Shawn William Clarke is a wonderfully quirky and engaging singer-songwriter who really deserves a wider audience. His last two solo albums “William” (2014) and “Topaz” (2017) were very well-received, and both made our long list for favourite albums of the year. A second trip to Europe on tour, another visit to Iceland for some off-venue gigs at the Iceland Airwaves festival, alongside picking up Folk Music Ontario‘s 2018 Songs from the Heart award for best instrumental for “Bellwoods Park” (from the William album) and a very well-received official showcase at the FMO conference, made 2018 a year to remember. It’s always fun to chat to Shawn about his music. We sat down with him at FMO for a great conversation and a couple of live songs, including another new song. Visit Shawn William Clarke online at shawnwilliamclarke.com. Music: Shawn William Clarke “Young In Love (At The End Of The World)” (Live), “Everybody Gets Sad Sometimes” (Live) and “The Tourists” from “Topaz” (2017, Self) CDN.
Long Island based folk band Gathering Time are an excellent harmony trio in the tradition of Peter, Paul & Mary, with a little bit of Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Byrds and Joni Mitchell thrown into the mix. The band features Stuart Markus and Gerry McKeveny on guitars and vocals, with Hillary Foxsong on percussion and vocals. Their latest album is the very well-received “Keepsake” from 2016. Gathering Time joined us in the mobile studio at the 2018 Folk Music Ontario conference for a fun conversation about their music and a couple of live songs, with vocal support from Mara Levine. Visit Gathering Time online at gathering-time.com. Music: Gathering Time “Too Far To Turn Back Now” (Live), “You Were Always On My Mind” (Live) and “Westerly” from “Keepsake” (2016, Treble G Records).
Toronto based troubadour singer-songwriter Jay Aymar has just released a new album that is surely his most complete artistic statement to date. Drawing comparison to no less than Canadian icon Leonard Cohen, with a nod to the groundbreaking work of Tom Waits, “Your Perfect Matador” sets out to explore love and yearning, and the place of art in our society or as his publicity material describes it… The acclaimed wordsmith and performer pulls out all the creative stops on these nine tracks spinning a poetic fable of seduction, obsession and addiction — while washing it down with a narcotic cocktail of edgy post-Americana, swampy southern roots-rock and even menacing soul-funk. I think you get the picture – this vision is fully realized. Musically the new album, produced by Michael Phillip Wojewoda, is an all-enveloping sonic wonder with some fabulous support from Champagne James Robertson on electric guitar, Robbie Grunwald (keyboards), Devon Henderson (bass), Wojewoda (drums, additional keyboards), Drew Dureka (strings) and wonderful cameo vocal performances by Alejandra Ribera, Shakura S’Aida and Chloe Charles. We caught up with Jay Aymar at home in Toronto to chat about the new album. Visit Jay Aymar online at jayaymar.com. Music: Jay Aymar “Your Poet Bleeding”, “Us Wild Dogs” and “The Greatest Story Never Told” from “Your Perfect Matador” (2018, Self).
New Jersey based Mara Levine is a fabulous singer, and a great interpreter of other people’s songs. She’s just released a lovely third album “Facets Of Folk” the follow up to “Jewels and Harmony” (2013) and her debut “Mara’s Gems” (2009) which were both well-received. A very well curated collection, Facets of Folk features 13 tracks that showcase various different faces of folk music, often with a strong social conscience, and including favourites from Gordon Lightfoot, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen and Christine Lavin alongside some new discoveries from contemporary songwriters. Mara Levine tours across the US, often with Gathering Time (Stuart Markus, Hillary Foxsong, and Gerry McKeveny). She also performs as a duo with both Terry Kitchen, and Caroline Cutroneo. Mara Levine sat down with Folk Roots Radio at the 2018 Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about her music, and shared a live version of Tommy Sands “Daughters and Sons”, which appears on the new album. For more information visit maralevine.com. Music: Mara Levine “You Reap What You Sow” from “Facets of Folk” (2019, Self), “Daughters and Sons” (live) and “By My Silence” (with Gathering Time) from “Facets of Folk” (2019, Self).
