Edmonton AB’s Joe Nolan is a fabulous songwriter, and an artist who consistently produces excellent albums. He joins us on Episode 605 of Folk Roots Radio for a wonderful in-depth conversation about his latest album “Scrapper”, the follow up to 2020’s “Drifters” which was nominated for Contemporary Album of the Year at that year’s Canadian Folk Music Awards. We wrap up the hour with more new music, and this time around we feature new releases from Caroline Wiles, Terry Morrison, Kimon Kirk, Bob Jensen & Tony McManus, Laurel Premo, ALMA, How We Led Our Lives, Valerie Smith and Dizzy & Fay. Check out the full playlist below.
In March 2020, Joe Nolan was coming off a fantastic year in music – a very well deserved nomination for a Canadian Folk Music Award for his album “Drifters” (2020) and he’d played something like 170 shows, to great acclaim. In fact, it really seemed like his career was taking off. Of course, then the pandemic hit and Joe found himself back at home in Edmonton, in lockdown and almost feeling like he was starting over again.
Joe didn’t let Covid times hold him back – starting out with the release of an EP, the wonderful “Cry Baby: B sides” in the fall of 2020 – four songs left over from the session for his excellent 2018 album “Cry Baby”. He followed that with a couple of excellent stand alone singles “Lowlight” and “River Bends” earlier this year – two songs that he felt fit in more with 2020’s “Drifters”, than the songs he was getting ready to record .
He has now released another new album ,”Scrapper”, a recording he made during the pandemic and one he describes as having a bit more edge than his previous work.
“This past year has been a rollercoaster of emotions and uncertainty. Something we’ve all had to endure and go through together. Instead of being on the road playing, I’ve spent the time working on a new album. I wanted to offer my fans and supporters something truly special for getting through this year with me. I also wanted to make something a little bit more edgy this time. Something with some meat on the bone, something a little more punchy and gritty but I also wanted to match that energy with softness and sensitivity.”
Scrapper features 11 songs recorded live off the floor at Scott Franchuk’s Riverdale Recorders studio in Edmonton, AB. Once the basic tracks had been recorded, Joe started work on overdubs in his own apartment studio in Edmonton and parent’s home in Sturgeon County.
“The songs (on Scrapper) cover themes of loneliness on the road, the struggles of not having a rooted home and the misunderstandings that divide friends and lovers. It’s a look outside the ring of a touring musician, with a sadness hidden beneath the melodic beauty, revealing itself as the album unfolds. Perhaps it is the spirit that comes from survival, perseverance and fortified resolve to get out there again. It’s almost like I don’t have a choice. I don’t think I will ever stop, or retire. This is my life, it’s hard to explain, but it’s something I just have to do.”
“I’ve been tirelessly working on this album for a while and I am so excited to finally be releasing it. It’s different from anything I’ve previously recorded. I believe it’s my strongest musical offering to date.”
For more information about the music of Joe Nolan, visit joenolanmusic.com.
We started over the episode with Toronto singer-songwriter Caroline Wiles and the uber-positive “Make A Memory With Me” from her fifth album, “Grateful”, which has a bit of a 70s AM Radio feel to it.
“It’s not about a need for attention. I’m not doing this for fame. I’m not doing it for fortune. I’m doing it because I feel it’s what I’m supposed to be doing: To make music that’s enjoyable and uplifting. That’s my goal and that’s my purpose.”
Alberta Métis singer-songwriter Terry Morrison has just released her sixth album, “Wolf Willow & Alberta Rose”. On this episode we play the title track, an aural snapshot of the prairie landscape at the peak of the summer.
The title song’s description of Alberta at the peak of the summer combined with the songwriter’s perspective as a native born daughter starts the listener on a journey that winds its way through songs about aging and the gaining of wisdom, and the Metis journey from Manitoba to Alberta on the Red River Cart.
“What Do I Know” is a symphonic pop song from Boston singer-songwriter Kimon Kirk that is very much in the Brian Wilson vein, realizing that… you never really have everything figured out, even when you think you do. It comes from Kimon Kirk’s latest album “Altitude”.
