Hard to categorize British roots duo Red Dirt Skinners will be releasing their new album “Under Utopian Skies” this September. Featuring multi-instrumentalists Sarah Skinner and Rob Skinner, the band have become big favourites on both the British blues and country scene, but with influences that range from Pink Floyd and Supertramp to Crosby Stills & Nash and John Prine, they really do have an across the board appeal. Renowned for their soaring choruses, fabulous soprano sax solos and clever thought provoking lyrics, the title of the new project reflects on their love for their new home in Canada, after emigration in 2017. We caught up with Sarah and Rob Skinner at home in Ontario to chat about the new album. For more information about the music of the Red Dirt Skinners and upcoming tour dates, visit reddirtskinners.com. Photo: John Milford. Music: Red Dirt Skinners “Hey Crawford”, “Blossom & Rain”, “Lay Me Down” and “This House” from “Under Utopian Skies” (2018, Self).
There’s nothing better than having a new album come in, you play it once, and then want to play it again… and again… and again. Canadian Americana/folk singer-songwriter Tia McGraff has just released a fabulous seventh album, “Stubborn In My Blood”. The new album is her most personal album to date, and features 11 thoughtful and reflective songs – most written with her partner Tommy Parham alongside co-writes with Wood Newton, Pete Riley, Henry Priestman and Devon O’Day and a cover of the classic “One Tin Soldier”. It’s an album that’s clearly intended to move and inspire her growing worldwide audience. With some great musicianship and support from some of the industry’s top players, powerful lyrics and strong vocals, and an album cover that features Tia in boxing gloves, its clear that this time around, she’s not holding anything back! As well as the new album, Tia is now also a published author having released a children’s book, Jake The Road Dawg, based on her dog Jake’s adventures on the road with a couple of crazy touring musicians. Tia will be appearing at the Fred Eaglesmith Charity Picnic in Aylmer on August 18 and at MacKenzie Hall Cultural Centre in Windsor ON on Friday August 24 before heading to the UK for a September tour. We caught up with Tia at home in Port Rowan ON to chat about the new project. For more information about the album and upcoming tour dates, visit tiamcgraff.com. Music: Tia McGraff “Pilot Of Change”, “Let ’em See Your Strong”, “Travelin’ By Guitar” and “Stubborn In The Blood” from “Stubborn In The Blood” (2018, Bandana Records).
The 2018 Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival takes place the weekend of August 17-19 in Kelso Park, on the shores of Georgian Bay, just outside Owen Sound. A beautiful site – it’s the perfect situation for a summer festival. Each year, Summerfolk prides itself in putting together a wonderful musical line-up, and the 2018 edition is no exception. This year’s festival, the 43rd edition, features more than 40 different musical acts from Canada and across the world in genres that range from folk, roots, country and bluegrass, to blues, and even hip-hop and funk. As always, there are also 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 Summerfolk line-up HERE. GET TICKETS. For more information about Summerfolk, visit summerfolk.org. Music: Calan, “Senwir Solomon” from “Solomon” (2017, Sain Recordiau Cyf.), Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer “Get Ready” from “Apocalipstick” (2017, self) and Vishtèn “Figeac” from “Vishtèn Live” (2009, Sandbar Music).
A fabulous live performer, Cameroonian Canadian guitarist and singer-songwriter Cécile Doo-Kingué blends together blues, afro-roots and soul with some jazzy overtones, to create a sound that is very much her own. Cécile Doo-Kingué is two thirds of the way through a trilogy “Anybody Listening”. “Part 1: Monologues” (2015), was a solo acoustic recording exploring the blues and roots of everyday life while “Part 2: Dialogues” (2016) featured a full band and special guests on a similar set of songs. Cécile will compete the project with “Part 3: Communion” (expected 2019-20), a live recording showcasing her exceptional guitar playing, soulful vocals, and powerful songwriting. Cécile Doo-Kingué sat down with Jan Hall from Folk Roots Radio to chat about her music after an exhilarating show at the 2018 Hillside Festival. Check out Cécile Doo-Kingué online at cdkmusik.com. Music: Cécile Doo-Kingué “Thankful” from “Anybody Listening: The Dialogues” (2016, Self).
