We have more great new music to share with you on Episode 653 of Folk Roots Radio. This time around we check out new releases from Seamus Egan with Moira Smiley, Jenny Berkel, The Bombadils, Lynne Hanson, John McCusker, Meredith Moon , Beth Wood, Alexis Normand, Joe Nolan, Leyla McCalla, Taivi, Jerry Leger, John Showman and Chris Coole, and Folkapotamus. It’s a great episode. We’re sure you’ll enjoy it. Remember, If you like the artists you hear on this show and want to support them, don’t just stream their music – BUY their music, and then you’ll really make a difference to their income at a time when it is becoming much more difficult to make a living as a musician. Check out the full playlist below.
The beginning of this episode had a distinctly new feel to it as we debuted a new opening theme for Folk Roots Radio. Our new theme is an instrumental version of Ontario based singer-songwriter Dave McEathron’s song “His Mother Called Him Angel” which you can find on his “Abandoned Companions” album – one of our favourite albums of that year.
“I’ve feeling for a while that I should be switching up the theme at the start of the show. I’ve always loved the start to Dave McEathron’s “His Mother Called Him Angel”. It has a great feel to it, and brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. I just knew it would be the perfect way to introduce a radio show, and am so pleased that Dave has given us permission to use it. I would like to take this opportunity to send out a special thank you to UK artist Nicolas Chapman and his band The Iceni who provided us with the original theme for Folk Roots Radio, their tune ‘Lucy, She Rises’. We’ve had lots of good times together – here’s to more great times on Folk Roots Radio!”
We kicked off the episode proper with a beautiful version of spiritual “Watch The Stars”, which features some lovely harmonies from Moira Smiley and Kaia Kater, set to a soundscape from Seamus Egan. You can find it on the recent Seamus Egan release, “Good Winter”.
“I first encountered this beauty through Ruth Crawford Seeger’s American Folk Songs for Christmas Songbook (1953). When I sang it for Seamus, he was immediately inspired to create a soundscape to hold the song’s wonderment. We both thought of Kaïa (Kater)’s wise and tender voice as we built the vocal harmonies and looked for that feeling of stillness and mystery that comes from standing outside under a big night sky.” (Moira Smiley)
“Light It Slant”comes from “The Quiet Between”, the latest EP from Ontario-born, Montreal-based singer-songwriter and poet Jenny Berkel. The Quiet Between was created during the pandemic, and features interpretations of poems by writer friends Síle Englert, Sydney Hegele, Kevin Andrew Heslop, David Janzen and Ryanne Kap. Light It Slant is based on a David Janzen poem “High Level Bridge” which brings a sense of hope to feelings of melancholy while exploring the nature of wisdom found within the quiet of nature. The collection as a whole emphasizes the importance of art to the life and health of the local community.
Nova Scotia based Luke Fraser and Sarah Frank wrote “Little Days” for their five-year-old daughter Felicity. You can find it on The Bombadils recent release “Dear Friend”.
“With ‘Little Days’ we’re singing to our five-year-old daughter Felicity. She inspires us with her childlike wonder, but at the same time, there’s that little twinge of sadness that comes along with watching her grow up before our eyes. We recorded this one in a stripped-down duo arrangement, enjoying resonant, open tunings on guitar and fiddle, and leaving space for the lyrics… ‘I want to linger / a little longer / in the wonder / of these little days’.
“Light In Me” is the latest single from Canada’s Queen of Americana, Lynne Hanson, her first new music since her 2022 album “Ice Cream In November”. Light In Me was commissioned by a Lynne Hanson super fan for a friend who was going through a dark time. It’s a song that explores the themes of loneliness and despair and the need to rediscover the light that shines bright within all of us.
The instrumental on this episode comes from acclaimed Scottish fiddler John McCusker. You can find “Wee Michael’s March” (which includes four tunes: “Wee Michael’s March” plus “Joe’s Tuxedo”, “Boys Of The Puddle” and “Frank’s Reel”) on John’s new double ‘best of’ collection which features 30 tracks from the last 30 years. John has also released a book “John McCusker: The Collection”, which showcases 100 of his best-known compositions.
For the past ten years, Ontario based singer songwriter Meredith Moon has introduced herself simply as ‘a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter’ – while earning rave reviews for her clawhammer banjo playing and original songs. It’s only now that she feels comfortable mentioning that she is also Gordon Lightfoot’s daughter. In fact, Meredith didn’t perform publicly with her father until 2022, when she opened up several shows for the Canadian legend. “He didn’t introduce me as his daughter. He completely understands and respects why I’d want that. He’d just say, ‘Give it up for Meredith Moon.’ That was really nice.”
On this episode we play “Constellations”, the title track from Meredith’s latest album.
