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!
Calgary, Alberta-based roots music collective The Hello Darlins have been nominated for three 2022 Canadian Folk Music Awards. The group, formed around vocalist Candace Lacina and keyboardist Mike Little, earned nods for Ensemble of the Year, New/Emerging Artist of the Year and Single of the Year for “Still Waters” (feat. Matt Andersen).
It’s been a wild ride since The Hello Darlins appeared on the scene virtually out of nowhere just over a year ago, but during that time they have been featured in American Songwriter, AmericanaUK, The Bluegrass Situation, Maverick Magazine, Lyric Magazine, Rock ‘N Reel and many other outlets.
The Hello Darlins’ debut album Go By Feel is available now on all digital platforms and through thehellodarlins.com. More information on the 2022 Canadian Folk Music Awards will be announced soon.
NEW + UPCOMING RELEASES / SUMMER 2021
RELEASE DATE: June 11, 2021 / thehellodarlins.com
With over 450,000 combined Spotify streams off their first singles, it’s safe to say there’s been a lot of anticipation for The Hello Darlins’ debut album, Go By Feel. It began building almost immediately after the Calgary, Alberta-based Americana collective debuted on the scene in early 2020, with American Songwriter calling the group “the product of a talented pool of session musicians craving more,” while Americana UK stated, “It’s great to see a band put together by the talented folks who would usually be ‘behind the scenes.’” On Go By Feel, this incredible collection of talent that include band founders Candace Lacina, Mike Little and Murray Pulver, along with The Bros. Landreth, Matt Andersen and more, has forged a hybrid of country, gospel and blues like no other, from the heart-wrenching ballads “Aberdeen” and “Prayer For A Sparrow” to the classic country-rocker “Mountain Time” and the album’s soulful title track.
RELEASE DATE: June 11, 2021 / weberbrothers.com
Inspired by their intense love of Martin Scorsese’s classic concert film The Last Waltz, Ryan and Sam Weber followed their rock ‘n roll dream from Baltimore to Canada to become full-fledged members of Ronnie Hawkins’ storied back-up group The Hawks. Twenty years and twelve self-released albums later, the Webers have spread their wings, and a reputation as the “Baddest Band in the Land” now precedes them. Featuring 13 new songs ranging from old school rock to psychedelic power pop, with all vocals and instrumentation handled by the Webers and their childhood friend Timothy Bracken, Choose Your Own Adventure gives an engaging glimpse of how far they’ve come since they were just three boys in the back seats of an elementary school bus singing songs.
RELEASE DATE: July 9, 2021 / Bandcamp
Nathan Lawr is one of the unsung heroes of Canadian indie rock, having served as the drummer-of-choice for artists including Feist and FemBots, while also being a key collaborator in the 1990s Guelph, Ontario scene that spawned Constantines, Jim Guthrie, Royal City and Sea Snakes. In 2000, Lawr began releasing acclaimed albums of self-penned folk songs, but made a dramatic turn a decade later in forming Minotaurs, a politically-charged, Afrobeat-inspired group that continues to be a going concern. However, Lawr’s urge to establish himself as a more traditional singer-songwriter never faded. It’s resulted in Apocalypse Marshmallow, Lawr’s first solo album since 2013’s Chance Encounter—eight songs that were truly eight years in the making. The extra time and care has indeed produced Lawr’s finest solo collection, one that boldly displays even more dimensions of his seemingly limitless musical range, from indie rock swagger to meditative balladry.