Newfoundland’s Fortunate Ones feature the fine musicianship and close harmonies of Catherine Allan and Andrew James O’Brien. Known for their fabulous live performances, their critically acclaimed 2015 album “The Bliss” earned them a Juno nomination, and took home the 2015 Canadian Folk Music Award for Vocal Group of the Year. They describe their new album “Hold Fast” (2018) as a study in resilience and partnership in the face of adversity, and features songwriting collaborations with Alan Doyle (Great Big Sea), Tim Baker (Hey Rosetta!), and Meg Warren (Repartee) alongside in studio support from Jim Bryson, Good Lovelies, Alexa Dirks (Begonia) and Kinley Dowling (Hey Rosetta!). The new album was recorded in Lake Echo, Nova Scotia with Daniel Ledwell. Catherine and Andrew joined Jan Hall from Folk Roots Radio at the 2018 Hillside Festival to chat about their music, and the new album. Check out the Fortunate Ones online at fortunateones.ca. Music: Fortunate Ones, “Hold Fast” from “Hold Fast” (2018, Old Farm Pony Records).
Not everyone we interviewed at the 2018 Hillside Festival was actually playing there this year. Highly regarded Canadian singer-songwriter Dana Sipos was enjoying the festival as a patron when we bumped into her, and decided we had the perfect opportunity for an interview. Dana recently released her fourth album “Trick Of the Light” on Miranda Mulholland’s boutique record label Roaring Girl Records. Dana Sipos grew up in Hamilton ON, and spent her formative years in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, before heading out for a life on the open road in pursuit of her art. Trick of the Light features ten songs that were developed during extensive travels across North America and Europe in support of her very well-received 2015 album “Roll Up The Night Sky”, which received a nomination for the Canadian Folk Music Awards in the Pushing the Boundaries category. In making Trick of the Light, Sipos worked with experimental Toronto producer Sandro Perri. The album also features Mary Margaret O’Hara, Jesse Zubot and Doug Tielli. Check out Dana Sipos online at danasipos.com. Music: Dana Sipos “When The Body Breaks” and “Blue Ridge” from “Trick Of The Light” (2018, Roaring Girl Records).
British acoustic roots and blues guitarist Martin Harley, who plays a 100 year old Weissenborn Hawaiian acoustic lap guitar, released one of our favourite albums of 2017, “Static In The Wires”. Static in the Wires was his second album recorded with Nashville based stand-up bassist Daniel Kimbro who also joined Martin on the fabulous “Live From Southern Ground” (from 2015). Martin Harley sat down with Jan Hall from Folk Roots Radio at the 2018 Hillside Festival to chat about his music. Check out Martin Harley online at martinharley.com. Music: Martin Harley “Gold” from “Static In The Wires” (2017, Del Mundo Records).
Toronto’s Slocan Ramblers are one of Canada’s finest bluegrass bands. Rooted in the tradition, they’re as comfortable with their own songs as they are with the bluegrass canon. They’ve just released a great new album “Queen City Jubilee”. The Slocan Ramblers are Frank Evans on banjo, Adrian Gross on mandolin, Darryl Poulsen on acoustic guitar and Alastair Whitehead on bass. Frank Evans joined Folk Roots Radio while at the 2018 Hillside Festival to chat about the band, and their new album. Check out The Slocan Ramblers online at slocanramblers.com. Music: The Slocan Ramblers, “Mississippi Heavy Water Blues” from “Queen City Jubilee” (2018, Slomusic).
