Folk Roots Radio Episode 602: Donna Dunlop In Conversation – Backlight

Folk Roots Radio Episode 602: Donna Dunlop In Conversation - Backlight

Toronto based singer-songwriter and poet Donna Dunlop joins us on Episode 602 of Folk Roots Radio to chat about her career in music, and latest album “Backlight” which features songs that were originally recorded in 2000-2001, but revisited this past year with support and instrumentation from producer/engineer and guitarist Steve Sherman. Although Donna is no longer active as a live performer, she has a great music catalogue and lots of interesting stories to share. So, settle down and enjoy Donna Dunlop… in Conversation on Folk Roots Radio.

Best 2020


Donna Dunlop appeared on the CBC’s Tommy Hunter Show in 1987 to sing the first song we play in this interview, “Louisiana Sky”, one of her early singles and the title track from her 1985 album. You can check out a great video of Donna’s performance on the Tommy Hunter Show below. The video really captures the energy of the performers – a consistent feature of a great TV show. Happy Days indeed!

To get a great feel for Donna Dunlop’s music in the early days of her career we strongly recommend you check out her radio interview with fellow Canadian musician David Essig on the CBC’s Six Days on the Road (CBC Radio, April 27, 1985), which was produced by Bill Garrett. A snapshot from a moment in time, it’s a great conversation and includes some wonderful songs. It’s definitely worth a listen to learn more about Donna’s early career.

The Donna Dunlop Discography – In Her Own Words

Louisiana Sky (1985)
“Louisiana Sky was my first album, and it is composed of a series of 45 rpm vinyl singles that I released during the 1980s on the Northern Dancer Music label. My middle name is Louise. I felt that gave me a special licence to sing of Louisiana. The title song led to my performance on CBC TV’s Tommy Hunter Show in 1987. Bill Garrett and the late Ron Dann produced all of the songs on Louisiana Sky. The late Graham Townsend (“Greyhound”) played the fiddle. Rick Whitelaw played guitar. All wonderful musicians for whom I was/am grateful. Bill Garrett was a producer at CBC. He produced a radio show called “Six Days on the Road” on which I was interviewed and performed for the first time with a band. That’s how I connected with these outstanding musicians!”

Blue Highway (1992)
“Blue Highway was released on cassette in 1992 and received good reviews. Sony Music gave it the nod and me a phone call, calling it ‘Country Art’. It also resulted in an invitation to perform in Nashville at the famous Bluebird Café, a paradise for singer-songwriters. The album was recorded at the Grant Avenue Studio in Hamilton by Bob Doidge. Grant Avenue Studio had been brought into existence by producer/singer-songwriter Daniel Lanois, who happened to stop by during one of my recording sessions. Blue Highway was produced by Mike Holder (pedal steel player), Bob Doidge (engineer and cellist), and myself, with much appreciated creative assistance from everyone involved.”

She Used to Be a Dancer (1994)
“She Used to Be a Dancer was released on both CD and cassette in 1994. It is a departure from Blue Highway, although the country influence remains. I wrote these songs at the same time that I was writing my first novel, What She Can Remember. The title song charted nationally on CBC radio, and Toronto’s Sam the Record Man distributed the album in its stores across Canada. I also performed several of these songs on a 30-minute edition of “Listen Up,” a television program produced by Global TV and available on this site. Tony Quarrington backed me up on guitar and dobro.”

Spirit of the Crossroads (2001)
“Spirit of the Crossroads was released on CD in 2001. I began singing my own harmony vocals, something I hadn’t done before. Another departure. It was recorded at Steve Sherman’s studio in Scarborough, Ontario.”

Backlight (2021)
“There are 10 songs on the new CD Backlight, which were written and recorded in 2000-2001 and then revisited in 2020-2021 with instrumentation and mixing and mastering by talented musician/engineer Steve Sherman. I call these new songs and that’s what they are. My first release since Spirit of the Crossroads and, as usual, it moves in a new direction. In addition to playing my vintage (Martin D-18) guitar, I perform tunes written on the piano. I taught myself how to play on a baby grand that a generous neighbour gave me access to in her absence. I soon invested in my own keyboard. Backlight has an intimate and elemental feel to it. I hope something in it speaks to you.”

“One or possibly two more albums from the 2000-2001 period may appear in the next year or so”. Stay tuned!

For more information on the music and literature of Donna Dunlop, visit


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)

Donna Dunlop
Louisiana Sky
Louisiana Sky (1985, Northern Dancer Music) CDN

Interview: Donna Dunlop discussing her career in music and literature.

Donna Dunlop
Blue Moon In My Bones
Blue Highway (1992, Self) CDN

Donna Dunlop
She Used To Be A Dancer (1994, Northern Dancer Music) CDN

Donna Dunlop
Backlight (2021, Self) CDN

Donna Dunlop
Love Is Working For You
Backlight (2021, Self) CDN

Donna Dunlop
Wondrous Boy
(single) (2021, Self) CDN

Donna Dunlop
Something In The Air
Spirit Of The Crossroads (2001, Northern Dancer Music) 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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