Folk Roots Radio Episode 590: We’re All About The Music! (Keep On Smilin’ Edition)

Folk Roots Radio Episode 590: We're All About The Music! (Keep On Smilin' Edition)

We’re holding back the interviews on Episode 590 of Folk Roots Radio as we bring you more of the latest new releases. There is loads of great new music out there at the moment, as artists make good use of their time off the road during Covid times. This time around we hear from Suzie Ungerleider (formerly Oh Susanna), Donna Dunlop, The Fretless, Carly Thomas, Chris Murphy, The Small Glories & Darling West, Murray McLauchlan, Ray Cooper, Fresh Breath, The Wildwood Family, AV (Ann Vriend), Alicia Toner, Joe Nolan, Bruce T. Carroll and Steve Marriner. As always, if you like what you hear on this show and want to support the artists – don’t just stream their music, BUY their music and you’ll really make a difference to their income during this difficult time, when it’s hard to find live shows. Check out the full playlist below.

Best 2020

Show Notes

We started off the episode with “Sweet Little Sparrow”, the latest single from Suzie Ungerleider. If the name doesn’t yet ring a bell, that’s the wonderful singer-songwriter formerly known as Oh Susanna, but now stepping away from her stage name because of the racist contradictions present in the lyrics of that classic Stephen Foster song. “Sweet Little Sparrow” was written with Bazil Donovan and inspired by his five-year-old daughter Dahlia, who loves to sing in the bath (don’t we all). You’ll be able to find it on Suzie’s upcoming album “My Name Is Suzie Ungerleider”, produced by Jim Bryson, which arrives this fall.

“My friend Bazil Donovan and I wrote this tune inspired by his five-year-old daughter Dahlia. She loves to sing at the top of her voice in the bathtub when she thinks no one is watching. I wrote these lyrics remembering how it is to be a parent to a young child who flies around with so much energy. You are constantly trying to catch up to them, keeping your head in the clouds all day, lost in their magical imaginary world through which they seem to fly 10,000 feet off the ground.”

Toronto based singer-songwriter and poet Donna Dunlop is back making music again after a bit of a hiatus with a beautiful new album “Backlight”. Donna Dunlop performed one of her first singles, “Louisiana Sky”, on the Tommy Hunter show in 1987, and after a few albums, slipped from view. Backlight features songs that were originally written and recorded in 2000-2001, before being revisited – and now are finally out into the world. On this episode we play the title track. We’ll have more on a future episode.

Canadian string quartet The Fretless, who feature Trent Freeman, Karrnnel Sawitsky and Ben Plotnick on fiddle and viola with Eric Wright on cello are getting ready to release a 10-track guest vocalist collaboration album “Open House”. On this episode we play their version of Feist’s “My Moon My Man”, a that song also features a great vocal from Scottish artist Rachel Sermanni.

“Choosing to do a Fretless version of a Feist track was one of the easier decisions on the new record. “My Moon My Man” was a makeout song for me (Ben Plotnick) and my high school girlfriend. I don’t think the rest of the band knows that! I think more than a personal connection or a common theme, the new album required us to really imagine what songs from a wildly diverse list of options would fit our band (and the singers we chose).”

London ON based singer-songwriter Carly Thomas, who has been spending a lot of time on Canada’s west coast of late, has released a great new song that confronts some painful truths, “Stay With Me”. It’s the first single from her upcoming album “Behind The Ficus”, which is due out later this year. An underrated songwriter, we’re definitely looking forward to this new recording.

“”Stay With Me” was a cathartic way of unfolding some tucked away emotions. It’s about fighting through those internal walls we build up along the way. It felt like an honest reflection on how I desperately wanted to be held after a hard night while trying to resist sabotaging a new love with past pain. There’s a huge vulnerability in truly showing who you are to someone over and over, and there’s a weight that comes with it that can be exhausting.”