RELEASE DATE: July 9, 2021 / grahambrownsongs.com
Graham Brown is that most rare of species – a bona fide roots rock guitar hero. Since he was first heard in 1984 playing with Canada’s alt-country pioneers Jr. Gone Wild, Brown’s rich and graceful style has evolved alongside his songwriting. Vancouver-based Brown and his band mates, guitarist/keyboardist Rob Blackburn, bassist John Werner, and drummer Mark Gruft are keeping their remarkably consistent winning streak intact with their latest effort Spirit And Soul, 11 new original songs that once again carry on the high energy, melodic, no-frills spirit of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Uncle Tupelo. Ironically, Spirit And Soul captures the Graham Brown Band in top live form just before pandemic lockdown restrictions were implemented in March 2020. The album was cut in a single day at Edmontone Studios in Edmonton, Alberta before the band’s gig in town that night, although any “live-off-the-floor” raggedness is nearly impossible to detect. The Graham Brown Band is just that good.
RELEASE DATE: July 16, 2021 / theluckyonesmusic.com
The Lucky Ones hail from the Yukon in Canada’s Far North, the territory made famous by the Klondike Gold Rush. That rugged spirit lives on in a lot of the music created there, music that members of The Lucky Ones heard through their parents, who heard it from theirs. It’s the sound that filled barrooms and taverns, and brought people together for barn dances and kitchen parties. Now, The Lucky Ones — singer/guitarist JD McCallen, singer/guitarist Ian Smith, singer/mandolinist Ryan West, banjoist Aaron P. Burnie, and fiddler Kieran Poile — are bringing it to the ears of their generation through their self-titled debut album. It is indeed those stories that are at the heart of The Lucky Ones, which was recorded at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Dawson City. That same weekend, they played a Sunday gospel set for the congregation, the perfect complement to the album’s “Saturday night” feel. Like their peers Old Crow Medicine Show and Gillian Welch, The Lucky Ones’ reverence for tradition is balanced by a drive to write in their own voices.
RELEASE DATE: Aug. 6, 2021 / janetcull.com
There are many other ways to describe Janet Cull’s third full-length album Hear It, but at its heart it is a reflection of her (and our) often complicated relationships, expressed through a voice unlike any other in Canada. Having firmly established her reputation up to this point in her native Newfoundland—where she has been honoured with multiple MusicNL Awards—Janet is now poised to make her mark everywhere else with 12 songs that one could be forgiven thinking were recorded in Memphis or Muscle Shoals in the early ‘70s. In fact, Hear It was recorded in St. John’s with co-producer Mark Feener and a band consisting of some of Janet’s trusted collaborators including multi-instrumentalist Jason Howard, guitarist Brad Jefford and bassist Josh Ward. Having this core group record the album’s basic tracks live in the studio was the key element in allowing Janet’s voice to fully soar, and the results are simply stunning, and a must-hear for any fan of classic soul music.
RELEASE DATE: Aug. 20, 2021 / Acronym Records / delbarber.com
As the follow up to his 2020 Juno-nominated album Easy Keeper, Stray Dogs finds Del Barber bridging his past and present. Conceived during pandemic isolation at his rural Manitoba home, the eight songs on Stray Dogs are drawn mainly from Del’s large stock of previously unfinished demos, given renewed focus and polish by his longtime band and producer Scott Franchuk. Paring things down to the bone, the acoustic-based Stray Dogs captures the essence of Del’s art, of which Rolling Stone wrote, “Like John Prine (one of his primary influences), Barber writes the types of songs his characters might listen to themselves.” From the first single “Meantime”—a show of support to his favourite venue in Winnipeg—to the heart-swelling closer “Just A Little Heat,” written with his father, Stray Dogs is a powerful reflection of the resilience we have all displayed over the past year. It also shows how Del has emerged even stronger, and how he truly deserves a place among Canada’s most celebrated singer-songwriters.
COMING IN SEPT – OCT!
Gordie Tentrees – Mean Old World
Kyle McKearney – Down-Home
Joe Nolan – Scrapper
Jaclyn Reinhart – Sleep With Ghosts EP
The Redhill Valleys
Jr. Gone Wild
Kyle McKearney and his band play his latest single “Keepin’ It Simple” live at Ill-Fated Kustoms in Calgary. Stream or purchase HERE!