Join us on Episode 616 of Folk Roots Radio for another hour of great new music, and a selection of songs that have a little bit of a new start feeling about them. As we settle into a new year, we wanted this episode to feel reflective, but also optimistic. Despite the challenging times, things will get better. This time around we hear from Lucy MacNeil (from The Barra McNeils), Sarah McQuaid, Michael Logen, Jennifer Cutting’s Ocean Orchestra, Tony McManus, Sophia Tice, Dar Williams, Sanctuary Song Project (feat. Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno), Big Little Lions, Gurf Morlix, Moira Smiley & Piers Faccini, Joe Nolan , Dizzy & Fay, Melanie Peterson and Christa Couture. Remember, if you like what you hear on Folk Roots Radio… and want to support the artists… don’t just stream their music, BUY their music and then you’ll really make a difference to their income during this difficult time, when it’s really hard to find live show opportunities. Check out the full playlist below.
We started off this episode in a very hopeful fashion with Lucy MacNeil, from the Barra MacNeils, and her lockdown single “Hope For One And All”. A song about ‘the little things’ and how they add up to become the most important parts of life… especially during challenging times.
Hope for One And All started out life as a new song Lucy shared on Facebook. It was only when it popped back up as ‘a memory’ a year later, that she realized she should record the song for release as a single.
Once her elder brother and fellow Barra MacNeil, Stewart MacNeil, had created a string arrangement, a group of Cape Breton-based musicians gathered in the studio to rehearse and record. Starting out with just a low-key bouzouki and voice, the song builds magically. Joining Lucy and Boyd MacNeil on the violin are Lisa Gallant MacNeil on viola and Jennie MacDougall McKibbon on cello. Lucy’s daughters Amelia MacDougall and Kenna MacDougall also contribute background vocals.
We followed that with Sarah McQuaid and “The Tug Of The Moon” from her latest album and video project, “The St Buryan Sessions”, which features as live audio and video versions of songs from Sarah’s catalogue, recorded in the historic St Buryan’s church in Cornwall, England. It’s a great album, and deservedly made the long list of Our Favourite albums of 2021.
The Tug Of The Moon, written in 2016, was inspired by the “leap second” that was added to the New Year’s Eve countdown in 2016 to compensate for the slowing of the earth’s rotation caused by the moon’s gravitational pull. Science, history and fabulous music in one song on Folk Roots Radio!
“Long, Hard Year” is an unreleased pandemic-inspired song singer-songwriter Michael Logen recently made available through his website.
“We’ve collectively been through some incredibly difficult things this past year and a half. And even as we in the US are starting to move out of lockdown, many places in the world are still suffering. Now that more things are starting to open back up, I sometimes feel a strong urge to rush back to life as “normal”, almost like nothing ever happened. But before that, I also feel a need to pause, reflect and perhaps acknowledge what we’ve been through. And I think of the many lives lost and the many businesses shut down and the many lives changed. Maybe we need to grieve before we can heal. I hope this song can be for you a moment of rest and reflection on what you’ve experienced – the pent-up emotions, the fears, the uncertainties, the political unrest, the canceled plans, the missed time with family. We are all human. We experience the same things. There is much hope on the horizon. Here’s to better days ahead! Here’s to healing!”
We wrapped up our first set with Jennifer Cutting’s Ocean Orchestra and the voice and piano version of “The Turning Year: A New Year’s Toast” – a song that acknowledges the pain and loss many have felt during the pandemic, with hope for a better future for us all. It features Lisa Moscatiello on vocals, with Jennifer Cutting on piano.
The instrumental on this episode features Scottish/Canadian guitar virtuoso Tony McManus and his version of traditional Breton New Year tune “Bloavez Mad”. You can find it on “The Silver Wren”, Tony’s new holiday album with poet Bob Jensen, which also features Lennie Gallant and Black Umfolosi.
15-year old Sophia Tice from Toronto recorded her new single “Zemblanity” with her multi-instrumentalist father, Kevin. According to Sophia, Zemblanity is all about knowing the right path, yet taking another – like starting a new relationship when you haven’t gotten over the last. It’s probably not going to go well.
Zemblanity is a word coined by William Boyd as the opposite of serendipity. So instead of good things happening unexpectedly, not-so-good things happen – intentionally. Ouch!