North Carolina singer-songwriter Jonathan Byrd has just released his latest album “Pickup Cowboy”, the follow up to his great 2014 album “You Can’t Outrun The Radio”. The new album was actually delayed for a couple of years, after the sad death of cellist Paul Ford – long time member of Jonathan’s backing band ‘The Pickup Cowboys’. Paul was diagnosed with a brain tumour on the last day of recording the new album, and passed away a year later. The album was finally completed in Winnipeg with the help of Joanna Miller on drums, and Alexa Dirks and Andrina Turenne on backing vocals alongside Byrd and long time multi-instrumentalist and guitarist Johnny Waken. Pickup Cowboy features ten songs, eight Byrd originals (one a co-write with Charles Humphrey III, formerly with the Steep Canyon Rangers) and two songs by fellow singer-songwriter Matt Fockler, the inspiration for the title track. To learn more about the new album, we caught up with Jonathan Byrd at home in North Carolina. Visit Jonathan Byrd online at jonathanbyrd.com. Music: Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys “Pickup Cowboy”, “When The Well Runs Dry” and “Do You Dream” from “Pickup Cowboy” (2018, Waterbug Records).
Multi-instrumentalist Ellen Froese grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, and describes herself as a young hip-swinger who is not Joan Baez or a sheep, but the vibrato in her voice may suggest otherwise – which provides a big hint as to how much fun she is on stage. Ellen, who is also a member of folk trio In With The Old (currently on hiatus), released her second solo album “Ellen Froese” in Fall 2017. She’s now working on the follow-up with her backing band ‘The Hot Toddies’. Ellen Froese sat down with Folk Roots Radio at the 2018 Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about her music. Visit Ellen Froese online at ellenfroese.com. Music: Ellen Froese “New Year’s”, “Oh Alice” and “I Wish I Had A Foot Long Cigarette” from “Ellen Froese” (2017, Self) CDN.
“Stay Warm”, the new winter themed album by Toronto’s The O’Pears is quite lovely, and highly recommended for those of us who love snuggling up with some good tunes during the dark days of the winter. This is definitely not your typical seasonal fare, as it very carefully skirts the schmaltz and over the top nature of many holiday albums, in favour of a grounded approach that focuses more on winter as the season, recognizes the challenges that many people feel at this time of year, but also celebrates the joy of settling down to enjoy the shortest of days with family and good friends. The album features twelve songs – seven originals (including a musical version of Boris Pasternak’s poem “Winter’s Night”), a well chosen cover (Joni Mitchell’s River) and a few winter classics with some fine band arrangements, beautiful harmonies and wonderful a cappella. To learn more about the new album, we caught up with Lydia Persaud, Meg Contini & Jill Harris from the O’Pears at home in Toronto. For more information about The O’Pears and their upcoming tour dates visit theopears.com. Music: The O’Pears “A Candle Burned”, “Stay Warm”, “Hearts Grow Fonder” and “Find The Sun” from “Stay Warm” (2018, self) CDN.
The Big Little Lions are Helen Austin and Paul Otten. A remarkable songwriting duo, they actually live in two different places – Helen on Vancouver Island, and Paul in Cincinnati OH, and send song ideas back and forward as they work on them, individually and together. Big Little Lions released their latest album “Alive And Well” in February 2018 – a very well received folk pop recording chock full of poppy songs with clever hooks and great harmonies, and, in some cases, a distinct message. Helen and Paul from Big Little Lions sat down with Jan Hall from Folk Roots Radio at the 2018 Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about their music. Visit Big Little Lions online at biglittlelions.com. Music: Big Little Lions “Against The Wall”, “Static” and “Find Your Tribe” from “Alive And Well” (2018, Self) CDN.
Crooked Brother Jesse Matas released a fabulous solo album this year, “Tamarock”. Every now and again an album pops up on your radar that makes you sit up take notice – Tamarock is one of those albums. Jesse Matas has a great vocal style, the album features some fine playing, with a lovely sonic palate and a production that really gives all the instruments space to breath. But, above all, it’s full of some really interesting songs with great lyrical imagery – and that’s what makes this album, a recording that you really need to check out. Recorded (mostly) live-off-the-floor at Private Ear Recording in Winnipeg MB, Tamarock is Jesse’s first release since 2014’s “Thank You, I’m Sorry”, the third album from the Crooked Brothers. It’s definitely one of our favourite albums of the year. We caught up with Jesse Matas at home in Waterloo ON to chat about the new album. Upcoming dates (solo): Burdock (Toronto, December 6), Yeti Cafe (Kitchener,December 7), Silence (Guelph, December 8). Visit Jesse Matas online at jessematas.com. Music: Jesse Matas “Hardline”, “Monarch”, “Walking Human”, “Before, We” from “Tamarock” (2018, Self) CDN.
