Canadian Folk Music Award nominee and Folk Music Ontario Songs from the Heart winner Allison Lupton is getting ready to release her fourth full length album “Words Of Love”, a fabulous recording that features Allison and her band – including some of the best musicians on the Southern Ontario folk scene, on a mix of self-written songs and traditional material with romantic love as a central theme, while also telling stories about Canada, the immigrant experience and the travails of itinerant labour. Words of Love, which was produced by Allison Lupton, features Jess Arrowsmith (backing vocals), Richard Arrowsmith (melodeon), Andrew Collins (mandolin, backing vocals), Shane Cook (fiddle, mandolin, feet), Tony McManus (guitar), Joe Phillips (bass, backing vocals), Ivan Rosenberg (dobro) and Craig Werth (backing vocals). Allison Lupton will be launching the album with a release show at Hugh’s Room Live on March 30 featuring Tony McManus, Shane Cook, Joe Phillips, Ivan Rosenberg, and Andrew Collins. Allison will also be playing shows in Kingston (May 24), Almonte (May 25), Goderich (May 31) and Cambridge (June 1). For more information, visit Allison Lupton online at allisonlupton.com. Music: Allison Lupton “Away”, “Words Of Love” and “What Will I Dream” from “Words Of Love” (2019, Self).
Canadian country singer-songwriter Lisa Brokop is celebrating nearly 30 years in the music business as she brings her ‘Legendary Ladies of Country’ show to Ontario this spring. Fresh from the success of “The Patsy Cline Project”, the new performance will also feature songs from some of the other great female country singers, including Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker and Emmylou Harris. The performance will be accompanied by stories about the songs and the impact that these first ladies of country have had on Lisa’s own career. Lisa Brokop will also be adding some of her own songs into the mix. Canadian country artists Patricia Conroy and Amanda Wilkinson will be joining Lisa on stage for some of the performances. The Legendary Ladies of Country show will be stopping in Kirkland Lake (Northern College Auditorium) March 31, Peterborough (Showplace Performance Centre) April 1, Nepean (Centrepointe Theatre) April 2, St. Catherine’s (First Ontario Performing Arts Centre) April 3, Guelph (River Run Centre) April 4, Kingston (Grand Theatre) April 5, Highgate (Mary Webb Centre) April 6. Get Tickets for the Highgate show at the Mary Webb Centre HERE. We caught up with Lisa Brokop in Nashville to chat about the new show. For more information about the music of Lisa Brokop, visit lisabrokop.com. Music: Lisa Brokop “Walkin’ after Midnight” from “The Patsy Cline Project” (2015, Brokop Entertainment), “Delta Dawn” and “I Will Always Love you” from “Legendary Ladies of Country” – Limited Release (2018, Brokop Entertainment).
Hamilton ON singer-songwriter Jamie Shea has just released his first album “Come Down To The Water”. Well known on the Hamilton music scene as a band guitarist playing rock, pop, blues and jazz, Jamie’s solo debut is long overdue. Come Down To The Water features 11 well-crafted songs about personal experiences, love and loss – and the triumph of the human spirit, that really draw you in. Produced by Michael Birthelmer at Pine Street Studio in Hamilton with some fine musical support, the new album has a really nice feel to it. We caught up with Jamie at home in Hamilton to chat about the solo project. For more information about the music of Jamie Shea, visit jamiesheamusic.com. Music: Jamie Shea “Think Again”, “Mercy Of The Wind” and “Come Down To The Water” from “Come Down To The Water” (2018, Self) CDN.