We’re pretty impressed. At just 15 years old, Sophia is already producing great songs and teaching us new words.
Dar Williams has released a new version of the beautiful “You’re Aging Well” (originally on her first album “The Honest Room”, from 1993), which features Bryn Roberts on piano. You can find it on her reflective pandemic release “I’ll Meet You Here” which made it into Our Favourite albums of 2021.
Dar Williams is great live. A wonderful sense of humour, and of course, a writer of great songs. If you get the chance to see her, don’t miss the opportunity.
The Sanctuary Song Project has released “Sanctuary Song” as a fundraiser for Annunciation House, a volunteer organization in El Paso TX that has been providing care, comfort, and advocacy to migrants, immigrants, and refugees in the US / Mexico border region since 1978.
Sanctuary Song, featuring roots duo Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno, tells the tragic story of a father and daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande River trying to get into the US.
Big Little Lions, who feature Helen Austin and Paul Otten, is continuing to release new singles on a monthly basis. “From The Storm” is a fine song that uses a wintery analogy to remind people that even when life is hard, there are good people out there who want to take care of you. It comes with a very nice lyric video, courtesy of Helen Austin.
Gurf Morlix has just released his second album of the pandemic era, “The Tightening Of The Screws”, after “Kiss Of the Diamondback” from 2020. From it, we play “A Better Place”.
Moira Smiley has collaborated with French singer-songwriter Piers Faccini on a new version of old American song “Meeting Is Over” is a song that by talking about ‘meeting on the other shore’, celebrates both endings and beginnings.
“‘Meeting Is Over’ is a stripped-down, acoustic anthem that celebrates the cycles of life and death, endings and renewal, farewells and reunion. A perfect song to bid farewell to 2021 and to look forward to new horizons in 2022.”
Prolific Edmonton-based singer-songwriter Joe Nolan has released another great new single “Spectacle”, a reflection on unconditional love. Joe Nolan’s last album, his 2021 release “Scrapper” was included in the Top 10 of Our Favourite albums of 2021.
“Maybe Someday” is another fabulous song from Dizzy & Fay who feature Canadian singer-songwriter and pianist Mark Lalama as Dizzy, and Amanda Walther from Dala as Fay. You can find it on their wonderful 2021 recording “Songbook”, another one of Our Favourite Albums of 2021. Folk Roots Radio isn’t even a jazz show… it’s that good!
Melanie Peterson released a beautiful single “May I Have Your Midnight” in the run-up to the holidays.
“It’s about new love and is special because it’s about New Year’s Eve and a huge moment in any romantic relationship; that first NYE together as a couple,”
“I love this song. I think it is bravely romantic lyrically and I’m enchanted by the shimmer and magic producer Derek Downham gave to the recording, not to mention his gorgeous piano track. It’s important for me to release a holiday single every year since it’s such a beautiful time of year and worth celebrating in song.”
We closed out the episode with a song that we played a couple of weeks ago to wrap a wonderful feature-length interview with Christa Couture. “To Us” is such a beautiful song we thought we’d play it again to tie up an episode that’s all about hope, and the optimism that things will get better. We really enjoyed our interview with Christa Couture. Very inspirational, and one of the best we’ve done. We hope you’ll check it out if you missed 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!
Stay safe and well everyone!
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)
Hope For One And All
(single) (2021, Self)
The Tug Of The Moon
The St Buryan Sessions (2021, A Shovel & A Spade Records)
Long, Hard Year
(single) (2021, Self)
Jennifer Cutting’s Ocean Orchestra
The Turning Year: A New Year’s Toast (Voice And Piano version)
The Turning Year (2021, SunSign Records)
The Silver Wren (2021, Self) CDN
(single) (2021, Self) CDN
You’re Aging Well
I’ll Meet You Here (2021, Renew Records)
Big Little Lions
From The Storm
(single) (2021, Self) CDN
A Better Place
The Tightening Of The Screws (2021, Rootball Records)
(single) (2021, Fallen Tree Records) CDN
Dizzy & Fay
Songbook (2021, Fizzy Day Records) CDN
May I Have Your Midnight
(single) (2021, Self) CDN
(single) (2021, Self) CDN