Episode 254: Arnie Naiman

This episode of Folk Roots Radio is all about banjos… well, not quite, but mostly. Arnie Naiman joins us to chat about his latest album “Our Lucky Stars”. We also play tracks from the new albums of fellow banjo enthusiasts Chris Coole and Kaia Kater. And, as always, we also share some of the non-banjo related music we’ve received recently.

Clawhammer and old time style 5-string banjo player Arnie Naiman has just released, “My Lucky Stars”, his latest collection of mostly original 5-string banjo music featuring solo tunes, banjo/guitar duets with Chris Coole, and several band numbers that also feature John Showman and Arnie’s daughter Hannah Shira Naiman on fiddle and Max Heinemann on bass. We caught up with Arnie Naiman at home in Toronto to chat about the new album. Check out the full interview HERE.

Staying with that banjo theme, Chris Coole has just released his latest album “Tumbling River”, an album of highly narrative story songs – eight originals and four covers, featuring Chris on banjo and guitar with support from Burke Carroll (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).

Arnie Naiman and Chris Coole have a double CD release on June 17 in Toronto at the Tranzac Club. Advance tickets are $15 and available through arnienaiman.com and chriscoole.com.

Kaia Kater is a young artist who’s really working hard to make banjo relevant to a new generation, with music that manages to sound old and new, all at the same time. Kaia’s just released her sophomore album “Nine Pin”, an album that shares some great stories wrapped in music and also speaks to the current experience of growing up black in North America. We have an interview with Kaia planned. You can also listen to the interview we recorded at the time of her 2014 debut, “Sorrowbound” HERE.

The late great Guy Clark sadly passed away recently, at the age of 74. The songwriter’s songwriter, he was someone who was always at the top of his craft – using just the right number of words and notes to convey exactly what he wanted to say. We played two songs in tribute on this episode, “Hell Bent On A Heartache” from his final album, 2013’s “My Favourite Picture Of You”, written in honour of his late wife, painter Susanna Talley and my personal favourite, from a man with lots of great songs, “The Randall Knife”, a song that will always have a place on my iPod.

Among the non-banjo related offerings on this week’s episode was a first play for U.S. activist folk singer Bryan McPherson‘s latest album “Wedgwood” (2015, OFD Records). Originally from Boston, before choosing a life on the road as the archetypal troubadour, Brian sings songs about the oppressed for the oppressed that suggests a latter day Woody Guthrie, or more recently, the U.K.’s Billy Bragg. Passionate and heartfelt, he’s not afraid to use his gift to talk about inequality, homelessness and police brutality. “Wedgwood” was recorded in a rustic cabin studio close to an abandoned gold mine in California. Lonely it is not. It has a lovely warm feel (referencing the Wedgewood stove that kept him warm), even if it bristles with barely controlled anger as he sings songs  of conscience about a country that’s lost its way. We’ll be dipping back into it on a future show.

Darryl Purpose has a new album out, “Still The Birds” (2016, Blue Rock Records) co-written with Paul Zollo, the album teams up Darryl’s James Taylor like voice with some wonderful thought-provoking story songs. And Nova Scotia’s Kev Corbett‘s latest release “On The River Off The Lake” is getting a bit more of a push. The album is full of songs that demand your attention and raise important questions, like the song we played this week “Thunderbird” – a song written about the death of a first nations boy, Jordan Wabasse, who, like six other teenage boys before him, lost his life after being sent away to school, hundreds of kilometres from his home, because high school education was not available in his remote community.

Check out the full playlist with artist links below and share your love for all the great folk and roots music out there. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have a lot of great music to bring you on future shows. I hope you’ll join us! You can listen to this show again on Mixcloud by following the link below.

Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises (Demo)
Roll Right (expected 2016)

Bryan McPherson
Born On A Highway
Wedgwood (2015, OFD Records)

Darryl Purpose
Hours In A Day
Still The Birds (2016, Blue Rock Records)

Kev Corbett
On The River Off The Lake (2015, Self) CDN

Otter Creek
Cripple Creek
The Fiddle Preacher (2015, Self)

Arnie Naiman
Playing Jane
My Lucky Stars (2016, Merriweather Records) CDN

Interview: Arnie Naiman discussing his latest album “My Lucky Stars”. Listen to the full interview HERE.

Arnie Naiman
My Lucky Stars
My Lucky Stars (2016, Merriweather Records) CDN

Arnie Naiman
Slipping and Sliding / Boatsman
My Lucky Stars (2016, Merriweather Records) CDN

Chris Coole
The Tumbling River
The Tumbling River (2016, Self) CDN

Kaia Kater
Nine Pin (2016, Self) CDN

Guy Clark
Hell Bent On A Heartache
My Favourite Picture Of You (2013, Dualtone Records)

Guy Clark
The Randall Knife
Dublin Blues (1995, Elektra)

About the author


Host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan Hall started in Radio in 1993 at WEFT 90.1fm in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Folk Roots Radio (formerly Royal City Rag) debuted on CFRU 93.3fm in August 2005 before developing into a syndicated radio show. As the host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan focuses on bringing new folk, roots and blues music and the voices of upcoming and independent artists to the airwaves. Jan is also a much sought after stage host and festival emcee. In 2019, Jan Hall received Folk Music Ontario's prestigious Estelle Klein Award for her contribution to Ontario's folk music community.

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