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 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).
Windsor singer-songwriter Karen Morand is getting ready to release her latest album with her band Bosco, “Junkyard Heart”. Junkyard Heart features eight new Karen Morand songs with more of a confessional revival meeting style than her previous work, while still retaining the warm acoustic feel we associate with her band. The CD release takes place at The Bank Theatre in Leamington with special guest, the fabulous Aussie-Canadian bluesy country roots singer-songwriter Gina Horswood on April 22 2017. GET TICKETS. Following the album release, Karen and Gina head off across Southern Ontario together on their Saints & Sinners tour. Bosco features Aaron Verhulst on guitars and mandolin and Benny Santoro on cajon, with Karen Morand on lead vocals, guitar, ukulele, accordion and banjo. We caught up with Karen Morand at home in Windsor to chat about the new album. For more information about Karen Morand and the rest of the tour dates, visit karenmorand.com. Music: Karen Morand “Sucker Creek”, “Junkyard Heart” and “Big Muddy” from “Junkyard Heart” (2017, Self).
After winning the Juno for Indigenous Music Album of the Year with “We Are…” in 2010, aboriginal roots rockers Digging Roots, featuring Shoshona Kish and Raven Kanatakta, further enhanced their reputation with 2014’s critically acclaimed “For The Light” and their Maple Blues Cobalt Prize winning song about Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women, “Hwy 17”. Digging Roots are a fabulous live band, with a wonderful bluesy sound that connects with the audience on many levels. And this year, they’re appearing at the Roots North Music Festival in Downtown Orillia on April 22. We caught up with Raven from the band for a wide ranging conversation about their music. Visit Digging Roots online at diggingrootsmusic.com. To learn more about the Roots North Music Festival and to get tickets visit rootsnorthmusic.ca. Music: Digging Roots, “Hwy 17” from “For The Light” (2014, Sugar Bush Music), “Ak-47” (single) (2016, Sugar Bush Music), “The Time Has Come For Going” from “For The Light” (2014, Sugar Bush Music).
Award-winning songwriter and full-time road dog, Winona Wilde has been slinging her boisterous brand of country-folk Canadiana all over Canada, the U.S & Europe for several years without rest. Wielding lyrical wit and fearless emotion, this born-again-Ontarian promises to be two parts funny and one part sad. A 2016 Folk Music Ontario Official Showcase Artist and 2015 BC Musician Magazine Songwriter of the Year, Winona Wilde joined us in the mobile studio at the Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about her music, and play a couple of new songs live. For more information, visit winonawilde.com. Music: Winona Wilde, “Dating Song” from “You Lose Some, You Lose Some” (2015, Self), Chick Singer (live), Wasted Time (live) and “Paper Clips For The Apocalypse” from “You Lose Some, You Lose Some” (2015, Self).
The Red Dirt Skinners joined us in the studio last fall for the Sun Parlour Coffee House Sessions. The duo, featuring Sarah Skinner on soprano sax, and multi-instrumentalist Rob Skinner on guitar and vocals, have been taking the UK roots scene by storm. An intoxicating mix of high energy and divine harmonies, the music they produce is original, unique and genre-defying as they effortlessly cross boundaries from blues, to country, to folk and all places in between. They’re back in Canada this spring for a tour of Alberta and Ontario including a stop in Leamington ON for a show at The Bank Theatre on May 5. Alongside a five song set, Sarah and Rob sat down with us to chat about their music and latest album “Behind the Wheel” (2016, Sidegoat Records). Definitely, check out the fabulous live version of their 7 minute soprano sax workout “Daybreak” after the interview. For more information about the Red Dirt Skinners, visit reddirtskinners.com. You can check out the full Red Dirt Skinners session and more videos from the Sun Parlour Coffee House Sessions at sunparloursessions.com.
Multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and composer, the prolific, Benjamin Dakota Rogers is pushing the boundaries of traditional folk with each album release. Combining fiddle, guitar and mandolin with his unique voice and strong lyrics, he creates music that demands your attention. Benjamin has picked up Canadian Folk Music Awards nominations for each of his three releases; the “Wayfarer” E.P. from 2014, 2015’s “The Strong Man’s Address to the Circus Crowd” and his latest, “Whiskey & Pine”. Whiskey & Pine features 11 songs that showcase Benjamin’s strong vocals, powerful guitar and fiddle, with support from Chris Rait on stand-up bass, guitar and djembe. Benjamin joined us in the mobile studio at the recent Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about his music, and play three songs live. For more information about Benjamin’s music visit benjaminrogersmusic.com. Music: Benjamin Dakota Rogers “Soldier Song” from “Whiskey & Pine” (2016, Self), “Whiskey For Blood” (Live), “Mr. Robot” (Live), “Come Home” (Live) and “Whiskey & Pine” from “Whiskey & Pine” (2016, Self).
