Banjofest Guelph sounds like the perfect day out for anyone who love’s banjo. Guelph’s first festival devoted to banjo music takes place at Silence, 46 Essex Street in Guelph on Saturday March 11 2017. The festival features a full day of banjo music, in all its glory. The afternoon Session (2-5:30 p.m.) features Buckwheat Honey, Lotus Wight, The BIG Schotts, and Chris Coole with Arnie Naiman, commemorating the recording of their album “5 Strings Attached With No Backing” (1997, Merriweather Records) 20 years ago. The evening session (8-11 p.m.) includes performances by The Banjo Mechanics featuring Ian Pattison and Lewis Melville, Tim Posgate with Andrew Downing and The Lonesome Ace Stringband. Tickets are $25 per session or $40 for both sessions (there are only 55 tickets available for each session) and can be purchased by emailing email@example.com. The event is co-sponsored by Woodall Music Acoustic Roots Music Instructional DVDs and Folkway Music. To learn more about Banjofest we caught up with organizer and banjo player Ian Molesworth. Music: Arnie Naiman and Chris Coole “Country Blues” from “5 Strings Attached With No Backing” (1997, Merriweather Records), The Banjo Mechanics “Still Jiggin’ For Trout” from “JlP” (2014, Self).
Erin Costelo from Halifax NS released “Down Below, The Status Quo”, a fabulous slice of genre-bending soulful pop that skips from R&B/Soul to bluesy jazz in March 2016, and one of our Favourite Albums of 2016. The follow up to 2012’s very well-received “We Can Get Over”, Down Below, The Status Quo features ten tracks written, arranged, and produced by Erin Costelo at Joel Plaskett’s Dartmouth NS studio, New Scotland Yard, with support from engineer Thomas Stajcer. Joining Erin on the album are longtime guitarist Clive MacNutt, bassist Ian Bennett, drummers Dave Marsh and Matt Gallant, alongside the Blue Engine String Quartet and horns from Matt Myer, Andrew Jackson and Andrew MacKelvie. Gifted with a fabulous expressive voice that harkens back to some of the great female vocalists of the golden age of soulful blues and jazz, Down Below, The Status Quo is a joy from beginning to end and another of those albums that reminds me that great music needs to be shared – and that show’s like Folk Roots Radio shouldn’t be constrained by a rigid focus on genre. We caught up with Erin Costelo at home in Halifax to chat about her music. To learn more about Erin Costelo, visit erincostelo.ca. Music: Erin Costelo, “Move”, “Quiet The Bombs”, “Titanic” and “Fighter” from “Down Below, The Status Quo” (2016, Venue Records).
Gary & Whit are husband and wife singer/songwriter Gary and Whitney French from Goose Bay, Newfoundland and now based on the west coast of the island in Corner Brook. Their album “Matches” was one of our favourite albums of 2016. With Gary on acoustic guitar/vocals and Whitney on vocals, the recording features some beautiful songs, with engaging lyrics and gorgeous harmonies that really connect with the listener. We reached Gary & Whit at home in Cornerbrook to chat about their music. For more information, visit garyandwhit.com. Photography: Candace Cunning and Dru Kennedy. Music: Gary & Whit “Matches”, “Water Under The Bridge”, “Heartbreak” and “Goodbye” from “Matches” (2015, Self).
