St John’s NL singer-songwriter Peter Willie Youngtree specializes in gritty thought-provoking country songs that he delivers with a wonderful world weary old time country voice that feels like it comes from another place and time. Peter Willie joins us on Episode 392 of Folk Roots Radio to chat about his forthcoming album “Musical Chairs” with his band The Blooms, the follow up to his critically acclaimed 2015 album “Country Hymns”. Peter Willie also plays three new songs live for us. It’s a great interview – definitely worth sticking around for. We also have new music from Jon Brooks, Jory Nash, Kellie Loder, The Jeremiahs, Tim O’Brien, Andrew Collins Trio, Annie Lou, Ian Reid, David Stone and David Davis & the Warrior River Boys. Check out the full playlist below.
Peter Willie Youngtree sat down with Folk Roots Radio in the mobile studio at the 2017 Folk Music Ontario conference. At the time of the interview, the upcoming album was expected to be released under the title “Ten Million Ways to Decay”. Well, as often happens in the gestation of a new recording, things change, and the new album will now be released as “Musical Chairs” under the name Youngtree & The Blooms to reflect the full band’s contribution to this new recording. Musical Chairs, which is being produced by award-winning producer and songwriter Chris Kirby, is now expected this fall.
About Musical Chairs
In 1990, Raymond “Ray” Wakeham, uncle of Peter Willie Youngtree, penned a song entitled “Musical Chairs” that used the children’s game of Musical Chairs as a metaphor for life and death. Ray Wakeham actually never performed the song for his nephew, but did give him his notebook with the lyrics inside. While the notebook was sitting on Youngtree’s desk in April 2015, Ray fell over while drinking coffee in the Placentia Bay morning sun, dying of a heart attack on his kitchen floor.
The debut album of Youngtree and The Blooms, Musical Chairs, explores the theme of mortality through both the personal and the universal. With equal parts gravity and humour, it explores mysticism, macabre, and the divine, at times treating death light-heartedly and at times seeking to expound the importance of living meaningfully before we die. For example, Youngtree writes about losing one of his caregivers as a toddler and its effect on his life choices in the anthemic “Why Didn’t You?” while he rapidly enumerates the many ways to die, with tongue in cheek, in the upbeat “Ten Million Ways to Decay.”
The title track, “Musical Chairs” was re-written and set to music by Youngtree after his uncle Ray passed away as a tribute to its original penman and to acceptance of fate. The album cover (designed by Pepa Chan) shows a toddler-aged Youngtree surrounded by images of his dead relatives in a cornfield, with empty chairs nearby. In many ways, this album is a document of Youngtree’s journey to understand mortality since he was a child.
To learn more about the music of Peter Willie Youngtree, visit him online at pwyoungtree.com.
Notes about some of the new music on our radar that made it into Episode 392 of Folk Roots Radio.
It makes me very excited to say this – one of Canada’s best songwriters Jon Brooks has a new album out. His last recording, an album of murder ballads, “The Smiling & Beautiful Countryside” was our favourite album of 2015. Jon Brooks has been nominated for ‘English Songwriter of the Year’ a record four times (2007/2009/2012/2015) and in 2010, he won the prestigious Kerrville (Texas) Folk Festival New Folk Award.
Well, his sixth album is another great one. “No One Travels Alone” (2018, Borealis Records) was produced in Hamilton with Alec Fraser and also features John Showman on violin, Neil Cruikshank on guitar and vocals, Alec Fraser on bass and vocals, and Ed Hanley on tablas.
The album uses the form of the corona, borrowed from the Elizabethan sonnets. The corona is used to address a sequence of sonnets to a single person or a group of sonnets with a single theme. In the corona, the last line of one sonnet becomes the first line of the next sonnet, until the last line of the final sonnet completes the cycle by becoming the first line of the first sonnet. Jon Brooks has used the corona to link all the songs on the album together on an album of interconnected songs, and as it’s title suggests, “No One Travels Alone”.
Want to know why you should take a listen to this album? Well, check out what Jon Brooks says about the project (via Borealis Records).
No One Travels Alone is as playful as it is ponderous of the animals, the gods, and the stars; it’s an album that asks, rather than answers. It asks us:
1. Is the internet a window unto others or a mirror into ourselves?
2. Is data solely binary? Is there not such a thing as emotional data? And if so, to what good end may we mine, collect, and teach emotional data?
3. To whom may we appeal for the reestablishment of the truth?
4. Is there a value in surprise? In wonder? In sadness? In unknowing?
5. Could it be that kindness and imperfect love are all life’s meaning?
6. What if life is not the end but merely the means by which the greater forces of beauty, love, and suffering flow?
7. As colliding atoms of stardust in the universe, is our point of view ecocentric or anthropocentric?
8. Is the linear ballad still relevant in the digital age of Wikipedia? Is the 21st century songwriter not free to collect and redistribute the aforementioned emotional data of the human beast?
9. When will the human beast learn: the answer is not, nor ever has been, ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The answer has always been and always will be: ‘yes and no.’ When will we allow ourselves to hold more than one thought in our heads simultaneously? When will we concede our absolute faith in Reason alone has led us astray from ourselves. When will we reacquaint ourselves with ambiguity?
10. And do any of us travel alone? Is that even possible?
The musicianship on “No One Travels Alone” is wonderful, the production is fantastic and the playful lyrical shapes are outstanding. It’s truly a great album. It surely will be up there again at award time. An interview should be coming.
Rockwood Ontario singer-songwriter Ian Reid has released a new album “Tiger Tracks”. Produced in Guelph with James Gordon who also produced his excellent “Tiger School” album from 2008, the new recording features some new songs and old favourites given a slightly different musical arrangement. On this episode we play “Monsoon” which appeared on Tiger School but now comes with a beautiful piano accompaniment from Becky Rothwell.
Southern Ontario singer-songwriter David Stone has released a new E.P. called “Alright”.
“I’ve been releasing music, and performing as a solo artist since about 2011. My wife and I got married in 2017, and her Dad asked me to write, and perform a song for their father-daughter dance. The result was “Hours”, a song I was able to record at Red Room Recordings in Thornbury, ON with the help of producer Josh Maitland. All other songs on “Alright”, my latest E.P. were recorded and mixed in my home in Victoria Harbour, Ontario. Along with opening for The Trews and Chilliwack in the summer of 2018, I’ve been fortunate enough to be busier than ever performing, reaching new audiences and continuing to pursue my dream.”
From the E.P., we play the track “The Wasp” on this episode.
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)
No One Travels Alone (2018, Borealis Records) CDN
Wilderness Years (2018, Thin Man Records) CDN
Molded Like A Monster
Benefit Of The Doubt (2017, Self) CDN
The Femme Fatale Of Maine (2017, Self)
Peter Willie Youngtree
Musical Chairs (Live)
Interview: Peter Willie Youngtree recorded live at the 2017 Folk Music Ontario conference.
Peter Willie Youngtree
Ten Million Ways to Decay (Live)
Peter Willie Youngtree
Dirt Party (Live)
End Zone (2018, Self) CDN
Andrew Collins Trio
Tongue (2018, Self) CDN
Poor Ellen Smith
Epilogue – A Tribute To John Duffey (2018, Smithsonian Folkways)
More Tiger Tracks (2018, Self) CDN
Alright EP (2018, Self) CDN
David Davis & the Warrior River Boys
Didn’t He Ramble: Songs Of Charlie Poole (2018, Rounder Records)