Join us on Episode 654 of Folk Roots Radio for another hour of the latest new releases. This time around they are all by Canadian artists and we feature new music from Justin Rutledge, Jason Collett, Del Barber, Kristen Martell, Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy, Doug Cox & Linda McRae, Kate Weekes, Whitehorse, Adrian Sutherland, Payadora Tango Ensemble, Sultans of String, Scott Nolan (with Glenn Buhr), Big Little Lions, Joe Nolan, The Franklin Electric and Youngtree & The Blooms. 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.
We started off this episode with “Easy”, the first single from “Something Easy”, the tenth studio album from Justin Rutledge.
“‘Easy’ was the final song I wrote for the album, and I guess you could call it the title track. The melody arrived after I got the kids to bed, happily exhausted. Most songs are trouble, they really do a number on me, but this one was kind. Songs rarely arrive this gently, although I wish they did. Mostly they just wait there, high above my head where I can’t touch them, waiting for the light to hit.”
We followed that with Jason Collett and “Just Before The Rain” from his latest album “Head Full Of Wonder”, an eleven song indie folk album that is not afraid to stand up to challenging times.
“In absorbing the tumult of the times, there’s a lot of shit to write through, (that Bruce Cockburn line comes to mind, ‘you’ve got to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight’) and the challenge is to get to the other side with something positive to contribute. That’s why I decided to let go of some swagger and embraced intimacy, joy and wonder instead. I hear this in the record and it makes me very happy to have made it.”
“Maria” is a song about navigating difficult times with the one you love. You’ll be able to find it on “Almanac”, the twelve song eighth album from Manitoba based singer-songwriter Del Barber.
“Depression. What is it? Where does it come from? …and how do we make it disappear? In my song ‘Maria’, a couple are trying to navigate the strange change in one of the characters’ heads. It’s a song about reflecting back, after coming through a dark time with the one you love.”
“I want my work to be seen as subtle by definition. I want my statements to come across as questions rather than decrees or opinions. Some of the songs are descriptions of my world through my own eyes, a way of songwriting I’ve never felt I’ve done well until now. Writing Almanac felt like I had another chance. It felt like spring.”
“Every Season” is the title track of the new album from Nova Scotia’s Kristen Martell which draws its inspiration from the changing of the seasons. Every Season was produced by fellow Nova Scotian singer-songwriter Gabrielle Papillon, who also guests on the song.
The instrumental on this episode, “Colour Theory” comes from “Canvas”, the genre crossing new project from music and life partners Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy, their third recording together.
“Creativity comes when there is space for it. One thing Donnell and I were given in 2020 was the space and time to be creative, to think and focus and find what was inside of us. Like an empty canvas, our minds were clear, open for the music that was about to flow. There were no restrictions, rules, agendas, considerations. As Donnell often said, ‘Let the music decide.’ So, we indulged in full musical freedom, throwing patterns of the past aside. With a few challenges along the way, it was a delight from beginning to end.”
Doug Cox & Linda McRae included a cover of Allen Reynolds‘ song “Ready For The Times To Get Better” on their first album together “Beyond The Great Pause” which they started working on during the pandemic. After several false starts, they were finally able to record the tracks for the album live, over three nights while touring in Alberta and B.C. in 2022.
“Better Days Ahead” is the title track from Kate Weekes‘ lockdown release. It’s a song that Kate wrote with Brenda Berezan after a book club session – and it was inspired by the Beowulf villain Grendal, and his modern equivalent, Donald Trump. Kate worked on the new album with producer and multi-instrumentalist James Stephens who also worked on her 2019 critically acclaimed album, “Taken by Surprise”.
“I learned to play clawhammer banjo and have been thrilled to discover how it dances with James’ fiddle. The relationship between the banjo and fiddle, the support of the sousaphone, the beauty of the flugelhorn, and the mysterious dance of the percussive sounds… creating a beautiful piece of music together, as a band, was healing and important, underscoring a need to believe there would be better days ahead.”
“Six Feet Away” is obviously another pandemic-inspired song. It comes from “I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying”, the twelve-song classic country styled lockdown release from Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet who make music together as Canadian duo Whitehorse.
“Luke was like staying up late every night and writing all the songs about lockdown And then he all of a sudden had like this collection of songs about lockdown that was stunning, and so I was like, oh, okay, I’m going to shift my thinking and start writing thematically.” (Melissa McClelland)
“Better” is the latest single from Attawapiskat ON based indigenous singer-songwriter Adrian Sutherland. It’s a song that is all about how our loved ones can inspire us to be the best people we can.
“This song is about the people in our lives that make us want to be better. For me, it’s my wife and family. I live in a remote community in Canada’s Far North. When I travel for music, I have to be away from them for multiple days – even when it’s just one show! But, as the song goes… if I had two wings, I would learn to fly… then I would be able to fly home to them sooner.”