The 2018 Home County Music & Art Festival takes place the weekend of July 20-22 in the beautiful confines of Victoria Park in London ON. Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, it’s an important part of the Southern Ontario folk calendar. Home County features more than 40 musical acts on 7 stages, over 120 juried Canadian craft artisans, over 30 food vendors serving a variety of international cuisines, craft demonstrations, a community/open stage, and an interactive family area. Main stage headliners this year are Jim Cuddy from Blue Rodeo, Harrow Fair and Irish Mythen. Also on the bill this year are Tom Wilson, Valdy, Donovan Woods, Rose Cousins, Kris + Dee, Alysha Brilla, Sultans of String, Russell deCarle and many more. Home County is proud to present a number of local acts throughout the festival, including Broomsticks & Hammers, The Rizdales, New Cumberland, The Cedar Sisters and Ken Yates (now based in Toronto). The Emerging Artist Stage returns for its second year and will feature more local musicians, such as Jessica Allosery, John Muirhead, Chad Price, Fraser Teeple, Willow Switch and Yess Woah. Admission to the festival is by donation, and 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. To learn more about this year’s festival we caught up with artistic director Darin Addison. For more information, visit homecounty.ca. Music: Jim Cuddy “While I Was Waiting” from “Constellation” (2018, 5 Corners Productions); Harrow Fair “Told A Lie to My Heart” from “Call To Arms” (2017, Roaring Girl Records).
Evan & John are an indie folk duo from Sarnia, Ontario, featuring Evan Dawe and John Pilat. Influenced by Simon & Garfunkel and The Milk Carton Kids, their music focuses on tight, complex harmonies, wrapped in a beautiful duelling acoustic guitar accompaniment. Since forming in 2017, Evan & John have been playing shows right across southern Ontario and beyond. In January 2018, they released an EP entitled “Little Songs”, followed by a single “House By The Sea” in April. Evan and John joined us in the Folk Roots Radio studio for a chat about their music, and three live songs. For more information, please visit evanandjohn.bandcamp.com. Music: Evan & John “South Coast Highway” (Live), “Turncoat” (Live) and “Early June” (Live).
Over The Moon are a Canadian roots/swing duo featuring award-winning multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Suzanne Levesque and Craig Bignell. Suzanne and Craig met, fell in love, got married and discovered that they could make beautiful music together. They live on a ranch in the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, and “Moondancer”, their debut album, celebrates life in the Canadian west on a set of songs that move from 40’s sounding western swing and Appalachian old-time, to cowboy blues. While on tour in Ontario, Over The Moon joined us in the Folk Roots Radio studio to chat about their music and play three songs from Moondancer live. For more information about Over The Moon, visit overthemoonband.com. Music: Over The Moon “Over The Moon” (Live), “By The Mark” (Live) and “Moondancer” (Live).
Duane Forrest is a singer-songwriter and social activist from Toronto who describes his passions as music, travel and language but, most importantly, love. Duane weaves bossa nova, jazz and soul together to produce a laid-back sound that calls to mind a mix of Jack Johnson, Bob Marley, João Gilberto and Nat King Cole. His latest album “The Climb” was released in 2017. Duane has recently founded a non-profit Genesis Community of the Arts that sends teachers and art equipment to marginalized people and places around the globe, and provides classes in drama, music, dance, and the visual arts that he hopes will inspire the students to discover their own creativity. Genesis currently has teachers working in Honduras and Guatemala. For more information about the music of Duane Forrest, visit duanesguitar.com. Music: Duane Forrest “Changes” (Live), “Oceans” (Live) and “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Live).
Cheshire Carr are a six-piece Montreal-based folk-rock collective who weave together their diverse influences to produce a sound that is warm and inviting, yet also very intriguing. With songs and vocals that bring to mind a mash up of Paul Simon, Crosby Stills & Nash, Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd, their first album “Odds & Ends” is very engaging, and definitely worth exploring. Cheshire Carr feature Geneviève Cooke (vocals, percussion), Elie Flynn (guitars), Pierre Lavoie (vocals, drums, banjo), Mathilde Pigeon (accordion), Hugo Chaput (bass) and Ariel Harrod (vocals, guitar). Odds & Ends was mixed by Plants & Animals Warren C Spicer, who also helped shape the final sonic direction of the project. Cheshire Carr have a fabulous live show that comes across like a fun summer festival workshop featuring a coffee house folk act rocking out with a jam band. We caught up with Cheshire Carr’s Ariel Harrod at home in Montreal to chat about the band and their music. Visit Cheshire Carr online at cheshirecarr.com. Cheshire Carr play the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield QC with Moonfruits on Friday May 18 at 8:30 p.m. Photo: Frank Lam. Music: Cheshire Carr “This Song”, “Devil in a Porcelain Dress”, “Water Rising”, “Remember When” from “Odds and Ends” (2016, Self).
