We’re all about the music on Episode 526 of Folk Roots Radio as we hold back the interviews to bring you another hour of great new music. We still can’t get over how much wonderful music is being produced at the moment – much of it while in lockdown. We may be in the midst of some really strange times during the Covid-19 pandemic, but artistic creativity continues to flourish. We’re subtitling this one the Get Together Safely edition, as things are slowly starting to open up again in Canada. Join us for new music from Grace Potter, Ultan Conlon, Glen MacNeil, Gathering Time, ConChie, Steel Rail, Dan Penn, The Strange Valentines, Joe Nolan, Dione Taylor, Sultans Of String, The War and Treaty, Avi Kaplan and The Long War. Check out the full playlist below.
Acclaimed songwriter and performer Grace Potter has released an affecting and timely new song called, “Eachother”. Written during the early days of the lockdown, the poignant ballad features vocals from Jackson Browne, Marcus King, and Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius.
“The chorus just kind of exploded out of my heart all at once. It was about five days into the quarantine, and I had just gotten off the phone with a friend who was having a really tough time with the isolation. The onset of COVID-19 was a shock to humanity’s system and has brought on so many reality checks. We may not all be affected in the same ways, but we are all going through this pandemic together as a human race. It is incredibly humbling. It’s invited me to really take account of the things that matter most, which aren’t things at all…they’re people.”
Irish singer-songwriter Ultan Conlon found a haven for his unique sound in Los Angeles, with Nickel Creek’s Grammy award-winning Sean Watkins in the producer’s chair to record his fourth album, “There’s A Waltz”.
“When I met the musicians that Sean brought on board to record my songs and we played the first few bars, I knew this record was gonna make itself, under the influence of Sean navigating us all ever so gently.”
The song we play on this episode “World From A Window” started out when Ultan caught sight of his cat ‘Kitty’ staring out of the window all day.
“I was feeling so sorry for her limited life, looking out at birds and cars, and then I noticed myself, stuck on Twitter and Instagram, scrolling at mind-numbing crap. The song expanded from that moment into a realization that so many of us are not immune to spending so much of our lives on the windows of one’s computers or cell phones.”
So being inside, looking outside at the world… it’s not intentionally a Covid song, but definitely fits.
We mentioned on a previous episode that Tecumseh ON based Glen MacNeil has released a new self-titled EP – his first new release in a while. It’s great to have him back. On this episode we play the excellent “Car Window”.
Long Island’s Gathering Time have released “Get Together” (their version of the Chet Powers classic), and the first single from “Old Friends”, their forthcoming album of covers of memorable 60s and 7os songs.
“Get Together has a timeless refrain and an essential message for today: ‘Everybody get together, try and love one another right now’ – a simple plea to a divided nation, that what unites us is greater than what divides us, that what we have in common is greater than our differences, and that our better angels are stronger than our worst demons – all in Gathering Time’s signature 3-part harmony.”
ConChie is a singer-songwriter from the north east of England. On this episode we play the beautiful instrumental “Peter’s Fields” from his debut album “Northumbria”, which was written in response to leaving an eight-year abusive relationship, during which he was not allowed to play or write music.
“Northumbria is an eight-song work of interrelated themes and layers, that explores the ways people, places, past histories and previous identities come together in our lives to form present realities and future stories. It draws from personal experiences, the relationship of the author and his family to Northumbria and the interrelation of their histories with that of the UK’s most evocative, wild and storied region. Reclaiming family, home and love, Northumbria reinvests each as central to our capacity to endure and our ability as humans to survive and rebuild ourselves. It is fiercely joyous redemptive music.”
Todd Gorr, Ellen Shizgal and Dave Clarke make music together as Montreal folk grass trio Steel Rail. On this episode we play “When Are You Coming Home”, the sort of title track from their new album “Coming Home”, which celebrates a musical friendship that, according to the band, has survived a cross country separation, and serious illness, as well as, of course – the pandemic-interrupted recording and release process.
Dan Penn is the writer of hits like “Do Right Woman”, “Dark End of The Street”, and “I’m Your Puppet”. Now close to 80, it’s great to see him back with “Living On Mercy”, the title track of a new album, and the first new material since 1994’s “Do Right Man”.
The Strange Valentines describe their music as a unique blend of Canadiana contemporary folk featuring an Australian rocker, David Farrell, and a Nova Scotia folkie, Janet Mills. On this episode we play “Disconnected” from their live off the floor acoustic set “Forks”.
Edmonton AB’s roots rocker Joe Nolan has released a predominantly acoustic collection “Drifters” featuring ten songs he describes as being about longing, wanderlust and lost love. On this episode we play “Maybe We Didn’t Get Our Timing Right”.
“I wanted to keep the album as stripped down as possible. We recorded most of it to my Tascam 2-track reel-to-reel in an attempt to make something that resembled the sounds of my favourite records from the ’70s with that real warm tape sound and vibe. I also have always wanted to collaborate with guitarist Kevin Breit and he graciously added some beautiful touches to this album.”
Dione Taylor has just released “How Many Times”, the first single from her upcoming album “Spirits In The Water” and a powerful song dedicated to all who continue to protest peacefully for equal rights and justice.
Sultans Of String latest album “Refuge” celebrates the contributions of newcomers to the arts in North America. On this episode we play “I’m Free” which features vocals from Sudanese Canadian multi-instrumentalist and composer, Waleed Abdulhamid.
Sultans of String have created a great video to accompany the new single, for which they asked friends and supporters from all over the world to hold up signs saying what they missed most during the lockdown and what they REALLY wanted to do once the restrictions are lifted. It’s definitely worth checking out.
“There were two songs that I remember singing in church that inspired this song: both “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and “Make Us One, Lord. I feel that in this day and age, we all need to be reminded of the power of oneness and togetherness – the power of all of the people in this world coming together and uniting under one umbrella – and that umbrella is the human race.”
Avi Kaplan has recorded a really nice version of the late great Bill Withers “Lean On Me”. Proceeds from this song go to support the Equal Justice Initiative which works to end racial inequality in all aspects of the US criminal justice system.
“’Lean On Me’ is one of my favorite songs, written by one of my favorite artists of all time, the incomparable Bill Withers. I arranged it for my most recent tour in hopes of inspiring the people who heard me sing it to look beyond their political or religious beliefs, color of skin, social class, and anything that could possibly divide us as a human race and come together. To lean on each other in troubling times.”
The Long War from Vancouver, were the winners of the CBC Searchlight contest in 2017. Their latest single “Endless Summer” comes from their forthcoming album “Under A Heavy Sky”.
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.
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, Spotify, 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)
Eachother (feat. Jackson Browne, Marcus King, Lucius)
(single) (2020, Fantasy Records)
World From A Window
There’s a Waltz (2020, DarkSideOut Records)
Glen MacNeil E.P. (2020, Self) CDN
(single) (2020, Treble G Records)
Northumbria (2020, Self)
When Are You Coming Home
Coming Home (2020, Crossties Music) CDN
Living On Mercy
(single) (2020, Last Music Co.)
The Strange Valentines
Forks (2020, Self) CDN
Maybe We Didn’t Get Our Timing Right
Drifters (2020, Fallen Tree Records) CDN
How Many Times
Spirits In The Water (2020, Matay Records) CDN
Sultans Of String
I’m Free (feat. Waleed Abdulhamid)
Refuge (2020, Self) CDN
The War and Treaty
We Are One
(single) (2020, Rounder Records)
Lean On Me
Lean On Me (2020, Fantasy Records)
The Long War
Under A Heavy Sky (2020, Self) CDN