Canadian world folk supergroup the Sultans of String have just released their first holiday album, “Christmas Caravan”. Turning the notion of holiday music completely on its head, the new album, recorded and co-produced with JUNO Award winning engineer John ‘Beetle’ Bailey, features Quebecois fiddle tunes and collaborations with a traditional Turkish string ensemble, and jumps from a classic Andrews Sisters holiday sound, to a Himalayan sleigh ride, African roots music, Gypsy-jazz, rumba flamenco, ska, and the grandeur of the symphony. You name it, its in there. To help celebrate the season, the band brought in an all star cast of guest musicians including six times Grammy winning Paddy Moloney (The Chieftains), Ruben Blades & Luba Mason, platinum-selling jazz vocalist Nikki Yanofsky, Alex Cuba, Benoit Bourque of Quebec’s Bottine Souriante, African-American a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, Cameroon’s Richard Bona, Rebecca Campbell (Emmylou Harris, Alanis Morissette), singer Mary Fahl from NYC’s October Project, a recording collective of Turkish Roma violinists in Istanbul, Sudanese-Canadian singer Waleed Abdulhamid, Nashville-based JUNO Award winning country singer Crystal Shawanda, sitar virtuoso Anwar Khurshid, and hang drum player David Charrier from France. We caught up with Sultans of String fiddle maestro, Chris McKhool, at home in Toronto, to learn more about the new album. The Sultans of String will be touring the album across Canada in the run up to the holidays, including a visit to the Registry Theatre in Kitchener ON (December 1), the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto (December 2) and Aeolian Hall in London (December 3). Check out all the dates and visit the Sultans of String online at sultansofstring.com. Music: Sultans of String, “Turkish Greensleeves”, “Himalayan Sleigh Ride” and “Hallelujah” from “Christmas Caravan” (2017, Self).
Erin Costelo from Halifax NS released a wonderful album in 2016, “Down Below, The Status Quo”. A fabulous slice of genre-bending soulful pop that skips from R&B/Soul to bluesy jazz, the album was a joy from beginning to end, and deservedly one of our Favourite Albums of 2016. We caught up with Erin Costelo at the 2017 Folk Music Ontario conference, to chat about the critical response to the recording, and her current musical activities. To learn more about Erin Costelo, visit erincostelo.ca. Photo credit: Kimberly Sinclair. Music: Erin Costelo, “Fighter”, “Turn It On” and “The Line” from “Down Below, The Status Quo” (2016, Venue Records).
Montreal based blues roots performer Rob Lutes released a fabulous new album, “Walk In The Dark”, early this year. Featuring twelve strong originals, a couple of co-writes with award-winning Americana songwriter Dale Boyle and a cover of John Prine‘s “Rocky Mountain Time”, the album finds Lutes, a Kerrville New Folk winner, Maple Blues and Canadian Folk Music Awards nominee exploring a wide range of subjects and paying homage to some heroes: James Cotton (on “There’s No Way to Tell You That Tonight”) and guitarist Joseph Spence (on the instrumental “Spence”). Rob Lutes soulful voice, some great fingerstyle playing and support from some of the finest blues and roots players in the business, including regular side player guitarist Rob MacDonald, keyboardist Bob Stagg, Guy Bélanger on harmonica and Joe Grass on mandolin – the album is, truly, a tour de force. I’m sure it will up there for consideration at awards time. We caught with Rob on the road to chat about the new album. Check out Rob Lutes online at roblutes.com. Music: Rob Lutes “A Little Room”, “Believe In Something”, “Rabbit” and “Walk In the Dark” from “Walk In The Dark” (2017, Self).
Raine Hamilton, the Winnipeg based singer-songwriter with the ethereal voice and the wonderful string trio will release her second album “Night Sky” in March 2018. Recorded in Winnipeg with Lloyd Peterson, the album features eight new Raine Hamilton songs and two co-writes with support from, among others, her regular string trio members Quintin Bart on double bass and Natanielle Felicitas on cello. Raine joined us in the mobile studio at the Folk Music Ontario conference for a wonderful conversation about the making of the new album, plus two songs from the new album live and a first spin of the album’s first single “Lift Me Up”. You can also check out the new video for “Lift Me Up” HERE. For more information about the music of Raine Hamilton, visit rainehamilton.com. Music: Raine Hamilton “Robin Hood” (Live), “Bury My Heart” (Live) and “Lift Me Up” from “Night Sky” (2018, Self).