Toronto based Sarah Hiltz has been turning heads for the quality of songwriting, that dips from folk into jazz. Her latest album, 2017’s “Beauty in the Blue” is a collection of songs written while riding the rails across Canada as part of the Via Rail Artists On Board programme. The album, produced with Kevin Howley from Running Red Lights, is the first to feature her long-term stage collaborators, drummer Jordan Michaelis and multi-instrumentalist David Puzak. Sarah Hiltz joined us in the studio to chat about her music and play three songs from Beauty In The Blue live. For more information about the music of Sarah Hiltz, visit sarahhiltz.com. Music: Sarah Hiltz “Best I Can Believe” (Live) “How To Pour Whiskey For Strangers” (Live) and “What We Leave Behind” (Live).
The Young Novelists, fronted by Graydon James and Laura Spink, have just released their third studio album “In City & Country”. The album was recorded in Montreal with producer Howard Bilerman who’s worked with Arcade Fire, Leonard Cohen and The Wooden Sky. According to Graydon and Laura, the album explores the idea of community through the lens of those stranger-than-fiction tales that get passed from neighbour to neighbour over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. Each song was inspired by a different small town in Ontario – they actually travelled to and researched the history of the towns – and from those efforts distilled a group of songs that aim to tease apart what it means to belong and what it means to be an outsider, and how the communities we make share more similarities than differences. Which all sounds very intriguing. To learn more about the new album, we caught up with Graydon and Laura at home in Toronto. Visit The Young Novelists online at theyoungnovelists.com. Music: The Young Novelists “Come Around Again”, “All Alone”, “Two Of A Kind”, “City & Country” from “In City & Country” (2018, Self).
Guelph Ontario singer-songwriter Doris Folkens writes songs that are rooted in people and the events that shaped their lives. She’s just about to release her old-time styled self-titled debut. The album, produced by Toronto’s five-time Juno nominee, and seven-time Canadian Folk Music Award winner, Andrew Collins features seven original story songs with support from Collins (mandolin), Shane Cook (fiddle) and Frank Evans (banjo). “The story behind the album started two generations ago. During World War 2 in Hamburg, my grandmother rescued her piano from her burning house (the family house is depicted in the album art), which had been hit by a bomb. This was the piano that crossed the ocean on a container ship to Canada when my mother married. Years later, I learnt music on that same piano. I often wonder: If my grandmother hadn’t rescued that piano, would I be playing music at all? Her actions, two generations later, left their mark on the songs that I’ve written for this album. The songs are based on true family stories. It’s about where we came from and those who raised us.” The album also includes the Doris Folkens song “Lonesome In The Grave No More” which took home the Songs of the Heart award for humorous song at the 2017 Folk Music Ontario conference. We caught up with Doris Folkens at home in Guelph to chat about her music. The Doris Folkens CD release show will take place in Guelph at The Common on Saturday May 26 2018 at 7 p.m. For more information about the music of Doris Folkens, visit dorisfolkens.com. Music: Doris Folkens “Dig A Hole”, “Lonesome In The Grave No More” and “Right Side Of The Tracks” from “Doris Folkens” (2018, Self).
