Folk Roots Radio Episode 351: Ken Yates and The Canadian Folk Music Awards

Folk Roots Radio Episode 350 - Ken Yates Interview & 2017 Canadian Folk Music Awards

The winners of the 2017 Canadian Folk Music Awards were recently announced at a couple of very special gala evenings in Ottawa. On Episode 351 of Folk Roots Radio we feature music from some of the award winners alongside an interview with double award-winning singer-songwriter Ken Yates, recorded at this year’s Summerfolk. Ken took home the awards for both English Songwriter of the Year and New/Emerging Artist of the Year for his wonderful 2016 album “Huntsville”. Check out the playlist below.


Ken Yates is one of Canada’s brightest young singer-songwriters. Unforgettable melodies, emotionally charged storytelling, and top-notch guitar chops are all on display on his new Jim Bryson produced album “Huntsville” – its 11 tracks capturing his artistic evolution amid extensive touring over the past three years.

Making Huntsville was lots of fun, and working with a producer like Jim Bryson who is also a singer-songwriter made it extra special.

“I originally had in mind that this would be mostly a solo acoustic record, but I told myself going into the studio not to be too precious about my own ideas. The best part was, with that in mind, I was able to let go of some of that control and told Jim (Bryson) to run with it. He’d say, ‘Let’s try things my way and if you don’t like it, we’ll press the mute button.’ But I loved all of his ideas, and that’s when I understood what a great collaboration it would be.”

The album was named after a song on the album written about the small ontario town of Huntsville, a few hours north of Ken’s hometown, London Ontario.

“It’s a place that I love,” he says. “A lot of the songs were inspired by what you could say was a northern Ontario landscape, but that song in particular is about leaving everything behind, traveling up north and staying there. After I wrote the line, ‘If them mornings don’t shine how you like, find a night to dream into,’ I felt like it represented the whole album in way, which is why I decided to make it the title track.”

Visit Ken Yates online at

Show Notes

Although we couldn’t find enough time in this episode to include music from all of the winners of the 2017 Canadian Folk Music Awards, we’ve done our best to highlight as many artists as possible. One thing is abundantly clear, Canada’s folk community is in rude health, and loaded with fantastic talent. We just need to continue spreading the word about all the wonderful music emanating from The Great White North!

The wonderful Fred Penner started off the hour with “I Hear the Music”, featuring guest vocals from Terra Lightfoot, from Fred’s latest album “Hear the Music”, which was named Children’s Album of the Year. This recording also features contributions from Ron Sexsmith, Alex Cuba, Basia Bulat, The Good Lovelies, and Afie Jurvanen (aka Bahamas) plus backup vocals from members of Fred’s own family, alongside production by long-time collaborator Ken Whiteley. Fred has shared his music with generations of Canadian children, and remains a popular attraction for children of all ages on the festival circuit. It’s great to see him recognized once again.

Abigail Lapell from Toronto has had a fabulous year since the release of her fabulous 2017 art folk album “Hide Nor Hair”, and she was duly rewarded with the award for Contemporary Album of the Year. 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), Hide Nor Hair 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 also the recipient of the 2016 Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award for the song “Jordan,” which appears on the new record. You can find an interview with Abigail on our website HERE. For more information about her music, visit

Ottawa based duo Twin Flames were named Aboriginal Songwriters of the Year for their 2017 album “Signal Fire”. Twin Flames feature the Algonquin Cree Metis woman Chelsey June, and the Inuk Mohawk man Jaagi. They sing in English and French as well as in Inuktitut. You can learn more about them at

Scott MacMillan & Colin Grant from Nova Scotia picked up the Instrumental Group of the Year for their album of jaunty celtic instrumentals, “Good2Go” (2016, Self).

Singer-Songwriter Danny Michel, picked up two awards, the Oliver Schroer Pushing the Boundaries Award and Producer of the Year (with film and TV composer Rob Carli) for his latest album “Khlebnikov”. “Khlebnikov” was recorded 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). You can check out our “Khlebnikov” interview with Danny Michel HERE.