We don’t normally cover jazz on Folk Roots Radio but this is a rather special event, and the perfect gift for a loved one this holiday season. Acclaimed Canadian singer and pianist Carol Welsman will be coming to the Mary Webb Centre in Highgate ON on Saturday December 15 for a very special show of jazz and pop holiday classics billed as a Baby Grand Jazz Christmas. There will also be wine tasting courtesy of Pelee Island Winery and a Christmas Market. The show starts at 8 p.m. (Doors at 6 p.m.). Tickets are $40 in advance ($45 on the day of the concert). You can buy tickets online HERE. Carol Welsman joined us on Folk Roots Radio to chat about the show. Visit Carol Welsman online at carolwelsman.com. Music: Carol Welsman “What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life” from “Swing, Ladies, Swing – A Tribute To Singers Of The Swing Era” (1999, Welcar Music) and “The Christmas Song” from “Journey” (promotional single) (2011, Justin Time) CDN.
Acclaimed Cambridge ON singer-songwriter and vocalist Allison Lupton has just released a new single for Christmas, an original song entitled “The Eve of Christmas Day”. The new single was recorded at Canterbury Music Company in Toronto and also features BBC Radio 2 Folk Music award-winning trio The Young’uns (Sean Cooney, David Eagle, Michael Hughes) on backing vocals, New Hampshire guitar master Craig Werth, and a wonderful brass quintet arrangement by Tom Leighton. Check out the great video from the recording session HERE. Allison Lupton will be releasing her fourth full length album “Words Of Love” in March 2019 with release shows planned for Hugh’s Room Live (March 30), Kingston (May 24), Almonte (May 25), Goderich (May 31) and Cambridge (June 1). Allison will be joined by Tony McManus, Shane Cook, Joe Phillips, Ivan Rosenberg, and Andrew Collins. We caught up with Allison at home in Cambridge ON to chat about the new single. Visit Allison Lupton online at allisonlupton.com. Music: Allison Lupton “Half My Heart” from “Half My Heart” (2014, Self) and “The Eve Of Christmas Day” (single) (2018, self).
Sultans Of String are taking their Christmas Caravan out on the road again this holiday season, with an extensive tour that takes in B.C. and Ontario and then heads into the US, and depending on the date features some special guests. Christmas Caravan isn’t your typical holiday album – as the band and their guest performers take seasonal music into another realm altogether, with some fine vocals performances, wonderful high octane world beat music and some fabulous virtuoso musicianship. On this tour, the Sultans of String will also be raising money for the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) in Canada who provide shelter, food, water, medical care and other life-saving assistance to refugees around the world. You can donate online HERE. Sultans of String leader Chris McKhool joined us again on Folk Roots Radio to chat about the upcoming tour. Check out all their tour dates at sultansofstring.com. Music: Sultans of String “Jesous Ahatonhia (Huron Carol)” (feat. Crystal Shawanda) and “The Little Swallow/Al Vuelo” (feat. The City of Prague Symphony Orchestra) from “Christmas Caravan” (2017, Self) CDN.
