John Borra with Sam Ferrara and Mike Boguski perform John’s “Off My Feet” from his album Blue Wine, and “Sleep” by Art Bergmann. Recorded for Canadian Music Week 2021’s Virtual Showcase series.
It was only in January 2020 that John Borra released his critically acclaimed album Blue Wine, but for obvious reasons it already feels like a lifetime ago. Normally, the veteran Toronto artist would have spent the past year doing what he’s always done best: Playing his ragged-but-right alt-country to his loyal audience, both at home and across Canada.
Instead, Borra has adapted to promoting the album in new ways, mainly through honing his video skills. However, now he’s utilizing his more well-known audio engineering chops by offering a new mix of one of Blue Wine’s standout tracks, “The Wars.” As one of the three songs on the album co-written with the award-winning poet Eva H.D., “The Wars” has a special meaning for Borra, which is why he felt compelled to revisit it.
He explains, “We wrote this song after everything else was recorded and mixed, but I was able to record it just in time to get it on the record. Because of the rushed nature, I never felt it had been given its proper due so I thought I’d give it a new mix and release it as a single. I re-did the bass but otherwise it’s the same song as on the record, just given a little extra love and attention it didn’t get the first time around.”
Indeed, “The Wars ‘21” glows with a classic country warmth, accentuated by Borra’s signature, timeless vocal performance. It is available April 23, 2021 on all digital platforms, and Bandcamp.
Bryce made Across The Neuro Seas — his first collection since 2015’s Immovable Feast — in his home studio during a month-long creative burst at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic lockdown.
Curating the songs as if they were a short story collection, Bryce didn’t hold back musically, performing all vocals, guitars and keyboard tracks along with a variety of other instruments, only making exceptions for drums and some bass— performed remotely by Marito Marques and Chris Monster, respectively—a horn section, and additional vocals by his wife Lisanne. Tracks were later mixed by Josh Bowman and mastered by João Carvalho.
On songs such as first single “Perpetual Motion Machines,” “Young Lovers” and “Summer Nights In Summertime,” Bryce exquisitely captures a range of emotions in an immediate manner through his distinctive brand of folk-rock, while expressing the power of experience elsewhere on “Widow’s Walk” and “Hope And Chance,” two songs that had sat on the shelf for 25 years until finding their moment.
Indeed, when asked to describe his musical evolution, Bryce gives a straightforward answer: “Long.” Making music has been a part of his life since early childhood, and he became an active figure in the Toronto indie scene of the 1990s, recording an album with his art rock band Pellet at the city’s leading rock radio station Q107 and later creating and hosting a weekly songwriter’s circle at Queen Street West club Holy Joe’s that ran for two years.
During that period, Bryce was a regular on Toronto stages and a passionate supporter of numerous Canadian singer/songwriters of that era. Across The Neuro Seas pays tribute to some of them with the song “Up Around The Bend,” incorporating lyrics by Hawksley Workman, Joel Plaskett, Sarah Slean and Danny Michel.
The final results on Across The Neuro Seas clearly show that he made the right choice. While there are sure to be many “what I did during my pandemic lockdown” records on the horizon, Bryce Thomas’s Across The Neuro Seas bears all the hallmarks of a true folk-pop auteur, with its timeless sound sure to remain relevant long after we’re allowed to once again get close to our loved ones.
Get Bryce Thomas’ Across The Neuro Seas from Bandcamp, and watch the video for “Perpetual Motion Machines.”
Happy release day to The Wanted’s new album Strange Flight!
Produced by Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies, his trademark sonic approach emphasizes The Wanted’s live group chemistry, created by the core trio of Natalie Rogers (vocals, guitar), Jeff Rogers (vocals, guitar) and Richard Henderson (lap steel guitar, vocals), along with bassist Dan Mock and drummer Kyle Sullivan—borrowed from Jerry Leger’s band The Situation.
The Wanted’s honest and gritty approach to roots music has greatly evolved since they released their self-titled debut album in 2010. That record has since tallied close to a half-million Spotify streams while earning them appearances at the Mariposa Folk Festival, Folk Alliance International, and the Canadian Country Music Awards.
However, the essence of their sound has remained consistent since The Wanted formed in 2003 out of informal songwriter gatherings centred around Toronto clubs the Cameron House and the Tranzac. They bonded over a shared love of classic roots artists such as Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt, and that connection continues to guide them nearly 20 years later.
Get The Wanted’s Strange Flight from Bandcamp, and check out their latest video for the track “Stand Up.”
Roots rockers ONTARIANS released their debut album The Greatest Short Story Never Told on March 12, and marked the occasion by connecting with Canadian radio legend Jeff Woods for his new YouTube interview series.
Check out the lively 30-minute chat that includes the band’s videos for the songs “Time” and “No Regrets,” and get the album from Bandcamp!
As demonstrated by the previously released singles “If You Wanna Change My Mind” and “Waitin’ For the Summertime,” it is his most experimental collection of songs yet, veering away from the gritty alt-country sound of his acclaimed 2019 album Out Of The Past, and experimenting with looser, Kurt Vile-esque vibes. The change is partly a reflection of Picco’s experience during pandemic restrictions, as eight of the new album’s nine songs were written over a three-month span in 2020.