“Silent Tears” (which feat. Aviva Chernick on vocals) comes from “Silent Tears – The Last Yiddish Tango”, a Payadora Tango Ensemble project based around the testimonies of women who survived the Holocaust. The songs are beautiful but the stories behind them, and the torture and abuse they faced at the hands of the Nazis is truly heart-wrenching. The fact that there has been a rise of interest in fascism as a political force in many parts of the world, makes this project even more important, and timely. Lest we forget…
The project began when Dr. Paula David (University of Toronto) launched a poetry program to help Holocaust survivors at retirement homes in Canada deal with long term trauma from horrific crimes such as sexual violence, human experimentation and forced sterilization – some of which they hadn’t even told their own families. ‘Silent Tears – The Last Yiddish Tango’ also includes a five works based on Holocaust survivor Molly Applebaum’s diary and memoir, ‘Buried Words’. Molly Applebaum is now 92 and lives in Toronto. As a child, she was buried underground in a box on a farm in Dombrowa, Poland, with a small hole to breathe, and had to deal with the cold, filth, being covered with insects and sexual abuse.
The song “Silent Tears” itself, is based on a poem from the Terrace Holocaust Survivors Group at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. It tells the story of a mother and her three children who were on the run from the Nazis, hiding in a forest – and starving. So, the mother goes to a village to try and steal some bits of food for her kids and they become separated.
Prolific fiddle driven world folk band Sultans of String have released “Nîmihito (Dance)”, the first single from their forthcoming album “Walking Through The Fire”, a collaboration with Northern Cree a nine-time Grammy nominated pow-wow and round dance group from Treaty 6 territory in Canada. Walking Through The Fire will feature First Nations, Metis and Inuit artists from across North America.
“We are creating this recording in the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, and Final Report that asks for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to work together as an opportunity to show a path forward.” (Sultans of String bandleader and violinist Chris McKhool)
“Without The Night” comes from “The Suburb Beautiful”, Winnipeg singer-songwriter Scott Nolan‘s first recording in over six years. It’s a collaboration with composer and conductor Glen Buhr, who adds string and orchestral arrangements to Scott’s roots-based songs. The album also features the Penderecki String Quartet and the Fallen Angels Orchestra, alongside Winnipeg-based musicians Joanna Miller, Paul Balcain and Gilles Fournier.
Helen Austin and Paul Otten continue to put out great new music as the long-distance writing partnership that is the ever-prolific Big Little Lions. Their latest single “Worth The Time” is a beautiful but serious song about making difficult personal decisions.
“The song is literally about making the difficult decision to go no contact with parents. It’s about the grinding towards making that decision and the realization that there are some things you can’t have in your life, no matter how painful that feels. It’s serious, yet light; empowering, yet realistic; and poppy, yet folky. And it will leave you intentionally knowing, “I’m worth the time”! (Helen Austin)
“Hardwood Floors” come from “Lost Verses”, the excellent new album from Edmonton AB’s Joe Nolan, eleven songs that grew from notes in Joe’s own journal.
“Opening a journal can uncloak the deepest emotions buried inside. On Lost Verses, Joe Nolan lets us in through these stories of broken lovers, speeding cars and critical, honest personal contemplation, as he meditates on life’s meaning through, what he calls the mist of uncertainty. The lasting effect is a heart-wrenching and utterly inspired recording, and a guarantee that these Lost Verses will not be buried again.”
“Call Me” is the first single from “Warning Signs”, the forthcoming album from The Franklin Electric. It’s a song that Jon Matte wrote while spending time in Mexico.
“I wrote “Call Me” in a small coastal town in Nayarit, Mexico. I was trying to clear a certain feeling inside me, the ideas of myself that keep changing – while love remains a common thread through it all.” (Jon Matte)
We wrapped the episode up with Newfoundland’s Youngtree & The Blooms and “Waiting For Us (Let’s Make The Time For It)” from their self-titled release. Nine tracks with a great alt.country feel – it really is a wonderful album.
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 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
(single) (from Something Easy, May 2023) (2023, Outside Music) CDN
Just Before The Rain
Head Full Of Wonder (2022, Arts & Crafts) CDN
Maria (Radio Edit)
Almanac (2023, Acronym Records) CDN
Every Season (feat. Gabrielle Papillon)
Every Season (2022, Self) CDN
Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy
Canvas (2023, Self / Linus Entertainment) CDN
Doug Cox & Linda McRae
Ready For The Times To Get Better
Beyond The Great Pause (2023, Self) CDN
Better Days Ahead
Better Days Ahead (2023, Self) CDN
Six Feet Away
I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying (2023, Six Shooter Records) CDN
(single) (2023, Midnight Shine Music) CDN
Payadora Tango Ensemble
Silent Tears (feat. Aviva Chernick)
Silent Tears – The Last Yiddish Tango (2022, Six Degrees Records) CDN
Sultans of String
Nîmihito (feat. Northern Cree)
(single) (2023, Self) CDN
Big Little Lions
Worth The Time
(single) (2023, Fallen Tree Records) CDN
Lost Verses (2022, Fallen Tree Records) CDN
The Franklin Electric
(single) (2023, Indica Records) CDN
Youngtree & The Blooms
Waiting For Us (Let’s Make The Time For It)
Youngtree & The Blooms (2022, Self) CDN