Moonfruits are a bilingual folk duo featuring the beautiful harmonies Kaitlin Milroy and Alex Millaire, who captivate audiences with their songs and stories, often accompanied by just a banjo or parlour guitar. Moonfruits released their sophomore recording “Ste-Quequepart” in 2016, a French language folk concept album about a magical little town – that celebrates the lives of its inhabitants in song, and through those souls, the lives of everyday people living in small towns or communities the world over. Moonfruits bring an emotional passion and authenticity to their music that truly makes their music come alive, especially when they are telling stories about Ste-Quequepart. Kaitlin Milroy and Alex Millaire sat down with Jan Hall from Folk Roots Radio at the 2018 Folk Music Ontario conference. For more information about Moonfruits and their upcoming tour dates, visit moonfruits.ca. Music: Moonfruits “Les Marins”, “Ste-Quequepart”, “La Légende De Roustabout” and “Roustabout” from “Ste-Quequepart” (2017, Self) CDN
Rock bassist turned singer-songwriter Ken Tizzard has just released “A Good Dog Is Lost: A Collection Of Ron Hynes Songs”, a loving tribute to the Newfoundland songsmith who sadly passed away in 2015. Born and raised in St Johns, and now based in Campbellford ON, Ken Tizzard had a long career playing bass with Canadian rock bands The Watchmen and Thornley before setting out on a folk music career. Ken Tizzard considered Ron Hynes a friend and a mentor in the development of his own career as a singer-songwriter. The roots of this new project date back to November 2013, when Ron asked Ken to accompany him on bass for a 12-date duo tour of Newfoundland and Labrador. After the loss of his friend, as part of the grieving process, Ken Tizzard created an acclaimed one-man show, Hynesight, that was performed at the Westben Arts Festival Theatre in Campbellford. The new album is a natural progression from those performances, and features eleven Ron Hynes songs with support from Ken Tizzard’s regular bassist Ken Grant, drummer Steve Dagg, multi-instrumentalist Luke Mercier (fiddle, banjo, mandolin), and guitarist Ken Kelly; with cameos from Ron Hynes sideman Paul Kinsman (accordion) with backing vocals from Amelia Curran and Ken’s daughters Caitlyn and Cassidy Tizzard. We caught up with Ken Tizzard at home in Campbellford to chat about the new project. For more information, visit kentizzard.com. Music: Ken Tizzard “A Good Dog Is Lost”, “Judgement” and “St John’s Waltz” from “A Good Dog Is Lost: A Collection Of Ron Hynes Songs” (2018, Self).
Guelph alt-folk singer-songwriter Innes Wilson landed on our radar earlier this year with his very well-received long player “Northumberland Slums”. A stripped down affair featuring just Innes Wilson’s voice, tenor guitar, tenor banjo and harmonica – that was actually his second new album after a six year break, the indie-pop “Bedford Hills EP” arriving in 2017. Innes Wilson has just released a further album, the four song EP “Seaview”. We caught up with Innes Wilson at home in Guelph to chat about his music. For more information about Innes Wilson, visit inneswilson.bandcamp.com. Music: Innes Wilson “Rough Falls” from “Seaview” (2018, Out Of Sound), “As Ink Dries” from “Northumberland Slums” (2018, Out Of Sound) and “The Ballad Of Earl Rowe” from “Seaview” (2018, Out Of Sound).
Tannis Slimmon has been making music for over 30 years. Tannis grew up in a musical family on a farm in Manitoba before moving to Guelph ON in 1980, announcing herself on the Canadian folk scene as a member of the critically acclaimed Bird Sisters (with Jude Vadala and Sue Smith). Since then, her music career has gone from strength to strength – with three great solo albums (with support from her partner Lewis Melville), taking home Contemporary Vocalist of the Year at the 2008 Canadian Folk Music Awards, for her second solo album, the fabulous “Lucky Blue”. Tannis has also been involved in many other musical collaborations including vocal groups Essentia & Ondine Chorus, The Lucky Sisters and currently Boreal (with Jude Vadala and Katherine Wheatley). Boreal’s annual Songs For The Snowy Season concerts start in late November. For more information on this year’s dates, visit borealsongs.ca. There’s also a new duo – Sweetcorn and Sunflower with fellow Guelph based singer-songwriter Annie Sumi – they’re just back from a tour that took them out to Vancouver Island. Check out the great video session they recorded at BNB studios HERE. The good news, for such an accomplished artist, is that Tannis is now able to make music full-time allowing her a renewed focus on her solo career, and her other projects. We caught up with Tannis Slimmon at home in Guelph to chat about her music. Visit Tannis Slimmon online at tannis.ca. Music: Tannis Slimmon “Our Time Now” from “Lucky Blue” (2007, Self), “Good News” from “In And Out Of Harmony” (2013, Self) and Boreal “Shovelling Snow” from “Winter’s Welcome” (2014, Self).
Guelph singer-songwriter Doris Folkens has released a new song for Remembrance Day. The new song, “All Our Roses”, is about her mother’s experience as a young child living in Hamburg, Germany during World War 2. Doris Folkens family history has provided rich material for a young singer-songwriter who is already developing a reputation as a storyteller. The song “Across The Sea” on her debut album is a song about a woman leaving home for love and a life across the sea. It’s also partly her mother’s story, as an immigrant from Germany, who found better opportunities in Canada. All Our Roses was produced by Andrew Collins who also plays mandolin on the new recording. We caught up the Doris Folkens in Guelph to chat about the new song. For more information about Doris Folkens, visit dorisfolkens.com. Music: Doris Folkens “Across The Sea” from “Doris Folkens” (2018, Self) and “All Our Roses” (2018, Self).