Toronto based folk-noir singer-songwriter Abigail Lapell is about to release her sophomore album, “Hide Nor Hair” – quite possibly, one of the first great records of 2017. Heavily influenced by her time in the art folk scene in Montreal in the 2000s, and recorded in Toronto with Chris Stringer (Ohbijou, Timber Timbre), the album features ten songs with a cinematic quality that take love and loss as their central theme, and provide a platform for a voice that floats over a musical accompaniment that features harmonica, piano, finger style guitar from Abigail alongside drummer (and whistle soloist) Benjamin Hermann; Rachael Cardiello on viola; Joe Ernewein on bass; Mike Eckert on pedal steel and longtime collaborator Jessica Moore on backup vocals. Abigail Lapell was the recipient of the 2016 Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award for the song “Jordan,” which appears on the new record. Abigail Lapell is on tour in Eastern Canada in January with a CD release show in Toronto at The Burdock on Thursday January 19. Abigail is also in Guelph on Sunday January 29 for a show at The Cornerstone. For more information, visit abigaillapell.com. Photo: Jen Squires. We caught up with Abigail in Toronto to chat about the new album. Music: Abigail Lapell “Night Bird And Morning Bird”, “Jordan”, “Hostage Town” and “Home to Me” from “Hide Nor Hair” (2017, Coax Records).
U.S. folk singer and activist Bryan McPherson released a great album of protest songs, “Wedgwood” in 2015. Originally from Boston, Bryan has chosen a life on the open road as the archetypal troubadour, singing songs about the oppressed for the oppressed – like a latter day Woody Guthrie, or more recently, the U.K.’s Billy Bragg. A passionate protest singer, he’s not afraid to use his gift to tackle issues like inequality, homelessness and police brutality. Demo recordings for “Wedgewood” were originally created in a rustic shack in California; the album has a lovely enveloping feel (referencing the Wedgewood stove Bryan used to keep him warm), even if it bristles with barely controlled anger as he sings songs of conscience about a country that he believes has lost its way. Brian McPherson joined us on Folk Roots Radio to talk about his music and some tour dates in Eastern Canada in early 2017. For more information about Bryan’s music, visit bryanmcpherson.com. Photo: EA Zimmermann. Music: Bryan McPherson “Born On A Highway”, “Days of Rage”, “Here We Go” and “Hearts In Boxcars” from Wedgewood (2015, OFD Records).
Expat Brit Peter Stone and his partner Albertan Denise MacKay have just released their fourth album as 100 Mile House, “Hiraeth’, which is a Welsh word with no direct English translation but is defined as a sort of homesickness, but with a sense of nostalgia and longing for a place or person that may never have actually existed. Recorded in Edmonton AB, with Peter Stone in the producer’s chair, “Hiraeth” is a fabulous album of deeply personal and introspective songs that focus on subjects like love, loss and grief, accompanied by fine musical arrangements – including some gorgeous use of both violin and cello alongside some beautiful harmonies. We caught up with Peter Stone at home in Edmonton to chat about the new album. Photo: Jessica Fern Facette. For more information about 100 mile House, visit 100milehouse.co.uk. Music: 100 Mile House “Hidden Springs”, “All We Have”, “Last Branch” and “You Feel Like Home” from “Hiraeth” (2016, Self).
Graydon James and Laura Spink are the heart of Toronto’s The Young Novelists, a six piece folk-roots band when playing close to home, but pretty much everywhere else they’re stripped down to their essence, a finely tuned harmonizing duo. They’ve had a fabulous couple of years musically – their sophomore release, 2015’s “made us strangers” was very well received, taking home the prize for New/Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Folk Music Awards and they’re now touring in the United States regularly. Graydon and Laura sat down with us at the Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about their music, travels, and future plans. Photo: Ana Muira Music: The Young Novelists, Always Make The Mistake and Hear Your Voice from Made Us Strangers (2015, Self)
The amazing Scottish singer-songwriter with the delicate and dexterous vocal delivery, Fraser Anderson, who now makes his home in the wonderful musical city of Bristol in the UK, joined us in our mobile studio at the Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about his music and latest album “Under The Cover Of Lightness” (released in April 2016). During our chat, Fraser played a couple of live songs and gave us a wonderful poem recitation. Our fun conversation included one of his first musical experiences – singing in his father’s butcher’s shop with an animal bone for a microphone, and one of his most meaningful, playing with Dougie MacLean for four years. The gorgeous Bex Baxter also joined us in the studio on harmony vocals. Fraser’s new digital EP recorded in Toronto, “Beautiful Eyes Ontario Skies” was released on November 4. For more information visit fraseranderson.com. Photo credit: Charles Gravely. Music: Fraser Anderson “Rising Sons” from “Under The Cover Of Lightness” (2016, Membran), “What Kind Of Man” (Live), “Beautiful Eyes” (Live), “With You All” (Live), “Crying From My Heart” from “Under The Cover Of Lightness” (2016, Membran).