Renowned Canadian songsmith Ron Sexsmith and alt. folk rising star The Weather Station are headlining this year’s Roots North Music Festival which takes place across Downtown Orillia on Friday April 26 and Saturday April 27. A particular strong main stage line-up features another couple of fabulous songwriters, Prince Edward Island raised, Halifax NS based Rose Cousins and the ever intriguing Ariana Gillis who join Sexsmith on the Friday evening, while inspirational world music performer Alysha Brilla who blends folk, jazz and world rhythms together and VK, an Orillia based Americana duo featuring Steve and Marni Van Kessel joining The Weather Station on the Saturday evening. There will also be a full day of free performances throughout the day on Saturday at a variety of downtown venues. To learn more about this year’s line-up we caught up with Amy Mangan, one of the festival organizers. Check out the full schedule on the Roots North Music Festival website. Weekend passes can be picked up at Alleycats Music in Orillia or online at rootsnorthmusic.ca. The early bird price is currently just $45! (The cost of a weekend pass goes up to $55 on April 12. Don’t miss out!) Photo: Deb Halbot. Music: Ron Sexsmith “Evergreen” from “The Last Rider” (2017, Ronboy Rhymes), Rose Cousins “Chosen” from “Natural Conclusion” (2017, Outside Music) and The Weather Station “You and I on the Other Side Of The World” from “The Weather Station” (2017, Outside Music).
Logan McKillop is renowned for his work as a guitarist. However, he’s also a pretty fine songwriter in his own right. Logan’s just released “Anchorless” the beautiful follow-up to his debut from 2013, “Prairie Sky”, an album that focused on natural beauty and prairie life. The new album “Anchorless”, rather than focusing on landscapes and wide open spaces, shares heartfelt stories about people, life’s challenges and family members that have touched his own life. Co-produced with Scott Nolan at the Song Shop in Winnipeg, the new recording features support from some of the top players on the Manitoba music scene and a musical palette that includes a string section, piano, drums, bass, pedal steel, vibraphone, clarinet, banjo, mandolin, and some great harmonies. It’s clear that putting this album together was a labour of love. Logan McKillop sat down with Jan Hall from Folk Roots Radio at the 2018 Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about the new album. For more information about the music of Logan McKillop visit loganmckillop.com. Music: Logan McKillop “Mother’s love”, “Anchorless” and “There He Goes” from “Anchorless” (2019, Self).
Canadian Singer-songwriter Emily Jean Flack weaves together elements of pop and jazz and her celtic folk roots to produce a piano driven sound that is all her own. The daughter of Denise Flack from Canadian sibling Celtic folk band Leahy, Emily splits her time between Dorchester ON and Limerick in Ireland where she has been studying Traditional Irish Music, with a specialization in song. Emily is just about to release her first E.P. of original songs “Throwing Shapes”. The new album was recorded in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with producer Peter Wallace and a group of Irish musicians that included whistle and flute player Brian Finnegan from the band Flook and Limerick based guitarist Marty Barry. Emily Jean Flack joined Jan Hall in the Folk Roots Radio studio to chat about the new album. For more information, visit emilyjeanflack.com. MUSIC: Emily Jean Flack “Another Year Gone By”, “Tread Softly” and “Throwing Shapes” from “Throwing Shapes” (2019, Self) CDN.
Winnipeg singer-songwriter Monika Wall started out singing opera before moving into a career as a singer-songwriter. Her second album, the E.P. “Earth” was released late in 2018, the first of four albums in a series (Earth, Wind, Water, Fire) exploring true happiness. With influences that range from folk to jazz to gospel blues, the new recording has an inspirational quality. Reflecting on the fact that life can feel short, and individual moments often fleeting, the songs on the album focus on the need for us all to develop a deeper and more sustainable connection to the world around us, and the earth beneath our feet – in the hope that we can leave behind a meaningful legacy for the generations to come. Earth was recorded with Juno-awarding producer Murray Pulver (Crash Test Dummies, Doc Walker). Monika Wall will be touring the new E.P. in Ontario in February with London vocal trio The Pairs and including stops in Guelph (Red Brick Cafe, Feb 8 with Mikalyn Hay), London (London Music Club Feb 9 with Marty Kolls), Toronto (The Painted Lady, Feb 10 with Darling Cora) and Ottawa (The Avant Garde, Feb 11 with Laura Gagnon). We caught up with Monika Wall at home in Winnipeg to chat about her music. For more information visit monikawall.com. Photo Credit: Luna Lily Photography. Music: Monika Wall “Let It Flow”, “Moments” and “We Will Rise” from “Earth” (2018, Self).