Jody Raffoul is just about to release his latest album “9 Wigle St Leamington Ontario”. Ten years in the making, it’s the story of his life so far, and a collection of true stories of love, loss, trials and triumphs with an emphasis on family. Often thought of as Canada’s answer to Bruce Springsteen, Jody Raffoul has built a very successful career as a working class pop-rock singer/songwriter who is as much at home in a small club as on the big stage. The Jody Raffoul Band will be performing CD Release shows at The Bank Theatre in Leamington on Friday, November 30 or Saturday, December 1 at 7:30 p.m (doors at 6:30 p.m.) and Sunday, December 2 at 7 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.) with an opening performance from Jody’s son Billy Raffoul, who is now out in L.A. developing his own musical career. Jody Raffoul joined Jan Hall in the Folk Roots Radio studio to chat about this very special album and his hometown release shows. For more information about Jody Raffoul, visit jodyraffoul.com. To get tickets for the CD release shows (and they’re selling out quickly), visit banktheatre.com. Jody Raffoul will also be performing as part of the supergroup The S’Aints at Caesar’s Windsor for Sleighing Hunger, an annual holiday music show that raises funds for food banks in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent. That event takes place on Friday December 21 this year. For more information, visit sleighinghunger.com. Music: Jody Raffoul “Feel Your Own Love”, “I’m So In Love With You” and “A Long Way Back” from “9 Wigle St Leamington Ontario” (2018, Self).
Jory Nash released his ninth album “Wilderness Years” earlier this year. It maybe his best yet, which is saying a lot for an artist who consistently produces great albums. It may also be his last – or at least for a while. As Jory explains during an in depth interview with Jan Hall at the Folk Music Ontario, its getting harder and harder to make a living as a singer-songwriter in a music world that is becoming so totally dominated by streaming companies that, at the present time, do not fairly compensate artists for access to their music. It’s a great interview, and well-worth checking out – and Jory also plays a couple of songs from the new album live for us. Wilderness Years was co-produced with Chris Stringer, and recorded at Union Sound with support from Jason Fowler, (guitars, mandolin), Devon Henderson (bass), Robbie Grunwald (piano, organ, accordion), Gary Craig (percussion), Dean Drouillard (6 & 12 string electric guitars), Burke Carroll (pedal steel), Kevin Fox (cello), Drew Jurecka (strings), Gene Hardy (sax), Jerome Godboo (harmonica) with Lori Cullen, Oh Susanna, Lydia Persuad & Chloe Watkinson (backing vocals). The new album has a lush and warm feel, and features 11 songs that are some of the most personal Jory has written, reflecting on the joys and responsibilities of new fatherhood, and crossing borders from folk and pop to soul, jazz and blues, with a nod to some of the great singer-songwriter albums of the 70s. Jory Nash plays Silence in Guelph on Saturday November 17 at 8 p.m. Visit Jory Nash online at jorynash.com. Music: Jory Nash “Sister Station” (Live), “Wilderness” (Live) and “The Astral Plane” from “Wilderness Years” (Thin Man Records, 2018).
Guelph based singer-songwriter Annie Sumi‘s 2017 album “In The Unknown” has been nominated for New/Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2018 Canadian Folk Music Awards. The follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2015 debut “Reflections”, In The Unknown is a fabulous release, filled with gorgeous songs that have a real connection to the world around us, and speak to the divine in everything. The bed tracks for the album were recorded off-the-floor at a remote Northern Ontario cabin while further instrumentation and vocal tracks were added at Revolution Recording and Union Sound in Toronto with producer Neil Whitford. With some wonderfully ethereal vocals from Annie, and a musical landscape created by guitar, piano, strings and more, it truly feels like you are wrapped in sound. We caught up with Annie at home in Guelph to chat about her music. You can find Annie Sumi online at anniesumi.com. Music: Annie Sumi “Nightingale”, “In Everything” and “Evaporating Life” from “In The Unknown” (2017, Self).