Brian Blain, self-proclaimed semi-retired blues guy, “Blainsletter” blogger and managing editor of the Toronto Blues Society‘s Maple Blues newsletter, stopped by our mobile studio at the 2016 Folk Music Ontario conference for an immensely enjoyable conversation about his 40 plus years in the music business, the upcoming official release of his remix album “New Folk Blues 2.0” and to play a couple of tunes live. As always it was great fun. Brian will be celebrating “New Folk Blues 2.0” with a show at Toronto’s legendary Old Mill on Saturday, October 29 where he will be joined by George Koller, Michelle Josef and Alison Young, who all contributed to the remixed recording. For more information visit brianblain.com. Photo credit: Russ Kelley. Music: Brian Blain “Forgotten”, “The Ghost of Clinton’s Tavern” from “New Folk Blues 2.0” (2013, Self), “Cape Cod Blues” (Live) and “Last Time I Saw Lenny” (Live).
The Bombadils produced some big news in 2016, announcing that they’re now a two piece featuring Sarah Frank (fiddle, banjo, vocals) and Luke Fraser (guitar, mandolin, vocals) after bassist Alan Mackie and flautist Anh Phung moved on to new projects. The newly slimmed down Bombadils released their first album as a duo, “New Shoes” on Borealis Records earlier this year. The Bombadils now perform live as a duo, or in larger settings, with cello or bass. Sarah and Luke sat down with us at FMO to chat about the changes in the band and the release of the new album. Photo: Ana Muira Music: The Bombadils, Train In The Night from New Shoes (2016, Borealis Records).
Mandolin master and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Collins had already achieved greatness as an in-demand session player and part of Toronto’s famed Foggy Hogtown Boys and Creaking Tree String Quartet before setting out with his own Andrew Collins Trio, to create something very special indeed for their second effort “And It Was Good”… a concept album that uses as its theme, the biblical seven days of creation story, referenced by the eight individual tracks, that merrily criss-cross musical borders. The Andrew Collins Trio – Andrew Collins on mandolin, mandocello, mandolin and little fiddle, accompanied by Mike Mezzatesta (mandolin, guitar, fiddle) and James McEleney (bass, mandocello) with support from the Phantasmagoria String Quartet (John Showman and Trent Freeman on violins, Ben Plotnick on viola and Eric Wright on cello) serve up music that takes in classical baroque, jazz, bluegrass, folk and celtic influences with a nod to the crossover work of the late great Oliver Schroer, in a format that, because of the prominent strings, has been described as chambergrass. And It Was Good is a fantastic album – sublime, even – and an album that deserves to be listened through from beginning to end. The Andrew Collins Trio have received a well-deserved nomination for Instrumental Group of the Year at the 2016 Canadian Folk Music Awards and Andrew Collins along with David Travers-Smith is also in the running for Producer of the Year. The Andrew Collins Trio will be bringing the new album to Hugh’s Room in Toronto on Friday October 21 at 8:30 p.m. For more information and to get tickets, visit hughsroom.com or call (416) 531-6604. Music: Andrew Collins Trio “Light From The Darkness”, “Firmaments” and “And It Was Good” from “And It Was Good” (2016, Self)
Martha Renaud has just released her second album, the J.P. Cormier produced, “Tide & Tide”. A strong songwriter with a warm and welcoming folk singer-songwriter style, we recently enjoyed a fabulous performance from Martha to close out the Sunday summer concert season at the Two Creeks Conservation Area in Wheatley Ontario. Featuring support from David Light on guitar and John Takle on stand-up bass, it was a great show, and, one that will live long in the memory. Martha Renaud joined us in the studio to chat about her music. Among the songs we played were a couple recorded live for a new initiative we’re involved in, the Sun Parlour Coffee Sessions. Stay tuned for more details about that. For more information about Martha Renaud, visit martharenaud.com. Music: Martha Renaud “Sea of Oblivion” from “Tide & Tide” (2016, Self), “Withered Hands & Weathered Wood” (Live), “Last Child” (Live) and “Fly” from “Time & Tide” (2016, Self).