“’What Do I Know’ was written smack dab in the middle of the Trump administration, and I was feeling particularly disillusioned by the state of everything in the world. I was also in a relationship that I was deeply invested in but at the same time suspected might not last forever. It’s an honest stock-taking of the way my life was going and provided a momentary catharsis when I wrote it.”
This turned out to be the perfect episode to drop in another one of Canadian singer-songwriter and poet Bob Jensen‘s spoken word pieces. Featuring a wonderfully atmospheric accompaniment from Scottish guitar virtuoso Tony McManus, “To God, In Three Small Words” was recorded live in Australia.
According to Bob, the poem attempts to describe ‘Nature’s greatest act’… which Bob is convinced is autumn in Eastern Canada… where the forests and mountains are turned into a patchwork of green, red, yellow, pink and orange… and where the birds and other creatures respond to the changing of the seasons in profound ways.
Michigan-based multi-instrumentalist Laurel Premo provided the instrumental for this episode, her version of traditional song “Calloway” (Lee Hammons arrangement) from her second solo recording, the almost all instrumental “Golden Loam” which presents a mix of original and traditional music on finger-style electric guitar and lap steel. It’s a great album. A very talented artist, Laurel is also a member of great old-time folk duo Red Tail Ring.
Check out this great live video for another track from Golden Loam, “Ma’s Maw”.
ALMA are three young women from New York City who work in film composing and audio engineering. We’ve played them before on Folk Roots Radio – they have a cool indie pop sound. On this episode we play “Pin In The Map”, a song that reflects on how time and distance can change a messy breakup into a deep and meaningful friendship. You can find it on their debut album “Mosaic” which they describe as an immersive patchwork of experiences from New York City, with each song expressing a moment in time, and forever tied to the place it was lived in.
“‘Pin In The Map’ was written in a post breakup haze after a trip to have dinner and watch the Super Bowl with a longtime friend and college ex-boyfriend. The writing process started that night on the subway home, not able to shake that feeling that time had worked its magic and somebody you were once so close to was now so distant. Yet, at the same time, there was an unshakable hope that this was one of those special relationships that could exist beyond norms and stand the test of time.”
And now, check out this amazing stripped down version of Pin In The Map they recorded at the beach.
Global music collective How We Led Our Lives are led by songwriters, Rob Castro from London (in the UK), and Dominik Gryzbon from Trinidad with musical and video support that comes from right across the world. They popped up on our radar a few months ago with the wonderful single The Future Is Bright.
This week, “Nothing Changes”, the follow up single turned up in our email. Nothing Changes is a folk-pop song about a failed relationship, with the realization that some things just aren’t meant to work out. We really love what these guys are doing. A great project.
Originally from Missouri and now based in Bell Buckle TN, Valerie Smith‘s version of the Jude Johnstone song “On That Train” comes from her latest album “Renaissance” which hops from bluegrass to folk to Americana, while celebrating rebirth after a difficult year.
The wonderfully addictive “Walk Me Home” comes from their lovely debut album “Songbook”… a collection of original jazz songs that echo timeless standards, that you’ll swear you’ve loved your whole life.
Hopefully we’ll be able to feature Dizzy & Fay again on another episode. In the meantime, please watch both videos below… and find yourself a club to catch them live when you get the chance. We’re sure you won’t regret it.
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: Joe Nolan.
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)
Make A Memory With Me
Grateful (2021, Self) CDN
Wolf Willow & Alberta Rose
Wolf Willow & Alberta Rose (2021, Self) CDN
What Do I Know
Altitude (2021, Dos Kay Music)
Golden Loam (2021, Self)
Here’s to Hoping
Scrapper (2021, Fallen Tree Records) CDN
Interview: Joe Nolan discussing his new album “Scrapper”.
New to the Neighbourhood
Scrapper (2021, Fallen Tree Records) CDN
All Love Is Lit
Scrapper (2021, Fallen Tree Records) CDN
Pin In The Map
Mosaic (2021, Self)
How We Led Our Lives
(single) (2021, Self)
On That Train
Renaissance (2021, Bell Buckle Records)
Dizzy & Fay
Walk Me Home
Songbook (2021, Fizzy Day Records) CDN