We’re all about the music on Episode 572 of Folk Roots Radio, as we hold back the interviews to bring you another Covid times edition of the show with some excellent Covid Tunes and social justice songs thrown into the mix. Join us for new releases from Moira Smiley and VOCO, Crys Matthews, Ellen Bukstel, Tim Grimm, Lizzy Plotkin & Natalie Spears, Dan Hill, Eliot Bronson, Tara MacLean (with Tim Chaisson, Hubert Francis, Gilbert Sark and Dennis Ellsworth), Paul Weber, Big Little Lions, Cootes Paradise, Forest Sun, Calico and Dan Cimaglio. Check out the full playlist below.
Moira Smiley (who has worked with Tune-Yards, Irish folk super group Solas, and Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project) has released a great new a cappella album “In Our Voices”. On this project she is joined by VOCO who feature Canadians Dawn Pemberton and Karla Mundy alongside Long Beach-based creators, Gregory Fletcher and Jake Asaro on twelve songs that utilize predominantly voice and body percussion to share a powerful anti-racist message. On this episode we play their anti-racist anthem “Sing About It”.
“As a white folk singer in North America, I feel the breadth of my privilege and my discomfort as I navigate dangerous information silos and seek to act responsibly. As a singer who inspires others to sing, I hold tight to our ability to listen, to fight ‘othering’ and to hold humility at the center when we use our voices.”
“Changemakers” is the new album from Washington DC based singer-songwriter and social activist Crys Matthews – a recording she describes as hope-fueled and love-filled. On this episode we play the first single, her tribute to US congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis who sadly passed away last year.
“I believe in hope. As a social-justice songwriter, it is my duty to keep breathing that hope and encouragement into the people who listen to my music. When John Lewis passed away, I wanted to write a song to honour his memory and his legacy. He is the epitome of a Changemaker to me.”
Ellen Bukstel‘s great new single “Strangers In This Land” was inspired by her grandparents who came to the US from Poland and Prussia.
“I came across my grandparents naturalization papers and that inspired me to write this song – it kinda wrote itself. I also have a friend who left Mexico and to this day has not seen is wife and children for about 10 years because he cannot come and go freely to visit his family in Mexico.”
Tim Grimm honours the memories of three great songwriters, Michael Smith, Eric Taylor and David Olney, on the beautiful “Dreaming Of King Lear”, which comes from Tim’s latest album “Gone” – which reflects on loss from both a personal and community point of view. The title of this song actually comes from David Olney’s fascination with both Shakespeare and King Lear.
This episode’s instrumental featured the fiddle and banjo duo Lizzy Plotkin & Natalie Spears from Colorado with “Through The Window” from their latest “Just Over The Ridge”.
Fresh from being inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame, Dan Hill has released “On The Other Side Of Here”, his first full-length album in 11 years. On this episode we play the title track, a heartfelt reflection on life in lockdown during Covid times.
We’ve talked a lot about how musicians have been severely impacted by the on-going coronavirus pandemic on Folk Roots Radio. No live shows means no real income. Music venues are also suffering. That’s why we wholeheartedly support the Canadian Live Music Association #ForTheLoveOfLIVE awareness campaign.
The campaign aims to bring attention to the damage COVID-19 shutdowns have caused Canada’s live music industry – the artists, festivals, venues, promoters, clubs, concert halls, arenas, talent agencies, unions, and many others working in the supply chain that connect Canadians with extraordinary live music experiences. Join us in helping to spread the word of support for Canada’s Live Music Industry, using your own social networks and the hashtag #fortheloveoflive to raise awareness about how the live music scene is being impacted by the ongoing pandemic – share your memories, stories, photos, tag your favourite venues and festivals, tag local media, etc.
Toronto singer-songwriter Isabel Fryszberg’s new single “End of An Era” focuses on this specific issue.
“I wrote End Of An Era with Rebecca Campbell and Asher Ettinger a couple of years ago, as high rents began to force independent music venues and mom and pop stores to close. Little did they know the prescience of this song in the current context, as many music venues and stores shut down due to COVID-19, and we all wonder if, when, and how we will ever return to performing and hearing live music again.”
“As lockdown and quarantine measures endure, and we are faced with what feels like endless social isolation, we are forced to adapt our roles and change our occupations. In this moment of great uncertainty, the arts are helping us find new ways to connect, and address existential questions in meaningful ways. Art flourishes when its creators are tasked to forge new paths for well-being. Let End Of An Era play a part in our collective healing process, as it brings joy while shedding light on a serious issue.”
