We have another great interview to share with you on Episode 635 of Folk Roots Radio. Singer-songwriter woe11er joins us to chat about his debut solo album “try it up here”, a new recording that tells stories of life in the peaceful port village of Lion’s Head on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario and people facing down challenging times, while spreading a gospel of love, friendship and community. It’s a great album, and one that lead to a really thought-provoking conversation. We’re pleased to share part of that with you on this episode. As always, we wrap things up with more new releases and this time around we hear from OXLIP, Kim Beggs, The Redhill Valleys, Lizzy Hoyt, Sheila Veerkamp (with Peter Tangredi), Diana Jones, Ken Whiteley and Martyn Joseph. 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.
woe11er is the stage name of singer-songwriter Stephen Woeller, who is based in Lion’s Head on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, and someone Jan used to know in her previous work life.
“Back in the day we both worked at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph ON. 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!”
From the village of Lion’s Head on the Northern Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula, woe11er sings songs about the land and lived experiences as band mate, tree planter, community developer, father and partner. woe11er: try it up here is his first release as a solo artist.
Stephen Woeller artfully combines the sounds of gospel, folk, and pop with a uniquely Canadian twist. He tells of people navigating increasingly difficult times, and yet finding hope, love and friendship. All of this is set against the backdrop of the place Stephen calls home: the Northern Bruce Peninsula – from the towering limestone cliffs to the smallest of little birds.
“Try It Up Here is a genuine COVID-19 baby. I was sequestered with time to reflect on the state of the world and the good fortune to have a place to record basic tracks and a supportive partner/bandmate to keep me fed and washed”.
try it up here was produced by Andrew McPherson at The Monastereo studio in Guelph, with some of the recording taking at Terrapin Studio, Lion’s Head and in the studios of Chris Bartos & Lisa Patterson. Joining Stephen Woeller (lead & harmony vocals, acoustic & electric guitars) on the album are Andrew McPherson (programming, keyboards, electric guitar, bass guitar, ebow, harmony vocals, whistles, flutes), Chris Bartos (violin, electric viola, pedal steel, electric guitar, steel wool), Adam Bowman (drums), Lisa Patterson (accordion), Tyler Wagler (electric and acoustic bass) and Trace MacKay (harmony vocals).
“I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out. It was a joy to work with amazing musicians to interpret and deliver these songs. And It’s wonderful to have the support of our local record label – Wiretone Records – to help get the album out into the world.”
The Songs We Played On Folk Roots Radio (in Woe11er’s own words)
Brambles & Thorns: “I was thinking about Lion’s Head and Greta Thunburg and wondering what she’d think of our lighthouse getting blown away. The lighthouse has been blown into Georgian Bay twice in recent memory. ‘Brambles & Thorns’ is a reflection on losing landmarks in a changing world.”
Avian Confessional: “I love watching birds at our feeder – especially winter juncos, nuthatches and pine siskins – the way they move about the feeder or down the tree trunk or on the ground. It’s so animated I stand transfixed and appreciate living in an important bird area. Occasionally we see birds that have blown off course and it makes me think of people I’ve met on the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula and question if “blown off course” is such a bad thing? That idea evolved into the metaphor behind the song ‘Avian Confessional'”
Where We Walk Around: “‘We live just where we walk around’ is a statement of empowerment, taking power over what’s exactly in front of us. I take this as a super hopeful statement. The second line infers the old adage “a rising tide lifts all boats” in which case we can “go to town” for supplies, to see each other, to break the isolation, to be in community.”
For more information about the music of woe11er (Stephen Woeller) visit woe11er.ca.
We started off the episode with Jayne Trimble (who hails from N. Ireland and now lives in Vancouver) as OXLIP and her version of “Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies”, the title track of her new album which features a selection of her favourite traditional songs given a dream-folk makeover.
“I wrote to David (James Allen) and told him I’d send these traditional folk songs I’d been playing for years, that I wanted him to produce them. My only direction was “Go big, and go psychedelic.. like Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span”. I’m glad to say he surpassed all my expectations and the tracks turned out really wild and trippy… It was a very fulfilling collaboration and I hope that whoever hears these songs has a good time.”
