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I’ll still be on Twitter for as long as it lasts, but I’m also now on Mastodon if that’s your new social media site of choice!
Follow me here: https://mastodon.world/invite/iUvzHbE6
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Check out our August 2022 video playlist, including The Redhill Valleys, Kyle McKearney & Don Amero, Mike Plume, Skinny Dyck, By Divine Right, Sammy Volkov, Lily Frost, The Goddamsels and Orchard Sky!
Orchard Sky / “Canadian Party Song” (Single) / Royalty Records
If you think something seems familiar about Orchard Sky, you’re not wrong. However, the trio, based jointly in Edmonton and Vancouver, has put its previous identity as The Orchard firmly in the past and is excited to debut its dynamic new sound that walks the line between Southern Rock and Country.
When the group’s long time musical collaborators Mitch Smith and Andreas Wegner were recently in search of a new lead vocalist, they struck gold in landing two-time Western Canadian Music Award winner Krystle Dos Santos. Along with her stunningly soulful voice, she brings to Orchard Sky a powerful stage presence that has also been displayed in productions of Dreamgirls, The Chelsea Hotel: The Songs Of Leonard Cohen, and her own cabaret-style musical, Hey Viola!, a tribute to Canadian Civil Rights heroine Viola Desmond.
Orchard Sky’s debut single, “Canadian Party Song”—which got its world debut during Sportsnet’s broadcast of the Edmonton Oilers/Calgary Flames playoff series—is out now via Edmonton-based Royalty Records, and will be part of the band’s forthcoming self-titled EP.
Cynthia Hamar / “Shaken” (Single) / Neon Moon Records
On her new single “Shaken,” Cynthia Hamar engages in an internal conversation about trauma. Over a subtly soulful musical backdrop, the Edmonton-based Americana artist conveys the struggle to let go of the pain in every heart-wrenching note delivered by her unmistakable voice.
“Shaken” is the initial taste of Cynthia’s new seven-song collection, Joint & Marrow, her first release with upstart Alberta label Neon Moon Records, due out in the fall of 2022. Working with a top-flight team of producers and musicians including Joel Schwartz (Jadea Kelly, Dione Taylor), Paul Johnston (Head of Recording at MacEwan University), keyboardist Chris Andrew and drummer Jamie Cooper, Cynthia unflinchingly draws from personal experiences to craft a record brimming with hard-earned wisdom.
Joint & Marrow continues to enhance Cynthia’s reputation for making hauntingly introspective songs rooted in her Métis heritage. Citing Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Waits and Feist as primary influences, she has performed across Canada through the VIA Rail Artists On Board program, and had her music chart on stations throughout North America, including attaining the #1 spot on the Indigenous Music Countdown.
Youngtree & The Blooms / “Heaven Ain’t A Lonely Road” (Single) / Independent
Youngtree & The Blooms is a band that can be counted on to liven up rooms and create pin-drop moments in equal measure. They’ve drawn comparisons to “late ‘60s Dylan and Gram Parsons” (Exclaim!) but labels fit them loosely, as their musical influences range from Patsy Cline to Wilco. It’s all there on the band’s new self-titled album, Youngtree & The Blooms, a nine-song collection out Sept. 23 that establishes front man Peter Youngtree as one of the most engaging new voices within the Americana scene.
The album’s first single, “Heaven Ain’t A Lonely Road,” in particular is a melodic gem, with its ragged-but-right arrangement complementing Youngtree’s heart-swelling lyrics. The band is playing around Canada this summer, including an appearance at Canada’s legendary Mariposa Festival.
Building on the themes present in the band’s previous album Musical Chairs, the songs on Youngtree & The Blooms explore notions of individuality, personal transformation, universal love and dark fantasy, while taking more chances musically with genre-bending instrumentation and arrangements.
Andrea Nixon / “Earthquake” (Single) / Independent
As anticipation builds for her forthcoming album Barbed Wire Dreams, Andrea Nixon is sharing a new single, “Earthquake,” a song as emotionally devastating as its title suggests. Rooted in a swampy blues groove, “Earthquake” follows the previous two samples of Barbed Wire Dreams, “Outskirts” and “Blind Spot,” in showing off the Edmonton, Alberta singer/songwriter’s creative evolution since her acclaimed 2017 debut album Diary Of A Housewife.
On the new single Andrea teamed once again with longtime collaborator Bobby Cameron, who produced and co-wrote the track with New Zealand-based songwriter Jenny Trindall. The recording features world-class musicians Chad Melchert on drums, Travis Switzer on bass and Bobby Cameron on guitar. The recording was captured at Edmonton’s newest state-of-the-art facility Dept. 9 Studio, with engineer Stew Kirkwood.
When it comes to writing, Andrea has never been one to fall back on clichés. And as an artist who believes that life and music are inseparable, Andrea’s aim is always to create positive change through her art and encourage others to find their own sense of power and connection.
Sammy Volkov / “Weather Report” (Single) / Independent
Sammy Volkov doesn’t have a problem describing himself as weird. Rather than socializing, the Edmonton-based singer/songwriter spent most of his formative years collecting records and inventing secret songs in his mind. Even today, if he comes across any kind of music he likes, he has the audacity to picture himself as a contemporary of that artist. It doesn’t matter how old the recording is—Sammy might borrow a couple of quirks from Sinatra, a little flourish from M. Ward or Neil Young, a riff from the Shirelles, and before you know it he’s crafted something startlingly original from an esoteric palette of sonic colours.
It’s all there on Sammy’s debut full-length album Be Alright!, an 11-song collection that combines pure twang with Brian Wilson-esque ambition, all tied together by a voice as supple and entrancing as any heard in recent memory. Indeed, first single “Weather Report” caresses the ear like a dual homage to Roy Orbison and the great Brill Building songwriters, while capturing Sammy’s almost cinematic approach to making music.
Clearly, Sammy takes music history seriously, and we get to reap the benefits. While taking his first leap into recording with a 2018 independent EP (released under the name Sam Wolfe), he went to New York City to follow his other longstanding dream of becoming an actor. Although he graduated from SUNY’s prestigious Acting BFA Conservatory, Sammy’s life in New York primarily consisted of doing behind the scenes work for many top rated television shows, and singing at open mic nights in Brooklyn.
When, one day, he came to the conclusion that he wasn’t making much creative progress, he contacted his producer Harry Gregg and engineer Scott Franchuk back at Edmonton’s Riverdale Recorders and said, “Let’s make an album.” What followed has been an emotional two-year journey, from initial recording sessions at the start of 2020, to finishing the album at the height of the pandemic, to now finally being able to share Be Alright! in the Fall of 2022.
Shaela took home $100,000, while Kyle earned $75,000. Both will be using those funds to make new records later this year.
Project WILD is this annual Alberta country music artist development program, funded by Alberta Music and WILD 95.3.
In spite of everything, 2021 was an amazing year for music. I had the pleasure of working with many incredible artists, and here’s a playlist featuring my favourite songs by 26 of them. Of course, the majority can be classified as Americana, but there’s also some power pop, experimental pop, Reggae, and even a sea chanty. I’m looking forward to sharing even more great sounds from Canada in 2022!