“I guess you could say that this about is about coming to terms with the fact that life never turns out as planned,” Picco says. “I would describe it as contemplative, but musically I was going after something more dream-like and ethereal.”
Produced by Mark Feener and featuring an all-star cast of local St. John’s players, Live It Down is certainly a glimpse into the new world of sonic possibilities Picco has embraced, part of an evolution that has been playing out since the mid-‘00s when he was a member of the roots rock band Jet Set Motel. From there, he became a familiar face within the Toronto roots rock scene, working closely with producer Don Kerr (Rheostatics, Ron Sexsmith) and cult hero songwriter Kyp Harness.
Following his move back to St. John’s in 2015, Picco released the album Start Again, which was warmly embraced by CBC Radio. Out Of The Past built on that success, being hailed by Americana UK as “a rock-infused country [album] with echoes of The Velvet Undergroumnd.”
With Live It Down, David Picco begins a new chapter, one that offers hope for renewal for all of us.
Toronto’s surf-rock kings Chairmen Of The Boards have released a new track from their debut album Surfin’ The Apocalypse. “Booty Wiggle” is their funkiest track, and essential for any Valentine’s Day playlist.
Here’s what the band has to say about it:
“Mid-winter means Valentine’s Day and Chairmen Of The Boards love to celebrate it. To mark the occasion this year, we are sharing the track ‘Booty Wiggle’ from Surfin’ The Apocalypse, out now on Weewerk Recordings. Please enjoy the video made by Dave Loblaw and imagine the sand between your toes… Then chill the champagne, sip and giggle, and let the Chairmen make your Booty Wiggle.”
Get it and the entire album from the COTB Bandcamp page!
The members of the band ONTARIANS don’t live in Toronto, although their sound isn’t far removed from the distinctive brand of country rock that ruled Toronto’s Queen Street West during the glory days of the Horseshoe Tavern, the Cameron House and the Rivoli.
Their turf is mostly the northern half of the province, from Collingwood to Sault Ste. Marie. But with the release of their debut album, The Greatest Short Story Never Told set for March 12, ONTARIANS are more than happy to represent the southern half too with well-crafted songs played by musicians with genuine chemistry.
It’s taken ONTARIANS two years to get to this point (2020 restrictions notwithstanding), with the seeds for the project planted in 2018 when roots rock scene veterans Frank Deresti and Craig Smith decided to try writing some songs together. It soon led Frank to make regular trips from Sault Ste. Marie to Craig’s studio near Collingwood where the pair laid down tracks and sent them off to their keyboardist Jay Stiles in Austin, Texas to add his parts. Chris Johns later overdubbed some drums, before Craig’s painstaking mixes made everything gel into one seamless package.
“This was a true collaborative effort for Craig, Jay and myself,” Frank says. “Between glasses of Pernod, car troubles and lots of laughter we wrote songs about various stages of life we found ourselves in—past, present, and a hypothetical future. When Craig and I sat down to write with a clear goal in mind, it was like a reservoir of creativity was released that had been building up for a long time.”
That flood resulted in standout songs such as “Forest For The Trees,” the only one written and recorded with all three principles together in the same room, “Photographs & Epitaphs,” the first one written for the project, stemming from its prophetic opening line, “Some songs will write themselves…,” and first single “Time,” a slice of classic alt-country in the spirit of Neil Young, The Band, and early Wilco. With the release of The Greatest Short Story Never Told, ONTARIANS are fully prepared to invigorate the roots rock world with their timeless sound.
Click the Roots Music Canada logo to watch the video for “Time.”
The sea shanty craze of early 2021 caught everyone by surprise, but not the members of Pressgang Mutiny. The Toronto quartet has actually been keeping the tradition alive since 2013, performing both traditional material and putting a sea shanty spin on a range of contemporary songs.
In fact, the group had its sophomore album Across The Western Ocean in the can long before the first sea shanty hit Tik Tok, meaning the timing couldn’t be more ideal for it to be officially released in Canada Feb. 5 on all digital platforms and Bandcamp and at pressgangmutiny.com.
Across the Western Ocean balances the tight harmonies and ruggedness that has made Pressgang Mutiny a festival favourite across North America and Europe. The album’s 13 tracks offer a fresh and relevant take on sea music, combining traditional shanty work songs with contemporary pieces by Jonathan Byrd, Martin Green, and Anais Mitchell.
James McKie, Richard Kott, Tim Pyron and Stefan Read have developed Pressgang Mutiny out of a love of sea shanties, as well as Tim and Stefan’s work as tall ship sailors. They are dedicated to showcasing a vital tradition of work songs that represents the world’s first truly multicultural music to new and familiar audiences alike, all while celebrating the joy of group singing.
To mark the release of her new single “On My Mind” from her forthcoming album With Pleasure, VISSIA connected with Dusty Organ’s Kane Wilkinson to discuss her new musical direction and other aspects of her career to date.