“The music video for the single was shot in Vancouver. I wanted the video to be a simple, straightforward snapshot of who I am not only as an artist – but as a human being. I wanted to show the scars on my arm which dates back to my adolescence, to acknowledge that struggles with mental health are real and common. Music is what helped me overcome and move forward”.

The instrumental on this episode comes from the EP, “Instramentalz”, a compilation of compositions from Maple Blues Band bassist Gary Kendall. The track we played, “Bluesona Slonite” is a bluesy jazz number featuring Chris Murphy on tenor sax, some fine bass work from Gary Kendall with the late great keyboard player Michael Fonfara (Downchild Blues Band and others) on piano and organ. Michael Fonfara actually contributes piano, organ, songwriting and production skills to three of the four selections on Instrumentalz, which made the EP a way to pay tribute to him while preserving a small piece of his musical legacy.

Winnipeg’s The Small Glories, who feature Cara Luft and JD Edwards have virtually collaborated with Norwegian duo Darling West (that’s Mari and Tor Egil) on a new single, “Bright New World”. It was recorded as part of Folk Music Canada’s International Recording Collaboration which pairs up Canadian artists with international artists from Scandinavia and Australia.

Eleven time Juno winner Murray McLauchlan has released a new album “Hourglass”. Although it was recorded in lockdown, Murray would not call this a pandemic recording. It features a raft of powerful songs that reflect on many of the challenges and injustices affecting the world in these turbulent times – systemic racism, economic disparity and rampant consumerism, and what he calls in one song, the “global greed machine.”. On this episode we play the Covid tune “Pandemic Blues”, a song that Murray wrote to make people feel a little bit better about the on-going emergency.

“Humans have been through things like this many times and eventually there is always an end. I tried to make the compositions on this album simple and accessible, like children’s songs for adults. I’ve never tried that before. I’m pushing 73 now and I still feel I’m getting better at what I do. Every album is a little different journey. You go where the muse leads you.”

Former Oysterband member and multi-instrumentalist Ray Cooper has released a great new single, the very Oysterband-ish “We Need More Heroes”. You can find it on “Land Of Heroes” which was recorded during lockdown in a small log cabin in Sweden, his new home.

“I had to cancel all my touring but this gave me a perfect opportunity to concentrate on writing and recording. I locked myself in my log cabin for the summer, emerging occasionally to swim in the nearby lakes. Lockdown became lock-in, and I achieved a long-standing dream, which was to be free to think and work in the studio with no deadline.”

Cottam ON’s Josh and Katie Pascoe who music together as fun duo Fresh Breath have released a new single “World Gone Crazy”, a song they describe as a protest anthem for the times, and one that we can all relate to right about now, as it that covers everything from the global pandemic to the many social injustices facing our world. You’ll be able to find it on their forthcoming six-song EP, “How Did I Get Here”.

Montreal country-folk five piece, The Wildwood Family, have released their version of “Smile Back At Me”, a song that Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, wrote for her daughter and performed a cappella in 2016 during an event for Martin Luther King Day.

“We thought that the lyrics had an important message to deliver about family. The three female lead singers are all mothers and the song spoke to us in a really meaningful way. Also, we thought it was pretty cool that Canada’s first lady composed a very sexy bluesy song!”

Socially conscious bluesy R&B singer-songwriter Ann Vriend, from Edmonton AB – who now goes by the moniker AV, has released a great new single “Mine, All Mine”. It’s a song about coming to terms with the concept of hoarding wealth and how it has become normalized in our society.

“‘Mine, All Mine’ emphasizes the possessiveness of what’s normalized. We teach our kids to share their toys and be nice to people, but the way we have to operate in the economy and do well – seems to be to do the exact opposite. So much of this doesn’t add up.”

Staying in Alberta, the highly-rated Joe Nolan is getting set to release a new album “Scrapper” – a lockdown recording that Joe describes as about loneliness, underlying sadness and the dark highway, but strengthened through resilience and finding a home wherever you may land. On this episode we play the first single “Solid Gold”.