Singer-songwriter Beth Wood from Sisters, Oregon wrote “One Step At A Time” as a tribute to one of her heroes, former US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“I wrote this song the morning after I learned that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. She was a hero to me – not only for her lifetime of service in standing up for women’s rights, but also because she was an introvert and a powerful leader at the same time. I didn’t know you could be both. This one tiny, quiet person changed the world. One thing in particular that she said stuck with me. She said, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” I was grieving and feeling hopeless, but also feeling hopeful at the same time because of her wisdom. It is a reminder that we have work to do, and that doing the next right thing is always available to us.”
After some fun years as part of feminist vocal trio Rosie & the Riveters (who wrapped things up in 2020), Saskatchewan based bilingual singer-songwriter Alexis Normand is back making music as a solo artist again. On this episode we play “Hidden Valley”, the first single from her as yet untitled bilingual album (due later this year), which she describes as a deeply personal recording that dives into her experience living as a minority-language francophone in SK.
“Saskatchewan is often an overlooked and oversimplified place. I wrote Hidden Valley to show listeners a lesser-known landscape – it ain’t just flat roads, big sky and wheat fields over here! This is a cruiser – a road trip song that brings you to the breathtaking valley near Eastend and embodies the contemplative peace I feel when I’m there. It was important for me to shoot the video in the location that inspired the song.”
Edmonton AB’s Joe Nolan is hoping for something better on “The Losing Game”, the opening track from his seventh album “Lost Verses” which was created from notes in his private journals. The Losing Game also features trumpet accompaniment from LA’s COULOU.
“Dodinin” comes from “Breaking The Thermometer”, the latest release from singer-songwriter (and daughter of Haitian immigrants) Leyla McCalla which explores the legacy of Radio Haiti — Haiti’s first radio station to report the news in Haitian Kreyòl. A song of revolution, Leyla found Dodinin on an old Smithsonian Folkways record by Artistes Independent, a group of Haitian musicians living in exile in New York.
“I actually learned that song years ago from an old Smithsonian Folkways record, and my understanding is that the band who performed it, the Artistes Independant, were all Haitian musicians who were living in exile in New York. It’s a song of revolution, of the poor rising up against the ruling class, and it just felt so emblematic of Haitian social dynamics from colonial times straight through to today.”
“Ukraiyna” is the latest single from Toronto based singer-songwriter Taivi who has Estonian Eastern European roots. It was inspired by hearing how the Brimstone butterfly re-emerges in Northern Europe each spring. After a long winter it’s a sure fire sign that spring is on its way, the yellow butterfly rising into the blue sky mimicking the Ukrainian people, and the determination of its people to stand firm against the Russian invasion.
Toronto based singer-songwriter Jerry Leger has released a new EP, “Live From Paradise” – a four-song collection of songs recorded at his May 31st, 2022 concert at Toronto’s Paradise Theatre – his first hometown show since Lee’s Palace in November 2019. You can find the studio version of the song we played, “Factory Made”, on Jerry’s excellent “Early Riser” album from 2014.
John Showman and Chris Coole provide us with a cautionary tale on “Don’t Leave Your Records In The Sun”, which you can find on their latest album “Much Further Out Than Inevitable… A Fiddle & Banjo Tribute To Some Of The Music Of John Hartford”.
“I have to admit I did that with an Elvis Costello album, leaving it in the car in the sun for two days right after I bought it which warped it pretty good. I was straight back to the store buying another copy two days later. The store was pleased – I think they realized I was a big fan”. (Jan Hall)
“If country music were a galaxy… John Hartford would surely be one of the very brightest stars in the sky. It’s with the greatest respect that Showman and I try to bask in a bit of his light on this project. We’ve chosen twelve of our favorite Hartford songs (and tunes) and have let them dwell in a very sparse and organic setting of just fiddle and banjo. We’ve been playing most of these songs at gigs and jam sessions for years and are thrilled to finally get a chance to record them.” (Chris Coole)
We wrapped things up with the uplifting sound of Penni Hart and Tony Trites as New England folk duo Folkapotamus. “We’ll Dance Again” is the title track from their latest album. And we will dance again… we just need to hang tough in the meantime!
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 – 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.)
His Mother Called Him Angel (Instrumental Version) (Theme)
Abandoned Companions (2018, Self) CDN
Light It Slant
The Quiet Between (2022, Outside Music) CDN
Dear Friend (2023, Self) CDN
Light In Me
(single) (2023, Panda Cave Records) CDN
Wee Michael’s March: Wee Michael’s March / Joe’s Tuxedo / Boys Of The Puddle / Frank’s Reel
John McCusker – The Best Of (Disc 1) (2023, Under One Sky Records)
Constellations (2023, True North Records) CDN
One Step At A Time
(single) (2022, Self)
(single) (2022, Self) CDN
The Losing Game (feat. COULOU)
Lost Verses (2022, Fallen Tree Records) CDN
Breaking The Thermometer (2022, Anti-)
Ukraiyna (2023, Self) CDN
Live From Paradise EP (2023, Latent Recordings) CDN
We’ll Dance Again
We’ll Dance Again (2022, Phat Cat Records)