We’re heading into the midst of a Canadian winter in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, so it seems a perfect time to bring you another hour of great new music to warm the heart, and hopefully make these challenging times a little easier to bear. Join us on Episode 564 of Folk Roots Radio for some wonderful new releases with a few topical songs and Covid tunes thrown into the mix. This time around we feature music from Darlingside, Aaron Nathans & Michael G Ronstadt, Big Little Lions, Buffalo Gals Band, Andrea Bettger, Jessie & The Leonards, Colleen Kattau, Mark Dvorak, Cosy Sheridan, War & Pierce, Dan Hill, Tret Fure, Bill Bourne, Peach & Quiet, Maria Dunn and Francine Honey. Enjoy! Check out the full playlist below.
We opened this episode of Folk Roots Radio with Massachusetts based quartet Darlingside and a song for the current times, the beautiful “A Light On In The Dark” from their fourth album “Fish Pond Fish”.
“Shadow Of The Cyclone” is the third release from Aaron Nathans & Michael G Ronstadt and the follow up to the very well-received “Hang For The Ride” from 2017. On this episode, we play the cello powered folk ballad “Come On Sun”.
Folk Roots Radio favourites Helen Austin and Paul Otten, who make music together as long-distance songwriting duo Big Little Lions, are continuing their plan to release a new single a month. A good strategy for Covid Times though we are finding it hard to keep up. Their latest, “Never Mind The Weather”, is another slice of catchy folk-pop. We don’t need to tell you what it’s about.
Rebecca Patek (upright bass, guitar, and banjo) and Melissa Carper (fiddle and dobro) make music together as old school folk/roots duo Buffalo Gals Band. “I’d Just As Soon Stay Home” is all about the joys of a simple life, and comes from their second album “Where The Heart Wants To Go”.
Andrea Bettger from Yellowknife who has a classical as well as folk background describes herself as sometimes a violinist, and sometimes a fiddler. On this episode, we played the wonderfully upbeat instrumental “Crossing The River” from her second album “Bush Chords”. Her first album “Snappy Day” was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award in 2018.
Jessie & The Leonard’s single “Working On The Frontline” was inspired by photographs taken by Hannah Grace Deller about her life as a frontline nurse during the Covid-19 crisis and features a spoken word from Hannah Grace Deller herself. You can find it on Song Club, a collection of songs by award-winning songwriters – including Nick Heyward, Graham Gouldman, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Mark Nevin, and Kathryn Williams – that celebrate frontline workers during these strange times. Proceeds from sales of the song and the album will be donated to the Royal College of Nursing Foundation in the UK.
Colleen Kattau‘s single “The Root” is a pandemic reminder of our relationship to nature: “earth, air, fire, water, keep me safe and sound”.
“The Root” was the first music to come out of me when the pandemic hit, and we were sequestered in place. Many years ago, my friends and I went up to the Women’s Peace Encampment to show solidarity with women who were keeping vigil day and night to protest nuclear warheads being stored at the Seneca Army Depot. When we arrived, there was a large crowd listening to a speaker whom I could not see. What I heard though was a stunning and magnificent voice. All my senses were caught in the moment. I learned, listened and was forever transformed by those words of Audrey Shenandoah, beloved clan mother of the Onondaga Nation. Audrey spoke so lovingly and with such conviction and generosity about the sacred land we walk upon, and about nature’s gift to us all. Since that time so long ago, Audrey’s writings and presence have been a guiding resonant force for me. It was a profound lesson to understand the central difference between indigenous and dominant European cultures, and that is the human relationship to nature. For First Nations, they are not ‘apart’ from Earth, or nature but rather are a part of all creation. The Spanish lyrics are essentially the translation of the English words. They are also a shout out to the work of Texas-based Raíces (Roots), a group working to free immigrant families from the horrors of detention.”
Chicago singer-songwriter Mark Dvorak has created a fun Zoom parody based on the folk classic “Little Boxes” which was written by folk artist and activist Malvina Reynolds in 1962 in response to suburban housing developments cropping up near her home in Berkeley, California. It became a hit for Pete Seeger the following year.
“I was scheduled to perform at a live stream event, when I overheard one of the other performers commenting on the grid of “little boxes” that appeared on the screen saying, “I feel like I ought to play ‘Little Boxes’ tonight. Well, that gave me an idea. I had a few simple verses together in no time, performed it the next night on another live stream show, and began recording it the next day. I had a lot of fun working on it, thinking about Malvina and her songs all the while. Her songs are a study in image and melody, and express a true commitment to humanity and the environment.”
Cosy Sheridan from New Hampshire with her pandemic single “How We Come Apart” comes from her own life, and started out life as a Covid times journal entry.
“I wrote this song in April 2020 in Maynard, Massachusetts during the two-month lockdown. The first verses are pretty much straight out of a journal entry I made one overwhelmed night after I had broken one of my favorite mugs in the kitchen and then spilled my wine on the stairs as I walked up to bed. It’s all real-life events: I threw out my back cleaning out a closet (trying to optimize my time during the lockdown) and I bought a tent so I could go camping over the summer when I felt too claustrophobic in Maynard.
