Cold Satellite: Cavalcade

Photo: Eric Vandeveld

A poet and a rocker reunite to collaborate on an album of no-frills rock and roll, with pleasant results.

Cold Satellite


Label: Signature Sounds
US Release Date: 2013-05-21
UK Release Date: 2013-03-06

Musicians collaborating with poets is not a particularly novel idea in itself, especially in the way Jeffrey Foucault (the music) and Lisa Olstein (the words) do it. Olstein hands in the words and lets Foucault do whatever he pleases with the music, a method reminiscent of great many lyricist/songwriter duos of the past to the point that were it not for the backstory, you couldn’t guess anything was different here –- an impression helped by how Olstein’s poems for their Cold Satellite project are often more like song lyrics in form than anything more freely-flowing. However, it’s the particular direction Foucault takes his part towards that makes Cold Satellite stand out. Olstein’s words are introspective and subtle, often heavy on imagery. Foucault’s music, however, is as direct and open as it could be. Cavalcade is an honest rock and roll album digging deeply into the rich traditions of Americana: a country rock album that believes in the power of the electric guitar.

It’s a very atypical combination but it works, certainly well enough for the artists involved. Cavalcade is the second collaboration between Foucault and Olstein, the first one titled Cold Satellite having been released under Foucault’s own name in 2010 and which has now lent its title to the whole project. It’s also interesting for a particularly lyrically-minded listener: These are not the kind of lyrics you’ve come to expect from this genre and the juxtaposition gives a particular edge to the music. At the same time it never really feels like a poet’s album thanks to how the words actually act as song lyrics rather than trying to be the centre of the attention. The result is a well-made balance between the two sides, neither overshadowing the other but both making it clear that this is a collaboration between two sides.

The no-frills nature of Cavalcade is both its strong and weak side. When it’s done well, honest and straightforward rocking can be a very good thing and for the most part, Foucault and his band do it really well. There’s a great free-spirited feel to the album, the band play great together and Foucault himself has charisma, and the country twang feels timeless. As a set of songs though, it doesn’t particularly bounce out. The quality remains consistent throughout but it only occasionally peaks beyond “nice” and the album does not contain any big songs that would take it further. The best parts of the album are actually its most quiet ones, like the slow swaying country ballad “Glass Hands” and the stripped down closer “Every Boy, Every Blood”. Partly, perhaps, because they’re the moments where the music matches the atmosphere of the lyrics provided, but mostly because they’re parts where Foucault’s presence has the most command. It’s a weird thing to say, but his is a voice born to sing melancholy ballads to lonely hearts and when the tempo slows down and the backing band calm down, the listener suddenly starts taking a whole lot more notice to what’s going on than when the guitars are on full power.

Cavalcade is an easy album to like. It’s a bundle of easy-going, freely-roaming Americana that’s easily approachable by both big time genre fans as well as those who rarely venture there. It’s not covered in extravagant production tricks or fancy instrumental work, but it doesn’t need to be either in order to be a good listen. Not a remarkable listen, though longtime fans of Foucault’s work might disagree there, but one that does somewhat make it understandable why its creators wanted to do continue working together after the first album.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.