Juno nominated Métis singer-songwriter Amanda Rheaume is getting set to release her fifth album “The Skin I’m In”, the follow up to her very well received 2016 album “Holding Patterns”. The Skin I’m in is an upbeat Americana-pop roots recording with a central message, most powerfully stated on the title track (and first single), that it’s really okay to just be you. Check out the great new video for The Skin I’m In HERE. The new album was produced by Colin Cripps (Blue Rodeo, Jim Cuddy Band) and features nine original songs, co-written with Jason Blaine, Justin Glasco (Andrew Bird, Avril Lavigne), Tim Bovacanti, Melanie Brulée, Jim Bryson and more. Amanda Rheaume will be releasing the new album with some Ontario shows, including Ottawa (Feb 16), Toronto (Feb 21), Kingston (Feb 23) and Peterborough (Mar 1) before heading to Europe for a spring tour. We caught up with Amanda Rheaume in Toronto to chat about the new album. For more information, visit amandarheaume.com. Photo credit: Michael Hurcomb. Music: Amanda Rheaume “The Skin I’m In”, “Picture Of You”, “Friendly Fire” and “Companion” from “The Skin I’m In” (2019, Self).
Suzanne Jarvie started writing songs for her critically acclaimed debut, 2014’s “Spiral Road”, while sitting with her son in hospital, as he recovered from a devastating fall down a spiral staircase. Her new album, “In The Clear”, explores the wider impact of that accident on her family. The new recording, produced once again by Chris Brown at the Old Post Office on Wolfe Island ON, is a gorgeous slice of Americana songwriting – great songs with a lovely western feel, beautifully played by a fine supporting cast, and a crystal clear voice that comes over like Emmylou Harris in her prime. “In The Clear” is another winner – a fabulous recording , and, as far as I’m concerned, the best album of 2019 so far. We caught up with Suzanne Jarvie in Toronto to chat about the new album. Learn more about the music of Suzanne Jarvie at suzannejarvie.com. Music: Suzanne Jarvie “Headless Rider”, “Point Blank”, “In The Clear” and “One It Finds” from “In The Clear” (2019, Wolfe Island Records) CDN
Kalon Hart is the singer-songwriter alter-ego of Canadian film/TV composer Rob Teehan, who also played the tuba with both the Lemon Bucket Orkestra and The Boxcar Boys. Currently based in LA, Kalon Hart will release his first album, “Love Is Surrender”, a seven song meditation on love and emotion, in 2019. Kalon Hart sat down with Jan Hall from Folk Roots Radio at the 2018 Folk Music Ontario conference to chat about his music. He also played two songs from the new album live. For more information, visit kalonhart.com. Music: Kalon Hart “Song For Bill (Don’t Lose Yourself To My Mistakes)” (Live), “Come On Out Of The Rain” (Live) and “I Think You Know” from “Love Is Surrender” (2019, Self) CDN.
Same Latitude As Rome, the vehicle for masterful storytelling singer-songwriter Peter Boyer are back with “Stay The Course”, the follow-up to 2015’s “Early Days”, their very well received collection of early Canadian history in song. The new album features eight original songs about mammoth cheeses, horses, old trucks, cars and guitar players – and remaining positive in the face of adversity. Joining Peter Boyer on acoustic guitar and harmonica are producer and multi instrumentalist JK Gulley, Matt Lima/Tomas Bouda (acoustic bass), Gary Kreller (accordion), Mark Mariash (percussion), and Dale Rivard (dobro). There are also cameo appearances from Sean McCann, formerly of Great Big Sea, who shares vocals and plays the bodhran on the title track and Roly Platt with some fine bluesy harmonica on “Blue Shelby Mustang”. Peter Boyer joined us in the Folk Roots Radio studio to chat about the new album. For more information about the music of Peter Boyer and Same Latitude As Rome, visit samelatitudeasrome.com. Music: Same Latitude As Rome “Stay The Course”, “Perth’s Mammoth Cheese”, “Old Guys With Guitars” and “Lost Patrol” from “Stay The Course” (2019, Self) CDN.
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, recognizing 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.