Karrnnel Sawitsky, from fine Canadian string quartet The Fretless, joins us on Episode 617 of Folk Roots Radio to chat about the band’s latest recording, the guest vocalist collaboration “Open House”. A fabulous album, it deservedly made it into Our Favourite Albums of 2021. As always, we take a look at more of the latest new releases, and this time we hear from The Accidentals, Del Barber, Sierra Ferrell, Amy Speace with The Orphan Brigade, Caroline Marie Brooks, Sue Foley and AHI. We wrap the episode with a tribute to Koady Chiasson from Prince Edward Island’s Celtic-roots band The East Pointers who sadly passed away recently. Check out the full playlist below.
‘A supergroup of celebrated solo artists’, string quartet The Fretless feature Ben Plotnick (fiddle/viola), Karrnnel Sawitsky (fiddle/viola), Eric Wright (cello), and Trent Freeman (fiddle/viola). They have been together since 2011, and have picked up several Canadian Folk Music Awards. Their 2015 album “Bird’s Nest” also earned the band a Juno.
Four ferocious players, masterful composition, and a genre-bending sound, Juno award-winning The Fretless is a Canadian quartet that has firmly taken its place on the map to a progressive form of “trad”.
Starting with its debut album in 2012, The Fretless had a breakout year winning Instrumental Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards and Instrumental Group of the Year and Ensemble of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Their self-titled follow-up album, “The Fretless”, took home Ensemble of the Year at the CMFA’s and features the tune “Waving To Ryan”, currently approaching nearly two million Spotify plays. In 2015, they released “Bird’s Nest”, an album that solidified them as a force among the world’s roots music scene and earned them a 2016 Juno award for Instrumental Album of The Year. Recorded in a historic barn, live off the floor in upstate New York, they released “Live from the Art Farm” in 2018, an expanded rhythmic, harmonic, and stylistic exploration of the many folk genres they play. This album not only won them a CFMA for Best Ensemble but earned them a second Juno nomination.
Their latest recording, the 10 track release “Open House”, which was again produced by Joby Baker, sees the band recording string driven versions of some of their favourite songs with a wide variety of guest vocalists, including The Brothers Landreth, Rachel Sermanni, Celeigh Cardinal and Ruth Moody.
Open House is a fabulous album. Fantastic musicianship, beautiful arrangements and vocals that really draw you in. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
“We had a long, long list of songs that we brainstormed while working on this album and I think the ones that we ultimately ended up arranging and recording are a reflection of songs all four of us love and represent the varied musical interests of the band members individually.”
“Some of the collaborations were based on random festival get togethers. We played with Red Tail Ring at the Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering a few years back. We did the classic music festival ‘artist music exchange’ with them and listened to their albums on our next tour. The song that really stood out to us was “Fall Away Blues” and when we started talking about songs for this album, this was a unanimous choice.”
For more information about The Fretless, visit thefretless.com.
We started off the episode with the female fronted multi-instrumentalist trio The Accidentals, who feature Sav Buist and Katie Larson, with Michael Dause. “Anyway”, which was written with Tom Paxton, reflects on both life in the current times and the political divide within the US. You can find it on their pandemic-inspired songwriting collaboration “Time Out Session 1”.
The Accidentals have also recently released the album they were working on before the pandemic, “Vessel”. We look forward to digging into that album on a future episode.
“I Belong With You” comes from Del Barber‘s excellent pandemic release “Stray Dogs Collected B-Sides Volume 1”, which features polished up demos of songs that had not yet made it on to an album.
Sierra Ferrell reflects on the fickle nature of love on “The Sea” from her very well received Rounder Records debut “Long Time Coming”.
“There Used To Be Horses Here”, Amy Speace‘s latest album with collaborators Nashville’s The Orphan Brigade (Neilson Hubbard, Ben Glover and Joshua Britt) was one of Our Favourite albums of 2021. A very personal project, it was written during a twelve-month span between her son’s first birthday and the loss of her father. Using stories from her own childhood through coming of age in New York City as its source material, it reflects on the loss of a parent while learning to become one herself.
The instrumental on this episode, “Song For Fred”, is an acoustic guitar duet featuring the Good Lovelies Caroline Marie Brooks and her classical guitar-teaching father Fred Brooks (the Fred in the title). It comes from Caroline’s first solo album “Everything At The Same Time”. You can find an in-depth interview with Caroline on Episode 618 of Folk Roots Radio.
“Hurricane Girl” comes from “Pinky’s Blues”, the latest album from fabulous Canadian blues guitarist Sue Foley, which was recorded during COVID lockdown in Texas while quarantining with her producer Mike Flanigin.
Toronto’s AHI describes his latest album “Prospect” as a journey of self-discovery. An album that blurs the lines between roots, folk, pop, and soul; it was recorded in Nashville with GRAMMY Award-winning producer Paul Mabury.
We wrapped things up with “Wintergreen” from Prince Edward Island based trio The East Pointers. Sadly, band member Koady Chaisson passed away recently.
Folk Roots Radio sat down with Koady and band mates Tim Chaisson and Jake Charron at the 2015 Folk Music Ontario conference for a fun chat about their music and debut album “Secret Victory”, which went on to pick up a Juno.
Each album they have produced since then has built on that, and their latest “Yours To Break” (from 2019) crosses over brilliantly from Celtic-roots into dance music – and bringing them a whole new fanbase. Koady will be missed but the band will live on, vowing to preserve his legacy through their music.
You can check out our interview with The East Pointers HERE.
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!
Image credit: The Fretless.
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Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)
Time Out Session 1 (2021, Self)
I Belong With You
Stray Dogs (Collected B-Sides Volume 1) (2021, Acronym Records) CDN
Long Time Coming (2021, Rounder Records)
Caroline Marie Brooks
Song For Fred
Everything At The Same Time (2021, Self) CDN
My Moon, My Man (feat. Rachel Sermanni)
Open House (2021, Self) CDN
Earthly Days (feat. Celeigh Cardinal)
Open House (2021, Self) CDN
Fall Away Blues (feat. Red Tail Ring)
Open House (2021, Self) CDN
Pinky’s Blues (2021, Stony Plain Records) CDN
Prospect (2021, 22 Sentry / Thirty Tigers) CDN
The East Pointers
Yours To Break (2019, Self) CDN