We have another hour of great new music to bring you on Episode 516 of Folk Roots Radio. We’ve heard people say that new releases have slowed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That may very well be the case for the major labels, but fantastic independent music just keeps on coming – including many brand spanking new songs recorded in lockdown. Join us for great new music from Big Little Lions, David Berkeley (from Son of Town Hall), Richard Garvey, Cheshire Carr, Project Smok, Michael McDermott, Kim Moberg, Lynn Harrison, John & Sheila Ludgate, SONiA disappear fear, Lynn Jackson, Joshua Wood Orchestra and Eliza Gilkyson alongside a great spoken word piece from poet Bob Jensen. Check out the full playlist below.
Anyone who listens to this show on a regular basis will know that we are big fans of long-distance songwriters Helen Austin and Paul Otten, who write wonderful folk-pop songs together as Big Little Lions – Helen, while living on Vancouver Island and Paul, in Cincinnati. Ever prolific, we announced a new single from the duo just a couple of weeks ago, and this week another new single, “Rise”, arrived (which we play on this episode) with more new music scheduled to arrive this summer as part of a new pandemic inspired project. Releasing several singles before a full album has always been the Big Little Lions way of doing things, though we suspect many more artists will be doing that from now on as they look for ways to maintain their visibility during these strange times when in person shows and touring are not an option.
Big Little Lions have also created a great stop motion video to accompany their new single, to reflect how they are coping with the lockdown. It features an animated version of the band, with the hope that they will be playing live concerts once again in the future.
David Berkeley was living in Madrid with this family when the pandemic hit. He was eventually able to get back home on one of the last flights to the US. Since that time he has been hunkering down with his family near the Rhode Island coast with just a small amount of recording gear and an old Spanish guitar – perfect to compose an intimate Covid themed album, “Oh Quiet World”. On this episode we listen to the reflective lead off track “When the World Sits Still”.
“In a sense, the album plays like a prayer, beginning with the call to “get up in the early light” and ending with the word, “amen.” as part of a Jewish prayer for healing. This time for me has been about what is essential in our lives, what remains after so much on the surface of our lives get erased or put on hold. I think these songs capture that essence, without studio tricks or polish.”
Alongside his solo work, David is also a member of fun transatlantic folk duo Son of Town Hall with Ben Parker from London in the UK.
Canadian poet Bob Jensen has released a new spoken word piece which reflects back to simpler times… before pandemics.
“As people try to process the daily barrage of news around a global pandemic, American politics and natural disasters, many of us find ourselves thinking back to simpler times. In the Long, Long, Long Ago reflects back to my youth, when cares were few and summers long”.
You can find “In The Long Long Long Ago” on Bob’s most recent album “Prayer To Morning”. It also features Natalie Williams Calhoun on cello, with a musical arrangement by UK singer-songwriter Jake Morley.
During the pandemic, Kitchener ON singer-songwriter Richard Garvey has been staying home, and keeping himself busy by writing, recording and performing shows online. His fun new song “Everything That Goes Comes Back” is a light-hearted banjo tune that speaks about growth through vulnerability and taking risks. The song is dedicated to all the people who have stayed far away from loved ones during the pandemic, trusting that “Everything from me to you comes back, a little more every time”.
In the spirit of old 45 rpms, Montreal folk-rock collective Cheshire Carr have released two new songs, which they describe as… a small gift from our heart to your ears to remind us all that we exist and we remain.
“Time Alone” (which we play on this episode) is the sombre ‘A side’ – a song that… explores the anguish and liberation that can be felt in times of solitude as the world we know unravels around us. The other single (the lighter ‘B’ side), “Childsplay”, explores a childlike fantasy of… a world we made up for ourselves, where there is room for us and no one else. The tension between isolating and fleeing becomes even more salient as it is placed in front of the surrealist backdrop that has become our daily lives.
Project Smok is a neo-trad trio featuring Ali Levack (pipes), Ewan Baird (bodhran) and Pablo Lafuente (guitar), who are pushing the boundaries of genre, by blending together new age and trad influences to create a non-conformist and progressive version of Scottish traditional music. Striving to be innovative, they cite as influences, indie pop acts like The 1975, LANY and Bon Iver, alongside the traditional West Coast styles of playing. Their new full-length album “Bayview” was recorded in Edwyn Collins renowned Clashnarrow Studio in Helmsdale on the north east coast of Scotland, using a mix of analogue and vintage equipment.
