Folk Roots Radio Episode 623: feat. Alanna Gurr – Life Of The Party & More New Releases

Folk Roots Radio Episode 623: feat. Alanna Gurr - Life Of The Party & More New Releases

Guelph ON’s Alanna Gurr joins us on Episode 623 of Folk Roots Radio to chat about her latest album, “Life Of the Party”, which she worked on during COVID lockdown with singer-songwriter and producer Jim Bryson. There’s a wonderfully fragile quality to this recording, that seems to fit the strange times we’re living through. We wrap up the rest of the episode with more of the latest new releases, and this time round we hear from The Ebbs, Malcolm McWatt, Harley Kimbro Lewis, Jean-Michel Blais, woe11er, Colin James and Richard Koechli. 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 live show opportunities are harder to come by. Check out the full playlist below.

Best 2020

Interview

Guelph singer-songwriter Alanna Gurr‘s latest album “Life Of the Party”, her third for Missed Connection Records has a beautiful feel to it, her ethereal vocals floating over a mellow instrumental accompaniment. Produced by Jim Bryson from Fixed Hinge Studio in Stittsville ON, who also plays guitar, piano and percussion) the album also features Emma Bortolon-Vettor (guitar), Phil Charbonneau (bass), Pascal Delaquis / Marshall Bureau (drums), Charlotte Moore (cello), Thomas Hammerton (piano) with Lisa Conway /Erin Tusa / Gordon Auld /Jim Bryson (harmony vocals).

“I was originally supposed to bring people from Guelph to work with me in the studio, but then pandemic happened. So, I went up to Jim’s on my own in June of 2020 and recorded for a week with some really great session players he was able to bring in and based on the sound that I wanted.”

“‘Not On You’ is probably the quietest song on the album but I think it’s my favourite because it develops around a conversation about mental health. I lost a dear friend of mine who took his own life in 2010 and it is something I still think about often. I wrote this song thinking about that person and my life, and kind of where I am now. It took me a long time to want to write about that time. I’m really pleased with the way it turned out”

“Like a lot of people, the pandemic has given me time to reflect on the life I had before this happened. What is important to us, how things have changed and how we want to structure our lives moving forward. Music isn’t my main career, but it is definitely my main love and creative outlet.”

A graceful storyteller and a mesmerizing performer, Alanna Gurr is a bold and unique voice in the world of contemporary Canadian songwriting. With work that presents stories of personal growth, paired with the desire to experience life and love in their fullest and most honest forms, Gurr’s thoughtful and introspective lyrics pull you in over warm, lush tones.

For more information about Alanna Gurr, visit alannagurr.com.

Show Notes

We started off the episode with indie folk band The Ebbs, from Prince George BC, who feature singer-songwriters William Kuklis and Joe Shea, with fiddler Finn Scott-Neff.

According to William Kuklis, The Ebbs met in 2018 and started playing together in 2019. “This first album, ‘Volume 1’, is a bit of a mash up of our own stuff. There are some songs we have definitely written together and worked on together but about half the album is interpreting each other’s songs and putting them into the new Ebbs framework.”

Pound of Flesh is actually a Joe Shea song from 2003, which he says came alive once the band started to play it. “An old friend started covering Pound of Flesh during his live performances. I liked his arrangement so much I decided to work with it in the band. It’s gone through a bit of a process – it’s an old song that’s found a whole new life.”

“Ghosts Of Caledonia comes from “Settler”, the excellent new album from Scottish singer-songwriter Malcolm McWatt which explores ties between Scotland and the New World.

Martin Harley, Daniel Kimbro and Sam Lewis have released their first album as a trio, the self-titled Harley Kimbro Lewis, an album they describe as… highlighting Daniel’s Appalachia roots, Sam’s Nashville tones, and Martin’s traveling riverside blues, recorded in the old fashioned way – writing songs in the morning and rolling the tape in the afternoon.

“What To Do” is a Martin Harley song about trying to make sense of some of the crazy things that happen in life.

