We’re back with another hour of great new releases on Episode 629 of Folk Roots Radio. This time around we hear from Keb’ Mo’, The Strange Valentines, Le Vent Du Nord, Just A Season, Kenneth I Mackenzie, Jerry Leger, Big Little Lions, Kathy Mattea, Tim O’Brien, Cara Dillon, Katie Spencer and Yola. We also include musical tributes to two artists we sadly lost recently: Alberta based roots and blues artist Bill Bourne and Pastelle LeBlanc from Prince Edward Island Acadian folk trio Vishtèn. 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.
I’ve been having a tough time of it lately after contracting COVID for a second time – and this despite the fact that I have been incredibly careful because my partner is quite vulnerable. Fortunately as I’m vaccinated, this bout of COVID didn’t really present much in the way of symptoms in the active phase – a bad headache followed by a couple of days of not feeling quite right and wanting to sleep a lot. However, I have recently developed a very bad cough – indicative of a post-viral bronchitis, which has been very slow to clear making it exceedingly challenging to make radio or record new interviews. In fact, this episode (Episode 629) is the first that I’ve been able to make in the best part of a month. Hopefully it won’t be too long until I’m completely back in the saddle again!
It’s good to be here
It’s good to be anywhere
It’s good to be back
Good to be home again
It’s good to be you
It’s good to be me
Good to be young
Good to be old
Good to be home again
We started off this episode with Keb’ Mo’ reflecting on what it means to belong on “Good To Be (Home Again)”, the somewhat title track from his latest album “Good To Be…”. It’s a song Keb’ Mo’ wrote after purchasing and renovating his childhood home in Compton CA. We thought it was a particularly good choice to start things off as it talked of being ‘good to be back’… and yes, it is good to be back!
We followed that with one time Australian rocker now turned folkie David Farrell and Janet Mills as Nova Scotia’s The Strange Valentines. They are searching for answers on “The Truth” from their latest album “Dear Mother Earth” which as you’ll expect from the title has a strong environmental message.
“‘Dear Mother Earth’, we love you. We’re sorry, we need you. The overall feel of this album is one of love and kindness, for the earth, and for each other. A sad tale of a failing mother, and a lament of time gone by even though she isn’t physically gone.”
“Pandemic times have fast-tracked changes in the paradigms of thought, and as time in the pandemic lengthens, this is even more evident. With time at home, we dove into introspection and priority re-evaluation, as did many others. Faced with an uncertain future, and our own mortality, the urgent needs of our beloved planet felt crushingly relevant.”
Quebec’s Le Vent Du Nord have just released their twentieth album, appropriately entitled “20 Printemps”. On this episode we play their beautiful a cappella version of traditional song “L’auberge”.
A fixture on the Vancouver BC music scene, Scott Smith has built a great reputation as an in-demand side player – adding his chops to music from the likes of Barney Bentall, Aaron Pritchett and Marin Patenaude. With the help of some of his own favourite players, he also leads his own roots project Just A Season who weave together folk, rock and country. “Saw You Yesterday”, the track we play on this episode, is another from their lovely third album “Leave To Come Home”.
The instrumental on this episode “Slow Air” comes from “Glendrian”, the latest album of Scottish traditional music from multi-instrumentalist and composer Kenneth I Mackenzie which is inspired by the history and landscape of the Highlands.
The album’s title track takes its name from a depopulated settlement in Ardnamurchan – a peninsula in Lochaber and area with family connections for Kenny. The lament’s poignant pipes reflect the hardship and poverty people experienced in Glendrian living off the land and the sea.
“Nothing Pressing” is the title track of Toronto singer-songwriter Jerry Leger‘s latest album. With a mix of solo acoustic performances and some roots rockers, it’s not as stripped down as Jerry’s lo-fi homemade pandemic release “Songs From The Apartment”. This new recording feels much more like an artist easing back into the world again. From what we’ve heard from the fan response to Jerry’s current European tour, he’s definitely back in the groove again!
You can check out our pandemic era interview with Jerry Leger HERE.
Prolific long distance songwriting partners Helen Austin and Paul Otten, who make music together Big Little Lions, are continuing to put out some great new songs. One of their latest, “Inside Out”, is all about arrival of a new love interest.
“This song is for anyone with a new love.” says Helen Austin. “A person, a baby, a puppy or a kitten… definitely a kitten!”