Jay Gilday grew up in a very musical family in Yellowknife before relocating to Edmonton AB and immersing himself in its vibrant music scene. Whether playing solo or with his power trio, Jay Gilday is a captivating live performer. As a songwriter, he weaves together aspects of his own ancestral traditions: Dene spirituals, Irish ballads, and Canadian folk and rock to produce a sound that is very much his own. His latest album 2016’s “Faster The Light” features ten songs, wrapped up in a harmonic electric blues rock mix. The album earned Jay Gilday the Indigenous Artist of the Year at the 2017 Western Canadian Music Awards alongside Singer-Songwriter of the Year of the Year, and a nod as one of the Artists to Watch at the 2017 Edmonton Music Awards. Jay is currently working on a solo folk recording, expected in 2018. Jay Gilday sat down with Jan Hall from Folk Roots Radio at the Folk North export showcase to chat about his music. Check out Jay Gilday online at jaygilday.com. Music: Jay Gilday “Alleys & Rocks”, “City Slide” and “Dream Your Dreams” from “Faster Than Light” (2016, Self).
The Lifers, led by sisters Liv and Anita Cazzola, are an art-folk/rock collective from Guelph, Ontario. Liv and Anita have been delighting listening audiences across Canada since there release of their first E.P. “Set the Sails” (2014) and long player “Out & In” (2016). Their intertwined voices dynamically convey vulnerability and strength. Softly plucked strings, accordion swells, and lush cello and upright bass arrangements give way to rip-roaring drums and soaring melodies. Their stories juxtapose tenderness and explosive energy, sometimes within a single breath while exploring notions of home, family and community, and highlighting the beauty, vulnerability and power of nature. Their sophomore album “Honey Suite” is more personal than ever, reflecting on the fragility of life and our world, and touching on themes of place, sisterhood, mental health, and the environment. We caught up with Liv and Anita Cazzola at home in Guelph to chat about the new album. The sisters will be touring the new album across Canada, the US and Europe this year – in Ontario with their thunderous six-piece band, and abroad with their collaborative project, alongside their Sisterhood of Sound tour with Guelph based singer-songwriter Annie Sumi. For more information, visit thelifersmusic.com. Music: The Lifers “Sister”, “The Nature Of Things”, “New Eyes” and “Front Door” from “Honey Suite” (2018, Self).
Steve Poltz is one of the most engaging live performers you are ever likely to see – a storytelling folk singer who loves to crowd-surf at festivals, he’s one of those artists that once you catch a show, you can’t wait to do it again. Steve Poltz’ first brush with fame was being the co-writer of Jewel’s biggest hit, “You Were Meant For Me”, however since that time he’s built a great career as the archetypal troubadour singer-songwriter – playing more than 200 shows a year, and a favourite on the festival scene. Born in Nova Scotia, raised in San Diego, where he lived for over thirty years – he’s now a resident of East Nashville, one of the coolest places to live if you’re a singer-songwriter. Steve Poltz sat down with Folk Roots Radio at the Folk North export showcase to talk about his music. Check out Steve Poltz online at poltz.com. Music: Steve Poltz “Silver Lining” from “One Left Shoe” (1998, UMG Recordings), “Mother Russia” and “Folk Singer” from “Folk Singer” (2015, 98 Pounder Records).
Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes career in music started when they decided that rather than going to the local pub for a night out, they’d check out their local folk club, in Stockton on Teeside, England in the UK. Taking their turn to sing some traditional songs in three part harmony, and, often a cappella, lead to them being affectionately christened The Young’Uns – as they were distinctly not in the same age group as the other people who attended the folk club on a regular basis. Well, the name stuck, and a desire to share their own socially conscious message in song, has lead to critical praise for their recorded work and live performances, and being named as Best Group at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards two years running (2015 and 2016) and picking up Best Album in 2018 for their latest, “Strangers” (2017, Hereteu Records). Sean, David and Michael sat down with Jan Hall from Folk Roots Radio at the Folk North export showcase in Toronto to chat about their music, and latest album, “Strangers” (2017, Hereteu Records). Check out The Young’Uns online at younguns.co.uk. Music: The Young’Uns “Ghafoor’s Bus”, “Be The Man” and “Bob Cooney’s Miracle” from “Strangers” (2017, Hereteu Records).