“We all need advice from time to time. Some folks read self-help books, visit a professional or talk to a friend, all very good ideas at the needed time. When I need to make sense of the things that are happening in my world, I often listen to music. Names like Taj Mahal, Nina Simone, JJ Cale, and Lowell George are mentioned in this song (if the Bible was getting re-written, chapters by all four should be included). So it’s a simple, heartfelt thank you to all the musicians and songwriters out there that make music that makes a difference, and without, whom I’d be lost.”

The instrumental on this episode comes from Montreal based pianist and composer Jean-Michel Blais who has just released his latest album “aubades” which was written during the pandemic, following a break-up – and the first time he has written for an ensemble rather than just piano. An ‘aubade’ is a descriptive term for a morning love song – a dawn serenade, that dates back to the Middle Ages. Lovers saying their goodbyes at daybreak before going their separate ways.

“Writing this album was a fruitful moment of creativity for me. We started having hares in the park, beautiful butterflies flying everywhere. It was a time of lots of blossoming, and also a moment when I blossomed from being a pianist into a composer. I wrote ‘nina’ while at the cottage, near a dozing infant, I imagine her youth to come, delicate and jovial – naive. Her first stammerings, first clumsy steps, first pianistic ticklings. It’s a tribute to Nina.”

“Problem Statement” comes from “try it up here”, the great new album from singer-songwriter Steve Woeller who now makes music as the artist woe11er.

Jan actually used to know Steve in her previous life as a veterinary professor. “Back in the day we both worked at the Ontario Veterinary College. I was a professor and Steve worked in the college development office. Well, now I’m a folk DJ and he’s a singer-songwriter. How times change! ‘try it up here’ is a great album. Way to go, Steve!”

The Talking Heads-ish “Problem Statement” is all about Steve’s first real job with a fundraising consultancy, and the casual way they chatted about large sums of money.

“I was amazed at how casually large sums of capital were discussed and how these suited men and women exuded confidence & detachment separate from the “why” of the work. This is an example of a melody that never was finished and wouldn’t go away. Twenty-five years later – here it is.”

“Down On The Bottom” comes from “Open Road”, the latest recording (album number twenty) from Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist Colin James.

“We recorded the bed tracks for Open Road in three separate sessions. ‘Down On the Bottom’ was recorded during the last session and brought a rocking and contemporary feel to the recording. The video was filmed on two beautiful summer days with a super talented crew and a very simple idea. We just let nature do the rest and were treated to a perfect sunset, flying birds and moving trains. I have never enjoyed making a video more.”

Down On The Bottom actually features lyrics by Bob Dylan, and music by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. It originally found its way onto the 2014 recording “Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes”, an album of recently uncovered Bob Dylan lyrics (from 1967) set to music by The New Basement Tapes – Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James and Marcus Mumford. The album was produced by T-Bone Burnett, who also helmed the project.

The final song on this episode came from Swiss based blues guitarist Richard Koechli. “Feel Like Going Home” is a duet with jazz vocalist Bruno Amsted, and comes from Richard’s latest album “Holy Blues” which explores the connection between Gospel music and the Blues. Richard has also written a 150-page book (in German) to accompany the album. An English pdf version is available for free through his website.

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: AlannaGurr.

Listen

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.)

Playlist

Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)

The Ebbs
Pound of Flesh
Volume One (2021, Self) CDN

Malcolm McWatt
Ghosts Of Caledonia
Settler (2021, Need To Know Records)

Harley Kimbro Lewis
What To Do
Harley Kimbro Lewis (2022, Self)

Jean-Michel Blais
nina
aubades (2021, Arts & Crafts) CDN

Alanna Gurr
Not On You
Life Of The Party (2021, Missed Connection Records) CDN

Interview: Alanna Gurr discussing her latest album “Life Of The Party”.

Alanna Gurr
Life Of The Party
Life Of The Party (2021, Missed Connection Records) CDN

Alanna Gurr
Bad Habits
Life Of The Party (2021, Missed Connection Records) CDN

Alanna Gurr
Hold On
Life Of The Party (2021, Missed Connection Records) CDN

woe11er
Problem Statement
try it up here (2022, Wiretone Records) CDN

Colin James
Down On The Bottom
Open Road (2021, Stony Plain Records) CDN

Richard Koechli (with Bruno Amstad)
Feel Like Going Home (Radio Edit)
Holy Blues (2021, Self)

About the author

JAN HALL

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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