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).
Winnipeg troubadour singer-songwriter Kevin Roy released a great country roots album “Heartworn Highways” in 2016, the follow-up to his well-received 2014 debut “Taller Than The Trees”. With a lovely twanged up, and a live off the floor feel, the album was co-produced with Lloyd Peterson at Winnipeg’s Paintbox Recording. Joining Kevin on the album are William J. Western (co-producer of Del Barber‘s JUNO-nominated Prairieography) on pedal steel, Crooked Brothers honorary percussionist Daniel Bertnick, and Red Moon Road‘s Daniel Peloquin-Hopfner on banjo, with harmony vocals from Madeleine Roger (Roger Roger), Amelia Peterson and Logan McKillop. Kevin Roy is out on the road this Spring including some dates in Ontario. We caught up with Kevin at home in Winnipeg to chat about his music. For more information visit kevinroymusic.com. Music: Kevin Roy “Heartworn Highways”, The Mighty River” and “Same Old Sky” from “Heartworn Highways” (2016, Self)
St John’s NF singer-songwriter Ian Foster has just released his latest album “Sleeper Years”, the follow-up to his very well-received album from 2014, “The Great Wave”. Sleeper Years is quintessential Ian Foster featuring song stories like the excellent “The Stinging Nettle” and “Postcards” alongside issue related appeals “Feels Like It Wants To Rain” or “New Rush For An Old Town”. Ian Foster’s growing interest in film is clearly evident with many of the songs having more of a indie cinematic feel than some of his earlier efforts. The album also contains a beautiful tribute to the late great Ron Hynes who passed away in 2015. We caught up with Ian at home in Newfoundland to chat about the new album. For more information about Ian Foster and upcoming tour dates, visit ianfoster.ca. Photo: Chris LeDrew. Music: Ian Foster “Our Love Was”, “The Stinging Nettle” and “You Left A Song (for Ron Hynes)” from “Sleeper Years” (2017, Self).
Montreal based art folk songstress Emily Millard is renowned for a beautiful and ethereal voice, that somehow feels like it comes from another place. Over the past ten years, Emily has released four albums under the name Miss Emily Brown. Her new album, the dreamy “By Heron & By Season” (2016), produced in Toronto with Sandro Perri, is the first to be released under her birth name, as Emily Millard. Emily joined Folk Roots Radio at the Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about her music and play a couple of songs, from the new album, live for us. For more information about Emily’s music, visit emilymillard.ca. Music: Emily Millard “Toxic Town” from “By Heron & By Season” (2016, Self), “Origami Valentine” (Live), “Where Is God” (Live) and “Hunter” from “By Heron & By Season” (2016, Self).
Singer-songwriter Scott Shea started out in music in the 90s, singing songs with his brother in Toronto, before giving it up in favour of a successful career building custom homes. In 2008, Scott found himself re-evaluating his life choices when his father, Red Shea, former lead guitarist for Gordon Lightfoot passed away. Relocating to Vancouver Island with his family, Scott returned to songwriting in 2013. Since then, he has released two albums – “Let It Storm” (2015), recorded in Austin, and his latest, 2016’s “Pendulum” which was recorded in both LA and Toronto with producer Bill Bell, and a band featuring Kenny Aronoff (drums), James “Hutch” Hutchinson (Bass) and Chris Joyner (Keys). Pendulum features some great songs about life and relationships, that while at times introspective and reflective, also have an optimistic feel for the future. It’s also a perfect companion for the long car ride. With a music career that’s now firmly based on giving back, all the proceeds from sales of Pendulum go to support Scott’s favoured charity, SOS Children’s Villages. Scott Shea joined us at the Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about his music. For more information visit scottsheasongs.com. Music: Scott Shea “Crazy Love” from “Pendulum” (2016, Self), “Shine” (Live), “Vanity” (Live), “Scattering Crows” (Live) and “(Gone) Too Young” from “Pendulum” (2016, Self).
Growing up in Cape Breton, you’d expect Mike McKenna Jr. to have celtic music coursing through his veins. Indeed he has – his first instrument was a fiddle, but he also fell in love with the storytelling aspect of being a troubadour singer-songwriter with east coast grit in his voice. After leaving Cape Breton for a new home base in Montreal, Mike released his first E.P., “Travelin Man” in 2016. He’s currently readying his first full length album, “Pacific Northwest Bound”, for release in May 2017. Mike joined us in the studio at the Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about his music, and play three songs live. For more information about Mike McKenna Jr., visit mikemckennajr.com. Music: Mike McKenna Jr. “Travelin Man” from “Travelin Man” (2016, Self), “The Highway” (Live), “Little Things” (Live), “Die In The West” (Live) and “Take Me Home” from “Travelin Man” (2016, Self).