Atlanta based singer-songwriter Eliot Bronson‘s new single “Even This Is Going To Pass” is very much a pandemic inspired song, and one offering comfort during these challenging times.
“I knew right away this song was different and special. I recorded it immediately on my iphone to share it with a couple close friends. My longtime bandmate and producer, Will Robertson, set up a makeshift studio in his foyer for a socially distanced session. I played the song four or five times, vocal and guitar together. We picked the best take and went with it. Through another good friend, the song ended up in Grammy Award winner Lori Mckenna’s ears. She offered to sing harmony on the track. Songwriter Natalia Zukerman added a lap steel part and Will Robertson layed down a beautiful bowed bass. It all came together very quickly as the new normal of pandemic life was just starting to sink in.”
Prince Edward Island’s Tara MacLean has re-released “Beneath The Path Of Crows” from her 2019 album “Deeper” to support the reconciliation event “The Ice Walk” (which took place on March 15 2021). The Ice Walk aims to bring awareness and understanding to the history and realities of the Mi’kmaq on Prince Edward Island, and, in particular, the great risk and tragic loss of life that can occur as a result of having to cross the ice for basic needs – something that still impacts indigenous communities across the country where ice roads are still active.
Very much a Prince Edward Island creation Beneath The Path Of Crows was written by three indigenous (Gilbert Sark, Hubert Francis, Senator Brian Francis) and three non-indigenous writers (Daniel Howlett, Dennis Ellsworth, Tara MacLean) as a reconciliation piece at the request of the Mi’kmaq communities on PEI. It features vocals from Tara MacLean (with Tim Chiasson), chanting and drums from Hubert Francis and Gilbert Sark, Mi’kmaq spoken word from Hubert Francis and guitar from Dennis Ellsworth. Proceeds from the sale of the single support indigenous youth empowerment initiatives.
Paul Weber‘s latest album “Ode To Gerry Barber” pays tribute to the Ottawa area, sharing stories from the past and present. On this episode we play the tongue in cheek “Ottawa Lament”.
Big Little Lions‘ Helen Austin and Paul Otten are continuing to release some great singles. On this episode we play “Turn It Off” which is all about the down side of social media. It’s a song that really resonates with me, as I’ve just taken yet another pandemic social media break to attend to my mental health. Social media is a great thing… but it can be over stimulating, at least for people like me.
Blues band Cootes Paradise from Dundas ON have released a fun new single they describe as a song ‘for kids of all ages’. Little Evie is actually based on Evie, a real life seven year old girl who is the great-niece of Cootes Paradise bass player Ian Taylor and his wife Josephine (who co-wrote the lyrics of the song). Evie is a big fan of the band and fell in love with their 2017 self-titled album, singing and dancing to it over and over again.
We’ve played a Bay area singer-songwriter Forest Sun a lot in Folk Roots Radio. Forest continues to put out some great singles. “A Million” is the first release since the very well-received album “Stubborn Breathing Heart” from 2020.
Calico are a nostalgic folk/Americana band from Vancouver. Their song “Hold Your Head Up” is all about perseverance. It was actually the first song that vocalist/songwriter Tony Cecchetti ever wrote. Calico are planning to release their debut album later this year.
“I wrote Hold Your Head Up about perseverance, overcoming adversity, and facing hardships and challenges head on. I hope it brings hope to those in need of a brighter day.”
We wrapped the episode with singer-songwriter Dan Cimaglio who has returned to his Chicago roots after a long time away. The laid back “’til The Morning Light” comes from “Let The Light Shine”, his new album of songs about love, loss, hope and family.
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.
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)
Moira Smiley and VOCO
Sing About It
In Our Voices (2021, Self)
Call Them In
Changemakers (2021, Self)
Strangers In This Land
(single) (2021, Polyrhythm Publishing)
Dreaming Of King Lear
Gone (2021, Vault Records)
Lizzy Plotkin & Natalie Spears
Through The Window
Just Over The Ridge (2021, Self)
On The Other Side Of Here
On The Other Side Of Here (2021, Sun & Sky Records) CDN
End of An Era
(Single) (2021, Self) CDN
Even This Is Going To Pass
(single) (2021, New Pain)
Tara MacLean (with Tim Chaisson, Hubert Francis, Gilbert Sark and Dennis Ellsworth)
Beneath The Path Of Crows
Deeper (2019, Self) CDN
Ode To Gerry Barber (2020, Self) CDN
Big Little Lions
Turn It Off
(single) (2020, Self) CDN
(single) (2021, Self) CDN
(single) (2020, Self)
Hold Your Head Up
(Single) (2021, Business Class Records) CDN
’til The Morning Light
Let The Light Shine (2020, Self)