Danny Michel, fresh from a very successful launch of his new album “Khlebnikov”, recorded while traversing the arctic ocean on a Russian icebreaker and phenomenal live act Digging Roots, featuring the wonderful husband and wife duo Raven Kanetakta and Shoshona Kish, are the headliners at this year’s Roots North Music Festival taking place in Downtown Orillia from April 21-22. Also on the main stage bill this year are Jim Bryson, Birds of Bellwoods, Kaia Kater & Cassie Dasilva. The main stage shows take place in the beautifully restored St Paul’s Centre in Downtown Orillia. A late night programme will also take place at the Geneva Event Centre. Further shows are planned for other performance spaces within Orillia. We caught up with Amy Mangan, one of the organizers of the festival to chat about the 2017 line-up. Stay tuned for more artist announcements. For more information about the Roots North Music Festival and to pick up tickets, visit rootsnorthmusic.ca.
Self-described “pilgrims of funk, soul ‘n’ roll”, the fabulous Julian Taylor Band are heading out on an eleven date tour of Southern Ontario in support of their double vinyl release “Desert Star” (2016, Aporia Records) during February and March. Desert Star – one of our favourite albums of 2016, was originally released on four E.P.s before the vinyl version made its appearance last fall. If you love the sound of a funk, soul and rock n’roll band, with some folk, blues, jazz, reggae and calypso thrown into the mix, you definitely need to check them out – they’re wonderful live. The tour starts in Windsor at The Rondo on March 16, they’re at Aeolian Hall in London ON on March 25, with a Hamilton date at The Casbah on April 2. You can check out all the tour dates online at juliantaylorband.com. Julian Taylor sat down with us at the Folk Music Ontario conference this past October to chat about his music, and the new album. Music: Julian Taylor Band “Just A Little Bit”, “One Time”, Get Loud” and “Set Me Free” from “Desert Star” (2016, Aporia Records).
Hamilton based singer-songwriter and scientist Sarah Beatty has just released her second album “Bandit Queen”, an album she describes as the soundtrack to her life – a modern folk fable with spaghetti western movie stylings. It’s an album that because of its sassy rootsy, bluesy and jazzy joyously horn-filled groove and playful lyrics, works on several levels. The album was recorded at home in Hamilton with a great set of musicians under the watchful eye of Joe Lipinski. Bandit Queen is an album that’s all about transitions, for an artist who took time away from her music last year, to graduate with a Ph D in environmental science – and now juggles two careers. Featuring personal songs about relationships, discovering your life purpose, energy extraction/fracking and the notorious American female outlaw Belle Starr, there is much to explore. We caught up with Sarah while on tour in Europe to get the lowdown on the new album, and her interesting career choices. For more information, visit sarahbeatty.ca. Music: Sarah Beatty “Slaves & Kings”, “Holy Smokes”, “We Will Never Be The Same” and “Bandit Queen” (Acoustic) from “Bandit Queen” (2017, King of the Road).
Corin Raymond is having a great start to 2017, with a Juno Award nomination for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year for “Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams”. The album was also named our favourite recording of 2016. Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams is quintessential Corin Raymond, featuring some fabulous word craft on ten songs, eight co-written with other top drawer songwriters Jonathan Byrd, Sean Cotton, Rob Vaarmeyer, Rakhu Lokanathan and Jaxon Haldane alongside one Corin Raymond original, the glorious “Morning Glories” and a cover of Doug Norquay‘s “Best Demented Cowgirl Face” (one of the best and most intriguing song titles out there). The album also earned two nominations at the 2016 Canadian Folk Music Awards, with David Gillis taking home the gong for Producer of the Year. Corin joined us in the mobile studio at the Folk Music Ontario conference this past October to chat about the making of “Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams”. For more information about Corin’s music, visit corinraymond.com. Music: Corin Raymond “Rain Bed”, “Two Miles Of Train”, “Best Demented Cowgirl Face” and “Under The Belly Of The Night” from “Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams” (2016, Local Rascal Records).
Toronto bluegrass band The Slocan Ramblers have a reputation for producing some of the best live acoustic music out there – a refreshingly youthful and fiddle-free take on bluegrass featuring Adrian Gross on mandolin, Darryl Poulsen on guitar, Alastair Whitehead on bass and Frank Evans on three-finger and clawhammer banjo. They released their second album “Coffee Creek”, the follow up to their very well received 2012 debut “Shaking Down The Acorns”, in 2015. An album that explores the outer reaches of bluegrass while respecting its traditions, Coffee Creek was recorded live off the floor with Chris Coole (from the Foggy Hogtown Boys) at the controls and features a healthy dose of their own original material. The Slocan Ramblers will be appearing at the River Run Centre in Guelph on January 27, The Old Town Hall in Newmarket on March 25, The Registry Theatre in Kitchener on April 7, the Aurora Cultural Centre on May 12 and the Regent Theatre in Picton on May 20 alongside dates in Western Canada, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. We caught up with banjo player Frank Evans in Toronto, to chat about their music. For more information visit slocanramblers.com. Music: The Slocan Ramblers “Pastures of Plenty / Honey Babe”, “Elk River”, “Coffee Creek” and “Call Me Long Gone” from “Coffee Creek” (2015, Self).
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).