Montreal based troubadour singer-songwriter Bobby Dove released her debut album “Thunderchild” in October 2016. Recorded in Peterborough, Ontario with producer James McKenty (Blue Rodeo, Gordon Lightfoot), the album harks back to the golden age of country music, and features a mix of broody ballads, honky-tonkin two steps and reflections on the what-ifs of life. Bobby joined us in the studio at the Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about her music and to play a couple of songs live for us. For more information about Bobby’s music, visit bobbydove.com. Music: Bobby Dove, “Thunderchild” from “Thunderchild” (2016, Self), “Gridlock” (Live), “Another Doggone Day” (Live), “Too Late To Go Home” from “Thunderchild” (2016, Self).
As a touring artist, Manitoba roots singer-songwriter Carly Dow is as comfortable on the banjo as the guitar, and playing solo as much as playing with a band. Carly arrived on the solo scene with her 2015 debut “Ingrained”. With a songwriting style that’s not afraid to tackle important issues – without sounding preachy, her music has been likened to that of Neko Case, with some Gillian Welch added into the mix. Carly Dow stopped by our mobile studio at the Folk Music Ontario conference this past October to chat about her music and play three songs live, including a couple of songs that are yet to be recorded. This summer, Carly Dow will be playing the Hillside Festival (July 14-16 2017) at Guelph Lake in Ontario. For more information about her music, visit carlydowmusic.com. Music: Carly Dow “Soil To Dust” from “Ingrained” (2015, Self), “Too Much To Go Back” (Live), “Something Lost” (Live), “The Coyote Song (working title)” (Live) and “Down This Road” from “Ingrained” (2015, Self).
Shawn William Clarke released his most recent album “William” in 2015. A lovely recording, it features some great songs with engaging lyrics and quirky titles, with Shawn’s gentle voice and harmonies resting over an understated musical accompaniment, including some fine finger picked guitar, pedal steel, accordion and some very nice use of brass. A sonic delight, it became one of our favourite albums of 2015. Since then, Shawn has been working on an ambient project Will Moor with fellow Toronto singer-songwriter David F Gluck (2016), and is now working on the follow-up to William at the Currie Brothers studio, Currie Music & Antiques, in Gravenhurst. Shawn stopped by the Folk Roots Radio mobile studio at the Folk Music Ontario conference this past October for a fun and engaging conversation, and to play three songs live – including two that have yet to make it on to disc. Music: Shawn William Clarke “I Blame The Loyalist Ghost” (Live), “Untitled” (new song about stage anxiety) (Live) and “Autumn in New Brunswick” (Live).
Richard Laviolette is a songwriter who really puts his life and personal passions into his music. His new country roots album, “Taking The Long Way Home” (2017, You’ve Changed Records) is all about remaining resilient in the face of life’s challenges whether they relate to personal issues, family, health – whatever – basically everything we all deal with on a daily basis. It’s also an album that emphasizes how much it helps to take the daily ups and downs with as much of a sense of humour as you can manage. With some lovely warm production from Andy Magoffin from the House of Miracles studio in Cambridge Ontario, and some really talented roots players who know how to play with a light touch – it’s a joy to listen to. Joining Richard on the album are Lisa Bozikovic on piano, Matt Reeves on lead guitar, Jessy Bell Smith (Skydiggers) on vocal harmonies, Julia Narveson (Ever Lovin’ Jug Band) on fiddle and double bass, Aaron Goldstein on pedal steel, Heather Kirby (Ohbijou) on electric bass, and Aaron Curtis on drums. We caught up with Richard Laviolette at home in Guelph to chat about the new album. Music: Richard Laviolette, “Grey Rain”, “Someone Tell My Story When I’m Gone”, “You’ve Really Got Me On The Run” and “Taking The Long Way Home” from “Taking The Long Way Home” (2017, You’ve Changed Records)
Country blues powerhouse Gina Horswood swopped her native Australia for North America in 2011 – just in time to head to Nashville to work on her 2013 album, the “Nashville Sessions EP”. After relocating to Canada, she released “Porcelain”, the album that put her firmly on the North American musical map, in 2016. Produced with Andre Wahl (Luke Doucet, Hawksley Workman, Amy Sky, Shania Twain) and placing Gina’s soulful vocals front and centre, Porcelain is a warm, bluesy experience with more than a hint of gospel and jazz. It’s the perfect introduction to an artist who at times can sound like a young Mavis Staples, Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday. With support from Tom & Sly Juhas (Banners, Jadea Kelly), Rich Levesque (Blue Rodeo, Jason McCoy/The Road Hammers, Melissa McClelland) and Robbie Grunwald (Jill Barber, Coco Love Alcorn), Porcelain is a tour de force from an artist who really deserves to be checked out on disc – and live. This spring, Gina Horswood is heading out on the “Saints & Sinners” tour of Southern Ontario with fellow singer-songwriter Karen Morand – starting off with a show at The Bank Theatre in Leamington on Saturday April 22 2017. GET TICKETS. We caught up with Gina at home to chat about her music. For more information, visit ginahorswood.com. Music: Gina Horswood “Come Hell Or High Water”, “Caged” and “Why Should I Wait?” from “Porcelain” (2016, Self).