“Turn Off The News (Build a Garden)” is actually a song from Lukas Nelson and The Promise. Kathy Mattea loved the song so much she decided to play it live on NPR’s Mountain Stage. That performance turned out so well, she knew she had to release it as a single. Turn Off The News (Build a Garden) comes with the clear message that spending time together outside in the real world is the way to step away from the polarization and division many people are feeling during the current times, and, in particular in our online interactions.
“I haven’t fallen this hard for a song in a good long while. It makes its point in such an elegant way. It’s very rare these days to see something so skillfully written. It doesn’t provoke, it isn’t aggressive, but also doesn’t back away from the issue either.”
Continuing with that theme, Tim O’Brien‘s “Pushing On Buttons (Staring At Screens)” is another song that suggests we should all step way from technology a bit more to avoid over-stimulation and more serious mental health challenges. You can find it on Tim’s latest album “He Walked On”.
During their first COVID lockdown of 2020, Irish folk singer Cara Dillon decided to record two intimate concerts of her favourite songs for her fans. The resultant album, “Live at Cooper Hall 2020”, was recorded without an audience at Cooper Hall in Somerset with the only support provided by her partner Seth Lakeman on piano.
“The Edge of the Land” is the title track of Yorkshire based singer-songwriter Katie Spencer‘s forthcoming album.
Echoes of Joni Mitchell and Tim Buckley flow through this compelling sophomore album from Yorkshire-based singer-songwriter and guitarist, Katie Spencer. With her assured, distinctive voice she explores themes of home, solitude and love, against a backdrop of intricate finger-style guitar.
“Diamond Studded Shoes” comes from the Grammy nominated “Stand For Myself”, Nashville based English singer-songwriter Yola‘s album of personal empowerment.
‘Diamond Studded Shoes’ explores the false divides created to distract us from the main enemy, those who are the few in charge with the majority of the world’s wealth. Inspiration for this song came from UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s “diamond encrusted shoes,” which she wore when delivering harsh truths about austerity and economic cuts. This song calls out all those in the 1% and their stranglehold on humanity.
We recently lost Juno award winning Alberta based roots and blues artist Bill Bourne, a favourite on Canada’s live music and festival circuit. On this episode we play “Ole Buffalo” which was recorded live at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival (with Shannon Johnson) in 1997. You can find it on Bill’s 1997 compilation “Farmer. Philanthropist & Musician”. We followed that with “Love Never Cost A Dime” from Bill Bourne’s 2020 album “A Love Fandango” which made it into Our Favourite Albums of 2021.
As well as his solo work, Bill also played with blues, folk and world music group Madagascar Slim and Lester Quitzau as Tri-Continental. He also played with Scottish traditional Band, The Tannerhill Weavers from 1985-1990.
And Bill Bourne wasn’t the only artist we sadly lost recently. We also lost Pastelle LeBlanc – vocalist, accordian and keyboard player with Prince Edward Island’s Acadian folk trio Vishtèn. From their Juno nominated 2018 album “Horizons” we play “Le miraculé” and the beautiful “Âmes sœurs”, a tune written by Pastelle’s twin sister Emanuelle about soulmates and kindred spirits.
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)
Good To Be (Home Again)
Good To Be… (2022, Rounder Records / Concord)
The Strange Valentines
Dear Mother Earth (2022, Self) CDN
Le Vent Du Nord
20 Printemps (2022, La Compagnie du Nord) CDN
Just A Season
Saw You Yesterday
Leave To Come Home (2022, Northern Electric) CDN
Kenneth I Mackenzie
Glendrian (2022, Caberfeidh Music)
Nothing Pressing (2022, Latent Recordings) CDN
Big Little Lions
(single) (2022, Fallen Tree Records) CDN
Turn Off The News (Build a Garden)
(single) (2022, Captain Potato)
Pushing On Buttons (Staring At Screens)
He Walked On (2021, Howdy Skies Music)
The Water Is Wide
Live at Cooper Hall 2020 (2021, Charcoal)
The Edge of the Land
(single) (2022, Lightship Records)
Diamond Studded Shoes
Stand For Myself (2021, Easy Eye Sound / Concord)
Ole Buffalo (Live at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival)
Farmer Philanthropist & Musician (Compilation) (1997, Blue Streak Records) CDN
Love Never Cost A Dime
A Love Fandango (2020, Self) CDN
Horizons (2018, Self) CDN
Horizons (2018, Self) CDNFolk