Cassie & Maggie – Nova Scotian sisters Cassie & Maggie MacDonald took home the award for Traditional Album of the Year for their beautiful album of contemporary Celtic roots music “The Willow Collection” (2016, Self), and album that really shows the breadth of their musicianship. It’s a recording that takes as its inspiration, the Willow Tree – a prominent symbol of love, bereavement and death in traditional folk music. On this episode we play “The Willow Hits”, featuring a medley of Big River, Bury Me Beneath The Willow Tree and Walkin’ After Midnight.

Mama’s Broke are Lisa Maria Bates and Amy Lou – a powerful folk duo that deliver a compelling performance with heart and raw energy. Their two strong voices blend to create haunting harmonies, while they artfully juggling an array of instruments. Their original – and often dark – compositions push the boundaries of tradition and the constraints of genre. Drawing from many styles such as old-time, Quebecois, blues, punk, Celtic, Balkan and doom metal, they create a soundscape that is both familiar and new. They were named Ensemble of the Year for their full-length debut “Count The Wicked”.

Hannah Shira Naiman from Toronto was named Traditional Singer of the Year for her 2016 album “Know The Mountain”. And, from that album, we listened to the murder ballad “In The Pouring Rain”. You can find an interview with Hannah recorded just before she went into the studio to record Know The Mountain on our website HERE.

Coco Méliès from Quebec, picked up the award for Vocal Group of the Year for their close harmonies and the refined folk on their latest album “The Riddle” (2017, Les Disques Audiogramme Inc.). On this episode we play “The Letter”.

The music of Trinidadian Canadian Drew Gonsalves and his band Kobo Town from Toronto has been variously described as “an intoxicating blend of lilting calypsonian wit, dancehall reggae and trombone-heavy brass” (The Guardian) and a “unique, transnational composite of rhythm, poetry and activist journalism.” (Exclaim!). Their latest album “Where the Galleon Sank” earned them the World Group of the Year award. On this episode we play their song “London Town”.

Multiple Juno winning singer-songwriter Stephen Fearing picked up four nominations and was named Contemporary Singer of the Year for his ninth solo album “Every Soul’s A Sailor”, which was partly inspired by his decision to relocate from Halifax to Canada’s west coast, with tracks that share a common focus – the value of The Journey; the various paths we take in love, life, and even after-love, and the after-life. On this episode we play the haunting and ethereal “Gone But Not Forgotten”, featuring guest harmonies by Rose Cousins.

We wrapped our look at the 2017 Canadian Folk Music Awards, with the song “Until The End Of Time”, from one of Canada’s best singer-songwriters and now Solo Artist of the Year, Leeroy Stagger from Alberta for his eleventh album “Love Versus”.

Check out the full listing of the nominees and award winners at the 2017 Canadian Folk Music Awards on their website at

And that’s all we have time for, this time around. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have a lot of great music and interviews to bring you on future shows. I hope you’ll join us!


You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on demand, via iTunes, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)

Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises (Demo)
Roll Right (Pre-release, self)

Fred Penner
I Hear the Music (feat. Terra Lightfoot)
Hear the Music (2017, Linus Entertainment) CDN

Abigail Lapell
Indigo Blue
Hide Nor Hair (2017, Coax Records) CDN

Twin Flames
Aaqqigialauqqunga (Bettered Myself)
Signal Fire (2017, Self) CDN

Scott MacMillan & Colin Grant
The Gear Changer
Good2Go (2016, Self) CDN

Danny Michel
The Dishwasher’s Dream
Khlebnikov (2017, Self) CDN

Interview: Ken Yates recorded at Summerfolk.

Ken Yates
Roll Me On Home
Huntsville (2016, Self) CDN

Cassie & Maggie
The Willow Hits: Big River/Bury Me Beneath The Willow Tree/Walkin’ After Midnight
The Willow Collection (2016, Self) CDN

Mama’s Broke
Even Though
Count The Wicked (2017, Self) CDN

Hannah Shira Naiman
In The Pouring Rain
Know The Mountain (2016, Merriweather Records) CDN

Coco Méliès
The Riddle (2017, Les Disques Audiogramme Inc.) CDN

Kobo Town
London Town
Where the Galleon Sank (2017, Stonetree Music) CDN

Stephen Fearing
Gone But Not Forgotten
Every Soul’s A Sailor (2017, Lowdenproud) CDN

Leeroy Stagger
Until the End of Time
Love Versus (2017, High Romance/True North Records) CDN

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.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2019. Designed by Susan Wheeler of SuzyWeb