady drive. 

Album closer “Bring it Back” – a blues/rock/soul stomper features plaintive vocals, soaring slide and a horn section playing at full-tilt. This track goes by so quickly it leaves the listener wanting more.  (Glenn Smith)