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Live Review and photos: Port Cities @ The Slaughtered Lamb, London


by Mark Fletcher, Sonic Shocks

With all of this three-piece hailing from Nova Scotia Canada, this was the first date of their tour in the UK.

The band have only two years of existence as a unit forming Port Cities in 2015. They quickly signed up with tutlemusik in 2016 and released their debut album in 2017 (not in the UK).

The trio are made of Dylan Guthro, Breagh Mackinnon, and Carleton Stone all singer songwriters in their own right having successful music pasts prior to Port Cities.

For a Monday night in London, the attendance at the Slaughtered Lamb was more than respectable by the time the band took to the stage. With additional musical support in the guise of bass and drums, the now five-piece opened up with a good reception from the attentive crowd.

The set was full of album tracks as you would expect which hearing live gave me a different but better slant on their music. With an underlying folk base and clear Nashville influences the music was appealing but when it rocked a little, it became a force to be reckoned with for aural pleasure.

It’s clear this well experienced singer/songwriter trio has talent. For me the heavier tracks were more appealing and when the bass player and drummer decided to leave the stage, I was a little concerned they would not carry the same credibility. I was wrong (yes this sometimes happens), because the pure trio took on a different guise and maintained their entertainability. [READ MORE]

Port Cities receive 6 Music Nova Scotia Award nominations!


Congratulations to Breagh, Carleton, and Dylan for receiving 6 Nova Scotia Music Award nominations! The band is in the running for Entertainer of the Year, Group Recording of the Year, Music Video of the Year (Dave Sampson and Port Cities – Trouble), Recording of the Year, Digital Artist of the Year, and Pop Recording of the Year. Congratulations to all of the nominees!

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

Wednesday
November 29th, 2017
Great Scott
Allston, MA
Boston Christmas Tree Lightning Pre-Party
9:00 PM
18+ Show
With Cassie and Maggie, and Reeny Smith
Presented by Music Nova Scotia and Halifax Pop Explosion
Free Show - RSVP by visiting musicexport.ca
Thursday
November 30th, 2017
Boston Common
Boston, MA
Boston Common Holiday Tree Lighting
7:00 PM
Free Show - More Info: www.boston.gov
Saturday
December 9th, 2017
Marigold Cultural Centre
Truro, NS
Port Cities Trio
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Friday
January 19th, 2018
Capitol Theatre
Moncton, New Brunswick
8:00 PM
Buy Tickets
Friday
February 2nd, 2018
National Arts Centre - Fourth Stage
Ottawa, ON
8:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Saturday
February 10th, 2018
Membertou Trade & Convention Centre
Membertou, NS
With Special Guest, Dave Sampson
9:00 PM
19+ ID Required
Tickets Also available BY PHONE: 902-539-2300, or
IN PERSON At the Box Office between 9:00AM-5:00PM Mon-Fri, located at 50 Maillard Street, Membertou, NS
More info at www.membertoutcc.com
Buy Tickets
Friday
February 16th, 2018
Neptune Theatre Fountain Hall
Halifax, NS
Neptune Theatre presents Port Cities
8:00 PM
Buy Tickets
Saturday
February 17th, 2018
Neptune Theatre Fountain Hall
Halifax, NS
Neptune Theatre presents Port Cities
8:00 PM
Buy Tickets

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Contact

Management:
Sheri Jones
[email protected]
902.429.9005
Publicity & Promotion:
Grace Russell
[email protected]
902.223.1460
Bookings:
Wayne O’Connor
[email protected]
902.452.4826
Bookings:
Tom Kemp
[email protected]
416.598.0067