Banjoist Jayme Stone has just released “Jayme Stone’s Folklife”, the follow up to The Lomax Project album. Inspired by further exploration of songs catalogued by noted folklorist Alan Lomax and other folklorists, Jayme Stone’s Folklife is a beautiful collection of Sea Island spirituals, Creole calypsos and Appalachian dance tunes dusted off and re-imagined for modern ears. Joining Jayme this time around are American folk singer extraordinaire Moira Smiley, Sumaia Jackson (fiddle, voice), and Joe Phillips (bass, voice) alongside special guests singer Felicity Williams (Bahamas), Dom Flemons (Carolina Chocolate Drops) and cornetist Ron Miles from Bill Frisell’s band. Jayme Stone’s Folklife is another great Jayme Stone album. I’ve already gone on record to say that I’m sure it will feature somewhere in my best of the year at the end of 2017. It’s that good! Jayme Stone joined us on Folk Roots Radio to chat about the album. Music: Jayme Stone “There Is More Love Somewhere”. “Buttermilk”, “Drunken Hiccups” and “Candy Gal” from “Jayme Stone’s Folklife” (2017, Borealis Records)
Playful Americana-folk duo The Rough & Tumble feature the close harmonies, versatile instrumentation and engaging songwriting of Mallory Graham and Scott Tyler. They’re new on our radar, and peaked our interest when they sent us a link to a very adorable video for their song “Teeny Tiny Folk Band”. You can check it out HERE. The Rough & Tumble used to tell people they were from Nashville TN, before deciding they preferred to be permanently on the road, in their sixteen foot camper van, with their two dogs for company. They’ll be in Southern Ontario on tour this April, including two shows in Toronto and a visit to The Cornerstone in Guelph on April 13 2017. We caught up with Mallory and Scott, live from the road, to learn more about their music. Visit The Rough & Tumble online at theroughandtumble.com. Music: The Rough & Tumble “Teeny Tiny Folk Band” and “Take Me With You” from “Cardboard & Christmas Lights” (2017, Rock Candy Recordings), “Pieces by Pieces” from “Pieces by Pieces” (2016, Rock Candy Recordings).
Singer-Songwriter Danny Michel went further than he’d ever done before when he recorded his latest album “Khlebnikov” far above the arctic circle, while aboard the Russian icebreaker Capitan Khlebnikov, in the middle of the arctic ocean. Danny was part of Generator Arctic, an expedition put together by Canada’s musical astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield and featuring scientists, photographers, writers and videographers whose role was to capture the arctic wilderness using their chosen medium, sharing those results in real time, and, later, as a lasting record of their 18 day journey. Danny for his part, recorded a whole album, inspired by his life onboard, in a makeshift studio in his cabin. The album features some Danny Michel songs alongside incidental music composed by Rob Carli, and “Fall”, a song about autumn, written by and featuring Chris Hadfield (with words by Russian romantic poet Alexander Pushkin). Danny Michel will be appearing at the Roots North Music Festival taking place in Downtown Orillia on April 21, , Stan Rogers Festival, June 30 – July 2 and Summerfolk, August 18-20. We caught up with Danny at home to chat about the new album. For more information on Danny’s music visit dannymichel.com. Music: Danny Michel “Khlebnikov”, “The Dishwasher’s Dream” and “24,000 Horses” from “Khlebnikov” (2017, Self).