Hamilton folk singer-songwriter Piper Hayes is getting ready to release her first full-length album, “Piper & Carson”, which also features her partner Carson Ritcey-Thorpe. Produced by Chris Bartos, the album was recorded live off the floor at Thorpe’s Organic Produce farm in Millgrove, ON (near Hamilton) in the summer of 2017. Joining Piper Hayes (lead vocal, rhythm guitar) on the album are Carson Ritcey-Thorpe (vocal, lead guitar), Kevin Neal (pedal steel), Leah Ritcey-Thorpe (back-up vocals) and Chris Bartos (upright bass, piano, electric and acoustic violin, electric guitar, Moog, vocals). Album release shows take place in Hamilton, at This Ain’t Hollywood, on Thursday, December 7, 2017, doors at 8:00 p.m. (show at 9:00 p.m.) and in Toronto, at The Dakota Tavern on Friday, December 8, 2017, doors at 6:00 p.m. (show at 7:00 p.m.). The support for the Hamilton show will be the great Guelph-based folk group The Lifers, while Owen Sound folk duo Our Shotgun Wedding join Piper for the Toronto release. Piper and Carson joined Jan Hall from Folk Roots Radio at the 2017 Folk Music Ontario conference for a fun chat about their music and a couple of live songs. For more information about Piper Hayes, visit pipersings.com. Music: Piper Hayes “In My Bones” from “Piper & Carson” (2017, Self), “Careless” (Live), “Big Red” (Live) and “Honey” from “Goodbye Mister Nice Guy” (2016, Self).
Jabbour are Guillaume Jabbour (Lachute, QC.), Carl Rufh (Ormstown, QC.) and Bill Collier (Charlottetown, P.E.I.). Having played in various bands prior (Grouyan Gombo, Les Perroquets, Durham County Poets), the three combined their creative abilities to form a project focused on original work and an engaging live sound. Walking the line that often separates Canada’s two solitudes drives songwriting that features dramatic waltzes, tales reminiscent of Quebec chansonniers, swinging rhythms and toe-tapping two-steps. Jabbour released their debut album “Round The Clock” in 2015. They are currently working on their next album, due in 2018. Jabbour joined Folk Roots Radio in the mobile studio at the 2017 Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about their music and play three songs live. Visit Jabbour online at jabbourband.com. Music: Jabbour “Honey” (Live), “Son Secret” (Live) and “You’re Gone” (Live).
Peterborough ON’s fuzz-folk duo Mayhemingways have had a fabulous couple of years since the release of their debut album “Hunter St. Blues”. The Mayhemingways have spent a lot of 2017 on a cross-Canada tour as side players and the support act for Bill & Joel Plaskett and their new collaboration “Solidarity”. Benj Rowland (synth. bass, accordion, banjo, guitar and vocals) and Josh Fewings (Drums, backing vocals) are now working on their sophomore release, provisionally titled “Skipland”. We caught up with the Mayhemingways at Summerfolk to chat about their music. To learn more about the Mayhemingways, visit mayhemingways.wordpress.com. Photo: Michelle Fortier. Music: Mayhemingways “Hunter St. Blues” from “Hunter St. Blues” (2015, Self).
Ken Yates is one of Canada’s brightest young singer-songwriters. Unforgettable melodies, emotionally charged storytelling, and top-notch guitar chops are all on display on his new Jim Bryson produced album “Huntsville” – its 11 tracks capturing his artistic evolution amid extensive touring over the past three years. We caught up with Ken at Summerfolk 2017 to chat about his music. Visit Ken Yates online at kenyates.com. Photo: Michelle Fortier. Music: Ken Yates, “Roll Me On Home” from “Huntsville” (2016, Self).
Toronto-based singer-songwriter and fingerstyle guitarist Shawna Caspi has just released her fourth album “Forest Fire”. The new album features seven Shawna Caspi songs alongside cover versions of Lynne Miles “Brave Parade” and the “Tennessee Waltz” (Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King). Forest Fire was produced by Don Kerr (Rheostatics, Ron Sexsmith) with musical support from Rosalyn Dennett (fiddle, backing vocals), Joel Schwartz (electric guitar, baritone guitar, rhythm acoustic guitar, mandolin, resonator, tenor banjo), Dave Matheson (piano, organ), Alyssa Wright (cello), Ben Whiteley (standup bass) and Don Kerr (drums, backing vocals, cello). Shawna recently joined us in the Quantum Sound Productions studio in Kingsville Ontario to record an episode of the Sun Parlour Coffee House Sessions. Musicians join us in the studio to record six songs live and sit down with Folk Roots Radio to chat about their music. We’re pleased to bring our interview with Shawna to you today. For more information about the Sun Parlour Coffee House Sessions visit sunparloursessions.com. To learn more about Shawna Caspi, visit shawnacaspi.com. Photo: Dale Butler. Music: Shawna Caspi “Love In A Moving Van” and “Brave Parade” from “Forest Fire” (2017, Self).
