Guelph storytelling singer-songwriter Doris Folkens joins us on Episode 381 of Folk Roots Radio to chat about her music and her self-titled debut album, produced by mando-maestro Andrew Collins. It’s a great interview, and well-worth checking out. We also check out new music from Mayhemingways, Sugar Brown, Birds of Chicago, Miller – Macdonald – Cormier, Sue Foley, Tom Rush, Joe Jencks, Graham Parker and Robert Lane. Check out the full playlist below.
Doris Folkens writes songs that are rooted in people and the events that shaped their lives. Her old-time styled self-titled debut, 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.
Notes about some of the new music on our radar that made it into Episode 381 of Folk Roots Radio.
Robert Lane has just released his third recording “Only A Flight Away”. Robert has toured extensively in the UK and Germany and this year he’ll visit Holland and Scandinavia for the first time. In 2013 he was selected to attend a song writing retreat/course with Kinks front man Ray Davies. We started and ended the hour with the atmospheric electric guitar instrumental “The Hundred House” which reminds me of both the late great Gary Moore and Phil Manzanera.
Peterborough ON’s alt.folk duo Mayhemingways have a new album out, “Skip Land”, the follow up to 2015’s very well received “Hunter St Blues”. Mayhemingways feature Benj Rowland on lead vocals and banjo, mandolin, accordion, and acoustic guitar while band mate Josh Fewings adds drums and harmony vocals.
Recording again with Steve Loree (who helmed Hunter St Blues), the new album starts up with some fuzzy highway radio-dial switching noise, leading into the title track “Skip Land”, named after the way that CB radio signals skip around the earth allowing people from far away places to communicate with each other. On this episode we play the zydeco influenced “Better Of You”. The new album is definitely a grower.
Toronto based vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sugar Brown has a new album out, “It’s A Blues World”, the follow up to the critically acclaimed “Poor Lazarus” from 2015. A blues artist of Japanese and Korean extraction, Sugar grew up in Bowling Green OH, before moving to Chicago to pursue his academic studies. After completing a Ph.D. in history at New York University, he surely must be one of the coolest profs on staff at the University of Toronto.
All of the songs on the new album are original though he is very happy to acknowledge his influences as his songs explore the blues.
“I try to have a diversity of songs with different feelings, different beats, different worlds. Each song here is a blues world. They go from country to urban, from the ’30s to ’70s, but they are little worlds within the blues. My last name, Kawashima, means river-island in Japanese. You can think of each song as an island in a river. You can flow down the river, stopping and listening to one, then moving onto the next.”
It’s A Blues World was recorded in analog at Toronto studio Marquee Sound, with engineer Braden Sauder.
“We recorded on two tracks, to quarter inch tape. I brought in one piece of recording gear, a 1936 Collins mike pre-amp, and plugged in my vocal microphone through that. By using the technologies of older recording, I want to give the listener a different sonic listening experience than what we’ve come to blindly accept in digital recording. That is part of the experience of a Sugar Brown album.”
Joining Sugar Brown on the album are Michelle Josef (drums), Russ Boswell (bass), Nichol Robertson (guitar), Julian Fauth (piano), and Julia Narveson (horns and fiddle) with a special appearance from US guitar ace Rockin’ Johnny Burgin, a close comrade of Sugar Brown on the Chicago scene in the ’90s.
“Johnny was largely responsible for getting me to play blues guitar. In college, I was in his band, Rockin’ Johnny and The Headhunters, and he helped me get into Taildragger’s band, the La-Z Boys, where I blowed harp. Having Johnny on the new record helped make my connection to the West Side of Chicago blues explicit. As a seasoned recording artist, he was also very helpful in the studio in keeping the process going.”
Ben Miller & Anita MacDonald are renowned for their synergistic, pipe and fiddle driven style of Gaelic dance-music, that blends together the musical traditions of Cape Breton and the Scottish Highlands. As well as performing as a duo, Ben and Anita tour also tour as a trio with Acadian multi-instrumentalist, from Prince Edward Island on acoustic guitar. There latest album as the trio Miller – Macdonald – Cormier, is entitled “South Haven”” (2018, Self).
“The Forgotten” is a new recording from Chicago based singer-songwriter Joe Jencks which features 14 previously unreleased songs from American folk master Si Kahn.
“The songs on the album tells stories of people who gave their all to bring new ideas of equality, justice and freedom into our consciousness while celebrating those who still work for a just world in the face of racial inequity and mass violence. It speaks of courage, struggle, loss, and joyful triumph.”
“Several years ago, Si Kahn and I were sitting in a hotel room at the Folk Alliance International conference. We were having a lengthy conversation about life, music, activism, and the role of art and artists in working for positive change in any society. Si mentioned that he had some 70+ songs that he had written but never recorded. And he asked if I would be interested in hearing any of them, and maybe recording a few as part of my own efforts to affect more good in the world. I agreed to listen, and in the coming months several CDRs arrived in the mail with track listings. Just Si and his guitar, singing me songs. In those “demo-tapes” I found The Forgotten.”
The Forgotten was produced in Toronto with Ken Whiteley and featuring some great Canadian musicians. Joining Joe on the album are Cindy Church (Vocals), Gary Craig (Percussion), Andrew Downing (Cello), Frank Evans (Banjo), Amoy & Ciceal Levy (Vocals), John Showman (Violin), Ben Whiteley (Upright Bass), and Ken Whiteley (Mandolin, Piano, Hammond Organ, Vibraphone, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Accordion, Vocals).
We wrapped the hour with the “Dreamin’”, the new single from Graham Parker. Long time listeners to this show will know that I’m a big fan of his music, and have been since the days of his first album “Howling Wind” from 1976, with his former band The Rumour. Well, his new solo single popped up in an episode of the highly enjoyable Judd Apatow Netflix comedy Love. A new solo album is due later this year. Graham Parker’s on my bucket list of people I must one day interview, though I’m likely to be gushing too much, to get any sensible questions out.
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, 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)
The Hundred House
Only A Flight Away (2018, RGL)
Birds of Chicago
Love in Wartime (2018, Signature Sounds)
Better Of You
Skip Land (2018, Self) CDN
It’s A Blues World (2018, Self) CDN
Miller – Macdonald – Cormier
Angus Mackinnon (6-8 March)
South Haven (2018, Self) CDN
Dig A Hole
Doris Folkens (2018, Self) CDN
Interview: Doris Folkens discussing her self-titled debut album.
Lonesome In The Grave No More
Doris Folkens (2018, Self) CDN
Right Side Of The Tracks
Doris Folkens (2018, Self) CDN
The Ice Queen
The Ice Queen (2018, Stony Plain Records) CDN
Come See About Me
Voices (2018, Appleseed)
Still I Believe
Wondrous Beauty (2017, Self) CDN
Who Will Speak For Me
The Forgotten: Recovered Treasures From The Pen Of Si Kahn (2018, Turtle Bear Music)
(single) (2018, 100% Records)
The Hundred House (Reprise)
Only a Flight Away (2018, Self)