Zachary Lucky is just about to release “Everywhere A Man Can Be”, the follow-up to 2013’s “The Ballad Of Losing You”. And where The Ballad of Losing you was introspective and reflective – focusing on some very personal themes, the new album is outward looking, expansive and optimistic featuring nine new songs written on the road, that name check people and places he visited while touring his last effort. The album features stellar support from pedal steel virtuoso Aaron Goldstein, who also produced, and a band that includes Taylor Knox on drums, Dan Edmonds (Harlan Pepper) on piano, Darcy Yates (Flash Lightnin’, Bahamas) on bass, Rosalyn Dennett on fiddle, and Slocan Ramblers‘ Frank Evans on banjo. Nichol Robertson also guests on guitar, alongside vocalist Julie Fader, and pianist Jay Swinnerton. With a laid-back style that’s all his own, “Everywhere A Man Can Be” is clearly a step towards solidifying Zachary’s place in the vanguard of Canadian country music. We caught up with Zachary at home in Orillia to chat about the new album. The album release takes place at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto on October 7. For more information visit zacharylucky.com. Music: Zachary Lucky “Can’t Say Why”, “Everywhere A Man Can Be” and “Lost My Way (Now & Then)” from “Everywhere A Man Can Be” (2016, Self).
New Jersey based Sharon Goldman started out playing open mics in New York City before finding her inner voice, and developing a strong reputation as a songwriter on a series of fine albums that married catchy melodies to thoughtful lyrics on songs about love, life and the little things that make the world go round. Her latest album, “Kol Isha (A Woman’s Voice)” is somewhat of a departure in that it takes as its theme, her own life experience – growing up in an orthodox Jewish family on Long Island. For more information visit sharongoldmanmusic.com. Music: Sharon Goldman “The Tribe”, “Song of Songs”, “Kol Isha (A Woman’s Voice)” and “Land of Milk & Honey ” from “Kol Isha (A Woman’s Voice)” (2016, Self).
Roots Songstress Allison Brown has a couple of special band shows coming up in October in South Western Ontario. Allison will be bringing her band The Assembly Line to The Bank Theatre in Leamington Ontario on Friday October 14, and the following night, Saturday October 15, she’s at the Kordazone Theatre in Windsor. Tickets for both shows are $12 in Advance, and $15 at the door. Joining Allison as part of The Assembly Line will be Jedd House on Upright Bass, ‘Uncle’ Dan Henshall on Mandolin, and Vera Colley from Whoa Nellie! Vera & Johnny on accordion & harmony vocals. You can get tickets for The Bank Theatre show online at allisonbrown.bandcamp.com or reserve by calling the box office at 519-326-8805. Tickets for the Kordazone Theatre show are available at Levigator Press, Dr. Disc Records, and Nancy John’s Gallery. We caught up with Allison Brown at home in Paquette Corners to chat about her upcoming shows. Music: Allison Brown “Your Enemy” and “Scavengers” from “Stitches & Incisions” (2015, self).