Singer-songwriter Ken Dunn’s 2015 album “The Great Unknown” was one of my favourite albums of the year. An exquisite slice of beautifully played thoughtful folk with Ken Dunn’s lovely languid singing voice, it was an absolute pleasure to listen to it. His wonderful new album “Wondrous Beauty,” (his seventh,) is the start of a whole new relationship with his music. 10 new well-crafted Ken Dunn songs – with some really nice harmonies from partner and keyboard player Anna Green, some great fiddle from Tyler Beckett, and a lovely understated production from Ken himself. Ken joined us in the studio with partner Anna Green to chat about the new album. For information on Ken Dunn visit kendunnmusic.com. Photo: Michelle Fortier. Music: Ken Dunn: “Hold On”, “Hills Of Strathavon”, “Wondrous Beauty”, “Wild & Free” from “Wondrous Beauty” (2017, Self).
Coco Love Alcorn lives in the moment. A gifted performer in folk, pop and jazz, and a wonderful harmonizer and improviser, Coco has had an absolutely fabulous year since the release of her latest album “Wonderland” – which came out of her non-denominational gospel song project, The Spirit Sessions. Since the album’s September 2016 release, Coco has been touring Canada extensively (including a three week Christmas tour with John McDermott) and working with choirs from all across the country. This fall she will be heading off on the Invitation to Sing tour which includes a two night stint in Vancouver where she will be joined by five choirs who will add more than 200 voices to her performance. We caught up with Coco at the Summerfolk Music & Crafts festival. Our 2015 interview with Coco, recorded at the Folk Music Ontario conference is also worth checking out. Find it online HERE. For more information, visit cocolovealcorn.com. Photo: Michelle Fortier. Music: Coco Love Alcorn “Wonderland” from “Wonderland” (2016, Self).
Bare Sierra is an alt. folk duo featuring John Muirhead and Jesse Bydevaate. John and Jesse met at school in Halton Hills ON, and since that time have been part of a variety of different musical projects. John was also part of the 2016 Developing Artist Program (formerly Youth Program) at the Folk Music Ontario conference. This summer they were party of the great Youth Discoveries program at the Summerfolk Music & Crafts festival. They will be going into the studio to record their first E.P. this fall. We caught up with John and Jesse at Summerfolk to learn more about their music. Visit Bare Sierra online at baresierra.com. Photo: Michelle Fortier. Music: Bare Sierra “Domino” (Live Demo).
Brighid Fry & Pascal Padilla met while performing in The Nutcracker at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto. Still in their mid-teens, they’re now making music together as indie-pop duo Moscow Apartment. And after just six months together, they’re already making a splash on the summer festival scene. They’ve recently been in the studio with mentor Samantha Martin from Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar and engineer Guillermo Subauste to record their first self-titled E.P. We caught up with them as part of the wonderful Youth Discoveries program at the Summerfolk Music & Crafts festival to chat about their music. For more information, visit moscowapartment.ca. Photo: Michelle Fortier. Music: Moscow Apartment “Annie” from “Moscow Apartment” E.P. (2017, self).
The 4th annual Island Unplugged Music Festival takes place the weekend of Saturday & Sunday August 5-6 in the heart of beautiful Pelee Island on the Canadian side of Lake Erie. A family friendly event, the festival features performers from the local, regional and national scene, alongside the opportunity to enjoy some great local food, craft beer and wine while exploring everything else the island has to offer. To learn more about the festival, we caught up with artistic director Rod Strickland. This year’s line-up features headliners Elliott BROOD and Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar alongside The Ron Leary Sextet, Brock Zeman, Old Man Grant, The Lofi Mind, The Layrite Boys, The Coffee House Combo, The Brandy Alexanders, Mike Galbraith, Twas Now (Mike & Diana Erb), Allison Brown, Deirdre Roberts and the Windsor Youth Fiddlers. For more information about The Island Unplugged and to pick up tickets, visit theislandunplugged.org. Music: Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar “Addicted” from “Send The Nightingale” (2015, Self), Elliot Brood “Little Ones” from “Work and Love” (2014, Paper Bag Records).
The 2017 version of one of our favourite festivals, Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival takes place the weekend of August 18-20 in Kelso Park, on the shores of Georgian Bay, in Owen Sound. One of the things that Summerfolk does very well is to bring a great variety of wonderful music together. This year’s festival features more than 40 musical acts from across Canada and across the world representing genres from folk, country and bluegrass, to blues, to hip-hop and funk. Like any great folk festival they also have lots of children’s activities, community workshops, artisan booths, dozens of food vendors… and two licensed areas. To learn more about this summer’s festival we caught up with artistic director James Keelaghan. Check out the full line-up HERE. GET TICKETS. For more information about Summerfolk, visit summerfolk.org. Music: Ken Yates “Madeline’s Table”, recorded live in L.A. (2015, Youtube).