I found it freeing to not try to find (or offer) a solution — just detail how things were coming apart. It’s a song with lyrical tension, and yet because it was written on the ukulele (which is a happy instrument), it has a melodic sense of urgency and maybe even hope: it is instructive to observe how we come apart. Because if you don’t look at it then you don’t know. And knowing how you are coming apart means you might have a sense of how to put yourself back together again.”
“Amen” is the latest single from LA singer-songwriters Sunny War & Chris Pierce (as War & Pierce). Inspired by the continuing injustices facing our society, the song was written in the aftermath of Charlottesville in 2017, when a rally of peaceful protestors against white supremacy was disrupted by a car that drove into the crowd, killing one of the women protesters and injuring others.
The duo (along with Grammy-winning and Emmy nominated producer/composer Jared Faber), began the new song “Amen” with the opening lyrics, “Lost children, filled with hate. Along the path did they lose their way…” The chorus, “I’m gonna keep praying for us and for them….all I’m asking, can I get an Amen”. This powerful anthem is a soulful track that was Pierce sings soulfully and emotionally as he laments those “lost children filled with hate”. The song features Sunny War’s unique and signature acoustic guitar work laid over a modern beat. Chris Pierce brings an intimate and soulful falsetto vocal, reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield but decidedly contemporary. The song ends with a gospel choir taking us for the last ride out.
“What About Black Lives”, Dan Hill‘s powerful latest single pulls no punches. “As a teenager in the ‘60s, the feeling of being an outsider as a member of a bi-racial family, in conservative Toronto. Neighbours were not very kind to the Hill family and made efforts to keep their street very white.”
“Monuments” is singer-songwriter Tret Fure from Newport News Virginia’s take on the divided states of America and a desire for truth in public discourse. You can hear it on her new album “Stone By Stone”
“We live in very dangerous times. Racism is on the rise as is oppression on many fronts. One of the most divisive issues this past year has been the display of Civil War monuments and where they really should live as well as the great need to move beyond our memorializing the Civil War. This song takes a look at how divided we are over this issue and how we should be focused on the ways we are similar, not the ways we are different and the knowledge that we are all sisters and brothers.”
“House Of Love” is another track from Bill Bourne’s wonderful new album “A Love Fandango”. It’s the fourth track we’ve played. We definitely like this one!
Peach & Quiet is a Sunshine Coast singer-songwriter duo featuring partners in music and in life, Heather Read and Jonny Miller who are already developing a name for their warm and uplifting style, poetic lyrics and gorgeous harmonies. On this episode we play “For My Love” from their debut as a duo “Just Beyond The Shine”.
“Declan’s Song (The Good Life)” is a lullaby for a new nephew from Maria Dunn‘s fabulous seventh album “Joyful Banner Blazing”. It features a beautiful horn arrangement by Jeremiah McDade.
Leamington ON singer-songwriter Francine Honey is getting ready to release her fourth studio album “Unfinished Business”. Her latest single “I’m Coming Home” is all about finally making the journey home after being away and missing it for so long. With the power and vulnerability of Honey’s voice, you might think that she wrote it, but it was actually written by her friend Joy Newby while they were on a songwriting retreat in Italy with fellow musician Verlon Thompson.
“Joy knocked on my door about an hour and a half before the concert and asked me if I would sing the song at the concert that night. We rehearsed it once in my room and then played it together as a duet with Verlon joining in. The experience was magical. I decided I had to record it for my own album because of the message of hope that’s wrapped up in it. I hope it will provide comfort to people during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We all need that feeling since this pandemic has created such loneliness for everyone.”
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 lots of great music and interviews to bring you on future episodes.
Stay safe and well everyone. We will get through this.
If you enjoy the music we play on this show and want to support the artists – many of whom aren’t able to play live at the moment because of the Covid-19 pandemic, don’t just stream their music – that earns them much less than a penny per play. Instead, buy their music – and really make a difference to their income. They’ll love you for it!
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)
A Light On In The Dark
Fish Pond Fish (2020, More Doug Records/Thirty Tigers)
Aaron Nathans & Michael G Ronstadt
Come On Sun
Shadow Of The Cyclone (2020, Self)
Big Little Lions
Never Mind The Weather
(single) (2021, Self) CDN
Buffalo Gals Band
I’d Just As Soon Stay Home
Where The Heart Wants To Go (2020, Self)
Crossing The River
Bush Chords (2020, Self) CDN
Jessie & The Leonards
Working On The Frontline (feat. Hannah Grace Deller)
Song Club (2020, Songwriters Garden)
(single) (2020, Windlight Studio)
(single) (2020, Self)
How We Come Apart
(single) (2020, Self)
War & Pierce
(single) (2020, Self)
What About Black Lives
(single) (2020, Sun & Sky Records) CDN
Stone By Stone (2020, Tomboy Girl Records)
House Of Love
A Love Fandango (2020, Self) CDN
Peach & Quiet
For My Love
Just Beyond The Shine (2020, Self) CDN
Declan’s Song (The Good Life)
Joyful Banner Blazing (2021, Self) CDN
I’m Coming Home
(single) (2021, Self) CDN