Chicago based singer-songwriter Michael McDermott may have caught the moment with the lead-off single and title track from his new album “What In The World…”. What in the World, a flat-out Springsteen-esque rocker, is a politically charged anthem for the election year – as Michael spits out lyrics about the “new world order, walls along the border, children in cages, executive order…”
Cape Cod singer-songwriter Kim Moberg has just released a new album “Up Around The Bend”. On this episode we play the song “Right To Bear Arms” which laments the epidemic of gun-related death and senseless violence. As Kim puts it, we need more than thoughts and prayers…
Toronto singer-songwriter Lynn Harrison released a great sixth album earlier this year. Featuring 12 thoughtful and reflective songs about life, love and the power of the human spirit, it’s a beautiful album, and a joy from beginning to end. We had a great in-depth conversation with Lynn recently, which you can find on our website HERE.
The song “Protester” was one of the songs from the album, that didn’t make it into the abbreviated broadcast version of the interview on Episode 498 of Folk Roots Radio. However, after the brutal murder of George Floyd in the US, at the hands of four out of control Minneapolis police officers – just the latest example of African-Americans being targeted with deadly force, it seemed the right time to give this song an airing. Its message is pretty clear. You may not feel like you want to be an activist but the time comes when you have to say, enough is enough. Racism, and discrimination generally, have no place in a civilized society.
John & Sheila Ludgate have released a new single, a song for these days of conflicting and contradictory information overload, the “Daily Dose Of Nightly News”
“These days it’s almost impossible to escape the high volume of conflicting and contradictory information being disseminated. It’s all over the evening news, the news channels and social media and is discussed by almost every talking head, political pundit and late night comedian out there. Maybe it’s time to “turn off the TV” or at least sharpen our questioning skills.”
June is Pride month. SONiA disappear fear has just released a compilation of some of her best loved LGBT songs “Love Out Loud”. On this episode we play the extremely powerful anti-discrimination anthem “Who’s So Scared” – which was inspired by a snippet from an old civil rights poem, and appeared on the 1994 album “Disappear Fear”. Exuberant, contemplative, joyous and frankly outspoken, political as well as personal and always authentic, the songs in this collection have inspired many to embrace their identity and push for equal rights.
Kitchener-Waterloo singer-songwriter Lynn Jackson has just released her 11th album “Lionheart”, a self-produced effort that she describes as… fierce and tender, courageous and vulnerable. We went with the more vulnerable side of her music on this episode as we play her song about a fading relationship, “Used To”.
The Joshua Wood Orchestra from Vancouver have just released a great new song “Surrender” from their forthcoming “Bad Way” EP. This song comes with an absolutely fantastic video shot by Kaio Kathriner during the pandemic using strict social distancing. It’s so engrossing – it’s like a mini movie. It’s really hard not to watch it right to the end.
We wrapped up the hour with Eliza Gilkyson with “Peace in Our Hearts” from her latest album, “2020”, a collection of politically charged anthems designed to motivate, reflect and inspire action during these partisan times. When we reflect on the handling of pandemics and nationwide protests about police brutality and systemic racism towards African Americans, as Eliza says, the forthcoming presidential election… “is the most important US election of our lifetime.”
That’s all we have time for. 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 episodes.
Stay safe and well everyone! We will get through this.
And if you’re in the United States, please get out and exercise your right to vote in November.
Your country, and the world, really need you!
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 Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)
Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)
Big Little Lions
(single) (2020, Self) CDN
When The World Sits Still
Oh Quiet World (2020, Self)
In The Long Long Long Ago
Prayer To Morning (2019, Self) CDN
Everything That Goes Comes Back
(single) (2020, Self) CDN
(single) (2020, Self) CDN
Toria’s (Toria’s 50th)
Bayview (2020, Self)
What In The World…
What In The World… (2020, Pauper Sky Records)
Right To Bear Arms
Up Around The Bend (2019, Self)
Something More (2020, Self) CDN
John & Sheila Ludgate
Daily Dose Of Nightly News
(single) (2020, Self) CDN
SONiA disappear fear
Who’s So Scared (Radio edit)
Love Out Loud (2020, Self)
Lionheart (2020, Busted Flat Records) CDN
Joshua Wood Orchestra
(single) (2020, Self) CDN
Peace In Our Hearts
2020 (2020, Red House Records) CDN