This year’s Home County Music & Art Festival takes place from July 14 – 16, 2017 in Victoria Park, London ON. Now in its 44th year, the festival is an important part of the Southern Ontario folk calendar. Admission is by donation, which makes it very appealing when compared to other festivals that charge a fee. Because the festival is held in a downtown London park, it is, also, totally accessible. Alongside a great musical line-up, the festival also features some great art and craft vendors. And something new this year is an emerging artist stage within the craft beer area of the site. To learn more about this year’s festival we caught up with artistic director Darin Addison. For more information, visit homecounty.ca. Music: Royal Wood “Long Way Out” from “Ghost Light” (2016, Cadence Music/Universal).
Chicago based singer-songwriter Joe Jencks has built his music career around a fabulous baritone voice and a reputation for well-crafted songs that speak to a human experience fraught with challenge, and injustice, yet, also offering hope for a brighter future. His latest solo album, “Poets, Philosophers, Workers & Wanderers” includes 11 original songs about such topics as prison ships, veterans and PTSD, solstice renewal and the testimony of Pete Seeger before the Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, alongside some well-chosen covers that include a lesser known Phil Ochs song and a Jon Brooks classic, “Mercy”. We caught up with Joe Jencks on tour to chat about the new album. To learn more about Joe Jencks, visit joejencks.com. Joe Jencks is also a member of harmony trio Brother Sun, (with fellow singer-songwriters Pat Wictor and Greg Greenway). Brother Sun will be going on hiatus at the end of 2017. If you want to catch the group performance one last time, you can check out their dates at brothersun.com. Music: Joe Jencks “Let Me Sing You A Song”, “One Piece At A Time”, “Everybody Sings The Blues” and “Going Home” from “Poets, Philosophers, Workers & Wanderers” (2017, Turtle Bear Music).
The 34th Hillside Festival takes place the weekend of July 14-16 2017, at beautiful Guelph Lake just outside Guelph in Southern Ontario. With more than 60 different acts in this year’s lineup, Hillside brings together a list of performers that promises something for every taste and this year an acknowledgement of how the artistic and activist communities intersect. “In keeping with the strong spirit Hillside has cultivated, we have programmed a line up of artists who are gifted and ambitious. Our 2017 line-up is packed with enablers and disrupters, enabling new ideas to come into consciousness and culture and disrupting the worn channels of thought and feeling upon which we rely. In one-way or another, so many of these artists challenge the status quo, whether through their musical or literary experimentation or their activism, be it political, environmental, race- or gender-based.” To learn more about this year’s festival and the musical line-up, we caught up with artistic director Sam Baijal. Check out the full line-up HERE. Learn more about Hillside and buy tickets HERE. For more information visit hillsidefestival.ca. Music: Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, “Gentle On My Mind” from “Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad” (2016, Cooking Vinyl).
Summer festival season is just about with us, and the Mariposa Folk Festival, the Grande Dame of Canadian Folk Festivals, is getting ready for its 57th edition which takes place the weekend of July 7, 8 and 9, in beautiful Tudhope Park in Orillia, on the shores of Lake Couchiching. As always, they’ve put together a very strong line-up that is designed to appeal to all tastes, and all ages and includes headliners The Barenaked Ladies (Friday night), Ruth B (Friday), Whitehorse (Saturday), Matt Andersen (Saturday), The New Pornographers (Saturday) and Bruce Cockburn (Sunday) and The Last Waltz – A Musical Celebration of The Band LIVE (Sunday) alongside many others. You can check out the full line-up, learn about all of the performers and buy tickets HERE. We caught up with Mike Hill, artistic director at the Mariposa Folk Festival to chat about the festival and his new book “The Mariposa Folk Festival – A History”, out now on Dundurn Press. Music: Ruth B “Lost Boy” from “Safe Haven” (2017, Columbia).
The 10th Annual Montreal Folk Fest sur le Canal takes place June 14-18 2017 on the banks of the Lachine canal in Montreal. Starting out as a day long festival attracting just 500 festival goers, it’s since evolved into a five-day event of free outdoor programming and ticketed indoor concerts that brings some of the best folk, roots and bluegrass music into the heart of Montreal. We caught up with festival co-founder Matt Large, to chat about the festival and this year’s lineup. Check out the line-up HERE. For more information, visit montrealfolkfest.com. Photo: Stephen Wilson. Music: William Prince, “Breathless” from “Earthly Days” (2015, Self).