Tia McGraff has just released “Wing Walker”, the latest single from her very well-received 2015 album “Crazy Beautiful” (2015, Bandana Records) with an accompanying video filmed at the No. 6 RCAF Dunnville Museum in Dunnville Ontario. You can check out the video HERE. Tia is heading down to Tampa FL shortly to sing the The Star-Spangled Banner before a Devil Rays game, before heading on to Nashville and Austin with partner Tommy Parham for some songwriting and folk conference opportunities. Tia returns to Canada in October for two South Western Ontario; she’ll be in Port Stanley at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre on October 15, and at MacKenzie Hall in Windsor on October 22. For more information, and to get tickets, visit tiamcgraff.com. Photo: Jonathan Edwards. Music: Tia McGraff, “Mesa Gold” and “Wing Walker” from “Crazy Beautiful” (2015, Bandana Records).
Long-standing member of the Philadelphia music scene and partner in Grammy Award winning MorningStar Studios, Lizanne Knott released a great new album earlier this year – the bluesy and jazzy “Excellent Day”. A smoky and sultry delight, it features eight original songs and four well-chosen covers… The Gershwins’ “Ain’t Necessarily So”, Springsteen’s “Stolen Car”, Janis Ian’s “Sometimes” and Jef Lee Johnson’s “Excellent Day”. Lizanne Knott joined us on Folk Roots Radio to chat about her music, the new album and, the fact that, despite critical acclaim, she’s still generally better known in the UK than North America. It’s time we change that! For more information, visit lizanneknott.com. Photo: Lisa Schaffer. Music: Lizanne Knott “Come For The Kill”, “Not This Time”, “Lay My Burden Down” and “Excellent Day” from “Excellent Day” (2016, Proper).
Windsor-based singer-songwriter Karen Morand writes beautiful songs with a wonderful warm earthy quality that beg you to want to spend time in her company. Equally comfortable as a solo artist with a guitar or playing with her wonderful band “Bosco”, named after the infamous chocolate syrup of Seinfeld fame, and featuring Aaron Verhulst on mandolin and guitars and Benny Santoro on cajon – her performances are not to be missed. Karen Morand was recently announced as the winner of the 1st Canada South Songwriting Competition at the Kingsville Folk Music Festival. For more information about her music, visit karenmorand.com. Music: Karen Morand “Carry On” from “Carry On” (2012, Self), “Big Muddy” (Live), “Junkyard Heart” (Live), “Arms of Love” (Live) and “Brighter Days” from “I Think I’ll Lose My Mind Today” (2014, Self)
Clawhammer banjo player, guitarist and singer Chris Coole has just released his second solo album, “The Tumbling River, and other stories”, the follow-up to the critically acclaimed “Old Dog” (2010). The album features twelve songs (eight originals, 4 covers) that tell some great stories with a wonderfully rich but subtle musical accompaniment from Chris alongside some of the best roots players on the Toronto scene – Burke Carrol (Pedal Steel), Andrew Collins (Mandolin, Mandola, Mandocello), Brian Kobayakawa (Bowed Bass), Ivan Rosenberg (Dobro), Simone Schmidt (Vocals, Guitar), Kristine Schmitt (Vocals) and John Showman (Fiddle). We caught up with Chris Coole at home in Toronto. Music: Chris Coole “Baby Blue”, “You Led Me To The Wrong” (Ola Belle Reed), “The Tumbling River” and “Beautiful Life” (W.M. Golden) from “The Tumbling River” (2016, Northern)
Roger Roger are a great Winnipeg folk-pop duo featuring twins, Madeleine and Lucas Roger. They’re on tour in Ontario this August, including a show in Guelph at the Red Brick Cafe on August 10, and they’ll also be at this year’s Summerfolk, which takes place the weekend of August 19-21, in Kelso Park, on the shores of Georgian Bay, in Owen Sound. Their debut album “Fairweather” has been receiving lots of airplay, including on Folk Roots Radio. To learn more about the band, we caught up with Roger Roger’s Madeleine Roger at home in Winnipeg. For more information, visit rogerrogermusic.com. Music: Roger Roger “13 Crows”, “Scott Free”, “Think of Me” and “Fairweather” from “Fairweather” (2016, Self).