“Whiskeytown”, a story of a broken soul letting go of love and expectations, comes from “Steel And Wool”, the latest album from Yukon based singer-songwriter Kim Beggs.
Hamilton ON based roots rockers The Redhill Valleys have just released “Travel Well”, a new six track EP which blurs the lines between roots rock, Americana and Alt.Country. On this episode, we play the break-up song “Anymore”.
“‘Anymore’ started with the first line ‘I don’t want to dream anymore’, which felt like a powerful concept — the idea of trying not to do something that is inevitably out of your control. It’s about trying to get over someone by avoiding anything that triggers memories of that person, even though the attempt is futile.”
The instrumental on this episode, “One Hundred Years Or More”, is a beautiful piece written for the harp and comes from “The Parting Glass”, the latest album from Alberta based Celtic singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lizzy Hoyt, which features a mix of her favourite traditional songs alongside a few originals and cover of Don McLean’s “And I Love You So”.
“Beauty & Grace” is a lovely new single from Montreal’s Sheila Veerkamp. It features Sheila Veeerkamp on piano with vocals from Peter Tangredi. It’s a song that Sheila wrote from the perspective of a refugee facing uncertainty while fleeing their home. A special shout out to Stephen Woeller for turning us on to this song.
Diana Jones‘ new single “Crossing Borders To Survive” is another song reflecting on the on-going refugee crisis, and, in this case, Ukrainians forced to leave their homes after the Russian invasion. It follows on from Diane’s critically acclaimed 2020 album “Song To A Refugee” – one of Our Favourite Albums of 2021, which told stories of people forced out of their homes and lives by war and strife, with a reminder that it should never be a crime to cross borders to survive.
Multi-instrumentalist Ken Whiteley‘s latest album – a pandemic lockdown project, “Long Time Travelling”, breaths new life into 11 old folk songs using a mix of traditional instruments (autoharp, dulcimer and fretless banjo) alongside some modern instruments – electric guitars, lap steel, vibraphone and Hammond organ. Not content with playing most of the instruments himself, Ken also engages in four part harmony with himself – with additional musical support is provided by his son Ben Whiteley on drums, percussion and bass.
I was thinking about old folk songs that I loved and wanted to put my own spin on. The project grew as I dug into songs I’d known for over fifty years and began recording them. Some songs wanted new words. Some had a myriad of versions and it was like piecing together a puzzle. It won’t surprise those of you who know me that I took great delight in mixing traditional acoustic instruments that evoked the songs origins (fretless banjo, autoharp, dulcimer, etc.) with more modern sounds like lap steel, Hammond organ, drums and spacey electric guitars.
We wrapped up the episode with acclaimed Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph and “This Light Is Ours”, an inspiring song of hope from his latest album, a reflective ‘coming of age record’… with a difference, “1960”.
“The road ahead is shorter than the one behind. I found myself asking what I’ve made of this life – and what I might have done differently. Maybe there’s no answer to that question or maybe the answer is as long as it takes to put the question aside. In truth, the answer doesn’t matter, it’s about love and the quality of your days on this earth.”
That album title may also be a clue as to how old Jan is. Please remember that age is just a number, it’s what you do with the time you have that matters!
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: Stephen Woeller.
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)
Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies
Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies (2022, World Peach Records) CDN
Steel And Wool (2022, Self) CDN
The Redhill Valleys
Travel Well (Part 1) EP (2022, Self) CDN
One Hundred Years Or More
The Parting Glass (2022, Self) CDN
Brambles and Thorns
try it up here (2022, Wiretone Records) CDN
Interview: woe11er talks about his debut solo recording “try it up here”.
try it up here (2022, Wiretone Records) CDN
Where We Walk Around
try it up here (2022, Wiretone Records) CDN
Sheila Veerkamp (ft. Peter Tangredi)
Beauty and Grace
(single) (2022, Self) CDN
Crossing Borders To Survive
(single) (2022, Self)
Long Time Travelling
Long Time Travelling (2022, Self) CDN
This Light Is Ours
1960 (2022, Pipe Records)