“I played over 175 shows in 2019, most nights spent sleeping in the back of my trusty 2010 Dodge Caravan. When COVID shut the touring scene down, I picked up the guitar and started to write. I wrote “Solid Gold” on day six of lockdown. I decided that I wasn’t going to let a virus knock out this touring scrapper!.”

Atlantic Canadian singer-songwriter Alicia Toner‘s latest album “Joan” is a very personal project. Alicia called the album “Joan” because that’s the name that only close family really use.

“Calling the album “Joan” was kind of a way of self-titling the project without using my name. People who are really close to me call me that, and these songs are really close to me and allow people to see a side of me that most people don’t get to see. Joan is the beautiful result of an incredibly difficult period for me. This whole project was about a specific moment in time. It feels far in the past. The person that exists today is really strong and happy and confident – and has a wonderful life and family. I feel very lucky to be where I am now.”

The song we play on this episode, “Joke’s On Me”, is all about realizing the need to exit a challenging relationship and seeking the help to make that happen.

Bruce T. Carroll‘s latest single “Nobody Knows” was written while on the road during the last US elections, in the critical battleground states of Pennsylvania and Georgia. It’s a song that reflects upon both the majestic beauty of US, and the absolute fragility of life for many of the less fortunate people making their lives there.

Monkeyjunk’s Steve Marriner is stepping out on his own for a second time on the self-produced “Hope Dies Last” – with strong support from Jimmy Bowskill, Jesse O’Brien, Darcy Yates and Glenn Milchem and guest appearances by Steve Dawson, Roxannne Potion and more. We wrap this episode with “Enough”, Steve’s beautiful duet with powerhouse vocalist Samantha Martin.

“I like to be on the move. To me, standing still feels the same as walking backwards; not only is it a survival mechanism, but it truly is my passion to have my hands in so many different projects – which is why I took on the engineering and production of this album – with some help from Jimmy Bowskill. There’s just so much to learn, and it’s that learning that sustains me as an artist.

“On Hope Dies Last, there are 15 other musicians who have lent their extraordinary talents to the project. There’s lots of rocking on this release, but there are some pretty tender moments as well; it felt good to get low.”

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!

Image Credit: Alexas Fotos from Pixabay.


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)

Suzie Ungerleider (formerly Oh Susanna)
Sweet Little Sparrow
(single) (2021, MVKA) CDN

Donna Dunlop
Backlight (2021, Self) CDN

The Fretless
My Moon My Man
(single) (2021, Birthday Cake) CDN

Carly Thomas
Stay With Me
(single) (2021, Self) CDN

Chris Murphy
Bluesona Slonite
Instramentalz EP (2021, 47 Records) CDN

The Small Glories & Darling West
Bright New World
(single) (2021, Self) CDN

Murray McLauchlan
Pandemic Blues
Hourglass (2021, True North Records) CDN

Ray Cooper
We Need More Heroes
Land Of Heroes (2020, Westpark)

Fresh Breath
World Gone Crazy
(single) (2021, Self) CDN

The Wildwood Family
Smile Back At Me
(single) (2021, Self) CDN

AV (Ann Vriend)
Mine, All Mine
(single) (2021, Self) CDN

Alicia Toner
Joke’s On Me
Joan (2021, Self) CDN

Joe Nolan
Solid Gold
(single) (2021, Fallen Tree Records) CDN

Bruce T. Carroll
Nobody Knows
(single) (2021, Self)

Steve Marriner
Enough (feat. Samantha Martin)
Hope Dies Last (2021, Stony Plain Records) CDN

About the author


Host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan Hall started in Radio in 1993 at WEFT 90.1fm in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Folk Roots Radio (formerly Royal City Rag) debuted on CFRU 93.3fm in August 2005 before developing into a syndicated radio show. As the host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan focuses on bringing new folk, roots and blues music and the voices of upcoming and independent artists to the airwaves. Jan is also a much sought after stage host and festival emcee. In 2019, Jan Hall received Folk Music Ontario's prestigious Estelle Klein Award for her contribution to Ontario's folk music community.

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